October 04, 2006
BUSH SIGNS DHS SPENDING BILL
President Bush signed an appropriations bill today that provides the Department of Homeland Security with $34.8 billion in discretionary funds. According to a statement released by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Secure Border Initiative has been funded at an unprecedented level, including funding for “an additional 1,500 border patrol agents, 6,700 detention beds and $1.2 billion for border fencing, vehicle barriers, technology and tactical infrastructure”. The government of Mexico had sent a diplomatic letter to the White House on Monday, requesting that Bush veto legislation to expand the construction of the wall along the common border.
DHS DATA MINING
The Dept of Homeland Security appropriations bill also allots money for a data mining project which members of Congress have asked the DHS’s Inspector General to investigate. The so-called Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement program – also known as ADVISE – has raised questions among lawmakers about oversight of the data mining program and its impacts on privacy rights. The ADVISE program has been compared to a proposed Defense Department project known as Total Information Awareness.
UPDATE FROM OAXACA
In Oaxaca, civil society groups and members of non-governmental organizations have set up a peace camp in the esplanade a UNESCO World Heritage site in downtown Oaxaca City to call national and international attention to an impending military and police offensive. Meanwhile, striking school teachers and members of Oaxaca’s popular movement have traveled once again to Mexico City to dialogue with the Secretary of the Interior. Vladimir Flores has the latest.
The delegations from Oaxaca had originally been called to Mexico City for a forum to include business leaders, civil society representatives, and Governor Ulises Ruiz. Earlier this week, President Fox warned of serious consequences if an agreement is not reached. But the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca and teachers decided in separate meetings last night not to attend today’s forum, but to instead request alternative negotiations with the Interior Secretary to demand a stop to the militarization of the state. This Oaxaca City nursery school teacher, who did not want to give her name, spoke about the general tension in the protest encampments in light of military overflights and troop movements within the state. (AUDIO teacher) “Yes, we’re scared… but we don’t care – because if the federal police come in or the Marines come in like they are already saying … let them come. It doesn’t matter because if they come and they attack us or carry out some strong act of provocation against us – this is only going to get bigger. If they don’t resolve this, it’s going to grow and there will be problems. We are not going to just accept whatever they do to us. It’s going to extend further, to the national level.” Many in Oaxaca are nervous that the federal government may intervene with force as early as tonight.
SRI LANKAN PEACE TALKS
The government of Sri Lanka today agreed to resume peace talks with the Tamil Tiger rebels. This comes as increased violence has threatened to drag the country back into a full-scale civil war. The talks are scheduled to take place in Geneva at the end of the month.
MORE ATTACKS IN NIGERIA
Seven people, including five foreign oil workers, were abducted last night and two security guards were killed in the Niger Delta region during two more attacks launched by militants. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.
Three of the abducted oil workers are from Britain, while the other two are from Indonesia and Romania. They were abducted in Akwa Ibom State during a raid on a residential compound which belongs to the American oil company, Exxon Mobil. The attack coincided with another one in nearby Rivers State, where militants abducted two soldiers guarding an oil installation. Both attacks come only one night after militants killed five soldiers escorting a convoy of supply boats belonging to the Anglo-Dutch Oil Company, Shell Petroleum. The latest round of violence shows the growing insecurity in the Niger Delta. The region has one of the largest crude oil reserves in the world. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.
THREATS IN THE WAKE OF LANDMARK HUMAN RIGHTS CONVICTION IN ARGENTINA
After 17 days of searching, Buenos Aires provincial police have hit a dead end in the hunt for a missing 77-year-old witness whose gripping testimony of torture helped convict a former police officer in the first junta trial since the scrapping of an amnesty law. FSRN’s Marie Trigona has more from Buenos Aires.
No one has seen or heard from Julio Jorge Lopez since September 18, when he was last seen in his home in La Plata, 40 kilometers from Buenos Aires. He went missing just hours before he was slated to hear the conviction of a former police investigator who was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity in the 1976-1983 dictatorship. Since Lopez’s disappearance, over 11 judges, the Buenos Aires Human Rights secretariat, and the president of human rights group, Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, have received threats. Most of the torture survivors testifying in the ongoing trials against former figures from the military dictatorship have entered witness protection programs. Meanwhile, human rights organizations are pressing for direct access to information into the provincial police’s investigation on the whereabouts of Lopez. The Association of Ex-detainees and HIJOS (children of the disappeared) are pointing to the provincial police with ties to the 1976-1983 military dictatorship for the kidnaping of Lopez. Human rights groups will hold an exposure protest outside the Buenos Aires provincial offices this evening. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Marie Trigona in Buenos Aires.
Bush Administration Unwilling to Hold Talks with North Korea (4:20)
The international community has delicately responded to North Korea’s threat to test a nuclear weapon. Some experts say bi-lateral talks between North Korea and the US could help tensions – but that’s a move the US has rejected. As Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, this would not be the first time the Bush Administration has opted out of direct talks with an adversary.
Report Indicates Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda Are Fighting Proxy War for U.S. in Somalia (5:45)
A new report by the influential London-based newsletter “Africa Confidential” has alleged that Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, with technical support from U.S. security firm Select Armor, which is funded by the U.S. administration, are being used to fight a proxy war in Somalia. Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally, is reported to have already sent troops to Baidoa in support of the weak Somali interim administration. The U.S. has already been reported to have been the key backer of a militia – the anti terror alliance that was ejected from Mogadishu by the Islamists. FSRN’s Joshua Kyalimpa reports.
The Return of Death Squads in El Salvador (4:00)
El Salvador’s notorious Death Squads have recently reemerged to spread terror and murder. Death Squads are illegal groups, active during and after the country’s civil war in the 1980s, that targeted human rights defenders. They were made up by elements of the army and police, but out of the control of recognized institutions. Civil rights organizations are demanding an investigation and an end to what they say are the injustices that began with the civil war – pointing out that Death Squads were granted legal protection and were therefore never prosecuted for their crimes. The Salvadoran government has remained silent, even amid an increase in murders attributed to a group calling itself La Sombra Negra, or The Black Shadow – a Death Squad active in the northeast state of San Miguel. Ricardo Martinez reports from El Salvador on the popular call to investigate today’s Death Squads.
FCC Holds Hearing in Los Angeles on Media Consolidation (1:30)
The issue of increased media consolidation came under scrutiny yesterday, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a hearing on the topic in Los Angeles. The FCC is reviewing several broadcast ownership rules for the first time since 2003, when it relaxed many of the regulations concerning ownership – including allowing one company to own both a newspaper and a television station in one market. Many speakers attending the hearing oppose the result, citing a lack of diversity. Representative Maxine Waters.
Minimum Wage Increase Follows Candidates to the Ballots (3:40)
Congress adjourned last week and will not reconvene until after the November election. With many bills left behind in Washington DC collecting dust, the issue of the mum wage increase is following lawmakers to the ballot. FSRN’s Yanmei Xie takes a look at the issue.