March 29, 2006

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Headlines (5:27)
Israeli Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today began the process of coalition-building after his presumed victory in yesterday’s election. During his campaign, Olmert promised to define Israel’s permanent borders by 2010. Yesterday’s election turnout is said to be the lowest in the country’s history.

The US government severed all ties with the Palestinian Hamas-led government today, minutes before its official swearing in ceremony. Laila el-Haddad has more from Gaza.

In a directive distributed today to diplomats and other officials by email, the American government instructed them not to have contacts with Hamas-appointed government ministers, whether they are members of the group or not, according to American officials. The no-contact policy, which took effect just before 6 p.m. Jerusalem time, applies equally of to those who work for the ministers but are not Hamas members, such as independents and technocrats in the new government. The United States hopes to pressure Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce its armed struggle. Hamas officials have called on the United States to reconsider its policy of “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people for their democratic choice. The group’s leaders have also said that Israel has not yet recognized Palestinian rights nor abided by peace accords that should have afforded Palestinians a state.

Former Liberian President, Charles Taylor has been extradited from Nigeria after attempting to flee the country. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Charles Taylor was arrested this morning while trying to escape from Nigeria, where he had been living in exile since 2003. Taylor had attempted to flee the country after Nigeria agreed to his extradition. Policemen arrested the former Liberian president at a border town while trying to cross into Cameroon from Nigeria. His attempt to escape was a major embarrassment for the Nigerian government. President Olusegun Obasanjo, currently in Washington DC, subsequently ordered his immediate extradition to Liberia. After landing in Liberia, Taylor reportedly boarded a helicopter bearing a United Nations emblem. Taylor is expected to face trial at a UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.

French workers’ and students’ unions have set a date for another day of strikes and protests against the government’s youth employment scheme. And The Education Ministry has ordered police to be called in to reopen high schools closed by protests. Tony Cross reports from Paris.

After mobilizing millions on the streets yesterday, 12 workers’ and students’ unions today declared that April the fourth will be a new day of action against the First Jobs Contract, the CPE, which allows employers to fire workers under 26-years of age at any time. Official figures show some form of protest in well over a quarter of the country’s 4,300 high schools. So, the Education Ministry has told principals to bring in the police if necessary to end occupations or pickets that have paralyzed 318 of them. Students in the western city of Rennes, a stronghold of the protests, today blocked the main roads into the town. Police used teargas to clear them. With Socialist representatives in the National Assembly after his blood, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin again refused to scrap his plan, but said he’s ready to discuss improvements. And, as pressure mounts for the president to intervene to end the crisis, officials have let it be known that Jacques Chirac will make a statement “in the next few days”. So far he has backed up de Villepin, whom he appointed as prime minister. It’s not yet clear when he’ll make a declaration. Tomorrow the Constitutional Council rules on a Socialist claim that the contract breaks France’s promise of equality of opportunity to all its citizens. For FSRN, I’m Tony Cross in Paris.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been the most vocal world leader in pushing for cuts in greenhouse gases. Yet today his government has admitted it will not meet its own pledge on cutting C02 emissions. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Tony Blair’s government had pledged to reduces carbon emissions by 20% by 2010. But UK emissions in 2005 are currently higher than in 1990. Scientists, environmental campaigners and politicians have described Britain’s efforts as ‘pitiful,’ accusing the government of lacking the political will to tackle global warming. Alongside recent announcements on such things as the widening of motorways and building of new airport runways just in the last few days, the government has lowered its emissions target; but many argue that unless more radical policies are adopted, even a 15-18% reduction by 2010 will not be possible. Governments should be scaling up their efforts, not scaling them down, and it all leaves the national and the global effort in a sorry state, say campaigners. Tony Blair has said he will push for a new international framework to replace the Kyoto protocol when it expires at the end of 2012. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Senate Approved Watered-Down Lobbying Reform Bill (3:55)
Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for fraud, related to the purchase of a casino boat in Florida. In a separate scandal, Abramoff was indicted for three felonies relating to his lobbying practice. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the Senate is set to pass a lobbying reform bill that Congress has labeled as crucial to changing the nature of politics and governance in Washington. But as Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, according to Senators and political analysts, the bill has been watered down, and includes little context to offer real change.

Iraqi Kurd Journalists Weigh In on Free Speech (3:40)
Though Iraq’s Kurds were freed from the repression of Saddam Hussein’s government in 1991, journalists continue to fight for free speech in the autonomous region. FSRN’s David Enders files this report from Sulemaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Geneva-Based Global Fund Under Investigation (3:50)
The scandal surrounding the Geneva-based Global Fund has not only caused the resignation of Executive Director Richard Feachem, but is affecting thousands of patients who would be fund beneficiaries. The Global Fund suspended three grants to Uganda citing corruption, and the country has now instituted a commission of inquiry into the alleged mismanagement of billions of Global Fund dollars meant to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. FSRN’s Joshua Kyalimpa reports from Kampala.

House Debates Federal Assistance to College Students (1:47)
The House of Representatives is debating federal assistance to students attending higher education today. Many student activists and college administrators are pushing to defeat the bill, which will be voted on tomorrow. FSRN’s Darby Hickey reports from Capitol Hill.

School District Hostile to Native American Students (2:29)
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the Winner School District in South Dakota. As FSRN’s Jim Kent reports, the ACLU charges the school district has maintained an environment that is hostile to Native American students and disciplines Native students more harshly than their Caucasian peers.

Students Affected By Immigration Laws (2:52)
Thousands of high school students in Houston, Texas, continue to march today against pending immigration legislation in the US Senate. Although Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will introduce his harsher immigration reform bill to the floor, The Senate Judiciary Committee will introduce its version as well. The Committee’s bill includes the DREAM Act, which will provide undocumented high school students a path towards citizenship. Rachel Clarke reports from Houston, where students recently gathered to urge Congress to move on the DREAM Act.

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