February 20, 2006

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Headlines (5:33)
Royal Dutch Shell has suspended half of it’s operations in the Niger Delta region. In the past 3 days, militant groups have attacked a number of Shell’s facilities and kidnapped 9 foreign oil workers. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

The kidnapped oil workers included 3 Americans, 2 Thais, and a Briton. The kidnapped workers are being held by a militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. The group also claims responsibility for a number of attacks carried out in the last 3 days on Shell oil installations. This includes oil pipelines and an oil export terminal. The militants want Western oil companies to leave the Niger Delta. They accuse the oil companies of denying them a share of the billions of dollars made yearly from oil sales. In the face of growing insecurity, Shell, the largest oil company operating in Nigeria, has suspended about half of its operations in the country. This means a 20% drop of oil exports from Nigeria, the world sixth largest oil producer. World oil prices have gone up, following the situation in Nigeria. For FSRN, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos, Nigeria.

Bombings claimed the lives of around 2 dozen people in Iraq today. At least twelve died when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a bus in northern Baghdad. An ambush on a truck convoy outside of the capital and an attack on a Mosul restaurant nearly doubled today’s death toll. Reuters is reporting that another 19 people were wounded today when a bomb hidden in a street vendor’s cart exploded near a day-labor site.

Rescue workers in the Philippines are hoping to find survivors from Friday’s massive mudslide. Sonar equipment has reportedly picked up sounds that could be signs of life at what is thought to be the site of a school that has been buried by over 100 feet of mud.

In northern Mexico, miners remain trapped after an explosion at a coal mine yesterday. Vladimir Flores has the story.

A gas explosion in a coal mine in San Juan de Sabinas in the northern state of Coahuila has trapped 65 miners for over 30 hours. Eleven workers who were able to escape the mine after the accident emerged with burn injuries. The other workers remain trapped in the mine at around 200 meters underground. At the time of the explosion, the workers only had an estimated 6 hours of oxygen available. The rescue efforts are reportedly complicated by the presence of toxic gases restricted the use of digging tools to manual instruments like picks and shovels. Since 2001, at least 25 miners have died in on-the-job accidents in Coahuila.

An Ohio video surveillance firm has apparently become the first company in the US to implant microchips under the skin of key personnel. Allison Raaum reports.

Two employees and the CEO of Cincinnati-based firm “City-Watcher,” now have silicon chips embedded in their arms. The firm says it is testing the Radio Frequency Identification Device, or RFID, as a way to control employee access to high security rooms. Microchip manufacturer, “Verichip” received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in 2004 to implant the RFIDs in humans. The company is also working with a network of hospitals to install chip reading-machines in emergency rooms. Privacy advocates worry that the signal could be picked up by other chip readers, but “Verichip” denies that claim. They further state that RFIDs do not emit signals, so the movements of workers like those at City-Watcher, can’t be monitored. For Free Speech Radio News, in Columbus, Ohio, I’m Allison Raaum.

Efforts are growing on US campuses to encourage divestment from Sudan to influence the situation in the Darfur region. Melinda Tuhus reports on the latest success from Yale University.

Yale University has announced that it will not invest in seven oil companies doing business in Sudan and will divest of its holdings in at least one oil company that operates there. The university’s decision was based on a report by the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School. The report cited Sudanese government support for the Janjaweed, the Arab militias implicated in the genocide in Darfur. Nick Robinson is a third year law student at Yale and one of the main authors of the report. He says oil revenue makes up half of Sudan’s budget and that military spending has increased alongside rising oil income. “The government of Sudan is buying helicopters and airplanes that have been used to bomb villages in Darfur; they have used that money to pay off the Janjaweed, to carry out many of these atrocities, and they’ve used the money to buy weapons that have gone to further fuel the conflict. ” The oil companies in question are based in China and India. US companies are barred by a 1997 presidential order from operating in Sudan. Yale joins Harvard, Stanford, and a few other universities in divestment from Sudan. For FSRN, I’m Melinda Tuhus in New Haven.

Palestinian Legislative Council Meets Amidst Economic and Political Chaos (5:18)
The newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council convened for the first time on Saturday, amidst an Israeli decision to cut Gaza off politically and economically, and while the United States demands the Palestinian Authority return some $50-million in direct foreign aid. Laila El-Haddad has more from Gaza.

Budget Cuts to Impact Native American Programs (4:38)
The President’s 2007 Budget proposal seeks to eliminate two important programs for Native Americans – urban health clinics and the Johnson O’Malley education fund. As Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from Capitol Hill, Bush’s proposed cuts to non-Indian health and education assistance will add another burden to already strained services.

Native Americans Weigh In on Indian Trust Management (2:31)
Officials from the Department of the Interior are holding a series of meetings across the country asking for Native American input on revising Indian Trust Management regulations. But, as Leslie Clark reports from the first round of meetings in Albuquerque, tribal representatives are challenging federal officials over the proposals themselves, as well as the revision process.

March for Migrants Caravan Converges on US Capitol (2:30)
The March for Migrants Caravan convened in Washington, DC this weekend, calling for a change in federal immigration policy. Since the beginning of this month, the group has been crossing the country, spreading their message: not one more death – citing that since 1994, over 4,000 people have died trying to cross the border between Mexico and the US. FSRN’s Darby Hickey caught up with the caravan this weekend when they rallied outside the US Capitol.

US Cities Seeking Energy Aid from Venezuela (3:32)
A severe winter storm caused utility crews to work through the weekend to restore power to thousands of people from Maine to Michigan. As states scatter to open shelters for residents left without energy, some lawmakers are turning to Venezuela for aid. On the east coast, New York and Massachusetts have already accepted more than 20 million gallons of heating oil at 40 percent discount from Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, and its Houston-based US affiliate, Citgo Petroleum, which has offered cities in the United States millions of gallons of low-cost fuel, And, as Sarah Turner reports from Wisconsin, some Midwestern cities want a part of the action.

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