January 30, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
In today’s confirmation hearing for John Negroponte, the president’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of State, senators made it clear to the outgoing Director of National Intelligence that they want to see a major diplomatic effort with Iran and Syria. Nan McCurdy has more from Capitol Hill.

The Republican Senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel strongly opposes the troop escalation in Iraq. He tried numerous to have Negroponte affirm the need for diplomacy with Iran as outlined by the Iraq Study group to no avail. (sound) “Do you think we are drifting toward a military confrontation with Iran?” Negroponte responds: (sound) “I don’t think that has to be Senator, I think we would strongly prefer that the issues between Iran and the US be resolved peacefully.” The hearing was briefly interrupted by three women from Code Pink who called for diplomatic solutions to the war. Code Pink member, Tony Blame says now is a crucial time for diplomacy. (sound) “Negroponte has a history of being an orchestrator of the death squads in Honduras as well as many other war crimes. I don’t understand why we’re considering him to be deputy secretary of state…our administration and him have no good history of diplomacy.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to confirm Negroponte’s nomination this week.

The Philippines will seek the help of the European Union, Spain, Finland and Sweden in further investigating the involvement of the military in the killings of hundreds of leftist activists in the country since 2001. Girlie Linao reports from Manila.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the Foreign Affairs department to formally ask the European Union, Spain, Finland and Sweden to send investigators to the Philippines to look into the involvement of Filipino soldiers in a string of political killings in the country. More than 800 people have become victims of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines since 2001, according to a local human rights group. Most of the victims were leftist activists, while others were human rights workers, labor leaders, journalists and lawyers. The presidential commission that investigated the killings submitted its report to Arroyo today. While the report has not been publicized, the commission’s head said that a small group in the military was behind a majority of the murders. Arroyo has also directed the justice and defense departments to further probe the alleged involvement of the military and to prosecute anyone found culpable. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Girlie Linao in Manila.

The Israeli Air Force raided Gaza today as Palestinian factions agreed on a ceasefire. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Israeli air forces fired upon a tunnel at the Karni commercial crossing in eastern Gaza early today after yesterday’s suicide bombing in the southern Israeli town of Eilat. No causalities were reported in the attack on Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack on Eilat, which killed 3 Israelis, and voiced hope that it would not undermine the Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire agreement reached last November. Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert said the raid on Karni aimed at foiling likely Palestinian attacks on Israel and pledged to crack down on what he called ‘terrorists and their leaders’. In other news, both Fatah and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, ending five-days of bloody in-fighting that has claimed lives of at least 35 Palestinians and wounded about one hundred others. The ceasefire has been mediated by Egyptian officials. For Free Speech Radio News and IMEMC.org, this is Rami Almeghari reporting from Gaza.

In Berlin, the Chief of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance) has made a speech critical of the problematic nature of relations between NATO and the European Union – all because of European fears about excessive US influence. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

NATO’s secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he believed ‘strategic partnership between NATO and the EU has never been more important than it is today;’ but he expressed his frustration at just how divided NATO remains from the European Union, despite concerted attempts to bring them closer. Some in Europe are working to maintain that divide because of fears about excessive US influence and disagreement over foreign policy issues; says the NATO chief, that means that NATO and the EU are ‘far from capable’ of tackling a world crisis together. They’re supposed to cooperate in a ‘spirit of complementarity’ on security issues since an agreement made back in 2001 but differences in opinion are leading to disputes over security agreements, the exchange of information and even the format of meetings. If there’s no change in attitude, the secretary general said he looked forward to a continuation of the same. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

And finally, the US Army has agreed to drop two of the charges brought against Lt. Ehren Watada, thereby reducing his potential jail sentence from six to four years. The army has also dropped the subpoenas calling on 2 journalists to testify at Watada’s court marshal at Fort Lewis near Seattle. Mark Taylor-Canfield has more.

Two of the charges lodged against LT. Watada for speaking out against the war have been dropped, and the military has announced it will not call freelance reporter Sarah Olsen and Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter Gregg Kakesako to testify in his court marshal trial at Fort Lewis beginning February 5th. Lt. Watada will still face two charges of “behavior unbecoming an officer” and one serious charge of failing to join his unit when he refused to return to Iraq for a second tour of duty last year. Lt. Watada’s stepmother collapsed from a stroke at the anti-war protests in Washington, DC on Saturday. He spoke in Seattle at the anti-war march which shut down a US Army recruiting office. “It is the right and duty of every service member to refuse unlawful orders.” Earlier this month a military judge ruled that Watada will not be allowed to argue in his defense that the war in Iraq is illegal. This is Mark Taylor-Canfield in Seattle reporting for Free Speech Radio News.

Anti-War Activists Arrested After Asking Hilary to Stand against the War (1:40)
The Senate Armed Services Committee heard the testimony from Admiral William Fallon to be the top Commander in the Middle East. Meanwhile, members of the activist group Code Pink spent the morning outside Senator Hillary Clinton’s Washington office.

Iraqis Celebrate Ashoura As Violence Rages on in Iraq (3:00)
Muslims around the world today marked Ashoura, a holiday celebrated mostly by Shiites, as it marks the death of Imam Hussein, whom Shiites believe was the rightful successor to the prophet Mohamed. Hussein is buried in Karbala, a southern Iraqi town where millions gathered today, despite the threat of attacks and continued warfare around the country. Violence in the country today, however, still left at least seventy dead. David Enders and Hiba Dawood report.

Senators Want to Tackle Climate Change (3:30)
A consensus of Senators has agreed that the truth behind global warming is no longer debatable and that the discussion should now be centered on how to effectively deal with climate change. Members of Congress are pushing for a cap and trade system to act as a first step, just a few days ahead of the U.N. global climate change report. Leaked drafts of the report, which will be released Friday, indicate rising temperatures sea levels. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Minimum Wage Hike Expected to Pass in the Senate
In more news from Washington, the Senate smoothed out major roadblocks to passing the minimum wage. Passage will likely take place tomorrow; and will add small business tax breaks to the $2.10 cent min wage increase.

Native American Rights Activist Serve Eviction Papers to Energy Company (3:30)
Native American rights activists gathered at Calpine headquarters in San Jose yesterday to dissuade the energy company from its decades-long plan to develop a power plant on a sacred area near Mount Shasta. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the energy company’s leases to the land last year, stopping all energy development. Tribes and environmentalists served Calpine with an eviction notice to pressure them to give up their plans and not appeal the ruling. Calpine operates over 90 geothermal, renewable power plants in the U.S. – nearly 30 of those are in California. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports.

New Orleans: “Outstanding Need, Slow Progress” (4:00)
The federal government has launched a new effort to investigate why the pace of New Orleans’ recovery has been so slow. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs yesterday held the first in a series of field hearings in New Orleans, chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman, entitled “Outstanding Need, Slow Progress”. Mayaba Leibental reports from New Orleans.

Class Struggles in Bolivia (4:45)
The governor of one of Bolivia’s epicenters of protest, Cochabamba’s Manfred Reyes Villa, is currently in the United States on a your of the United States, telling his version of the events that rocked his state this month, and left thousands of left-wing demonstrators calling for his resignation. Reyes has twice pushed for autonomy for his department, in bids to preference the middle class over President Evo Morales’ reforms to improve conditions for the poor. Juliette Beck has more.

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