February 14, 2006

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Headlines (5:40)
About 50 thousand labour unionists demonstrated outside the European parliament in Strasbourg, France, today. This as the parliament debated a revised version of the controversial Bolkestein directive on creating a free market in services throughout the European Union. Tony Cross reports from Paris.

The Bolkestein directive caused widespread protests last year, especially in France, where it boosted the no vote in the referendum on a European constitution. But Conservative and Socialist Euro MPs have drawn up a compromise version which is due to be voted on Thursday. The new draft states that workers will be subject to the wages and conditions of the country where they’re working, rather than their country of origin, as before. And it allows countries to refuse access on the grounds of security, or protection of the environment, health or consumers, as well as excluding some key sectors, such as the mail and social services. The hard-left, the Greens and the French Socialists still say they’ll vote against. Even the unions are split … some back the changes while others say that there are still several “grey areas” over how controls will be enforced and the status of public services. For FSRN, I’m Tony Cross in Paris.

The world’s largest and most profitable retailer, Wal-Mart, is feeling pressure from state legislatures asking the the giant company to pay a larger share of its payroll on employee healthcare. Martha Baskin reports from Seattle.

Similar to legislation that recently passed in Maryland and is pending in 31 other states, Washington State’s “Fair Share Healthcare Act” would require employers with more than 5,000 employees to spend at least 9% of their payroll on healthcare benefits. Wal-Mart defends its benefits package by pointing out that whenever it opens a new store, it gets far more applicants than there are openings. But Wal-Mart critics, like David Groves with the Washington State Labor Council, say the company is subsidized by taxpayers because thousands of its workers opt for government-sponsored healthcare instead of a company plan. “One of the ways that they’re able to beat other employers on price is that they do pay less and provide less benefits…and what they’ve learned is that they don’t need to provide healthcare because the government will.” Proponents of the legislation remain unsure as to whether the state legislature’s Democratic leadership will bring the vote to the floor of the House. For FSRN, this is Martha Baskin in Seattle.

The outgoing Palestinian Legislative Council has granted broad, new executive powers to the President. Manar Jibrin reports.

Late Monday afternoon, the outgoing Palestinian Parliament empowered Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to appoint a new constitutional court that would have far-reaching powers, including the capacity to cancel future legislation. Hamas criticized the move saying that it is an attempt to undermine Hamas’ right to rule the Parliament. Anwar Zboun, a newly elected PLC member of Hamas described the move as illegal. “This constitutional court is illegal; therefore we will work to change these bills passed yesterday… We consider this as an attempt to strike the Palestinian democracy that brought us to this parliament.” The new Parliament, which will have 76 Hamas members out of 132, will be sworn in on Saturday among increasing pressure by the U.S. and the donor countries to stop aid to a Hamas-formed government. For FSRN, this is Manar Jibrin reporting from Palestine.

A court in Argentina has issued arrest warrants for a former dictator and 12 ex-military officers for their suspected role in Operation Condor. Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.

A federal appeals court upheld the indictment of a group of military leaders for their alleged participation in a joint scheme to illegally kidnap and kill political activists during the 1970’s. Former Argentine Dictator, Jorge Videla, and former Interior Minister, Albano Harguindeguy, are among the suspects indicted. Most of the ex-military leaders are under house arrest in connection with other human rights abuse charges. However, because of the gravity of the charges, the court issued warrants for their arrest. If convicted, they could each face a minimum of eight years in jail. In Argentina alone, 30,000 people were victims of Operation Condor; a shared plan by regional dictators in Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina to kill opponents in the 1970s and 80s. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Marie Trigona from Buenos Aires.

China has announced the country’s first anti-discrimination laws against AIDS and HIV patients. Dante Toza has more:

The new rules to protect the rights of AIDS and HIV-positive patients will take effect on March 1st. Local governments will be responsible for providing free medication to poor patients and free consultations to infected pregnant women. Also, hospitals will not be able to turn AIDS and HIV patients away. However, AIDS activists in China are unsure of the effectiveness of these new regulations, saying that, for example, there are no legal consequences for a hospital that refuses service to an AIDS patient. Last month, the Central Chinese government published a report stating that there are currently 650,000 people in China living with HIV and the numbers are rising by about 200 new infections per day. From Hong Kong, this is Dante Toza with FSRN.

Low Income Residents Left Out In the Cold (3:59)
Home Energy Assistance programs are causing low income residents to be left out in the cold – as Congress and President Bush have left promises of providing energy assistance to the poor unfulfilled. Leigh Ann Caldwell has more from Capitol Hill.

Nepalis in India Rally for People’s War (2:53)
As the Royal Nepalese Army throttles mass protests within Nepal, thousands of Nepalis gathered in the Indian capital, Delhi , to celebrate Ten years of Peoples’ War in Nepal. The Janadhikar Suraksha Samiti, a union of Nepali workers in India, organized a mass rally vowing to fight till the end for restoration of democracy in Nepal. FSRN’s Vinod K. Jose reports from Delhi.

A Look at Iraq’s Internal Politics (2:57)
One coalition soldier was killed and six were wounded in separate attacks in Baghdad today. Meanwhile, the provincial police chief in the southern province of Basra, said all security cooperation and joint patrols with British soldiers had been called off after revelations of prisoner abuse by British soldiers in Amarrah, the capital of Misan governorate, north of Basra. As the country’s new majority Shiite government increasingly asserts itself against the foreign military presence, the selection of Ibrahim Jaafari to remain in the post of prime minister leaves some concerned about the course of the country’s internal politics. Salam Talib files this report, produced by David Enders.

Civil Libertarians Say Telecommunications Spying Infringes on Constitutional Rights (4:06)
The Bush administration is widening the scope of domestic spying with the help of telecommunications giant AT&T;, and another secret database that targets peace activists. While the Bush administration justifies its domestic spying programs, grassroots civil rights groups are taking a stand against programs they say infringe on people’s constitutional rights. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports.

Santa Cruz Police Surveilance Internal Report Released (2:33)
Police in Santa Cruz, California released a 600 page report Friday, detailing its internal probe of surveillance conducted on Do-It-Yourself New Year’s parade meetings. City officials, who initially praised the report as “thorough and complete” are now backpedaling, and have authorized an independent investigation. FSRN’s Vinny Lombardo has more.

Native Women in Canada Call for Action Against Violence (3:00)
According to Amnesty International, the Canadian government, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada, native women are targets of high levels of violence in Canadian society. That violence is being dramatically highlighted now, by the opening of the trial for suspected serial killer Robert Willy Pickton, in Vancouver British Columbia. Pickton is accused of murdering almost 30 women over the past 20 years – many of whom were native. Today, native women in Vancouver and across Canada held memorial events for missing and murdered women, and to call for more action from the government and society as a whole. Kristin Schwartz has more.

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