December 27, 2006

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Headlines (4:20)
A 7.1 magnitude earthquake killed two people in Taiwan yesterday. Damage to an underwater cable has affected telephone communications and internet services in the country. The earthquake came two years to the day after a massive tsunami killed more than 200,000 in southern Asia.

A Texas suburb plans to fine landlords $500 a day for renting to undocumented immigrants, but a new lawsuit by civil rights groups may stop the plan from going into effect. Renee Feltz reports:

An ordinance barring apartment landlords from leasing to undocumented immigrants is set to go into effect in about two weeks in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch. City council members passed the measure after closed door meetings in November, and said they anticipated a lawsuit. Now, they have several. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of landlords and residents. The suit says the ordinance is flawed because it requires landlords to enforce federal immigration law. It alleges families with legal and undocumented members would be separated, thus denying them their first amendment right to free association. The ACLU and MALDEF argue the ordinance is poorly written, fails to provide clear guidance for landlords… allows exclusion of legal immigrants and citizens, and would mean all residents will have to carry proof of legal residency at all times. US census figures show Farmers Branch is about 37 percent Latino. Farmers Branch established a special revenue fund to allow it to accept financial donations to help defray legal costs associated with the ordinance. For FSRN, I’m Renee Feltz in Houston.

Over the holiday recess, President Bush quietly appointed Warren Bell to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Usually, the president nominates a candidate for Senate approval. However, the president can bypass Senate approval for a nominee during a recess. Therefore, Warren Bell will stay on the CPB board until the completion of a formal nomination and confirmation process or until the end of the next Senate session. Bell has worked in different capacities on a number sitcom series, but has no experience in public broadcasting.

On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution to impose sanctions against Iran for its nuclear enrichment program. Iran says the program is for domestic energy purposes while the US maintains that it is part of a nuclear weapons program. The Security Council had ordered Iran to stop it’s nuclear enrichment and ballistic missile programs in August. UK Ambassador to the UN, Jones Parry, says that the resolution sends a tough message to Iran: (sound) “…tough for a particular purpose. We’re asking – requiring – Iran to come into compliance with what we’ve said earlier in the summer, and we except Iran to do this.” Iran’s Parliament has started to debate its official response to the Security Council resolution.

The Israeli government has approved the construction of a new Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank to house settlers who moved out of the Gaza Strip last year. Rami Almeghari reports from Gaza:

250,000 Israeli settlers currently live in 140 settlements built on illegally seized Palestinian land in the West Bank, with most of them having moved there in the last ten years. Many of the 5,000 Israeli settlers who left in a highly-publicized evacuation from three settlements in the Gaza Strip in August 2005 have been re-located to settlements in the West Bank. But some of the Israeli families who moved from Gaza have been living inside Israel, and a number of them have pressured the Israeli government to allow for the construction of a new settlement in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern part of the West Bank. The settlement has already been constructed, and today received approval from the Israeli government — despite a promise that the Israeli government made to the U.S. to halt construction of new settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley have faced increasing pressure during the settlement’s construction over the last several months, including home demolitions, denial of construction permits, travel restrictions, destruction of farmlands, and Israeli Army invasions into their villages and towns. For FSRN and, this Rami Almeghari reporting from Gaza.

Saddam Loses Appeal – Baathists Promise Reprisals (3:00)
After Saddam Hussein lost his last appeal yesterday, Iraq’s National security minister announced that Saddam could be executed any day over the next four weeks. Meanwhile, a statement released by the former ruling Baath party, said its militants will target US interests anywhere and everywhere if Saddam is executed. Salam Talib has the story.

Military Officials Speak Out Against “Surge” (4:00)
Meanwhile, U.S. casualties continue to mount in Iraq. The military announced three more deaths today, bringing the U.S. death toll to 2,983 since the invasion began. The number is higher than the number of civilians who died in the September 11th attacks. President Bush says he is considering several proposals for new strategies in Iraq, including sending more troops to the battleground. That plan is sparking controversy in the nation’s capital. Yanmei Xie reports.

Ethiopian-Backed Forces Advance on Mogadishu (4:10)
The latest reports from Somalia indicate Ethiopian-backed forces have captured the town of Jowhar, about 55 miles from the nation’s capital. As fighting enters its tenth day, there are frantic diplomatic efforts underway in Africa and the United Nations. The Security Council is holding a discussion to come up with a way to end the conflict in Somalia–it has the potential to grow into a regional war in the Horn of Africa. Abdurahman Warsameh has more from Mogadishu.

Christmas Brings No Respite in Sri Lankan War (3:00)
Sri Lankan military officials said today that five people were killed in the clashes between the government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels in the war-torn northeastern region. On Christmas day, at least nine combatants were killed and nine were wounded, in spite of religious leaders’ call for a cessation of hostilities. Thousands of civilians have fled their homes because of the escalating violence. Ponniah Manikavasagam reports from Sri Lanka.

Massachusetts Court Refuses to Force Action on Gay Marriage Ban (4:00)
This morning Massachusetts’ highest court said it will not require the legislature to vote on putting a constitutional referendum to ban gay marriage on the state ballot. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since a court ruling in 2003. Conservative groups submitted a 170,000-signature petition asking to revise the state constitution by ballot initiative, but it requires a vote of the state legislature to actually get on the ballot. State lawmakers used a procedural tactic to virtually guarantee that the issue will not go to a vote this year–that prompted a lawsuit spearheaded by governor Mitt Romney, who’s expected to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2008. The State’s Judicial Court ruled that the legislature does have a constitutional duty to vote on putting the issue on the ballot–but said the court can’t force lawmakers to do their job. Norma Schapiro, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, says there’s little popular pressure on lawmakers to take on the issue:

[Schapiro, 1] The polls say . . . we don’t want discrimination in our constitution.

However, conservative groups are far from conceding defeat in the only state to formally legalize same-sex marriage. I’m joined by Lisa Barstow, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Family Institute. Lisa Barstow, isn’t this ruling a setback?

Barstow: Not at all. But what the court did was make clear that lawmakers in Massachusetts have a constitutional obligation to…

Edwards-Tiekert: And yet the court put no teeth in it–they said they can’t force legislators to vote on the measure. Where does that leave you?

Barstow: Well, essentially we recognize that there’s a separation of powers–that the judiciary cannot compel the Legislature to vote. But what it does do is make clear that the Legislature has no more excuses to hide behind.

Edwards-Tiekert: Opponents of the measure argue the principle that a majority of the electorate should not be able to vote to suppress the rights of the minority.

Barstow: Well look, they can argue that, but what we are looking for is that this citizens’ initiative process go forward unimpeded. . .

Edwards-Tiekert: Would the same principle apply to a constitutional ban on marriage between black and white people?

We’re not debating those issues, and those are all issues worthy of public debate. But if you set down the citizen’s initiative process, then you have violated the civil rights and First Amendment rights of all citizens of the Commonwealth.

Edwards-Tiekert: Lisa Barstow, thank you for joining us on Free Speech Radio News.

Barstow: You’re very welcome.

Lisa Barstow is a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Family Institute, which is campaigning for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

Ford Dies (2:40)
Former President Gerald Ford died last night at the age of 93. Darby Hickey has more from the nation�s capital.

Services for James Brown (reader)
Finally, music legend James Brown’s career will come full circle tomorrow. Friends of Brown announced that his body will be brought to rest on the stage of the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, where brown made his explosive debut. The public will be permitted to visit the Apollo to have one more look at a Brown on Thursday. The viewing will be followed by a private ceremony in Brown’s hometown of Augusta, Georgia. on Friday, there will be another public ceremony in Augusta, at the James Brown arena.

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