May 24, 2006

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Headlines (5:49)

The Senate intelligence committee has endorsed Gen. Michael Hayden to become the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The three Democrats who voted against him cited concerns over the warrant less wiretapping domestic surveillance program that began during Hayden’s leadership of the National Security Agency. The full Senate is expected to meet for his confirmation hearing tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that chapters in 20 states are filing complaints with state regulators regarding recent reports of NSA access to the phone records of millions of Americans. Mitch Perry reports from Tampa.

The ACLU says they are reacting to the 2 major news stories that have been published in the past 5 months about domestic surveillance. Howard Simon is Executive Director with the Florida ACLU. He said his group has filed a complaint and request for information for several telecommunication companies with the Florida Public Service Commission. Simon says that on the face of it, the telephone companies named in the USA Today report have broken Florida law, as he mentioned a specific state statute (tape) “which essentially makes it a misdemeanor, with a $25,000 a day violation for the divulgence of customer records, unless authorized by customers, are authorized by some legal process.” In Massachusetts, 4 different mayors are mentioned in complaints sent to the state agency regulating telecommunications. Michael Bissonette is Mayor of Chicopee, Massachusetts: (tape) “Unfortunately, we’ve gone from ‘Can you hear me now?’ to ‘Who can hear me now?’.” On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission declined to investigate whether the NSA had access to millions of Americans telephone records, citing the secrecy of the National Security Agency. Mitch Perry, FSRN, Tampa.

A New York jury is deliberating the outcome of the trial of a Pakistani immigrant accused of plotting to blow up Herald Square. Rebecca Myles reports from New York City.

Closing arguments have concluded in the trail of 23-year old Shahawar Martin Siraj. The Pakistani immigrant is charged with conspiracy to bomb Herald Square subway, in a dense shopping district in Manhattan. Siraji was arrested on the eve of the Republican National Convention in 2004. The defense argued an undercover informant paid by NYPD used techniques of entrapment to involve Siraj in a conspiracy. The jury learned that the Egyptian-born police informant made friends with the accused and secretly recorded more than 30 hours of conversations. The defense attorney has argued the U.S. government manufactured the crime explaining the informant ingratiated himself with the young man and inflamed his political passions with pictures from Abu Ghraib and talk of abuse of Muslims in America and in the Middle East. The prosecution has argued that while everyone is entitled to their political opinions, talk of placing a bomb in a crowded subway system does not qualify as constitutionally-protected free speech. If convicted of conspiracy, Siraj could face 20 years in prison. For FSRN, I am Rebecca Myles reporting.

In Chile Four Mapuche Indians sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly 900 thousand dollars for an arson campaign, are on hunger strike once again. This comes shortly after ending a hunger strike of more than 60 days. In Santiago, FSRN’s Jorge Garretón has the story.

Senators who brokered a legislative agreement with the Government that would allow the four Mapuches to serve their sentences at a half-way house say the new hunger strike endangers the legislation that would benefit them. This weekend, the Mapuches took up their hunger strike for the second time after a parliamentary commission studying the bill recessed for 30 days. The previous hunger strike ended when Congress agreed to consider emergency legislation that would allow the Mapuches to serve their sentences at a half-way house. The Mapuches say they are innocent. They were tried under a Pinochet-era anti-terrorism act for the forest fires set in lands historically controlled by the Mapuches. But today the government says the emergency legislation period expired as Congress is on recess until June 6. It is not clear what will happen to the hunger strike and the emergency legislation. A Catholic Bishop who helped brokered the deal walked away from the agreement today. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.

Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh chaired a round table conference on Kashmir in Sriangar today. The first round table conference was held in New Delhi in February of this year. Shahnawaz Khan reports.

Like the first round table conference, Kashmiri separatist groups stayed away from the conference, calling it futile. The moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference separatist alliance had reservations about some people invited to the round table talks by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Of the 41 invitees, only 30 attended. A general strike called by the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference paralyzed normal life in Kashmir today. Guerrillas struck at four places in Srinagar today, in spite of heavy security arrangements. Although the round table conference was the first of its kind in which an Indian prime minister visited Kashmir to discuss Kashmir issue itself, the non participation of separatist leaders diminished its importance. For FSRN, I’m Shahnawaz Khan in Srinagar, Kashmir.

…And In Fort Benning, Georgia, the nation’s first female conscientious objector has been sentenced to 120 days of confinement for refusing deployment to Afghanistan. Army National Guard Specialist Katherine Jashinski applied for a discharge 18 months ago, but was denied and later court martialed for refusing to train with weapons. Jashinski says that at the end of her sentence she will resume her studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

New Immigration Bill to Create Database of All New Employees (3:28)
The Senate is poised to vote on their entire immigration bill tomorrow. A worker verification program to verify that employees are lawfully working in the United States will be included in the bill. The program would create a database of all new employees hired, which concerns privacy rights groups who say this is just one more government database that could be abused. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Deaths on the Rise in Basra (4:08)
The Iraqi Oil Ministry’s Inspector General reports this week that one billion dollars of Iraq’s oil is being illegally smuggled out of the country every month. Smuggling on such a large scale, coupled with increasing violence and the lack of basic services like water and electricity, have caused increasing tensions in the Southern Oil city of Basra. Over 100 civilians have been killed in Basra so far this month. Residents there are pointing the finger at the Governor and the British military, which occupies the city. FSRN’s Aaron Glantz and Salam Talib have more.

Exiled Iranians Demonstrate Against Military Action and Comprehensive Sanctions (2:49)
While the permanent members of the UN Security Council met today to discuss what action to take over Iran’s nuclear program, exiled Iranians from the country’s pro-democracy movement demonstrated against military action in Iran, and for comprehensive sanctions. Naomi Fowler reports from outside the British Foreign Office in London.

Clergy Asks Senators to Say No to Gay Marriage Ban (2:34)
As the US Senate is scheduled to vote next month on a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage, a group of clergy representing various religious traditions are calling on Senators to say “no” to the marriage ban. They believe such an amendment would endanger religious liberty and compromise civil rights. Yanmei Xie has the story from Washington DC.

Community Groups to Sue Department of Energy and University of California (3:05)
According to a coalition of community organizations in northern New Mexico, the Los Alamos National Laboratory is violating regulations of the Clean Water Act. The group intends to sue the Department of Energy and regents of the University of California who managed the lab. They are demanding that the lab honor its agreement to clean up the pollution and stop creating more contaminants that are making their way to the Rio Grande. Leslie Clark has more.

South Central Farmers Issue RED ALERT (2:26)
The South Central Farmers have called a Red Alert, and are asking supporters to take a principled stance to help the nation’s largest urban farm. The Farmers and their supporters have established an encampment on the 14-acre green space, to resist a Sheriff’s eviction, ordered by the court. The Farmers were unable to secure the over $16-million demanded by developer Ralph Horowitz to save the farm. Joan Baez, Daryl Hannah and Julie butterfly Hill have joined in the call to pressure LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to intervene behalf of the South Central Farm, which feeds roughly 350 families. Christina Aanestad reports.

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