February 22, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
The political future of Italy is still up in the air a day after the resignation of Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Prodi stepped down yesterday after failing to secure the Italian Senate’s approval for key foreign policy issues like support for the war in Afghanistan and the expansion of a US military base in the northern city of Vicenza. Italian president Giorgio Napolitano spent a large part of today in emergency meetings with the country’s political leaders. The Italian president is reportedly weighing the options of the formation of a new government, the constitution of a new ruling coalition, or calling for early elections.

Suspected Islamic insurgents in Somalia attacked the Mogadishu international airport with mortars today. Abdurrahman Warsameh has the story.

The airport’s manager Mohammed Ahmed Siad, told local radio in Mogadishu that there were no casualties and that the mortars did not damage the airport. However, some international media are reporting that mortars did hit the airport and a runway. Two planes were there at the time of the attack. On Tuesday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a second resolution that endorses the deployment of African peacekeeping forces in Somalia. The new mission overrides a previous council-authorized operation led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body, which had a more limited mandate. In a video posting on an Islamic Web site, extremists in Somali vowed to wage Iraqi-style guerrilla attacks with suicide bombers and roadside bombs targeted at African peacekeepers.

Representatives from more than 40 nations are in Oslo, Norway for a 2-day conference on cluster munitions. Dozens of countries are calling for a legally-binding international ban on the use, production and transfer of these weapons by next years. Cluster bombs drop small bomblets that often don’t explode upon impact. These bomblets effectively become landmines and posing a huge danger to civilians when dropped in residential areas or farmland. The UN estimates that hundreds of thousands of these cluster bomblets remain active throughout Southern Lebanon since Israel’s withdrawal last year. Although the US is not attending the Oslo talks, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy are promoting legislation to ban the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

A group of Kashmiri people whose relatives have disappeared in the past 18 years of conflict carried out a one-day hunger strike in New Delhi today as the Pakistani Foreign Minister visited for peace talks. Shahnawaz Khan has more.

The Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons Kashmir, or APDP, has been striving for information about missing relatives for over a decade. APDP says around 10,000 people have been subjected to forced disappearances by Indian security agencies in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1989, when an anti-India armed insurgency broke out in the region. India denies its role in disappearances and puts the number of missing at around 3000, most of whom it says have – crossed over to Pakistan administered Kashmir. Most relatives of disappeared claim their kin were picked up by security forces in front of them and never accounted for. Earlier this month, investigators exhumed five bodies of men killed by Indian police in Kashmir for allegedly being foreign militants. DNA evidence is already beginning to prove the assertions that the men were innocent civilians killed in set-up operations. For FSRN, I’m Shahnawaz Khan.

The US Department of Agriculture says it will soon beef up inspections at meat processing plants that have a record of violations. Matt Kaye reports from Washington DC.

USDA will step up inspections using existing staff at plants with more recalls and products like ground meat, more likely to have E-coli, salmonella, and other pathogens. Plants with fewer problems will still be inspected daily, but for less time. USDA undersecretary for food safety Richard Raymond (sound): “We will no longer be treating every plant just like every other plant down the road…in terms of its adverse health potential…and we will start using information and inspection expertise that we already have, in ways that better protect consumers…I would rather prevent an illness than mastermind a recall, once an outbreak has occurred.” but the effort to start in April at 250 meat, poultry, and egg plants – has already come under come under fire from industry groups that charge USDA either lacks adequate data…or is forcing industry changes too quickly. In Washington, Matt Kaye, for Free Speech Radio News.

New IAEA Report Could Mean More Sanctions for Iran (3:45)
The International Atomic Energy Agency – a global nuclear watchdog, says Iran is continuing its nuclear activity. The report could trigger another round of sanctions for the country, which insists that nuclear energy is its right. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Jail-Like Conditions for Those Awaiting Immigration Proceedings (4:00)
Two nongovernmental organizations found immigrant families detained in appalling jail-like conditions at two Department of Homeland Security detention centers. Their report, issued today, details some of the conditions men, women and children face while awaiting immigration proceedings. Nan McCurdy files this report.

Environmentalists Denounce Funding of 11 New Coal Fired Power Plants (3:40)
Environmentalists gathered at Merrill Lynch’s San Francisco headquarters yesterday, to discourage the company from investing in TXU Energy. The energy company has plans to build 11 new coal fired power plants in Texas, but activists gathered at the investment giant’s offices to encourage it to invest in alternative renewable energy sources instead. Christina Aanestad reports.

Increased Media Consolidation in Latin America Could Spell Problems for Already Limited Press Freedoms (3:30)
Government control of media around the world has not translated into effective policies protecting freedom of the press. Latin America is one area there that’s been evident, and with the onset of increased media consolidation there, some question how free press issues might be affected. Karen Miller has more.

Plan Puebla Panama Blamed for Lack of Potable Water (5:00)
Four million people in the southern Mexican state of Puebla – 80 percent of the population – lack access to clean drinking water. People cross vast distances to get clean water at a high price, in an attempt to avoid parasitic diseases, infections like typhoid fever, and skin rashes from unsanitary water. Hundreds of people have held protests around the state, and many of Puebla ’s citizens hold Plan Puebla-Panama responsible. FSRN’s Ricardo Martinez explains why.

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