April 12, 2006
IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION DEVELOPMENTS
Republicans leaders in Congress are calling for the removal of language from pending immigration legislation that would make undocumented immigration a felony offense. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that only 20% of US residents support such a measure. The reversal comes after massive nationwide demonstrations on Monday. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said in a joint statement that they will not support the provision in HR4437, but did not offer an alternative. Frist indicated that the Senate will take up the immigration issue again sometime after their recess.
TOXIC CONSTRUCTION DESTRUCTION
The incineration of imported Construction and Demolition Debris has sparked community action in Maine as the state’s legislature debates a bill to continue the practice. Meredith DeFrancesco reports from WERU in Blue Hill, Maine.
Construction and Demolition Debris – OR CDD – contains arsenic-treated wood, paints containing lead, dioxin-producing plastics and mercury. The primary source of CDD IS from other states. With Massachusetts outlawing both the incineration and landfill disposal of Construction and Demolition Debris and New Hampshire extending a moratorium on burning CDD, Maine has been left open to receive this hazardous material. Just last month, the town of Athens, Maine passed a year long moratorium to block an incinerator that would burn CDD to generate energy, proposed by Massachusetts-based company Gen Power. Last week, efforts by Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection to open the issue for public comment and policy proposals were circumvented by the state’s legislature, which is now voting on a bill that would allow for the continued burning of construction debris in the state. In the Maine House yesterday, activists dropped banners and one woman chained herself to the balcony to protest the bill – which will likely pass. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Meredith DeFrancesco, at WERU in Blue Hill, Maine.
BERLUSCONI REFUSES TO CONCEDE
Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has refused to accept the preliminary results of Sunday’s election. Diletta Varlese reports.
During a press conference yesterday, Silvio Berlusconi and the party leaders of his coalition, declared that some 45.000 votes still need to be verified. Until that time, they will not recognize Romano Prodi as the winner. Berlusconi has proposed the formation of a German-style “grand coalition”. Prodi rejected the idea, saying that he was instead expecting Berlusconi to concede defeat. Definitive election results should be ready within 48 hours. For FSRN, Diletta Varlese, Italy.
HEIGHTENED DIPLOMATIC TENSIONS WITH VENEZUELA
Diplomatic relations between the US and Venezuela have heated up in the past few days. Mike Fox has more from Caracas.
Commemorating the April 11th coup and the violence that transpired 4 years ago, Venezuelan Vice-President, Jose Rangel, yesterday accused the U.S. Embassy of playing an active role in the brief overthrow of President Chavez by providing tactical support to the coup’s planners. This statement comes just days after the latest diplomatic spat between the US and Venezuela. Last Friday, US Ambassador Brownfield’s car was pelted with eggs and vegetables during his visit to a poor, pro-Chavez community. The US State Department said the incident “clearly was condoned by the local government”, while the Caracas mayor’s office has denied involvement. In response to the incident, Washington warned the Venezuelan ambassador, Bernardo Alvarez, of “severe diplomatic consequences.” The State Department has since said that the Ambassador’s ability to move in the United States could be “severely restricted” if another incident were to occur. On his weekly TV show this Sunday, President Hugo Chavez threatened to expel U.S. Ambassador Brownfield, accusing him of trying to provoke confrontations with pro-government protesters. Venezuela has stated that incidents such as that on Friday would not occur if Brownfield registered his movements with the Venezuelan government.
NATIONAL ARCHIVES QUIETLY RE-CLASSIFIES DOCUMENTS
The National Archives has sealed tens of thousands of pages of previously unclassified documents under an agreement that went into effect in 2002. According to records obtained by the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, the National Archives and involved intelligence agencies agreed to keep the re-classification program a secret to “avoid the attention and researcher complaints that may arise from removing material that has already been available publicly from the open shelves for extended periods of time,”.
MILITARY RECRUITER CHASED OUT OF UCSC
In Santa Cruz, California, Military recruiters at a campus job fair abandoned their post Tuesday after a disruption by noisy protesters. FSRN’s Vinny Lombardo has more.
CHANT BED: “What do we want? Recruiters Out! When do we want it? Now!”
Despite heavy rains, some two-hundred students and others marched across the UC Santa Cruz campus yesterday to protest the presence of U.S. Army and California National Guard recruiters at the school’s bi-annual Career Fair. UC Administrators say they are bound by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the Solomon Amendment, which forces schools to accommodate military recruiters or face losing federal funds. At the job fair, a group of female protesters removed most of the recruiter’s materials, prompting a struggle with police. Protest organizers called the action a success when military recruiters left the job fair. Sam Aranke, an organizer with Students Against War: “We don’t stop here, we go into communities, we are the community, this isn’t an isolated incident, we’re part of a greater picture, a larger movement.” Many are now left wondering if military recruiters will return in the fall for the next UCSC Career Fair. Vinny Lombardo, FSRN, Santa Cruz.
President Bush Attempts to Mask Confusion Behind Medicare Prescription Plan (3:40)
President Bush is on a major public relations campaign for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Although he’s highlighting the program’s benefits, Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports that healthcare advocates say low income seniors and people with disabilities are not responding to the program.
Violence Escalating in Pro-Democracy Demonstrations in Nepal (3:43)
Troops in Nepal have killed another pro-democracy activists today – the fourth fatality since massive demonstrations began seven days ago. Authorities have also confirmed the arrests of at least 30 journalists in the country in the past 24 hours alone. Nationwide pro-democracy strikes in Nepal have gathered momentum since late last week, despite the imposition of daily and nightly curfews in many parts of the country. The situation is the most prolonged and violent standoff to take place in the country since King Gyanendra assumed direct control over the government in February of last year. More than 1300 demonstrators remain in jail and, as FSRN‚s Carey Biron reports, even as protesters have defied curfews on a daily basis, the response by security personnel has been increasingly violent.
The Plight of Palestinian Refugees (3:36)
Palestinians fleeing Iraq and stranded in the no-man’s zone between Jordan and Iraq are now caught in a cross-fire. They tell stories of humiliation and ill treatment in Iraq – and no Arab country is ready to receive them, and Israel will not open its border to allow them to return home. The Palestinian Ambassador in Jordan, Atallah Khairy, is holding the United States responsible for the plight of the Palestinian refugees, who are living in the desert without adequate food, water or shelter. Oula Farawatti and David Enders report.
Organizers Bus Displaced Voters Back to New Orleans (2:22)
African American and community organizations are bussing in thousands of displaced voters for the first New Orleans municipal elections since Hurricane Katrina. Early voting began on Monday for elections that many say will be affected by the changed racial demographic of the city. FSRN’s Christian Roselund has more from New Orleans.
Rent Gouging in New Orleans (3:21)
The housing shortage in New Orleans has left many would -be residents without a place to live. As Lew Myrick reports, less affected areas, such as the Garden District, have available spaces, but few people can afford them.
Mumia Abu Jamal Commentary: “The Forgotten Ones: Katrina” (3:10)