August 08, 2006

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Headlines (5:24)
Israeli air strikes have killed at least 14 villagers in southern Lebanon today – pushing the Lebanese death toll over 1,000. The Lebanese government is pressing the U.N. Security Council to adopt reforms to a U.S.-French backed ceasefire plan – as the country faces its toughest set of crises since Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12. Jackson Allers reports from Beirut.

Among the many casualties of war during the near four week Israeli military offensive is a growing environmental disaster along the Lebanese coastline. Nearly 90 miles of coastline has been covered by a more than 14 thousand ton oil spill that is spreading north into Syrian waters. Marine analysts say that the oil spill will affect the fishing industry for at least 2 to 3 years and that a cleanup is not possible until a ceasefire is complete. Meanwhile, the Lebanese government called up 15,000 Reserve troops to fulfill their commitment to a domestic ceasefire plan that would put Lebanese government forces in control of the southern territories – areas that Israel intends to occupy in the coming weeks – part of the Israeli government’s strategy to force Hezbollah from the southern Lebanese border. And today, as the United Nations Security Council debates changes to the U.S. backed ceasefire agreement, Israel dropped thousands of leaflets onto the coastal city of Tyre in Southern Lebanon – indicating that any moving vehicle would be considered hostile and would face Israeli missile attacks. Reporting for Free speech Radio News, this is Jackson Allers in Beirut, Lebanon.

Sri Lankan rebels today released water from a disputed irrigation reservoir ending a 20-day blockade that had instigated fierce clashes between government forces and the Tamil Tigers. In a separate development, 17 local aid workers were found dead in a battered nearby town. The French charity Action Against Hunger said it has suspended its mission to Sri Lanka following the massacre of its local staff in the country. Ponniah Manikavasagam has more.

On July 20, Tamil Tiger rebels blocked the Mavil Aru irrigation water supply to 30,000 acres of paddy lands in the government held area. The government launched an offensive to open the water gates and fierce fighting erupted between the two parties in the eastern town of Muttur and hundreds of combatants and civilians were killed. The rebels said they want the government to fulfill the long felt basic needs including drinking water of the people in their area. Hours after Norway`s peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer clinched a deal with the rebels on Sunday to open the Mavil Aru canal, the government launched fresh artillery attacks. Senior rebel leader Elilan said they opened the water gates on humanitarian grounds and at the request of the Norwegian government. Meanwhile, the funeral of 17 local aid workers killed in Muttur took place in Trincomalee today. The tragic death of these people has sent shock waves among the aid agencies engaged in relief and rehabilitation projects in the country. The European Union has urged the government to take legal action against the perpetrators and to assure the safety of the humanitarian workers. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Ponniah Manikavasagam in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

Floods in Ethiopia have claimed more than 200 lives since the weekend. Over 10,000 people have been left homeless in the eastern city of Dire Dawa. Hundreds of people are still missing. The updated death toll comes amid new warnings of flash floods for lowland regions.

Aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo say that internally displaced civilians in the northeast are dying for lack of food. Violence still rages in areas of the DRC although the country’s devastating civil war formally ended three years ago. A UN humanitarian aid coordinator told Reuters that an estimated 10 people die each day in one camp that shelters some 40,000 displaced people. Some of the displaced are left with no choice but to return to their fields in areas patrolled by violent militia groups. The civil war in the DRC has been ranked as the deadliest conflict since WWII.

More than 2,000 miners in the world’s largest private copper mine, La Escondida, went on strike yesterday demanding better wages and working conditions. FSRN’s Jorge Garretón reports from Santiago.

The striking miners are demanding a 13 percent pay increase and a one time bonus of some 30 thousand dollars per worker because of the high price of copper in world markets. They also demand pay benefits because they have to work under a harsh environment at nearly 10 thousand feet in the mountains. La Escondida, owned by the Anglo-Australian mine consortium BHP Billiton, is offering only 3 percent increase in wages. La Escondida produces 8 percent of the world’s copper and last year the mine had record profits of 2.5 billion dollars. Union officials say La Escondida is operating at 30 percent capacity with non-union labor and scab miners. Company officials say the mine is working at 40 percent capacity. Union leader Pedro Marin calls the strike historic and says it is the rebirth of the mining union movement silenced after the 1973 military coup. Marin says they have the support of other mining unions, but warns that miners need to be responsible in their demands because Chile’s economy and success is owed largely to its commodities. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Eyes Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for Oil Exploration (4:16)
US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman showed optimism in the U.S.’ capacity to make up for the 400,000 barrels of oil that will be lost due to BP’s pipeline leak in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. As FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, amidst his assurances, he encouraged the opening of the ANWR to further oil exploration.

UN Security Council Meets with Arab League (1:01) with
The Arab League, composed of Foreign Ministers from 20 countries, met in Beirut yesterday and rejected a UN resolution drafted by the U.S. and France. Yahya Mahmassani is the Permanent Observer to the UN from the League of Arab States. He said the current proposal has a discriminatory tone, adding that 3 key details are missing from the draft.

Christians and Muslims Living Through War in Lebanon (4:12)
Meanwhile, the violence continues in the Middle East. Israeli warplanes destroyed 5 bridges along the main north-south coastal highway this week, killing 5 people, wounding 19 others, and completely isolating Beirut from the north of the country. The strikes destroyed the only remaining outlet via Syria after the bombardment of other border crossing points, and might challenge the relationship between a city’s Christian and Muslim communities. Christians were the majority in the region and Muslims were the minority in numbers – until 22,000 refugees arrived from the southern war zone, seeking shelter. FSRN’s Khaled Sid Mohand reports from this Christian stronghold, to access if the destruction of the bridges is causing more than just physical damage.

Israelis Split on Continued Attacks (3:29)
At least 1,000 Lebanese people, more than 800 of them civilians, and 97 Israelis, 33 of them civilians, have been killed in the three-week long war. But while Israeli officials present a ‘united front’ to the world media, the reality on the ground is a far more fractured populace. Jenka Soderberg reports.

U.S. Military Steps Up Attacks on Sadr Movement (4:41)
As Israel continues its invasion of Lebanon, the United States military is stepping up its attack on the movement of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. Like Hezballah in Lebanon, the Sadr movement has millions of members, opposes the Israeli and U.S. military, and provides social services for the poor. Aaron Glantz and Salam Talib report.

Demonstrators Arrested for Protecting Trees in Oregon (2:34)
The first tress were chopped down in a pristine Roadless Area yesterday since the Bush Administration repealed a 2001 rule last year, which protected 58-million acres of unspoiled forest land. About 100 demonstrators from Oregon rallied in front of the Forest Service office in Medford, Oregon, protesting the trees destruction. As FSRN’s Jacob Fenston reports, 12 protestors were arrested when they occupied the crosswalk in front of the Agency’s office.

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