March 28, 2006

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Headlines (6:02)
The Supreme Court today will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of special military tribunals for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The case, known as Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, questions the extent of presidential and legislative powers in judicial matters. The lawsuit argues that the special military tribunals are fundamentally unfair, as the Department of Defense, acts as prosecutor, judge, and jury while the laws governing the crime are being defined. Chief Justice John Roberts has recused himself from the case, as he ruled against Hamdan in a federal appeals court. Calls have also been made for Justice Antonin Scalia to remove himself, based on public remarks made earlier this month in Switzerland.

Also in Washington, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card resigned today. President Bush has named budget director Joshua Bolton as Card’s replacement.

Britain saw its biggest national strike for decades today. For 24 hours the strike has brought many public services across the country to a halt. From London, Naomi Fowler reports:

The strikers have been caught up in Britain’s pension crisis and the government attempts to solve it. After paying into state pension schemes all their working lives, workers are being told that the government is to change the terms of their pensions, which originally allowed them to retire at 60. It means many will be forced to work beyond that time. The government says longer life spans for retirees are costing the state more than it can now afford. However, while the government is guaranteeing lifetime protection from changes to pension scheme terms for some public sector employees, it’s refusing to grant the same deal to others, mainly its lowest earning, female workforce. Unions are demanding that all public sector workers be guaranteed the same pension rights they signed up for. The pensions crisis runs deep and requires radical action; according to a Financial Services Authority study published today, high house prices, loans for higher education and the collapse of company pension schemes mean 42% of adults now have no pension and 70% have no meaningful savings and little prospect of being able to save at all for a pension. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Israel held general elections today. The centrist Kadima party is favored to win. Many analysts see today’s election as a landmark in the future of Israeli policies in the West Bank.

In India, over 200 survivors of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy were arrested today in Delhi as they picketed outside of a government office. FSRN’s Vinod K. Jose reports from New Delhi.

The 500-mile, 33-day march from Bhopal to Delhi is the latest in the 22 year-old fight for justice for the survivors of world’s worst industrial disaster. Their demands include medical and social rehabilitation, safe drinking water for communities currently drinking poisoned water, and the inclusion of the disaster story in school and college curriculum. The survivors of the massive gas leak are also calling for prosecution of the Union Carbide Corporation and its former chairman, Warren Anderson, and a ban on Dow Chemical and its subsidiary Union Carbide’s business in India. In the winter 1984, an explosion at a Union Carbide fertilizer plant released methyl isocyanate gas in Bhopal. At least 15,000 people died as a result of the disaster. Union Carbide is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co, the biggest chemical company in the US. For FSRN, I’m Vinod K. Jose, in New Delhi.

A 2000-strong campesino march wound its way through the capital of Venezuela yesterday, blocking the intersection in front of the Vice-President’s offices well into the night. Mike Fox reports from Caracas.

The campesinos stressed their support for President Chavez but demanded that the government fulfill promises made in agreements last July. According to the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front, which organized the march, a total of 164 campesino leaders have been assassinated in recent years by paramilitaries working on behalf of large landowners. Unfortunately, none of the 46 agreed-upon proposals ensuring the safety of Venezuelan campesinos have been put in to effect. Among other issues ranging from Social Security to local infrastructure, the campesinos are demanding that a commission be created to investigate the assassinations, prosecute the criminals, and compensate the families of the victims. Discussions will continue between the National Coordinators for the Campesino Front and the Vice-President’s office on Wednesday. Mike Fox, FSRN, Caracas.

Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor has disappeared from his home-in-exile in Nigeria. This comes just three days after Nigeria agreed to hand him over to face trial before a UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Charles Taylor disappeared from his home in Nigeria last night while Nigeria and Liberia were still trying to work out the process of handing him over to the War crimes Tribunal in Sierra Leone. The Nigerian government has set up a panel to investigate circumstances leading to his disappearance. Nigeria’s Minister of Information says it is unclear whether Taylor escaped or if he was abducted. Many in Nigeria however believe the former Liberian leader actually escaped in order to avoid trial before the war crimes tribunal. Taylor is accused of supporting Sierra Leone’s rebels who killed or amputated hundreds of thousands of people in a civil war that lasted ten years. All the 17 charges against him at the war crimes tribunal carry life imprisonment. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.

Baghdad Governor (2:45)
Followers of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held funeral services in Baghdad today for 22 neighbors they say were massacred by U.S. forces while praying in a mosque – among those killed was an 80 year old imam. The US military says US troops were fired on first, but the killings have caused Baghdad’s governor to cut all ties with the US government and the United Iraqi Alliance, which holds the most seats in Iraq’s Parliament, and is calling on the Bush Administration to hand over control of all security matters to the elected Iraqi government. FSRN’s Aaron Glantz reports.

Bill Frist Says He Will Introduce Immigration Legislation to Senate Floor (1:34)
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he’ll bring his immigration legislation to the floor. Frist’s legislation is similar to the contentious House bill HR4437, and only encompasses border security and enforcement. Frist is introducing his version to the floor, despite the Judiciary Committee’s completion of legislation by the Frist-imposed deadline. Republican Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina, voted for the Committee’s bill, and commented on the fact that Frist is ignoring their legislation.

Southern California Students Continue Massive Walk Outs (3:37)
Meanwhile, high School Students throughout Southern California, and now Nevada, continue to stage walk-outs, protesting pending immigration legislation. Over 20,000 students from LA, Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties from at least 70 high schools walked out of classes yesterday, marching to City Halls, blocking streets traffic and at least 2 freeways. Riot-clad police rushed a crowd of student-demonstrators in downtown Santa Ana, and at a separate student protest at Anaheim City Hall. Police also barricaded Santa Ana High School for several hours, and locked down local elementary schools, fearing that student threats for a district-wide protest would become a reality. 15-year-old Roselina Gracia is a student from Valley High, and walked out yesterday. She explains her reasons for walking out.

5,000 Join March to Feinstein’s Office Calling for Citizenship for Undocumented (2:28)
In San Francisco, the 7 day hunger strike against HR4437 came to an end with 5,000 people marching to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office to break bread and demand legislation that allows citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Organizers delivered thousands of petitions to Feinstein’s office, calling for fair and just immigration reform. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports.

Black Tuesday: Protests in France Continue (4:11)
Between 1 and 3 million people joined marches today against the government’s proposed youth employment plan, with widespread strikes, especially in the transport and education sectors. It’s the biggest mobilization so far in over a month of actions against the plan. FSRN’s Tony Cross has the latest from Paris, where violence has hit the fringes of the protests, with cars and shop windows smashed, amid clashes between youths and police.

Former FISA Judges Testify in Senate (4:27)
A Senate committee heard testimony today from former FISA judges who support legislation amending the FISA courts. But some analysts still say the proposed legislation is unconstitutional. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Caspar Weinberger Dies at 88 (1:13)
Former Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, Caspar Weinberger, died today at the age of 88. Called the consummate Cold Warrior, Weinberger was head of Defense from 1981 to 1987 during a period of massive US Military build-up. This excerpt is from a speech delivered in Los Angeles at the beginning of that term.

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