November 17, 2006

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Headlines (5:00)
After months of rejecting an expanded peacekeeping force, the Sudanese government has agreed to a United Nations presence in Darfur. FSRN’s Emmanuel Okella reports.

During a UN-convened meeting yesterday at the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, Khartoum agreed to an expanded United Nations package of support for the African Union force that is currently on the ground in the Darfur region. However, sticking points remain; Sudan insists that the expanded force must be African-led, African-manned, and African-controlled. That could be a potential deal-breaker for UN members who want more say in the operation. Currently, a force of 7,000 African Union troops patrols the region…but many observers say the force is too small and under-funded to prevent ongoing bloodshed. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was optimistic about the breakthrough: (sound) “All the participants came with the right spirit, the right mood and a determination to find a solution realizing that we cannot maintain the current impasse.” The deal could lead to the deployment of 17,000 troops plus 3000 police, but Khartoum hasn’t signed onto that yet. Final details of the agreement are to be discussed at a meeting next week in the Republic of Congo. For Free Speech Radio News Emmanuel Okella reporting.

Representative John Boehner of Ohio has won the position of Minority Leader in the 110th Congress. Roy Blunt also kept his leadership position and will be the Minority Whip of the House of Representatives. The Republican leadership elections for the House of Representatives firms up the House and Senate leaders when lawmakers begin a new session in January.

In other news from Washington DC, women’s groups are voicing concerns about President Bush’s choice for the new head of the family planning program at the Department of Health and Human Services. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Eric Keroack is the current director at A Woman’s Concern, a Christian women’s center that discourages contraception and promotes abstinence. President Bush appointed him yesterday to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services’ family planning grant program which awards nearly 300 million dollars to programs focused on families, teens, and low-income people’s pregnancy prevention. The appointment, which doesn’t need Senate confirmation, disturbs women’s choice groups. Olga Vives is Executive Vice President of the National Organization for Women: (sound) “This continues to show the arrogance of this president, who doesn’t listen or realize that this country wants change.” The hiring of Keroack comes the same week the President re-nominated 6 conservative judges who were unable to pass through the Senate confirmation process. For FSRN, I’m Leigh Ann Caldwell.

The country’s largest owner of radio stations, Clear Channel, has agreed to a buy-out for a reported 18.7 billion dollars. One of the two major investment groups involved in the purchase of Clear Channel – has been accused of violating Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure requirements. Mark Taylor-Canfield has more from Seattle.

Thomas H. Lee Partners is the world’s second largest private equity firm, specializing in leveraged buy outs. Private-equity firms are currently the target of a U.S. Justice Department investigation into possible anti-trust violations. Shareholders filed a lawsuit this week in the Manhattan federal court accusing Thomas H. Lee Partners of illegally conspiring to drive down the prices they paid when taking companies private. Media activists in Seattle claim that Thomas H Lee Partners’ history of litigation for unethical business practices does not bode well for the legal and financial future of the Clear Channel properties which have dominated the US media. This is Mark Taylor-Canfield in Seattle for Free Speech Radio News.

In Uruguay, a former dictator and ex-Minister of Foreign Relations have been arrested. They will both face charges of involvement in the murder of their regime’s critics. Asli Pelit reports from Montevideo.

A judge ordered the arrest of the 2 former officials yesterday. Ex-Dictator of Uruguay, Juan Maria Bordaberry soon after turned himself in to the police. His then-minister of Foreign Relations, Juan Carlos Blanco, was arrested immediately. The men are accused of involvement in the killing of two left-wing politicians, Zelmar Michellini, Hector Gutierrez Ruiz, and two militants, Rosario Barredo and William Whitelaw, who were executed in Buenos Aires in 1976. According to Uruguayan law, Bordaberry and Blanco are not protected under the long-protested amnesty that protects members of the army involved in killings of the civilians during the dictatorship. The Uruguayan judge ordered 10-years of prison for both men, without possibility of early release, due to the seriousness of their crimes. Some 180 Uruguayans were killed during the 12 years of military rule.

U.S. Troops Accused of Atrocities Opt for Plea Deals (3:30)
Media outlets were full this last spring, with allegations of brutalities committed by U.S. troops in Iraq. Now, many of those soldiers are facing their day in court, but some observers are concerned at the number of accused who have reached plea deals with the military. Aaron Glantz reports.

France’s Socialist Party Chooses Royal as Presidential Candidate (3:00)
France’s Socialist Party has chosen Ségolène Royal as its candidate for next year’s presidential election. As FSRN’s Tony Cross reports from Paris, she’s the first woman to stand a realistic chance of winning the post.

Filipino Families of Disappeared Persons Appeal for Help (3:40)
An Asian human rights group has condemned the Philippine government’s failure to investigate a growing number of extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances in the country. The Asian Human Rights Commission has also called on authorities to look into the cases of forced disappearances with the same urgency as political killings. As FSRN’s Girlie Linao reports from Manila, families of disappeared persons are appealing for urgent help in hopes that their relatives are still alive.

Ecuador’s Intag Community Resists Open-Pit Copper Mine Project (3:15)
Junin is a community within Ecuador’s Intag cloud forest region, a place considered to have one of the world’s greatest biodiversity. But it is also the site for a proposed open-pit copper mining project by a Canadian company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. As Kasim Tirmizey reports, residents of Junin and surrounding communities are resisting the proposed mining project.

As Many as 20,000 People Expected to Participate in SOA Watch This Weekend (3:30)
This weekend, the 17th annual gathering of School of the Americas, or SOA, Watch outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, is expected to draw a record crowd of 20,000. Participants from throughout the world come to honor the tens of thousands of Latin American civilians who have been persecuted, tortured and killed at the hands of graduates of the school. The participants’ goal is to close the school either by cutting its U.S. funding, or by draining the pool of soldiers from countries throughout Latin America, about a thousand of whom attend classes at the school every year. Organizers have made progress on both fronts this year. Melinda Tuhus reports.

World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Wraps Up Conference (3:15)
As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Al Bakhit signed into agreement a memorandum of understanding covering 17 key areas of trade, social development and media cooperation yesterday in Jordan’s capital Amman, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters wrapped up its ninth world conference. Community radio broadcasters from more than 94 countries attended the event to analyze and explore the challenges facing community radio. FSRN’s Jackson Allers reports from Amman.

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