January 18, 2006

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Headlines (5:49)
Violent unrest in Ivory Coast continues into its third day. Four pro-government protesters are dead and ten others are wounded following today’s clashes with UN forces. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

In the face of the clashes with the protesters, more than 300 United Nations peacekeepers from Bangladesh have withdrawn from two towns in western Ivory Coast. The protesters are supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo. They are opposed to the dissolution of the country’s parliament, which is dominated by President Gbagbo’s loyalists. UN-appointed international mediators have recommended the dissolution of the parliament as a way of ending the divided country’s crisis. President Gbabgo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front, yesterday announced its withdrawal from the interim government and the peace process. African Union President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria has scheduled an emergency trip to Ivory Coast to attempt to mediate the ongoing crisis. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.

The Supreme Court ruled today that a lower court was wrong to strike down a New Hampshire law that requires minors to notify parents before receiving an abortion. Mitch Jeserich reports from Washington.

By a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider a New Hampshire law that requires parental notification 48 hours before a minor can obtain an abortion. The lower court previously struck down the entire law. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the opinion that says the law, in general, is constitutional, but it doesn’t include an exemption for the health of the mother; the Court has previously established that all abortion restrictions must include such exemptions. Crystal Lander, with the Feminist Majority Foundation, says parental notification could end up endangering the lives of young women. [CUT] “When I first heard the case, I thought about what would I have told my mother if I got pregnant unexpectedly. I was a good student. I would never want to have disappointed my mother…and I probably would have done whatever it takes not to tell her, which may have meant I would some place that is unsafe.” Mitch Jeserich, Free Speech Radio News.

The European Parliament today voted down a proposal to liberalise port services. This after a strike and stormy protests by dock workers on Monday. Tony Cross reports from Paris.

The parliament today voted 532 to 120 against the plan, with 25 abstentions. The European Commission’s plan had already been thrown out in 2003, leading European Parliament President Josep Borrell to accuse it of wasting time by not simply dropping the bill. Dockers’ unions agreed with him. They organised a Europe-wide strike on Monday and a demonstration at the parliament in Strasbourg, France, which police say left 64 officers injured and a hefty bill for damages. The overwhelming rejection isn’t just because of labour agitation. Port employers opposed the bill, fearing it would hit their profits. The most controversial proposal was so-called “self-handling”, which would have meant that a ships’ own crew could unload a vessel, giving rise to fears of massive job losses among dockers. Commission members say they’ll work on new port reforms, possibly concentrating on alleged unfair competition between European ports. For FSRN, I’m Tony Cross in Paris.

A French warship on its way to a ship-breaking yard in India is facing an uncertain future after it was found to contain high amounts of toxic asbestos. Binu Alex has more from Ahmedabad.

The journey of a decommissioned French warship, Clemenceau, to a ship-breaking yard in Gujarat is facing multiple problems. Last week, the Indian Supreme Court denied permission for the carrier to enter Indian waters. Then, Greenpeace claimed the documents that the French government submitted to Egyptian authorities to obtain passage through Suez Canal misrepresented facts. Now the labour unions in India are using the controversy to highlight poor working conditions at the ship-breaking yard. They say the job fatally affects the workers due to contact with hazardous substances like asbestos and other toxic wastes while dismantling the ships. In mid-sea, the ship now seems to be headed nowhere. From Ahmedabad in India, I am Binu Alex for Free Speech Radio News.

Social movements in Argentina and Uruguay this week have been protesting a controversial pulp mill project in the border region between the two countries. Asli Pelit reports from Montevideo.

The target of this week’s protests is a proposed cellulose factory owned by the Finnish company, Botnia. Although the proposed mill will be physically based in Uruguay, many people in Argentina’s Entre Rios province are strongly opposed to the project, saying the factory will cause sever environmental damage in the shared border region. Protests on the Argentine side have grown in recent weeks, as different civil society movements from the region have blocked the bridges and roads that lead to Uruguay from their side of the river. The left-wing Uruguayan government, led by Tabaré Vázquez, has been reluctant to stop the construction of the pulp mills and is currently undergoing confrontation with the Argentine government, which demands greater precautions in order to avoid potential environmental damages. According to Juan Carlos Villalonga, Director of Campaigns at Greenpeace Argentina, the proposed pulp mills will produce 1.5 billion tons of pulp annually and use technology that will destroy the ecosystems of the Uruguay River. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Asli Pelit in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Both Parties Unveil Lobbying Reform Plans (3:45)
Democrats revealed their version of lobbying reform today. They say their proposal goes further than the two Republican proposals released yesterday. But in all, details are minimal. Both parties are trying to save face in a government that has been riddled with scandal. As Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from DC, Democrats are attempting to label the Republicans as corrupt, while the Republicans say they are the party of reform.

Bush Administration Policy of Abuse Undermines Human Rights (2:08)
According to the World Report released today by Human Rights Watch, new evidence indicates that torture and mistreatment were an intentional part of the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism policy. The report further indicates that human rights violations have been a deliberate choice by top US government officials. Kenneth Roth is the executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

Saddam Trials Will Resume with New Judge (2:18)
The trial of Saddam Hussein is set to resume this week, but the process has fallen victim to further dissention, with the head judge of the current proceedings Rizgar Amin, resigning. Amin is expected to be replaced by a deputy. Figures from the former regime have been relased from US custody in recent weeks, while others are still hoping to be released. Salam Talib speaks with Badieh Izzat, a lawyer for Iraq’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs Tarek Aziz, and files this report with David Enders.

OAS Demands Protection for Ecuadorian Plaintiffs in Chevron Suit (4:30)
Ecuador has survived what is now considered to be the worst oil-related environmental disaster on the planet. While operating in the northeastern Ecuadorian rainforest, one of the most delicate ecosystems in the world, Texaco, now Chevron, openly dumped more that 30 times more oil than the total released in the infamous Alaskan Exxon Valdez spill. The Organization of American States has now demanded protection for the four leading plaintiffs in a trial against Chevron that has lasted over 12 years. Joseph Mutti has more from Quito.

Argentina to Privatize Environmental Services (3:23)
Argentina’s government has announced that the South American nation will form a new National Bio-diversity Council this year. Environmental and Sustainable Development Minister Atilo Savino says the council aims to promote programs for the sale of environmental services. The Argentine government has also signed an agreement to form a joint bio-diversity policy with neighboring MERCOSUR trade bloc nations. FSRN’s Marie Trigona has more from Buenos Aires.

Public Education Victory in New Orleans (3:08)
There are fresh major developments to public education in New Orleans. Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring Back New Orleans Commission released the final plan to restructure New Orleans, while the first of the city’s downtown public schools, whose student body is predominantly African American, has re-opened. FSRN’s Christian Roselund has more.

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