February 21, 2007
ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS
Italy’s Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned today shortly after some of his government’s key foreign policy measures failed to secure the approval of the Italian Senate. Among the measures that failed to pass – funding for the Italian operation in Afghanistan. In addition to Rome’s participation in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, many Italians have been galvanized against militarization domestically by unpopular plans to expand a US base in the northern Italian city of Vicenza. The Italian president is now responsible for deciding how to replace the prime minister.
DENMARK TO WITHDRAW FROM IRAQ
Denmark today announced that it will completely withdraw of its troops from Iraq by August. Most Danish troops are with the British forces in southern Iraq…and those British forces will also begin to withdraw soon.
BRITAIN TO CUT BACK ON TROOPS
British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the troop reduction today in Parliament. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.
Tony Blair was absent during the last Parliamentary debate on Iraq; the announcement today would normally be made by the Defense Minister, but today it was the Prime Minister (sound) “‘The actual reduction in forces will be from the present 7,100, down from 40,000 at the time of the conflict to roughly 5,500. However, with the exception of forces which will remain at Basra palace, the British forces will be in a support role. Over time, and depending naturally on progress and the capability of the Iraqi security forces, we will be able to draw down further, possibly to below 5,000, once the Basra palace site has been transferred to the Iraqis in late summer.” Troop withdrawal by one of the US’s biggest military allies flies in the face of Bush’s 21,500 “troop surge.” But Britain’s controversial role in Iraq has utterly dominated Tony Blair’s final term in office. Due to step down this summer, critics say he’d always wanted to announce withdrawals before then – an attempt, they say, to protect his legacy and try to improve his low popularity ratings over the whole issue. 132 British service personnel have died in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. There’s no official death toll kept on Iraqi deaths. The Prime Minister has refused calls for an inquiry into the failings of his Iraq policy. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.
COLOMBIA SCANDAL EXPANDS
Colombia has stepped efforts to secure some $12 billion dollars in funding to continue Plan Colombia – a mostly military intervention in the more than 4 decade long civil conflict in the South American country. This comes as Colombia is in the midst of one of the worst political scandals in its recent history in which Colombian government officials are being linked directly to right-wing paramilitaries. The scandal has implicated key political figures and, on Monday, led to the resignation of Colombia’s Foreign Minister. Five Senators were arrested last week.
CAMPAIGNERS WARN AGAINST CONTINUING PLAN COLOMBIA
Back in this country – the Bush administration continues to support Plan Colombia, but campaigners want Congress to examine Colombia’s human rights record before the vote to approve funding. Nan McCurdy has more from the Capital steps.
According to the Latin American Working Group, the US has provided more than four billion dollars in aid to Colombia since 2000 and eighty percent has gone to the military. Reports of extra-judicial executions by members of the Colombian military are commonplace as well as attacks against human rights defenders who denounce abuses. Renata Randon is Advocacy Director with Amnesty International USA (sound): “Despite ongoing reports of human rights violations committed by the military, ongoing reports of military-paramilitary collaboration, and the infiltration of the Colombian state by paramilitaries, a US-designated international Terrorist organization, the US continues to provide billions of dollars in military aid to Colombia.” The coalition wants about hundreds of millions of dollars of US military aid to Colombia to be redirected to social and economic programs and to support the establishment and the protection of the rule of law. Today marks the second anniversary of a massacre of eight members of the Colombian Peace Community. No arrests have been made in that case, despite assurances from the Colombian government. Critics say the Bush Administration’s 2008 proposed aid to Colombia shows they are not willing to adopt a new approach despite the poor results of Plan Colombia up till now. The onus is now on Congress to determine how money is directed. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Nan McCurdy.
CABLE NETWORK KICKS ELDER OUT OF CHAIR
And finally, Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas will no longer be able to sit in the chair she has occupied for years in the front and center of the White House press room. Helen Thomas has been in the White House press corp for 46 years, asking questions since the administration of John F. Kennedy. During the current administration, Thomas has consistently brought up the invasion and occupation of Iraq. An unnamed cable news channel will occupy the seat of the 86-year old correspondent when remodeling is complete on the White House briefing room. Thomas says she’ll still be at the briefings to ask questions.
UN Urges Philippines to Stop Extrajudicial Killings (5:00)
A United Nations official investigating a spate of political killings in the Philippines said today that he was convinced that many of the murders were committed by the military, which he criticized for being in “a state of almost total denial.” Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur for Extra-Judicial Executions, urged the government to re-evaluate its counter-insurgency campaign because some of its aspects tend to abet the killings. Girlie Linao reports from Manila.
Tensions Escalate Between US and Iran (4:00)
Tensions between the US and Iran have intensified. The International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to report that Iran has not suspended its nuclear program, despite a United Nations imposed deadline. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell has more.
Iraqis Weary of New US Security Plan (2:30)
As we mentioned in the headlines, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced today that as many as 1,600 British troops would be withdrawn from southern Iraq, even as US troop levels are increased in the center of the country. But the new security sweeps, which have failed to prevent bombings and attacks and continue to kill dozens each day, have left few Iraqis convinced that the new security plan will make them safer. Salam Talib and Hiba Dawood have this report.
Disability Rights Organization Sues San Francisco (4:20)
For more than three decades, removing people with severe disabilities from the nation’s institutions has been one of the disability rights movement’s main priorities. That’s why the organization Protection and Advocacy has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco on behalf of more than 1000 current, former and potential residents of Laguna Honda hospital, which it owns and operates. The plaintiffs charge the city with forcing them to live in the largest nursing home in the country, because they say it has failed to give them decent housing and support services so they can live independently in the community. Instead, the city is rebuilding the 1200-bed facility. Daveed Mandell files this report from San Francisco.
Mumia Abu Jamal Commentary: On the Anniversary of Malcolm’s Assassination (4:00)
And now, from his cell on Pennsylvania’s Death Row, a commentary by Mumia Abu Jamal, on the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination.