March 08, 2006

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Headlines (5:04)
Philippine police today broke up a rally marking International Women’s Day and detained a lawmaker and a labour activist for leading the protest. Girlie Linao reports from Manila.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Manila today to mark International Women’s Day and again demand for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s resignation. The demonstrations were the first to be held since President Arroyo lifted a week-long emergency rule last Friday. The end of the state of emergency, however, has not stopped the crackdown on the government’s opponents. Demonstrations without permits are also still banned. Leftist Congresswoman Risa Baraquel and Joshua Mate, leader of a militant labour group,were among more than 1,000 people marching towards the Malacanang presidential palace, but were blocked by police. When the protesters refused to disperse, the anti-riot policemen began hitting some of the male demonstrators with sticks to force the rally to break up. Police then arrested Baraquel and Mata, literally dragging the two into their vehicles. Baraquel was later freed without any case filed, while Mata was released after police filed illegal assembly charges against him. I’m Girlie Linao in Manila.

In Washington DC, the House of Representatives last night approved the re-authorization of the USA Patriot Act. The bill will make 14 controversial provisions permanent and will extend 2 others for an additional four years. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the week.

In the Senate, an agreement was reached yesterday on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. An additional one billion dollars will be distributed to help low income people pay for their home energy bills. Senators from warm and cold climate states reached a compromise on how the funds will be dispersed, with additional heating assistance going to those who need it this winter and cooling assistance to those who will endure scorching temperatures this summer.

Food supplies are dwindling in Gaza’s markets, three weeks after the closure of the area’s main crossing point for commercial and humanitarian supplies. Laila El-Haddad reports from Gaza City.

According to the UN, 1.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip are experiencing severe food shortages as a result of the economic closure that is now in its third week. More than 500 tonnes of produce grown in Gaza green­houses had to be destroyed in the last week because of the closure, a U.S. government report said. The closure began just before the new Hamas dominated Parliament too power. Last month, Israeli prime ministerial adviser, Dov Weisglass, was quoted as saying that the idea behind the closure policy was “to put the Palestinians on a diet but not make them die of hunger,”. Flour mills have shut down, milk and cheese have virtually disappeared, and essential supplies are expected to run out by Saturday. For FSRN in Gaza, this is Laila El-Haddad.

In Ecuador, workers at the state-owned oil company are on strike in three Amazon provinces. President Alfredo Palacios has declared a state of emergency and has ordered the army to take control of the region. The freedoms of expression, association, and assembly have been suspended. The workers are demanding 3 months of back pay and better working conditions. This, as teachers, students, and small farmers began a 24-hour strike today to demand the suspension of Ecuador’s free trade negotiations with the United States.

Lawmakers in Argentina’s capital have ousted the mayor for his administration’s failure to enforce safety laws. Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.

A committee of Buenos Aires city deputies yesterday voted 10 to 4 to sack Mayor Anibal Ibarra on charges of negligence and corruption. Relatives and friends of those who died in the massive night club fire celebrated the verdict outside the legislature, embracing each other and holding photos of victims. Ibarra was suspended from office in November pending an investigation into the accusations, along with charges of irregularities in the city’s licensing and fire inspections of the club. Investigations indicate that the club was overcrowded when a flare ignited highly flammable soundproofing material. The emergency exits were locked and 194 people, mostly teenagers, asphyxiated from toxic smoke. The impeachment trial of Ibarra, has become a center of political tensions and national debate as how to hold politicians accountable in a nations where many complain leaders enjoy widespread impunity. Ibarra has been banned from public office for 10 years. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Marie Trigona in Buenos Aires.

On International Women’s Day, women’s groups from around the world strongly criticized the United Nations and its Secretary General Kofi Annan for failing to ensure women’s equal participation in running the affairs of the world body. Haider Rizvi reports from the United Nations.

Women leaders from more than 50 countries have sent a letter to the UN chief in which they accused him of paying only lip service to the issue of gender equality. In the letter, women groups said the UN is going in the wrong direction by offering only token representation of women on the organization’s high level expert panels and senior positions. They noted that the new high level panel on the UN system wide coherence in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment has only three women out of 15 members. The UN is currently undergoing reforms to make itself more effective and efficient. But women’s groups say such an initiative would be meaningless unless the organization ensures full gender equality in its rank and file.

Immigrant Advocates Taking Action on Capitol Hill (3:44)
Immigrant rights supporters are on Capitol Hill, intensely lobbying lawmakers in the Senate who are crafting new legislation. Rights advocates continue pushing for a bill that will provide legalization, and are strongly opposed to legislation already passed in the House of Representatives, which they say would further criminalize undocumented immigrants. Leigh Ann Caldwell has more from Capitol Hill.

Senate Committee Rejects Investigation into NSA Surveillance Program (2:35)
The Republican controlled Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to expand oversight of the National Security Agency’s warrant-less surveillance program. Republican members, however, rejected requests from Democrats to conduct a full scale investigation into the program. Selina Musuta has more.

New Orleans Levees Being Built to Half-Century-Old Climate Data (2:15)
Hurricane specialists have found that the levees being rebuilt around the city of New Orleans are being constructed to reflect climate data that hasn’t been updated since the 1950s. This recent discovery by Louisiana State University is the latest in a number of challenges the Army Corps of Engineers has faced in attempting to reconstruct the city’s levee system, which will not be ready to protect the city from another major storm by the start of the 2006 hurricane season. Christian Roselund has more.

Madre Co-Hosts Panel on Women’s Rights Laws Around the World (2:29)
As part of the 50th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Madre, a women’s activist group started in 1983 that traveled to Nicaragua to witness the effects of the US sponsored contra war, co-hosted a panel with other women rights organizations to discuss violence against indigenous women. The panel heard how legislation protecting women and human rights was increasing, but that such legislation rarely translated to actually improving the lives of women in indigenous communities located far from major cities. FSRN’s Rebecca Myles attended the panel and files this report.

Domestic Violence Challenged in China (2:13)
While legislation against domestic violence is ignored in some parts of the world, the mere existence of domestic violence continues to be denied in others. But, as FSRN’s Severine Bardon reports from Beijing, things are beginning to change in China.

Women in Nicaragua Struggle Against Effect of Globalization (2:56)
The economic, social and psychological effects of globalization have taken their toll on women in the third world. FSRN’s Nan McCurdy spoke with coordinators! active in the women’s movement in Nicaragua about their continued to struggle against the consequences of globalization.

Oral, South Dakota Fights to Keep Legacy of Education Alive (3:25)
As schools across the United States struggle to cope with diminishing budgets and the educational pressures of the No Child Left behind Act, one South Dakota community is fighting to keep a dying legacy of education alive. FSRN’s Jim Kent visited with residents of Oral, South Dakota to discuss the future of their community schoolhouse and what they’re willing to do to keep it open.

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