June 26, 2006

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Headlines (4:56)
East Timor’s Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said today that he is “ready to resign”. The announcement marks the end of a political showdown between Alkatiri and President Xanana Gusmao – who on Thursday had threatened to resign if the Prime Minister did not leave office. Alkatiri’s decision to fire some 600 disgruntled soldiers earlier this year is widely seen as the catalyst for the country’s currents political crisis. Fretelin, the prime minister’s political party, will name his replacement.

A powerful bomb exploded near Sri Lanka’s capital today while Norwegian diplomats were busy organizing an upcoming meeting with Nordic nations to decide the fate of a truce monitoring mission. Ponniah Manikavasagam reports from Sri Lanka.

A bomb blast killed a Sri Lankan top military officer this morning on the outskirts of the island’s capital, Colombo. It was the second suicide bomb attack in 3 months. The government said a Tamil Tiger bomber rammed his motor bike into a convoy of military vehicles, killing Major General Parami Kulatunge and 3 others as they traveled to work. The army commander narrowly escaped death in a similar attack in April. Tamil Tiger rebels have denied responsibility for this morning’s attack. Officials say more than 700 people have been killed this year in ambushes and military clashes; half of them are civilians. The Norwegian truce monitors tasked with observing the 4 year old cease-fire said Monday’s attack is a serious one and the country is fast drifting towards a full scale of war as violence escalates. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Ponniah Manikavasagam in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this morning to uphold the constitutionality of capital punishment in Kansas. Today’s vote overturns an earlier ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court that found the state’s sentencing guidelines favored the death penalty over life imprisonment.

President George W. Bush today slammed last week’s disclosure of a government program to monitor international financial transactions. Speaking to reporters today, Bush said (quote) “We’re at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm,”. Yesterday, Republican Congressman Peter King called for the criminal prosecution of all New York Times staff responsible for the publication of the report about the financial monitoring program. Although 2 other national newspapers ran articles on the program on Friday, the New York Times has received the bulk of Representative King’s criticism. The New York congressman, who serves as the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the Times broke the law and compromised national security by publishing the report. Back in December, the New York Times broke the story of another controversial surveillance operation – that of a massive NSA program to wiretap telephone and e-mail communications without a court order. Lawsuits questioning the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program have already begun.

On Friday, Government attorneys asked a federal judge in San Francisco to dismiss a lawsuit against AT&T; over its role in the government’s warrantless surveillance program. The government argued that proceeding with the lawsuit would exposure “state secrets”–thereby putting national security at risk. Government critics say the Bush administration is abusing its powers to avoid embarrassment. Brian Edwards-Tiekert was at the federal courthouse in San Francisco.

The lawsuit accuses AT&T; of giving the national security agency access to its customers’ communications without a warrant. It’s based on allegations by a former AT&T; technician named Mark Klein: he says AT&T; reconfigured its network in San Francisco and set up a secret room with special equipment capable of diverting and collecting Internet traffic for the NSA. Though Klein’s statement has already been made public in redacted form, government attorney Peter Keisler argued that giving the allegations a full public hearing could subject AT&T; facilities to attack and enable terrorists to “communicate more securely.” Attorneys for the plaintiffs dismissed those arguments– Rob Framm is an attorney working for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which brought the case: [Framm, 0:20 ] “We showed the judge the evidence of warrantless mass surveillance by AT&T.; We showed that it’s not a secret. We established that there’s no legal basis whatsoever, for the U.S. government to take this evidence – which is already in the record – and try to reclaim it as a state secret.” The courts have rejected the “state secrets” argument only 4 out of the 79 times that presidents are known to have used it. The Bush administration has invoked the “state secret” privilege at least 24 times – far more than any prior administration. I’m Brian Edwards-Tiekert, reporting from San Francisco.

Senate Democrats Hold Hearing on “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (4:37)
A top aid to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, says he was dismayed on the misuse of national intelligence in the lead up to the war in Iraq. A committee of Senate Democrats held investigative hearings today on the faulty intelligence claims. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Violence Leads to Capture of Israeli Soldier (3:28)
A massive number of Israeli soldiers backed by military vehicles have gathered on the Gaza border, and are poised to enter if an agreement for the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants is not reached. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has publicly ruled out negotiating with the captors who issued a demand today for Israel to release the about 100 women and 300 minors currently jailed. Aside from the soldier that was captured, at least three Palestinian resistance fighters and two Israeli soldiers were killed in the early Sunday morning attack launched by Palestinian resistance groups at the Israeli military post of Kerem Shalom near the southern Gaza Strip. Manar Jibrin reports.

Mauritanians Vote in Key Referendum (2:27)
Mauritanians voted in a referendum to amend their constitution yesterday to end decades of coup attempts and one-party rule. If approved, it will limit the terms a president can serve in Mauritania, an Islamic Republic with Arabs and Black populations in West Africa. From Senegal, Ndiaga Seck has more.

Navajo Oppose Senate Relocation Bill (4:17)
Arizona Senator John McCain’s Senate Bill 1003 would finish the relocation process of the remaining Navajo from land on the Black Mesa Hopi/Navajo Reservation. The bill passed the Senate unanimously last month, and is under consideration in the House Resources Committee. The Navajo, faced with relocation, oppose the bill and say relocation would strip them of their way of life. Since 1974 Over 15,000 Navajo and 100 Hopi have been displaced from their ancestral homes in Arizona due to an alleged land dispute between the two tribes. But opponents say that the Navajo are being moved off their land so coal companies can mine it. The Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates that less than a few hundred Navajo remain on Black Mesa and John McCain’s bill would require their imminent removal by 2008. But the remaining Navajo refuse to be moved. Christina Aanestad reports.

UN Human Rights Council Considers Declaration of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2:17)
The newly established UN Human Rights Council is holding its inaugural session in Geneva. The meeting, set to last through the end of the month, brings together high-level representatives from over 100 countries, many of whom hope that the new Council will make its mark on history by adopting, at its first session, the Declaration of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Despite some progress over the last decade, indigenous people around the world continue to live in hardship and danger, due to the failure of states to uphold their fundamental human rights. Danuta Szafraniec reports from New York.

Country Weighs In on “Energy Week” (2:59)
People around the country are outraged at proposed energy bills and policies, as the House of Representatives embarks on its “Energy Week” today. Some are calling for real solutions to the energy problems, both domestically and internationally. DC Radio Coop’s Ryme Katkhouda in Washington DC has more.

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