December 20, 2006

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Headlines (5:00)
As gun battles between factions rage on in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Army continues to carry out raids in several West Bank cities. Manar Jibrin reports.

An Indian province has made HIV/Aids tests mandatory for couples before marriage. Binu Alex reports.

Police and members of the Mexican Army continue to carry out a joint operation in the Pacific state of Michoacan. Under the banner of fighting the war on drugs, police and soldiers have been working together as part of a pilot project to create a National Security System in Mexico. Vladimir Flores reports from Mexico City.

In Argentina, Thousands marched to the Plaza de Mayo today to mark the fifth anniversary of a popular uprising that swept away the government, remember the 33 killed on December 20, 2001, and call for an end to impunity for military and police officers involved in politically-motivated violence. Marie Trigona has more more Buenos Aires.

Bush Seeking to Permanently Increase Armed Forces (4:00)
President Bush held what will most likely be his last news conference of the year. The topic of interest: Iraq. Bush is in the process of deciding U.S. military policy in Iraq, and has said he is considering adding more troops in an effort to secure Baghdad. At today’s press conference, he denied that any decision has been made. But he has made up his mind about wanting a larger military in general. Bush asked new Secretary of State Robert Gates to come up with a plan to increase the human capacity of the military. And as Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, a larger military could be a possibility since Democrats, who will take control of Congress come January, are also in favor of the increase.

FCC Considers Loosening Restrictions on Telephone Companies to Provide Cable TV (4:00)
The five members of the Federal Communications Commission met in D.C. today to decide on a new rule proposed by FCC chair Kevin Martin that would loosen restrictions on telephone companies seeking to provide cable television services in local markets. Chairman Martin, a Bush appointee, has argued that the rule change would give greater choice to local communities, but consumer groups say it would take decision-making power away from the communities the rule is supposed to benefit. FSRN’s Darby Hickey has more.

Somalis Weigh In on Civil Conflict (2:00)
Tensions remain high as both sides of Somalia’s civil conflict, the Council of Islamic Courts (ICU) and the Interim Somali government, are preparing for a possible war. A seven-day deadline issued by the ICU for the government to withdraw what they say are Ethiopian troops from Baidoa, where the beleaguered transitional government is housed, has passed. Abdurahman Warsameh has more from Mogadishu.

Colombia’s Coca Fumigation Affecting Ecuadorean Farmers (4:00)
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced he will push forward with Plan Colombia’s coca eradication program in the south of the country right up to its border with Ecuador. As Diletta Varlese reports, Colombia is ignoring a bilateral agreement with Ecuador to respect a 6-mile distance from the border to protect Ecuadorian farmers.

Executions Halted in Maryland (reader)
The Supreme Court of Maryland has ordered a halt to all capital punishment in the state while the government reviews its execution procedures. This comes on the heels of a similar ruling late last week in the state of California. Florida also suspended executions last week after irregularities with a lethal injection there.

Iraqi Ex-Minister Escapes Jail in Baghdad’s Green Zone (3:00)
13 people were hanged in Iraq today for various crimes including rape and murder. 64 people have been executed by the state since 2004 when the death penalty was reinstated in Iraq. Another 150 remain on death row. Meanwhile, Iraq’s former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samarrai escaped jail from inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. This is the second time the ex-Minister has escaped jail while serving a two-year corruption sentence. FSRN’s Salam Talib has the story.

Outcry Over Decision Not to Try Policeman in Connection with Indigenous Man in Custody (2:30)
The outcry is growing in Australia over the failure by Queensland’s director of Public Prosecutions to charge and bring to trial a policeman implicated in the death of an indigenous man from Palm Island. As FSRN’s Erica Vowles reports, although Queensland’s Premier Peter Beattie has traveled to Palm Island to consult with the community, many fear the visit is too little, too late.

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