February 01, 2006

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Headlines (4:55)
The American Civil Liberties Union and its local affiliates filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests today, in an effort to uncover why the Pentagon has been monitoring the activities of anti-war groups and pacifist organizations. The FOIA requests were filed on behalf of Veterans for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, Greenpeace, and dozens of local organizations in seven states.

Meanwhile, privacy rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T; yesterday, saying the telecommunications giant violated the law and the privacy of its clients by complying with the National Security Agency’s request to access massive amounts of data as part of an illegal surveillance program. The class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of a group of AT&T; customers, alleges that AT&T; gave the NSA direct access to databases and key telecommunications facilities. The EFF calls the NSA’s warrant-less wiretapping and data mining operation, the “largest fishing expedition ever devised”. The legal challenge is based on the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as on federal electronic surveillance and telecommunications statutes. AT&T; has 30 days to act on the complaint.

The Connecticut chapter of the NAACP filed a motion this week to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the state against the Department of Education over requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act. Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.

Connecticut is challenging certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind statute, particularly the testing provision, as an unfunded mandate that it should not be required to meet without additional federal funding. A lawyer for the NAACP says it acted in order to prevent the state from creating a legal defense that it doesn’t have to comply with a federal statute on those grounds. NAACP attorney, John Brittain, says the civil rights organization has sided with the federal government and asked to be a party to the suit because ending the annual assessments would be harmful to low-income and minority students. [Brittain clip :20] “When two giants are involved in litigation, the voices of the minority students need to be heard, and that’s why the NAACP wants a seat at the table. Conn. — richest state in the nation — has the worst achievement gap between poor and non-poor students. It has three of the most racially isolated cities.” The federal judge has not yet set a hearing date on the NAACP’s motion. In New Haven, MT, FSRN.

Representatives from 70 nations have gathered in London to map out a blueprint for the future of Afghanistan. Helen Kelly reports.

The five-year plan, dubbed the “Afghanistan Compact,” will replace a deal reached at a December 2001 conference in Bonn, Germany. In the new document, Afghanistan undertakes to disarm illegal militias, guard human rights, cut poverty and tackle the opium trade through a development program for farmers and local communities. International donors vow to provide ongoing support in the form of NATO-led peacekeeping forces. Cash pledges have also been made. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair promised £500m in aid while US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice offered $1.1bn. Russia will wipe out Afghanistan’s $10bn Soviet-era debt. But UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who also attended the meeting, urged caution in the emerging Afghan democracy, which has much to achieve to pull its people out of widespread poverty. Helen Kelly, reporting from London for Free Speech Radio News.

Airport workers in India have launched an indefinite strike against a government plan to privatize the country’s two largest airports. From New Delhi Vinod K. Jose reports.

The Indian government announced on Monday that two Indian firms and their foreign associates won the bid to privatize Delhi and Mumbai airports. Soon after the Indian cabinet gave its approval for privatization today, thousands of airport workers launched a nationwide strike. In Mumbai riot police caned hundreds of protesting workers. Air traffic at the country’s busiest airports was not disturbed by the strike today. Opponents of the privatization plan say it will lead to cuts in the workforce. In the past, following a socialist model, Indian government controlled most industries and service sectors including airports and railways. But for the last 15 years, government opened its market for private players. From New Delhi, in India, this is Vinod K. Jose for FSRN.

Democrats and Demonstrators Respond to Bush’s State of the Union (3:28)
President Bush is touring the country today to promote the initiatives he presented in his State of the Union Address – although the speech provided few new ideas. Bush instead reiterated familiar themes regarding the ongoing war in Iraq and national security, and also reintroduced initiatives to curb the rising cost of healthcare and decrease US dependency on foreign oil. But, as Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, most Democrats responded by saying Bush’s words were full of empty promises, while protestors demonstrated outside.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Testifies Before US Senate Subcommittee (1:53)
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin testified before the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee today. He called Hurricane Katrina a man-made disaster, and says much of the devastation could have been avoided, had the state and the federal government understood the emergency better. Yanmei Xie has more at Capitol Hill.

FSRN Exclusive One-on-One Interview with Subcomandante Marcos: Part 1 (4:54)
Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos, now known as Delegate Zero, continues to travel thru Mexico, listening to local communities as part of the Other Campaign. In this exclusive, one-on-one interview conducted at the Center for the Documentation of Son Jarocho in Jáltipan, Veracruz, I spoke with Marcos about the timing of the Other Campaign, the shift towards the so-called political left in Latin America, the representation of women, and more.

Native Americans May Be Negatively Affected by “Smoke” Ban (3:32)
In December of 2005, Initiative 901 was passed into law by Washington State voters, amending the 1985 Washington Clean Air act of 1985, adding additional designation of public places, where smoking is banned. However, as the law now stands, it does not provide for exemption for ceremonial uses of “smoke” in public places and may be seen as unconstitutional by those who burn plant materials for religious purposes, especially affecting Native Americans residing and practicing in Washington State. Robin Carneen has more.

Environmental Activists Indicted on Arson Charges (3:31)
Eleven people were indicted late last week in connection with a series of arsons that took place from 1996-2001. The fires, the majority of which took place in Oregon, were attributed to the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. FSRN’s Julie Sabatier reports from Portland.

One Year Anniversary of Nepal’s King Gyanendra’s Complete Takeover (3:59)
Today marks the one year anniversary in Nepal, of King Gyanendra’s dismissal of government and imposition of a state of emergency, which stretched through April. While the King ostensibly took control of the government in order to deal more effectively with the country’s decade-long Maoist insurgency, the last year in Nepal has been mired in conflict, with an alarming decrease in civil liberties. In addition, the royal regime has called for municipal elections for February 8, which many voters will be boycotting. On Monday, one mayoral candidate was shot in the Kathmandu Valley. FSRN’s Carey Biron has more.

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