July 20, 2006

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Headlines (6:31)
Israeli ground troops joined heavy missile and artillery barrages in Southern Lebanon today, in what was the 9th day of Israel’s military offensive to root out Hezbollah fighters firing missiles and rockets into Israel. According to official sources, at least 306 Lebanese have been killed since Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday. 29 Israeli’s have been killed by Hezbollah rocket and missile attacks, including 14 soldiers, according to Israeli sources. With no end in sight to the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, dissent is rising within the Lebanese government. Jackson Allers reports from Beirut.

Today, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora denied a report by an Italian newspaper that claimed that he called for an immediate disarmament of Hezbollah. In a carefully worded press release, Sanoira said that the “the international community had not given the Lebanese government an opportunity to deal with the problem of Hezbollah`s arms.” However, the social Affairs Minister Nayla Moawad said said today in a press conference that she believed that Hezbollah was taking orders from Iran. When asked whether the Lebanese government had proof of Hezbollah’s involvement with Iran in their latest military campaign against Israel, Social Affairs Minister Moawad said that “there was no proof” but that she and other Lebanese ministers shared this opinion. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government has come under increasing international pressure to reign in Hezbollah. But internal divisions within the government continue to hamper the process of negotiation with Hezbollah. A government official told FSRN that it has not entered into direct negotiations with Hezbollah on the hostilities despite the fact that Hezbollah is officially a part of the government. Reporting from Beirut, this is Jackson Allers for Free Speech Radio News.

Israeli forces continue to pound various parts of the Gaza Strip for the third consecutive week. FSRN correspondent Rami Almeghari reports from the Maghazi refugee camp – an area that has born the brunt of the attacks in the past two days.

The Philippine military’s inspector general has recommended the court martial of 40 officers and 125 soldiers for their alleged involvement in a foiled coup plot in February. The officers and soldiers have already been relieved from their posts and placed under the custody of their service commanders while undergoing pre-trial investigation. Girlie Linao reports from Manila.

Armed forces Inspector General Rear Admiral Rufino Lopez today said the rogue officers and soldiers allegedly planned to seize President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as well as top military and police officials as part of the coup plot in February. Lopez, who headed a military investigation into the February 24 coup attempt, said the plot failed because the mutineers did not have time to gather forces before their plan was exposed. He said he believed that all 40 officers and 125 soldiers must face court martial for mutiny, sedition and other violations of the Articles of War. However, it is the Judge Advocate General’s Office that would hand down the final decision after a pre-trial investigation. The military proceedings come as Philippine authorities widen their investigation into the foiled attempt to oust Arroyo to include civilians who allegedly provided financial and material support for the plot. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Girlie Linao in Manila.

Peace talks between the government of Uganda and the LRA rebels continue in the Southern Sudanese city of Juba. Emmanuel Okella has the latest.

The rebels came to the negotiating table with two-pages of demands for a ceasefire as the first step towards ending the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda. The rebels are asking Kampala to declare safe corridors in the Northern Uganda districts of Gulu and Kitgum to allow free movement of their fighters to designated areas for demobilization. The Ugandan negotiators have rejected the ceasefire call. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, head of the Ugandan team, told reporters that the rebel ceasefire proposal had been rejected because of the way the LRA had violated past truces. He said that while government also wants a cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire deal would only come after everything else has been concluded. Despite this, Rugunda was quick to stress that talks would continue. For Free Speech Radio News Emmanuel Okella reporting from Kampala Uganda.

A resolution passed this week by the Georgian Parliament has instructed the government to prepare for the immediate suspension of Russian peacekeeping operations in the conflict zones of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is the latest step in the deterioration of Georgian-Russian relations. Deborah Wild reports from Tbilisi:

Georgian authorities accuse the Russian peacekeepers of violating their mandate by supplying arms to separatist forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Russia of attempting to permanently annex Georgian territory. Georgia wants to internationalize the peacekeeping operations. Russia’s role in the conflict regions has been cited as a reason for Georgia not to support their neighbor’s accession to the World-Trade-Organization. This is the sixth resolution by the Georgian legislature requesting the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers. The implementation of the resolution is up to President Mikheil Saakashvili and he has announced not to make a decision until after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an informal CIS Summit in Moscow at the end of the week. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Deborah Wild in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Kofi Annan Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in the Middle East (3:48)
UN Secretary Kofi Annan called for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East, while plans for a lasting peace are implemented. Annan addressed a bitterly divided UN Security Council, a group which shows no signs of coming to an agreement. FSRN’s Washington Editor, Leigh Ann Caldwell, reports.

Senate Debates Voting Rights Act Reauthorization (3:48)
President Bush spoke before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) annual national convention for the first time ever today. Since taking office six years ago, Bush repeatedly declined invitations to speak before the membership of the nation’s largest civil rights organization. However, with parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act set to be reauthorized by Congress this year, Bush accepted. Coincidentally, the Senate took an unexpected look at the Voting Rights Act today. FSRNs Selina Musuta reports on Senates vote.

Survey Results Indicate Political Interference with FDA Science (3:42)
The Union of Concerned Scientists revealed the findings of a survey today, that indicate what they say is the pervasive and dangerous political influence of science at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the survey, nearly one-fifth of the nearly 1,000 FDA scientists who responded said they have been asked, for non-scientific reasons, to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information or their conclusions in a FDA scientific document. Joining us on the line to discuss the implications of the survey findings is Francesca Grifo, shes the Senior Scientist and Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Scientific Integrity Program.

Nail Salon Workers Organizing in California (4:31)
The California Dept of Consumer Affairs issued new safety recommendations for foot spas last month. Consumers benefit – but a coalition of advocates, nail salon workers and salon owners are speaking out for worker health and safety rights. The group won a victory with the recent passage of SB 484, the Safe Cosmetics Act, which for the first time, requires manufacturers to disclose toxic ingredients in their products. The law takes effect in January 2007. As advocates push for chemical policy reforms, the group focuses on outreach to nail salon workers and consumers. Ngoc Nguyen has the story.

New Dam Brings Hope in Aral Sea Region (3:37)
The Aral Sea has been shrinking for more than forty years, dragging neighboring villages in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan into poverty. But, as Severine Bardon reports from Kazakhstan, a recently built dam is bringing hope back to the region.

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