March 07, 2007

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Headlines (5:30)
Demonstrations, street clashes, and property takeovers have erupted in South America in the run-up to an official visit by President Bush to the region. University students clashed with riot police in the Colombian city of Cali yesterday during a 5 hour protest against Bush’s visit. In Brazil, hundreds of small farmers with the Via Campesina organization occupied an iron ore mine this morning as well as a sugar and ethanol mill owned by the US agribusiness giant Cargill. Bush will kick off his Latin American tour in Brazil tomorrow and will then travel to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico.

NATO troops in Afghanistan continue into the second day of a major military offensive against the Taliban. Afghan forces have reportedly captured a high profile Taliban commander at a checkpoint in the province of Khandahar. The Taliban figure, known as Mullah Mahmood, was apparently trying to escape the area dressed in a burka.

The digital news outlet published a report today alleging a former Soviet intelligence training school and airfield in northern Poland has been used by the CIA in its so-called “extraordinary rendition” program. Raw Story reporters write that they were shown a confidential British intelligence memo that indicated that British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller were both aware of the arrangement. Dana Priest, The Washington Post reporter who originally broke the story about the CIA network of secret prisons would not confirm or deny the information.

Meanwhile, a bill introduced in Congress aims to stop the CIA practice of transferring detainees to third countries for interrogation. Human rights groups allege the detainees are actually sent off to be tortured. Nan McCurdy has more from the Capitol.

Democratic Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced a bill yesterday that would ban the outsourcing of torture to third countries, commonly known as extraordinary rendition. Sending a person to be tortured is as equally illegal as torture itself under international laws. This bill would now make it illegal under US law. Caroline Frederickson, director of legislation for the American Civil Liberties Union says that if Congress doesn’t pass this bill, she’s afraid the practice will continue until the end of the Bush administration. (sound) “Congress needs to act now to end the practice of rendition. Our government cannot be involved in kidnapping people and sending them off to other countries where they are tortured. This is an inhumane practice, it violates our constitution and our basic values and it needs to stop now.” The Bush administration says it gets diplomatic assurances before it sends people to countries with records of torture. Ms. Frederickson says it’s ridiculous to believe that these countries won’t torture people after the US has documented the use of torture by these same countries in its own human rights reports. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Nan McCurdy.

Civil liberties attorneys have sued the federal government over conditions for children held in an immigrant detention center in Texas. From Houston, Renee Feltz reports:

Children make up about half of the 400 immigrants held at the Hutto Family Detention Center, a converted medium security prison in Taylor, Texas. Many came to the US seeking asylum with their refugee families. While their parents await immigration rulings, the children wear prison clothing… and spend 12 hours a day in cells without toys or food. Rules ban contact visits with non-detained family members. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed ten lawsuits on behalf of these children. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deny the detainees are treated unfairly…but the ACLU charges Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and six Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials with imprisoning the boys and girls under inhumane conditions. The suits allege the Hutto facility violates ICE’s duty to meet minimum standards and conditions for the housing and release of all minors in federal immigration custody. For FSRN, I’m Renee Feltz in Houston.

A report released today shows that state officials have neglected to collect millions of dollars in fines from companies causing air pollution. Darby Hickey reports from Washington DC.

According to the Clean Air Act, local authorities are charged with collecting pollution fees from companies that are the biggest offenders. Those funds are intended to go toward the effort of the state-level enforcement of the Clean Air Act. But the Environmental Integrity Project in DC released an analysis today of 18 states which are collecting less money than mandated by the federal law – millions of dollars that are not being used for pollution monitoring, enforcement or reduction. Jeremy Nichols is with Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action: (sound). The report recommends that the federal Environmental Protection Agency do more to ensure states collect the proper amount of money from air polluters. For FSRN I’m Darby Hickey in Washington DC.

Senate Kicks Off Immigration Debate (4:15)
The Senate is getting ready to take up immigration reform in the next week, signaling that it will be a top priority for Democrats in the coming months. The debate kicked off with a piece of legislation that would expand services to immigrants seeking citizenship. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Human Rights Group Signals Iraq is becoming a Theocracy (3:40)
A report released by Madre, the international women’s human rights organization, shows that Iraq is fast becoming a theocracy – one financed, armed and trained by the United States, and which threatens the rights of women like those theocracies established in Iran, Algeria and Afghanistan. Rebecca Myles has more.

Uganda Judges on Strike (4:10)
Courts in the east African nation of Uganda remain closed for a third day in a standoff between the judiciary and the executive in the country. The Judges announced their strike after security personnel raided the high court and re-arrested treason suspects who had just secured bail. There were street battles in the capital city of Kampala, as police fought opposition protestors demonstrating in support of the Judges. From Kampala, FSRN’s Joshua Kyalimpa reports

Pressure Mounts to Investigate Indonesia’s Killing of 21 Student Protestors (4:40)
Indonesia’s President is under mounting pressure to re-open investigations into several prominent human rights abuse cases. The National Commission on Human Rights, the Law Commission, and now the Head of the Parliament, are calling for an ad hoc court to hear evidence into the killing of 21 student protestors in 1997 and 1998 by the country’s military. As Rebecca Henschke reports from Jakarta, it is part of a seven-year-long battle for justice by the victims’ families.

The Heartland Expressway: The Road to Economic Development? (3:00)
A major highway expansion is taking place in one of the last truly rural areas of the United States. The “Heartland Expressway” is a four-lane road intended to link western South Dakota to Denver, Colorado. The expressway will eventually tie into a highway system running from Mexico through the U.S. to Canada. Those opposed to the project question the need for this $120 million highway in an area where neighbors typically live miles apart. The project’s supporters, meanwhile, say it will bring economic development. Jim Kent spoke with people on both sides of the issue.

Jean Baudrillard Dies at Age 77 reader
French postmodern philosopher, cultural theorist and leading intellectual figure Jean Baudrillard died yesterday. His theories about contemporary consumer culture posited that mass media, with its complex use of symbols and images, resulted in an inability for people to truly comprehend the reality of a simulated event. One of Baudrillard’s most controversial comments was made in made in 1991, when he said that The Gulf War never took place – that it was, instead, a virtual event, mediated through television screens across the world. Jean Baudrillard passed in Paris, he was 77.

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