February 14, 2007

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Headlines (5:45)
After a year-long investigation, the European parliament voted today to approve the findings in a report accusing Britain, Italy, Germany and other EU countries of deliberately ignoring CIA operated flights used to carry terrorist suspects in to, and out of Europe. From London, Naomi Fowler reports:

In order to get this report approved, there was much negotiation and some watering down of the report findings – as well as accusations by the European Parliament’s committee on CIA activities in Europe of lack of cooperation and even obstruction. Committee member Baroness Sarah Ludford speaking in the European Parliament today: (sound) ‘Why has the Bush administration, (not Americans as a whole,) tossed away the moral high ground and dragged America’s reputation into the mud by a programme of kidnapping, forced disappearance, dark prisons, indefinite detention, cruel and inhuman treatment and out-sourcing of torture?! Europe has failed a test in the last five years; a test of whether it will practice its values or only preach them. We’ve lacked the guts to refuse to collude with torture flights and lacked the vision to use Europe’s capacity to be a real and united best friend to America.’ The European parliament has no centralized powers for taking legal action over the report’s conclusions and can now only make recommendations; however, courts in individual member states are taking and have taken action against CIA agents. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Auto manufacturer DaimlerChrysler announced today that it plans to slash 13,000 jobs in the US and Canada. The cuts are part of a planned restructuring program of the auto giant. The announcement comes as DaimlerChrysler posted an increased 4th quarter operating profit of nearly 2.5 billion dollars and was followed by a rise in share prices to a 4 year high.

A study released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts states that by the year 2011, the United States will have more than 1.7 million people in prison, representing an increase of nearly 200,000 from last year’s levels. Nan McCurdy has more from Washington DC.

The report by the Pew Charitable Trusts entitled “Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007 to 2011” found that unless states make significant policy changes, by 2011 one in every 178 US residents will be in prison. The US already has more people behind bars than any other country. Researchers found that the expected increase in the prison population is largely due to mandatory minimum prison sentences, reduced parole grant rates, and high recidivism rates, especially among people on parole and probation who are sent back to prison for breaking the rules of their release. The Department of Justice has concluded that mandatory sentencing fails to deter crime. In the 1970’s and 80’s congress and many state legislatures passed mandatory minimum sentencing, and “three strikes” laws that force judges to hand out fixed sentences, without parole, to people convicted of drug-related charges, regardless of mitigating factors, like lack of violence in the crime. Researchers hope today’s report will provide hard facts and data needed to assist states in decision-making on sentencing and corrections policy. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Nan McCurdy.

The news director at a public radio station in Santa Fe, New Mexico has instituted a newsroom policy to ignore national news stories based on the statements of anonymous officials. Leslie Clark reports from Albuquerque.

Santa Fe radio station KSFR will no longer broadcast news stories based entirely on statements of unnamed US officials. The decision comes in response to widely-circulated national stories about Iran supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents – using mostly information from anonymous sources. According to KSFR News Director Bill Dupuy, stories relying on anonymous sources helped beat the drums of war in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. The oft-repeated claim that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false. Dupuy is calling on other news departments to follow his lead.

In a follow-up to a story broadcast yesterday, Ecuador’s congress has approved a measure to hold a nationwide referendum on whether to convoke a constituent assembly to make changes to the country’s constitution. The measure passed by a 57 to 1 margin, although dozens of legislators opposed to the president’s initiative walked out of Congress before the vote. An estimated 70% of the Ecuadorian electorate favors the proposal to reform the constitution. The referendum is scheduled for mid April.

And finally, today marks the two-year anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. As many as 300,000 demonstrators crowded into Beirut’s Martyr’s square to mark the anniversary, amidst a recent escalation of tension between followers of Hariri’s party and Hizbollah supporters. At today’s commemoration ceremony, Rafik Hariri’s son called for a UN-backed court to try those suspected of carrying out the massive truck bombing that killed his father and 22 others. Hariri is best known for organizing and bankrolling much of Lebanon’s reconstruction after the country’s 15 year civil war. Many suspect pro-Syrian forces of masterminding the assassination, but to date, no one has been put on trial.

House Continues Marathon Debate Ahead of Friday’s Non-Binding Resolution (4:30)
The House of Representatives continues its marathon debate on Iraq into the second day. Democratic leaders filled a large portion of today’s debate on Republicans who oppose the President’s war policies. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Iraqi Responses to Iran Invasion Plans (2:50)
Iraq’s government has refused to back US military assertions that Iran is directly supplying Iraqi Shiite militias with heavy weapons, but many in Iraq are pointing out that while the Iranian government may not be directly involved, there are weapons coming in from all sides. Hiba Dawood files this report.

Agriculture Committee Begins Discussion on 2007 Farm Bill (4:20)
The House of Representatives Agricultural Committee began its discussion of the 2007 Farm Bill with a hearing on Capitol Hill today. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns presented the administration’s perspective on the new proposal, which would seek to cut spending on farm subsidies, while increasing efforts to promote conservation efforts by farmers and agriculture-based alternative energy like ethanol. Pressure from the World Trade Organization, the European Union and agribusiness corporations all affected the development of the Farm Bill, which is set to be renewed by the fall. Darby Hickey reports from Washington.

Critics Weary of US Africa Command Center (3:15)
The United States is setting up a command center to oversee U.S. military activities in Africa. Known as AFRICOM, US military officials say the center will run anti-terrorism and humanitarian operations across the entire continent. Although the US State Department denies that AFRICOM will be used to protect natural resources, critics of the expansion say the US wants to maintain oil supplies from the continent, especially from the Gulf of Guinea where the US is hoping to step up oil exports. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

Political Consciousness in Shenzhen, China (4:00)
Since it was promoted as a “special economic zone” in 1980, the city of Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong in the south of China, has experienced the fastest economic development in the country. But as the economy has improved, some of the local citizens would now like to see the city become a “special political zone”. Severine Bardon reports from Shenzhen.

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