January 27, 2006

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Headlines (6:01)
Hundreds of Fateh supporters took to the streets of Gaza City today, [protesting their party’s loss in the historic legislative elections and] calling for the resignation of the Fateh leadership. In Gaza City, Laila El-Haddad has the story.

The mob of young supporters, which included the militant wing of Fateh, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, marched throughout the city streets, shooting wildly into the air and blaming the Fateh leadership for the crushing blow in the elections. In front his Gaza residence, they gave Mahmoud Abbas three days to resign, accusing him of being “an Israeli agent”. They then swarmed the legislative council, where the Fateh leadership was meeting to discuss their position on the election results, burning government vans, scaling the walls of the building, and yanking out air conditioners and wires from its exterior. Mohammad Dahalan, one of the few Fateh leaders to win a seat in the district of Khan Yunis and very popular among Fateh’s young supporters, came out to calm down the angry mob. He assured them Fateh would always be the first Palestinian revolutionary movement, despite other group’s attempts to conspire against it, before being whisked away by his bodyguard. For Free Speech Radio News in Gaza, this is Laila El-Haddad.

Heavy snowfalls have worsened Georgia’s week-long energy crisis, which began when explosions in Southern Russia damaged two gas pipelines on Sunday. From Tbilisi, Georgia, Deborah Wild has the latest:

Yesterday a high voltage power line in western Georgia collapsed under the heavy snow leaving eastern Georgia without electricity. This comes at very bad time. On Tuesday, Georgia’s Minister of Energy had warned that Georgia’s energy system was operating “without any reserve resources of electricity”. Many shops or businesses are closed and public transportation has become scarce due to unsafe driving conditions. The worsening of this crisis has prompted President Mikheil Saakashvili to break off his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and return home. Georgians who have neither gas nor electricity have had to switch to kerosene heaters or wood ovens. The Ukraine has donated funds for the purchase of diesel fuel from Azerbaijan. Iran, the president announced today, has agreed to supply gas via Azerbaijan starting on Monday. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Deborah Wild in Tbilisi, Georgia.

In Washington, the Abramoff Scandal has led to Lobbying Reform Proposals from both parties. Meanwhile, A poll by the Washington Post shows most Americans want President Bush to fully disclose his ties to the disgraced lobbyist.

Congressional Democrats are pouncing on the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, using the criminal Republican super-lobbyist as the poster boy for a slew of lobbying reform proposals. Last week, Congressional Democrats proposed tighter rules for lobbyists; a day after Republicans offered similar proposals. Both proposals would make it illegal for lobbyists to buy meals or finance trips for members of Congress. Abramoff has also been linked to Bush administration through his fundraising efforts and his ties to a Bush administration official, who is accused of lying to federal investigators about his dealings with the lobbyist. In a poll published today by the Washington Post, 76% of the respondents said Bush should reveal his administration’s relationship with Abramoff, which Bush has thus far refused to do. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Quinn Bowman in Washington, D.C.

Congress will soon be expected to vote on expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act. But as Mark Taylor-Canfield reports from Seattle, legislators may not be fully aware of all of the provisions.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a proposed change to the USA Patriot Act would allow the federal government to designate restricted zones at any events considered to be of “national significance”. The ACLU’s Counsel for National Security Policy, Tim Edgars, says the provision was slipped into the re-authorization bill at the request of the Secret Service, without the knowledge of most members of Congress or the media. [Edgars clip] “The problem here is that Congress is considering without any debate, without having considered it in either the House or the Senate…a major expansion of the Secret Service’s ability to impose these exclusion zones that have been used to harass clearly legitimate protesters.” Exclusion zones became a controversial issue in the US during the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Seattle, when authorities established a large “no protest zone” near the conference site. The move resulted in a major class action lawsuit for violations of the First Amendment. The ACLU is concerned that the new measure would fully legalize restrictions on the constitutionally protected activity of peaceful assembly and the exercise of free speech. Congress is expected to vote on the re-authorization of the Patriot Act by February 2nd.

Bolivian president, Evo Morales, ends his first week of government with two significant moves. Diletta Varlese reports from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Soon after his inauguration, President Evo Morales appointed several well-known activists to cabinet level positions. The new Minister of Water, Abel Mamani, is the former leader of a neighborhood organization that expelled a French multinational corporation from the impoverished city of El Alto for failure to administer and deliver water services. Hydrocarbons Minister Andres Soliz Rada is a lawyer and journalist, who has spent 30 years defending Bolivia’s natural resources. President Morales ended his first week in office by reducing his salary by 50 percent. He will now earn slightly less than $1,900 a month. The pay cut will affect most high-ranking office holders, as no government employee in Bolivia is allowed to make more than the president. The next step for the new administration will be to start the discussion on reforms to the country’s hydrocarbons law. For FSRN, Diletta Varlese, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Some Democrats Support Filibustering Alito’s Confirmation (3:34)
Liberal groups are capitalizing on the F-word – filibuster…They’re coming out in unison and urging democrats to follow Senator John Kerry’s lead and block the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. But as Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from Capitol Hill, some Democrats wont go down that road.

Bush Says He Wont Work with Hamas Without Major Changes in the Party (2:35)
At a White house press conference yesterday, outlining next Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, president George W. Bush also commented on the landslide victory by Hamas in this weeks Palestinian parliamentary elections. Selina Musta reports from Washington D.C.

Health Care Crisis Persists in New Orleans (2:52)
Four and a half months after hurricane Katrina, health professionals say that New Orleans is still in a crisis. Small clinics, often volunteer run, are scrambling to fill gaps in care that many say existed even before the storm. Christian Roselund reports.

Conflict in Nigeria (2:36)
Top politicians and business leaders from around the world concluded their annual economic forum in Davos Switzerland. The primary agenda was to promote big-business and globalization. In Mali and Venezuela civil society groups opposed to these ideas held an alternative forum, to seek global solutions based on human rights and respect for the environment. This comes at a time when armed youths in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region are taking on some of the largest multi-national oil corporations in the world, to protest more than four decades of pollution and economic marginalization. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos, Nigeria.

Historic Human Rights Group in Argentina Final March (3:50) + music
The historic human rights group Mothers of Plaza de Mayo yesterday concluded the last of the annual 24-hour protests they’ve held for 25 years yesterday. The president of the Mothers Hebe de Bonafini decided to drop the annual March of Resistance because they no longer have an enemy in the presidential palace. Marie Trigona reports.

Correction (2:00)
FSRN would like to correct and clarify several misstatements made during our December 29 broadcast. The story in question looked at the history of wrongful termination and sexual harassment lawsuits filed against American Apparel and the company’s CEO Dov Charney. In the broadcast, FSRN reporter Leilani Albano stated that Mr. Charney was 35 years of age. He is 36. She stated that the company was founded in 1977. It was founded in 1997. We reported that the company earned $200 million dollars in profits. American Apparel says it has achieved $200 million dollars in revenue. The report also stated that Charney had faced charges of criminal sexual misconduct. In fact, all previous lawsuits brought against Charney, including the current case pending against him in LA Superior Court, have been civil suits. After reading court documents listing charges against Charney that include “conducting business meetings in his underwear, and parading in a penis and ball cover during meetings,” the reporter misinterpted a statement given by the public relations firm representing Charney as corroborating those charges. The actual statement from the PR firm reads: “American Apparel manufactures underwear as well as other garments and Charney, as a fit model for the company, sometimes wears these garments and others, as is entirely natural and appropriate in a fashion business.” Referring to an interview with anti-sweatshop organizer Trina Tocco, the report paraphrased a broad statement about oppressive conditions of women workers globally and implied that Tocco’s statement described working conditions at American Apparel. In fact, Tocco was not describing conditions at American Apparel. However, Tocco did describe charges of union-busting activity against American Apparel that were considered by the National Labor Relations Board. Those charges are no longer pending against the company.

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