February 17, 2006

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Headlines (5:23)
Hundreds are feared dead after a massive mudslide buried an entire village in the Philippines today. The partial collapse of a nearby mountain comes after two weeks of heavy rain. Over 2000 people were thought to be present in the village at the time of the mudslide. Less than 60 have been rescued.

Denmark has closed its embassy in Pakistan as violent protests against cartoon depictions of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed entered into their fifth day today. Masror Hussain reports from Islamabad.

Pakistani police arrested around 150 Islamists all over the country in what was claimed to be a pre-emptive crackdown on potential troublemakers to stop Friday’s demonstrations from turning into a repeat of this week’s bloody anti-Western riots, in which five people have died. In Peshawar a religious leader offered a one-million-dollar reward for the death of the cartoonists. Weeks of low-key protests in Pakistan turned into violent displays of anger at the West and discontent with the government of President, General Pervez Musharraf. Protests are also expected on March 3, the day US President Bush visits Pakistan. For Free Speech Radio News, Masror Hussain, Islamabad.

A federal judge in California has said he’ll allow the Tuesday execution of condemned murderer, Michael Morales, after hearing a challenge to California’s lethal injection process. For the first time, the state will have a doctor present in the execution chamber. Christopher Martinez reports.

Lawyers for Michael Morales are objecting to a new plan to put a doctor in the San Quentin execution chamber to monitor the lethal injection process. The lawyers had challenged California’s lethal execution process, saying records of past executions showed problems that could cause extreme pain, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment. A federal district court judge yesterday ruled the presence of the anesthesiologist will ensure that Morales is unconscious before he receives otherwise painful injections of drugs to paralyze him and induce a fatal heart attack. Doctor Jonathan Groner is a professor of surgery at Ohio State University College of Medicine and an opponent of doctor involvement in executions. The California Medical Association is objecting to the state’s new execution plan, saying capital punishment is “not a medical task” and threatens the public’s trust of physicians. Reporting for Free Speech Radio News, I’m Christopher Martinez.

Residents of Prestes Maia, a massive 23-storey building in downtown São Paulo, are facing a battle over its ownership. People who were formerly homeless have occupied the building for more than 3 years, but now the courts have given its 1600 residents a deadline by which leave. Natalia Viana has the story.

Prestes Maia, the biggest building occupied in Brazil by the homeless movement, won an important battle this week. Jorge Hamuche, the man who claims legal ownership of the building, conceded another 60 days before the 1600 residents are evicted. The previous deadline was February 15th. Now, the MSTC, or Homeless Movement of São Paulo Center, is negotiating a solution with several deputies. They want the building to be purchased by the government so families may permanently live there. Hamuche owes about 2 million dollars to City Hall in unpaid property taxes. On Saturday, homeless advocates will meet a secretary of the National Ministry of the Cities to ask the federal government to provide funds to the city to purchase the building. Natalia Viana, FSRN, Sao Paolo.

After 9 days of a united strike comprising four unions and five student organisations, academic activities at South Africa’s University of Kwazulu-Natal resumed today. Na’eem Jeenah has the story.

Following a tentative agreement reached yesterday, the strike was suspended. The industrial action was the biggest faced by the university. All levels of staff at the four campuses in two cities agreed on demands for salary and benefits and on the kinds of action to be undertaken. Students joined in protest against new fee structures which amounted, they said, to “pre-paid education”. Management agreed to unions’ salary and benefits demands – after originally refusing to budge. They also agreed to cut the pre-payment of student fees. A committee of union and management representatives will also investigate complaints about authoritarian governance at the university. But staff response to the settlement was mixed. Some felt management hastily agreed to settle because of worker plans to march on the provincial parliament today, a move that would have embarrassed the government and the university. Others were thrilled, celebrating a new kind of victory at South African tertiary institutions where struggles around fees and working conditions have intensified in the past few years. In Johannesburg, I’m Na’eem Jeenah.

House and Senate Differ on Presidential Oversight Investigation (4:09)
The Senate Intelligence Committee says they will not conduct an investigation into the President’s domestic spying program – but the correlating House committee says that it will. As the debate on Capitol Hill focuses on how or even if Congress should conduct Presidential oversight, another important question lingers: Has the President broken the law? Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from Capitol Hill.

Russ Feingold Withdraws Patriot Act Reauthorization Act Block
And in other news from Capitol Hill: Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has withdrawn his block of the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill. The Senate is now debating the bill and will vote on its final passage at the end of the month.

Bush’s Budget Contains Effort to Further Privatize Public Lands (3:58)
President Bush’s 2007 Budget includes a provision to sell a large number of parcels of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management acreage around the country. The Forest Service has earmarked tracts in 32 states, ranging from just a few acres to a 33,000-acre parcel in Oregon’s Klamath National Forest. For those concerned about the environment, the plan is cause for alarm, and many say it’s the latest in a series of attempts to privatize public lands. FSRN’s Leigh Robartes reports from Idaho.

Australian Immigration Officials Questioned Over Asylum Seekers Detention (4:24)
Australian Immigration were grilled during parliamentary hearings this week, over the fate of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers currently being held at the detention centre on Christmas Island, off the west coast of mainland Australia. It is still unknown when the asylum applications of the group – who arrived on the Australian mainland in January – will be processed. Back in their home province, the Indonesian military continues to suppress residents seeking independence from Indonesia, and while international human rights groups continue to raise concerns about abuses being perpetrated by the military, Indonesia maintains that its government will guarantee the safety of the asylum seekers if they are returned to West Papua. Erica Vowles reports from Sydney.

Thousands of Doctors Continue to Strike in Nicaragua (3:05)
Doctors in Nicaragua have been on strike for over three months, demanding an increase in wages, which President Enrique Bolaños’ administration maintains the country cannot afford. Striking doctors have held demonstrations in front of domestic ministries, and at the doors of the International Monetary Fund. Nan McCurdy has more from Managua.

Royal Nepalese Coup Suppresses Press Freedoms (3:59)
The Nepali Supreme Court has scrapped the Royal Commission for Corruption Control, the controversial government body setup in the wake of last year’s royal takeover. The bombshell decision released the country’s imprisoned former Prime Minister, although at least four journalists are still being held without charge. In the year since the royal coup took place, civil liberties have suffered dramatically in Nepal – press freedoms in particular. FSRN’s Carey Biron reports that the government’s new policies have been especially disastrous for the country’s pioneering independent radio movement, while new government legislation is attempting to make the new regulations permanent.

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