July 06, 2006

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Headlines (5:23)
President George W. Bush is calling on the presidents of Russia and China to join an international effort to condemn the North Korean missile tests. President Vladimir Putin has reportedly said that the situation will be on the agenda of next week’s G8 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In Sri Lanka, the differences between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels keep both sides away from the negotiating table and increasing violence threatens to break a 4 year old cease-fire that ended almost two decades of civil war. Ponniah Manikavasagam has the latest from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers today rejected the government’s new attempt to address the demands of the minority Tamils in the country. President Mahinda Rajapakse said Wednesday that a committee has been appointed to advise the government on giving more autonomy to Tamil-majority areas in the island. The rebels say the government is insincere and only attempting to appear serious about the peace process. The multi-ethnic 12-member committee is to meet the President next week for discussions. A top-level rebel leader said if the president is serious he should implement the 2002 truce in full as agreed at the Geneva peace talks in February. Critics say the political situation in the country is rapidly deteriorating. Political observers point out a dedicated attempt to resolve differences between the two parties is the urgent need of the hour. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Ponniah Manikavasagam from Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today put on hold all proposals to privatize state-owned industries after pressure from workers and coalition parties. Vinod K. Jose reports from New Delhi.

Privatization has been the buzzword for over 15 years in India. India, an earlier socialist country switched over to a World Trade Organization-friendly regime in 1991, opening its market to foreign direct investments. Soon, it started selling off shares in the government controlled companies. They called it, “disinvestment”. But now, public sector workers’ patience is running out. Their demand is raised by the mainstream left parties and smaller regional parties, whose support is crucial to the present ruling coalition government. After a meeting at high level, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced his government is putting on hold all the privatization plans. The pro-reformists called the move as a set back. But some still believe the decision is just superficial. From New Delhi, this is Vinod K. Jose for FSRN.

The US Army filed formal charges yesterday against Lt. Ehren Watada for refusing deployment to Iraq. Charges include missing troop movements to Iraq, engaging in conduct unbecoming of an officer, and of speaking contemptuous words against the president. Watada says the war in Iraq is illegal under domestic and international law and that soldiers have a duty to question unlawful orders. The army officer could face up to 7 years in prison if convicted.

Elsewhere in the country, opponents of the war in Iraq continue to make their case outside of military recruitment centers. Some protesters have been arrested outside of the centers, while others have faced threats of physical violence. Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.

More than 60 people turned out late Wednesday afternoon next to the armed forces recruiting station in New Haven, Connecticut to protest the treatment last week of a smaller group of anti-war activists on the same site. Last week, a Marine recruiter threatened more than a dozen people with a baseball bat as they picketed on the sidewalk near the station. When police arrived, they said nothing to the Marine but ordered the protesters to move across the street. At the rally yesterday, attorney Peter Goselin, a member of the National Lawyers Guild, talked about the fight at home. [Goselin]”The front line in the defense of First Amendment freedom in this country is not in Baghdad, and it’s not in Kabul. It’s right here on this sidewalk and on sidewalks just like it all over the United States.” The guild is considering what legal action, if any, to take in defense of those rights. The protesters had originally gathered in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first U.S. officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, based on his contention that the war is illegal.

Ten people were arrested yesterday as bulldozers rolled over the South Central Farm in Los Angeles. Marco Amador has the story.

Bulldozers arrived yesterday morning to continue to raze what was once the nation’s largest urban farm. The 14-acre South Central Farm has been at the center of a pitched legal battle between the over 300 families who grow crops there and land developer, Ralph Horowitz. The bulldozing began last month, on the day police evicted farmers and their supporters who had been camping at the farm in an effort to preserve the community space. Ten people were arrested yesterday when the bulldozers returned…but the South Central Farmers can no longer afford to post bail. About half of the farm has already been destroyed and bulldozers are back on the scene today to flatten what remains. The South Central Farmers will be in court on July 12, challenging the city’s sale of the 14-acre lot to developer Horowitz. In Los Angeles, I’m Marco Amador for FSRN.

Public Concern Over Mexican Electoral Fraud Remains High (4:01)
Questions of inconsistency, statistical anomalies and uncounted votes have lead Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to question the entire vote counting process. Mexico’s Federal Elections Institute has announced that conservative candidate Felipe Calderon has a minute advantage for the country’s presidential post. But as public concern over fraud continues to be high, Lopez Obrador supporters are planning a massive demonstration this Saturday. Norman Stockwell reports from Mexico City.

Israel Continues Offensive and Re-Occupation of Gaza Strip (3:19)
An Israeli Army undercover unit has fired rounds of live ammunition on Al Aqsa Brigade resistance fighters in a West Bank refugee camp. Al Aqsa Brigade leader Zakareya Zubiedi was among those ambushed in the attack in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Israeli re-occupation of Gaza has left at least 12 Palestinians dead – 8 of them civilians. Swiss diplomats have already denounced Israel’s actions, as the Hamas-led Palestinian government continues to call on the international community to pressure Israel to stop its offensive and occupation of areas it already evacuated last summer. Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip are in response to the kidnaping of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants nearly 2 weeks ago. Neighboring Egypt, meanwhile, says it is still making effort to return the soldier. Manar Jibrin reports from Bethlehem.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Wraps Up Trip to United States (2:31)
Turkey’s deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah Gul, ended his three day U.S. visit today with a strategic blueprint that outlines what issues the U.S. and Turkey will work on together. The visit comes at a time when the United States needs Turkey’s strong relationship with neighboring Muslim countries like Iran and Syria. Iran announced today that they would not give an early reply to a package of technology, trade and other incentives offered by the U.S. and other major powers in exchange for ending their nuclear plans. From Washington, DC, Selina Musuta reports on Gul’s visit.

Students To Pay More for College Loans (2:27)
A federal commission on higher education is expected to recommend that the government create a national database of college students. This database would compile the personal information of all students who enroll in both public and private colleges. The plan is cause for concern throughout the university system, where critics say, if carried out, the move would create an unnecessary violation of privacy to create yet another national tracking system. Rebecca Thomas is the Legislative Director of the US Student Association. The Commission on the Future of Higher Education is expected to release their recommendations to the Department of Education in August. The Commission was created to assess the state of higher education and address how to better meet the needs of the work force. The group is also looking college accessibility. The cost of tuition has risen 32% since 2001 and over the weekend, student loan interest rates rose an average of 2 percent. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Focus in Nepal Turns to Integrating Maoists (3:08)
Maoist rebels in Nepal rejected an official letter yesterday requesting UN assistance in ceasefire monitoring and arms management. As the effort continues to try to bring the Maoist rebels into mainstream politics, the issue of how and whether the rebels would lay down their weapons has become increasingly crucial in the past few weeks. From Kathmandu, Carey Biron reports.

Oil Discovery in Uganda Cause for Concern (2:18)
Uganda will soon be an oil exporting nation after the discovery of the first commercial quantities of oil in East Africa in the Lake Albert basin. 2 London-based firms have been prospecting for oil in the area, along with Uganda’s energy ministry, have reported positive test drilling results from their joint venture. The oil find is receiving mixed reactions in this impoverished East African nation, with some citing that the black gold will only serve to aggravate human rights violations in Uganda, and be the cause of regional conflicts in the future. FSRN’s Joshua Kyalimpa reports.

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