January 23, 2006

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Headlines (4:52)
Canadians are voting today in a special election. Today’s election comes after a no-confidence vote caused the collapse of Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government last November. Opinion polls predict the Conservative party will win by a comfortable margin.

Senate Democrats are conducting a hearing today into allegations that Halliburton failed to provide safe water to U.S. Troops in Iraq. Zachary Jarvinen reports from Washington DC.

Details of a memo written by a Halliburton official, William Granger, on July 15th reveal that both civilian and military base camp populations had been exposed to an untreated and unsafe water source for possibly up to a year. Halliburton has denied the charges. However, their own former water expert, Ben Carter, had already tested and affirmed that the water was “without question contaminated with numerous micro-organisms, including Coliform bacteria.” Carter later resigned from his post after Halliburton officials would not take any action to inform the camp population. Halliburton, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has received a number of no-bid contracts and has been repeatedly criticized for over charging and under-performing. For Free Speech Radio News in Washington, DC, I’m Zachary Jarvinen.

Several explosions in southern Russia early Sunday morning have suspended gas and electricity supplies to Georgia and further strained the already tense relationship between the two countries. From Tbilisi, Deborah Wild reports:

All through the night and into the early morning hours, Georgians were queuing up for gas bottles. The government had announced that it would stop gas distribution for most of the country by Sunday evening. The beginning of the new school term, scheduled for today, has been postponed. Georgians use gas for heating and cooking. But the country has no gas storage and receives all its gas through Russia. President Michael Saakashvili is accusing Moscow of being behind these explosions as an attempt to blackmail Georgia. The Russian Energy giant, Gazprom, is interested in buying Georgia’s pipeline network in order to supply gas to Turkey. But Washington opposes such a deal fearing it would make Georgia even more dependent on its northern neighbor. Moscow has discarded the Georgian allegations as hysterical while trying to transport gas to Georgia through an old pipeline from Azerbaijan which not has been used in years. Estimates as to when gas supplies will be restored vary from days to weeks. Georgians are now preparing for some cold days as snow begins to fall. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Deborah Wild in Tbilisi, Georgia.

In northeastern India, rebels have claimed responsibility for a series of explosions along an oil pipeline. Vinod K. Jose reports.

Ten bomb explosions and multiple grenade attacks killed two policemen and injured more than 30 people on Sunday in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam. The United Liberation Force of Assam or ULFA, has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they have waited too long for the government of India to begin peace talks. The area of India’s northeastern states has many nationalities and each group has liberation armies to fight what they call “Indian occupation”. India has been dealing with the insurgency militarily for over 50 years. Some human rights records show more than 200,000 people lost their lives in the liberation movement of the Nagas and Assamese alone. The ULFA and three other groups in north-east India have called for a general strike on 26 January; India’s Republic Day. The insurgent groups oppose the official celebrations, saying the Indian government is an occupying force. From New Delhi, in India, this is Vinod K. Jose for Free Speech Radio News.

Violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has forced tens of thousands of people to flee the region in recent days. The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, sent teams to the DRC-Uganda border region over the weekend. The agency estimates that around 20,000 Congolese had recently arrived in the area. Earlier today, eight Guatemalan peace keepers were killed during a gunfight with rebels along the Congolese border with Sudan. The acting UNHCR representative in Kampala, Uganda said today that as many as 2,000 Congolese were returning to their homes but that the situation is volatile and unpredictable.

Bush PR Machine On Wiretapping (3:21)
The Bush Administration defended its program of wiretapping US citizens through the National Security Agency, saying it is lawful, limited, and necessary. They say if the program was used prior to September 11th, the attacks may have been thwarted. Our DC Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from Capital Hill.

Pro-Choice & Anti-Abortion Activists Converge on Capitol Hill (1:56)
Thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered in Washington DC today to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Roe V Wade decision. The activists used this gathering to also advocate for the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O’Connor in the hope that Alito will lead the court in further chipping away at a woman’s right to choose. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote tomorrow on his confirmation. Pro-choice activists are engaged in a last minute effort to convince Democratic Senators to filibuster Alito’s nomination. Ingrid Drake has more from the Capitol.

Bolivia Inaugurates First Indigenous President (4:11)
Bolivia has inaugurated its first indigenous President Evo Morales on Sunday. In his inaugural address Morales pledged to end 500 years of injustice for his people. Morales, who is considered a strong critic of the United States, also reaffirmed his campaign pledge to nationalize the country’s natural resources. Morales’s victory was also celebrated with a traditional indigenous ceremony on Saturday. On Sunday his inauguration was attended by an unprecedented number of dignities, including Brazil’s Luiz Ignacio Lula Da Silva and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. FSRN’s Diletta Varlese reports from La Paz.

Kosovo’s President Ibrahim Rugova Dies (2:53)
The President of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova, died on Saturday after a 6 month battle with lung cancer. He was 61 years old. The pacifist leader of the ethnic Albanian majority for the better part of 15 years, Rugova was considered by many to be a unifying element among an increasingly fractured Albanian-led government that is poised to gain some form of conditional independence in 2006. A UN run province since the end of ethnic fighting in 1999, Kosovo is still technically part of the former Yugoslav successor state, Serbia and Montenegro. Tensions have elevated with Rugova’s death, as the Albanian government must now negotiate its future without firm leadership. From Kosovo’s capital Pristina, Jackson Allers has this report.

Hundreds Arrested in Nepal After Protesting Monarchy (3:40)
23 people in Nepal were killed, mostly security forces and Maoist rebels, after hundreds of protesters clashed with police over the weekend. The demonstrators are calling on Nepal’s King to give up complete authority over the country. It is estimated that as many as 500 people have been arrested. The King has sent about 20 thousand soldiers to Katmandu to stop the protesters; however opposition leaders are calling for three more days of demonstrations. FSRN’s Carey Byron is there and has this report.

Low Income Housing Proposal in Seattle (4:01)
With about 20% cuts in subsidies for low income housing since President took office, affordable housing advocates are beginning to turn to the states for help. An amendment to proposed legislation in the state of Washington, called The Affordable Housing For All Act, would bar the Seattle Housing Authority from tearing down any low income housing without first replacing all units at comparable rent. Martha Baskin has our story.

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