February 28, 2006
PATRIOT ACT VOTE
The Senate will vote on final passage of the re-authorization of the USA patriot Act tomorrow morning. If it passes, the bill will go to the President to be signed into law.
SUPREME COURT RULES ON ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATIONS
In other news from Washington DC, The Supreme Court ruled in favor of anti-abortion groups today. The unanimous decision is the latest in a 20 year-old lawsuit that questions the legality of using blockades, threats, or acts of physical violence to prevent access to clinics that perform abortions. The High Court ruled that such activity could not be banned under a 1951 federal extortion law known as the Hobbs Act. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the issue of violence is addressed in the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which Congress passed in 1994.
WATER SHORTAGE IN SOUTHEAST ENGLAND
British Prime Minister Tony Blair held an emergency meeting today to discuss issues related to global warming. In a speech last night, Britain’s Defense Secretary warned that British forces must prepare to tackle conflicts triggered by climate change and shrinking water supplies. This, as the South East of England is facing the worst drought in 75 years. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.
Widely acknowledged as a product of climate change, England’s most densely populated region has had its lowest rainfall for 40 to 50 years. The Chief Executive of the Environment Agency is calling the water supply shortages ‘serious’ for people and for the environment. The agency is urging England’s privatised water companies to repair leaks and ban non-essential water use. They want the government to step in and ensure a number of conservation measures are put in place, such as water meters in homes. Ecologists are warning that the low level of the water table means trees and plants are vulnerable and forest fires are more likely. Water companies shouldn’t just hope for rain, according to the Environment Agency, they must act to conserve water now. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.
COKE WOES IN INDIA
Depleting water resources in and around Coca-Cola plants in India are involving the soft drink company in a series of controversies, most recently in Southern India. Binu Alex has more.
Coca-Cola’s latest franchise plant in Gangaikondan in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has yet to formally commence operations but is already embroiled in a controversy. Farmers are opposed to the amount of water allotted to the plant, saying it will deprive them of water for agricultural purposes. Tension has risen with the recent death of a farmer that is now under investigation. Fellow farmers are suspicious about the cause of the death. The High Court has ordered an inquiry into the matter. The local village council is contemplating the cancellation of the bottling plant’s license. In the neighboring Kerala province, yet another Coke plant is facing permanent closure after the villagers complained about depleting water levels. Coca-Cola India has so far not issued any public statements on the issue. From Ahmedabad in India, I am Binu Alex for Free Speech Radio News.
U.S. FREE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH COLOMBIA
The United States and Colombia signed a bi-lateral free trade agreement yesterday after 21 months of negotiations. The treaty is still pending ratification by the congressional bodies of both countries. Colombian critics of the free trade agreement say it will financially ruin small farmers, cause a sharp rise in the cost of medicine, and hasten the privatization of public resources. Similar negotiations with Ecuador have stagnated, largely due to disagreements over agriculture and intellectual property rights.
LAPD SHORT ON FUNDING FOR PROP 69
In Los Angeles, a deputy district attorney said yesterday that the Los Angeles Police Department will need additional funding to deal with the anticipated effects of a ballot initiative that expanded the state’s authority to collect DNA samples. KPFK’s Kelly Barnes has more.
Proposition 69, approved by a 62% majority in 2004, allows the collection of DNA from all adults and juveniles convicted of felonies and from all adults suspected of murder or certain sex crimes. In 2009, the authority to collect DNA will expand to include those arrested on suspicion of any felony and some misdemeanors. Opponents of Prop 69 said state law already required DNA samples from dangerous felons and the additional measures only put innocent people’s privacy at risk. Once cleared, innocent arrestees can formally request expunging their DNA from the massive state database. A court can deny the request, and that denial, under Prop 69, cannot be appealed. Currently, the LAPD collects some 5,000 DNA samples per month and they expect that number to jump to 6,000 under the new rules. In LA for FSRN, I’m Kelly Barnes of People without Borders.
John Negroponte Testifies on Capitol Hill (1:95)
National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte says there is minimal concern over the United Arab Emirates port deal. Negroponte testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on NSA Spy Program (4:34)
While a great deal of media focused on Negroponte, elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee held another hearing on the President’s domestic spying program – and this time, they sought advice from analysts. Some argued that the program is illegal, while others argued their support. As Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from Capitol Hill, all analysts agreed that they know few details of the controversial surveillance program.
A Look at Sectarian Violence in Iraq: We Speak with Dr. Sami Zubaida (3:25)
A blast has killed at least 16, and injured at least 40 people near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad today. While authorities are uncertain of what type of explosion caused the blast, it is certain that the attack is the latest development in increased sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. We’re joined on the line by Sami Zubaida, visiting Professor of Law at New York University.
Iraq Investigates Possible Human Cases of Bird Flu Spreading in Iraq (2:08)
In other news from Iraq, the country is investigating 3 more suspected human cases of Bird Flu in Baghdad, and one in the northern province of Dayala. 2 other cases of the fatal flu have already been confirmed in another northern province, near Turkey. The World Health Organization says that 200,000 birds have been killed in Iraq alone, in an effort to curb the spread of the disease – which has already claimed the lives of over 92 humans worldwide, and could prove detrimental in Iraq, which is unequipped to handle a pandemic. In this report, produced and narrated by David Enders, Salam Talib spoke with doctors in Iraq about the Bird Flu’s effect.
Hamas Urged to End Corruption and Lawlessness (3:29)
In Palestine, internal pressure is mounting on Hamas to take action against corruption and lawlessness, as the United Nations warns in a new report of the emerging humanitarian consequences of a continued Israeli-imposed closure of the Gaza Strip. Laila El-Haddad and Shareef Abo Msalame (pronounced IM-SA-LA-MA) report from Gaza.
Unemployment: One of Many Post-Hurricane Issues (1:53)
According to a study by the National Employment Law Project, over 160,000 Gulf Coast workers left jobless because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will loose their unemployment benefits beginning March 4, unless Congress issues an extension. Selina Musuta reports from Washington, DC where Gulf Coast area unemployment is just one of the issues that congressional members and non profit organizations are discussing around rebuilding efforts.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans (3:48)
The party goes on as New Orleans celebrates its first post-Katrina Mardi Gras despite the fact the city remaining mostly in ruins. The controversial celebration was marked by smaller crowds and police harassment of party revelers. FSRN’s Christian Roselund has more.