January 24, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today voted against President Bush’s policy to increase troop levels in Iraq, saying that the plan is not in the national interest. The larger Senate body is due to debate the “troop surge” measure next week. The outcome of today’s Senate panel vote is non-binding.

In other military news, the National Security Council of the Czech Republic today decided to give the go-ahead to talks with the United States over the installation of a global missile defense system in Czech territory. If the project wins approval from the president and both houses of the Czech parliament, the base would be the first missile defense site located outside of the US. Russia has publicly opposed the plan.

This news from Somalia. US officials today confirmed a second air strike in the East African country. Meanwhile, suspected Islamists launched several mortars at Mogadishu’s International Airport today, killing at least two people and wounding four others. Abdurrahman Warsameh reports from Mogadishu.

The attack came as passengers were boarding a domestic civilian airplane and as a delegation from the Norwegian embassy in Kenya arrived in the Mogadishu airport. By-standers rushed the wounded to the hospital for treatment. The dead and the wounded were civilians seeing off their relatives at the airport at the time. Among the wounded is a 10-year-old boy. The attack comes one day after Ethiopian soldiers began withdrawing from Somalia. Gunmen rarely launch their attacks on the Ethiopian and Somali troops during daylight hours. Ethiopian and Somali troops guard government building in the capital including the international airport, the seaport, and the presidential palace compound which was attacked last week as the president and the prime minister were holding talks with clan elders. The ousted Islamists, who ruled much of southern Somali, vowed to wage a guerilla war against the Ethiopian troops who helped the transitional federal government drive them out of the country. For FSRN I am Abdurrahman Warsameh in Mogadishu.

A new low-power FM station went on the air today in Nairobi, Kenya….despite an armed robbery prior to its launch. WORT’s Norman Stockwell has the story.

Radio Huru, which means “Free Radio” in Swahili, is the independent station of the World Social Forum. Radio Huru began its first broadcast today at 10:30 am local time. The station, built by local young people, working together with Indymedia activists and the US-based Prometheus Radio Project, broadcasts a mix of African music and interviews with World Social Forum participants. The launch of this collaborative project was slowed, but not stopped when the station was raided Monday evening by three armed men who stole CD players and a laptop, but left the more valuable tools and broadcast equipment. With about 25 watts of power, the station’s signal now reaches throughout the territory covered by the world Social forum activities here in Nairobi, Kenya. The forum wraps up tomorrow, but local activists are already planning a permanent home for the newly constructed transmitter. Reporting for FSRN this is Norman Stockwell in the Kasarani International Sports stadium just outside Nairobi, Kenya.

Back in the US, a week-long series of immigration raids in the Los Angeles metropolitan area has resulted in the arrest of over 760 people. Of that number more than 450 have already been deported. The Department of Homeland Security says it targeted immigrants who had criminal records or who had defied deportation orders. Part of an operation known as “Return to Sender”, the raids are some of the largest in US history.


The Defense Department has given the Navy permission to keep training with sonar for another two years, a move denounced by environmentalists who say the sound waves harm marine mammals. WMNF’s Mitch Perry has more.

Navy officials had sought the two-year exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act, saying they needed time to study how sonar use at major underwater training ranges affects the environment. Sailors use active sonar by pumping sound waves through the ocean and listening to the echo as it bounces off underwater objects. Navy leaders have made practicing sonar techniques a top priority as other nations have bought more advanced diesel submarines, which are quieter than earlier models and thus harder to find. But environmentalists cite incidents of whales, porpoises and dolphins that have become stranded on beaches after being exposed to sonar. An attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council said he would continue to press the lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles, invoking other federal laws to force the Navy to reduce sonar power at night when whales are harder to see and to avoid coastal waters and other areas where whales and dolphins congregate. Mitch Perry, FSRN, Tampa.

Bush’s State of the Union Urges Support for War in Iraq
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution on Capitol Hill today that would put lawmakers on record on their stance of the President’s troop increase. The vote was along party lines, with the exception of Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska – the only Republican to vote in favor. The legislation could come up on the Senate floor this week. It could also be combined with a resolution written by the senior Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia, which also expresses opposition to the President’s plan. The committee debate on Iraq began just 12 hours after the President gave his 7th State of the Union address. In that address, Bush tried yet again to convince the public that his plan for Iraq will work. He said he decided to send additional troops because Iraqis are not yet ready to secure the country on their own. Bush has now brought the argument on Iraq full circle: instead of suggesting that the perpetrators of 9-11 had links to Iraq, he said allowing Iraq to deteriorate into chaos could create another event like 9-11. Acknowledging that the war on terror will be long lived, Bush asked for the recruitment and training of more than 90,000 troops and the creation of a Civilian Reserve Corp. It would consist of citizen volunteers that could be called for deployment. President Bush then urged the Democratic controlled Congress to unite behind his plan.

State of the Union Fails to Address Domestic Poverty (3:10)
Besides Iraq and the War on Terror, the President talked about domestic issues: health care, energy, and education. But one theme that was missing in the President’s State of the Union was poverty. Bush did not mention the Katrina disaster or the growing number of unemployed African American men, just two of the examples that highlight poverty in the United States. As Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, Congress has begun to examine the issue.

Calls Increase for Israeli President to Resign (3
Israel’s President Moshe Katsav says he plans to temporarily remove himself from power following the decision to indict him on a series of charges including rape, sexual harassment and fraud. However, he needs parliamentary approval for a temporary suspension, and it’s not clear that he’ll get it since so many lawmakers want him to resign. The charges against Katsav are the most serious ever faced by an Israeli head of state. Irris Makler reports from Jerusalem.

Lebanon Headed for Possible Civil War (4:00)
Hundreds were wounded and at least three killed as Lebanon was brought to a standstill yesterday as calls for a general strike turned violent when opposition protestors took to the streets, burning tires and blocking all major roads in and around Beirut. The nearly two-month long Hezbollah-led protest escalated into a second phase in a bid to topple the current Western backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. The current crisis has cost the Lebanese economy $70 million dollars a day, and many fear that the country could be slipping in to a civil war. Simba Russeau has more from Beirut.

South Sudanese Interim Government Visits Washington (3:45)
With global attention intermittently centered on the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, the peace process in the south of Sudan is more often left out of the limelight. Members of Congress and the south Sudanese interim government gathered in Washington today to expand the focus to ensure that the peace process, which ended more than 20 years of civil war, does not fall apart. Darby Hickey reports from Capitol Hill.

Air Force Reservist Fired by Employer While Deployed to Iraq (3:00)
An Air Force Reserve Officer filed suit Tuesday in San Francisco claiming her former employer violated federal law when it fired her after she returned from active duty service in Iraq. Max Pringle reports.

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