June 19, 2006

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Headlines (5:07)
The Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators – which includes representative from the European Union, the US, the United Nations, and Russia – has approved a plan for aid to the Palestinians. Manar Jibrin reports.

The aid package could release over $120 million for a variety of programs, including health care, fuel supplies, and direct aid to needy families. The World Bank and the European Union will manage the fund along with the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, by-passing the Hamas–led government. The EU’s External relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will travel to the region today to discuss the details of the agreement. The EU envoy will meet separately, with President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but not with members of Hamas. Although the aid package will fund some critical programs, it will not solve the overall financial crisis, as it will not provide funding for the unpaid salaries of tens of thousands of government workers. Under the terms of the agreement, aid could begin flowing by early July.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced today that her deputy, Robert Zoellick, will resign from his number 2 position at the State Department. Prior to his stint as Deputy Secretary of State, Zoelick held the position of U.S. trade representative for six years. Zoelick says he will soon take a job at the Goldman Sachs investment firm.

Chile’s Supreme Court has quashed lawyers’ attempts to make public the names of torturers from the era of the military dictatorship. From Santiago, FSRN’s Jorge Garretón reports.

In 2004, then-President Ricardo Lagos imposed a 50-year ban on the naming and publication of alleged torturers and violators of human rights during the Pinochet regime. Lawyers wanted the names be made public so that charges could be filed against alleged torturers. But former President Lagos decreed that only the Courts would know the names of alleged torturers. Former President Lagos created the Prison and Torture Commission to shed light on the identities of Chileans who were detained for political reasons and were victims of torture by state agents during the 17 years of the Augusto Pinochet Military dictatorship. The Commission turned in a report to former-President Lagos in November of 2004 after 12 months of work where the Commission interviewed victims of prison and torture across Chile as well as overseas. The more than 35 thousand victims who gave verifiable testimony were given a lifetime pension, in addition to free health care to the victims and their families and free post secondary education. But the Supreme Court ruling will protect the names of torturers for the next 50 years. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.

A group of pro-whaling nations has successfully lobbied the International Whaling Commission to pass a resolution that could lead to the return of commercial whaling. The measure, which passed by a margin of just one vote, called for a reversal of the 20 year ban. Japan has led the push to resume commercial whaling and many opposed to the lifting of the ban say that Tokyo has used promises of aid to recruit countries to join its pro-whaling bloc. Japan denies this. Today’s resolution does not overturn the 20-year moratorium on commercial whaling – which would require a two-thirds majority – but it does demonstrate the growing influence of the pro-whaling bloc at the International Whaling Commission.

Biotechnology giant, Monsanto, is facing a joint legal action by several Indian states over its genetically engineered BT cotton seed. Binu Alex has more.

Seven cotton-growing states in India and several civil society groups have joined forces against multinational seed giant, Monsanto, but for different reasons. The former wants Monsanto to reduce its prices while the latter wants a complete ban on the BT cotton seeds. The current action comes after Monsanto lost a legal battle in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh over the high price of its patented BT cotton seed. The government maintains it has nothing against the company and its concern is that these technologies must reach the small and marginal farmers at a fair price. Activists fighting against genetic engineering cite independent studies to claim that there has been no reduction in the use of pesticides and no increase in yields as claimed by the company. But as these debates continue, India’s bio tech regulatory body has cleared Bollgard II, the latest Monsanto-manufactured variety of genetically modified cotton for commercial cultivation in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. From Ahmedabad in India, I am Binu Alex for Free Speech Radio News.

Number of Hostages on the Rise in Iraq (1:30)
A group tied to al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility today for kidnapping two US soldiers. Heavily armed, masked gunmen abducted Kristian Menchaca of Texas and Thomas Lowell Tucker of Oregon on Sunday. A third soldier, David J. Babieau of Massachusetts, was killed in the attack. Coalition military spokesman, Major General William Caldwell says the army is enlisting all resources in its search for the two missing soldiers.

Broad Coalition Forms In Wake of Increased Immigrants Detentions (4:17)
The number of immigrants in detention in the United States continues to rise – and it could be propelled even further with the passage of border security provisions in the immigration bill still being hammered-out in Congress. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

African Union Assesses Sending Troops to Somalia (2:32)
The African Union will send a team to Somalia to assess the possibility of deploying peacekeepers in the troubled Horn of Africa nation. The assessment team will decide how many troops will be needed. The Islamic court militias who seized power from the war lords in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, have protested against the idea. Joshua Kyalimpa reports.

Cycle of Violence: El Salvador’s Maras (4:01)
“Maras” or gangs in El Salvador and throughout Central America and through the United States, have grown and expanded in recent years due to the effects of civil wars in the region. Groups of at-risk youth live out the results of social inequality, poverty and unemployment and are often drawn to a life of violence. Ricardo Martinez reports Guazapa, El Salvador.

Anti-War Candidates Challenge Incumbents (4:40)
The rift between majority public opinion and the majority in Congress – Democrat and Republican alike – on Iraq, is bringing new faces and strategies to the game of electoral politics. Liberal Democrats are running against incumbent beltway Democrats, and Green Party candidates against incumbent Republicans. Martha Baskin takes a look at electoral politics and strategies for change in November.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Commentary: Culture Wars at the Ebb of Empire (3:44)

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