May 18, 2006

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Headlines (6:27)
President George W. Bush today asked Congress for $1.9 billion dollars to fund border security measures. This comes after the Senate approved legislation yesterday to build a triple-layer fence along 370 miles of the US border with Mexico. The amendment’s sponsor, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, estimates the triple fence will cost approximately $3.2 million per mile.

In Nepal, the newly reconvened Parliament today unanimously endorsed a landmark proclamation that would restore the supremacy of the House of Representatives and take away nearly all of the king’s powers. Carey Biron has more from Kathmandu.

The changes to be ushered in by today’s resolution are truly historic, and will significantly sideline both the current king and the future of the monarchy in Nepal. Among other things, the new proclamation would drastically reduce the palace’s funding allowance, make the king’s income taxable, and take away the monarch’s ability to choose his heir. Perhaps most importantly, the king would no longer control the national army. The new resolution will trump the country’s 1990 constitution, while also paving the way for the election to a constituent assembly that will decide the monarchy’s future role. After the announcement of the proclamation was delayed earlier this week — ostensibly to allow officials to finish appointing a cabinet — thousands of protesters flooded back onto the streets to demand immediate action. The public reaction seems to have alarmed the government: not only did it proceed with today’s announcement in lieu of a completed cabinet, yesterday it also moved to ban any future rallies in front of either the Parliament building or the royal palace. While an important step, today’s move does fall far short of the physical restructuring of the army that many observers say is critical to safeguard the future of democracy in Nepal. Carey Biron, Kathmandu.

In a move seen as a widening of the gap between the legislative and executive branches of the Palestinian government, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has deployed thousands of police throughout the Gaza Strip. Manar Jibreen reports.

The massive police deployment came just hours after the Hamas-led government sent its own special security force Into Gaza streets. The new controversial Special Forces are made up of 3 thousand men; most are members of the Al Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas. The new force is led by Jamal Abu Samahdana, who is wanted by the Israeli army for his role in the armed Popular Resistance Committees. Hamas says that the security force was formed to support the police forces and other security units and to stop the chaos and instability in Gaza’s streets. The formation of the new security force has heightened tension between the Hamas-led government and the administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas because Abbas did not agree to the formation and the deployment of the new force. As president, Abbas is responsible for overall security.

Tensions remain high in Sao Paulo after 6 days of violence between the police and members of a criminal gang. Natalia Viana reports.

Even after the agreement between leaders of the crime organization First Command of the Capital (PCC) and the government, attacks occurred last night in some cities in São Paulo State. Official sources say PCC leaders were guaranteed physical integrity to stop the attacks. But last night, 5 buses were set on fire in São Paulo city, which caused some some bus lines to temporarily suspend service. The transport situation is back to normal today. But the populations in the favelas and city outskirts are living in constant fear. Since Friday, police have killed over 100 people “suspected” of involvement with the PCC. 122 people have been arrested. Neighborhood sources have told FSRN that some groups of policemen wearing civilian clothes and black ski masks have shot several innocent people. People are afraid to talk about what is happening, but those who do, say the police are out for revenge for the 33 police officers killed. For FSRN, I’m Natalia Viana in São Paulo, Brazil.

In Chile, High school students took to the streets for the second time in a week seeking answers to their demands of free University entrance exams, unlimited use of the student bus pass and free bus trips for all students. From Santiago FSRN’s Jorge Garretón has more.

Some 150 students have been arrested so far today after high school students across the country walked out of their classes demanding the government response to their demands. But today’s demonstration, declared illegal by the government, failed to attract the large numbers of last week’s massive demonstration. Last week, over 1200 students were arrested by police throughout the country. Following last week’s demonstration, the leadership of high school students met with Ministry of Education officials in an effort to reach an agreement on the student’s demands. But two days ago, student negotiators broke off talks on free bus fare for students and free university entrance exam fee and called for a demonstration for next week. However, yesterday student leaders moved the demonstration for today. Ministry of Education officials told the students that free bus fares would cause a raise in rates to regular users. On the free university entrance exam fees, the Ministry told students that it would double the number of fee waivers to low income students to 35 thousand. Today’s demonstrations did not have the impact of last week’s massive walkout. According to the Ministry of Education, 80 percent of all students remained in class. For FSRN, this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.

Protests continue to dog the Halliburton shareholders meeting, even after the company moved the annual meeting from Houston, Texas to Duncan, Oklahoma. Sixteen demonstrators, including Veterans for Peace member, Hiram Myers were arrested yesterday by local police. Fifteen were charged with trespassing after they left the designated protest pen and attempted to enter the shareholder meeting to deliver an indictment to Halliburton´s CEO. The indictment accuses the CEO of racketeering, corruption and endangerment of US troops. All of those arrested have been released.

CIA Head Nominee Michael Hayden Defends NSA Surveillance Program (4:18)
At his confirmation hearing for CIA Director, Michael Hayden insisted that the National Security Agency’s surveillance program is legal. But he deferred many questions, saying he would answer them when the committee recesses into a closed session. Furthermore, he defended the US’ treatment of detainees saying the US follows the law. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Files Suit Against AT&T; (3:04)
Motions to dismiss a lawsuit against AT&T; for handing millions of its customer’s calling records over to the National Security Agency’s surveillance program without a warrant, were heard in a San Francisco Federal Court yesterday. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is alleging AT&T; broke the law. Both AT&T; and the Bush Administration have asked the courts to dismiss the suit and withholds evidence in the interest if national security. Christina Aanestad reports.

The Debate over Internet Neutrality (4:12)
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a first hearing today to introduce the Communications Act Reform Bill, which aims to profoundly change the way the telecommunications industry is regulated in this country. One of the bill’s most debated provisions deals with Internet neutrality, and the concern that the cable industry would privatize the Internet by charging more for preferential data delivery. Anastasia Gnezditskaia reports from DC.

Maoist Guerillas Take Control of Nepal (4:22)
The Nepalese parliament declared itself the supreme cradle of authority today, reducing King Gyanendra’s power. Yet the control of the country seems to have slipped into the hands of the Maoist guerrilla leaders, whose parallel government holds the most sway over the psyche and physical resources of the people. Maoist guerrillas have stepped up their extortion spree, and are garnering money from anyone who owns something – leaving even the parliamentarians vulnerable, who have declared so on the floor of the Parliament. PC Dubey reports.

Seattle Debates Ports Stadiums (2:49)
The City of Seattle is asking itself if the public financing of sports stadiums good public policy – deciding whether to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sports teams, or to fund low income housing, classrooms, transportation and open spaces. Martha Baskin reports.

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