March 12, 2007

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Headlines (5:40)
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai is reportedly in very serious condition after a brutal police beating. Tsvangirai leads the Movement for Democratic Change, a group opposed to the regime of long time president Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwean police attacked a prayer meeting rally on Sunday, arresting four opposition politicians and two journalists. One member of the Movement for Democratic Change was shot dead during the unrest. Tsvangirai remains in police custody while another well-known opposition leader, Lovemore Madhuku, has been hospitalized.

President Bush will order 8200 more US troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s in addition to the 21,500 sent as part of the so-called surge. President Bush has requested 3.2 billion dollars to pay for the new increase in troop levels.

Energy services giant, Halliburton, will relocate from Texas to Dubai in order to focus on its business in the Middle East. From Houston, Renee Feltz has more on the company’s surprise announcement:

A press release on Halliburton’s website says the the chairman, president and CEO will now be based in Dubai, and will run the company from the United Arab Emirates. Close to 40 percent of the company’s revenue comes from sources in the Eastern Hemisphere. Halliburton says it plans to focus more resources in the region, and expand relations with state-owned oil companies. Dubai is the energy industry boom town of the Middle East, it also a tax haven… and analysts say Halliburton could save more than a hundred million dollars in the move. Members of the US House oversight committee plan a hearing on the move. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont called the relocation an example of corporate greed at its worst… citing US soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for Halliburton subsidiary KBR’s no-bid contracts in Iraq. Those contracts are under investigation for several billion dollars in overcharging. The firm is still the largest military contractor in Iraq. Halliburton says it will still maintain a corporate office in Houston. For FSRN, I’m Renee Feltz in Houston.

Unidentified gunmen abducted a BBC reporter from the streets of Gaza today. The abduction comes amidst renewed factional infighting and follows a meeting on Sunday between Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

A senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described Sunday’s meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as difficult, yet positive. Abbas called on Olmert to soften Israel’s position regarding the incoming Palestinian unity government, ease travel restrictions in the West Bank and refrain from actions that preempt final status talks. Olmert made no promises, but reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution. Abbas pledged that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in Gaza last June, will be released within days. Olmert called on Abbas to prevent the launch of homemade rockets from Gaza into Israel, while pledging to allow more working hours of the Karni commercial crossing in eastern Gaza. Infighting between supporters of Fatah and Hamas has recently erupted again in Gaza despite a ceasefire deal brokered last month in Saudi Arabia. Israel insists that the governing Hamas party recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past signed agreements. Hamas still rejects the said conditions, set forth by the international Quartet for Middle East peace. For Free Speech Radio News and, this is Rami Almeghari, reporting from Gaza.

Time is running out for the Bush administration to strike a free trade deal with South Korea. Formal negotiations ended today without a concrete agreement. FSRN’s Jason Strother reports from Seoul.

For nearly a year, the governments of the U.S. and South Korea have encountered hurdle after hurdle in their attempts to establish a bi-lateral free trade agreement. Tariffs, agricultural subsidies, and even beef have been sources of disagreement in the negotiations. South Korea’s influential labor unions and thousands of small farmers have been fighting the deal in the streets, saying it overwhelmingly benefits the rich as the expense of the rest of the population. Farmers opposed to the free trade agreement point to the crisis in the Mexican countryside that came after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. Washington has been eager to get an FTA approved as quickly as possible because after this month, President Bush loses his ability for fast track trade promotion. This would grant the president the power to present to Congress a trade deal for a yes or no vote, without the possibility of debate over amendments. Bush needs at least 90 days to submit the bill before his fast track power expires at the beginning of July. American and Korean negotiators plan to hammer out some of the more contentious issues during low level talks over the next few weeks. Reporting for Free Speech Radio news in Seoul, South Korea, I’m Jason Strother.

Lawyers clashed with riot police today in the Pakistani city of Lahore in the wake of a presidential decision to suspend a top judge. Hundreds of lawyers also rallied in the cities of Islamabad, Quetta, and Karachi. Lower and superior courts in Pakistan were closed today as a result of a boycott by the country’s Bar Association. The government of President Pervez Musharraf accuses Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry of misusing his authority. Attorneys say Chaudry’s removal was politically motivated.

Justice Department Under Fire (3:30)
The US Department of Justice has come under fire for abuses of power in recent weeks, and Administration officials are likely to be the target of Congressional investigations. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell has more on the increasing dissatisfaction with Department leadership.

US Military Officer on Trial for Abu Ghraib Abuses (2:45)
A second hearing took place today in the case of Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the highest ranking U.S. military officer charged with crimes in the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal. The hearing may lead to a decision about whether Jordan will face court-martial. Yanmei Xie has the story in Washington DC.

Bush and Chavez Face Off in Latin America (2:30)
US President George Bush’s visit to Bogota, Colombia yesterday drew thousands of protestors and a violent reaction from police who used water cannons and tear gas against a small group throwing rocks and damaging streetlights. A police chief said about 100 people were arrested. Bush’s 5-nation tour of Latin America has inspired dozens of demonstrations, including a rival tour by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Mike Fox has the story.

French Immigration Policy Divides Presidential Candidates (4:30)
In France, the question of immigration has taken center-stage in the presidential election campaign, with the leading right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy’s promise to set up a Ministry of Immigration and National Identity. His Socialist rival, Ségolène Royal, described the idea as “shameful” and immigrants’ rights groups are also protesting the proposal. FSRN’s Tony Cross spoke to some of them and files this report.

Grand Jury Deliberates Sean Bell Killing (2:30)
This week, a grand jury will begin deliberating the fate of the New York police officers who fired 50 bullets at the car of an unarmed 23-year-old man in Queens last November. It was Sean Bell’s wedding day, and the killing ignited massive protests against police brutality and racial profiling. New York remains tense as residents wait for the grand jury to decide whether to indict the officers with criminal charges. FSRN reporter James Williams with the Community News Production Institute has more.

Groups Protest Fundamentalist Christian Teen Rally in San Francisco (3:30)
More than 20,000 fundamentalist Christian teenagers gathered in San Francisco stadium over the weekend to decry homosexuality, and sex and violence in the media. A Texas-based group organized the event, dubbed “BattleCry for a generation,” which drew loud criticism from some city leaders and gay rights groups. At a rally at city hall on Friday, participants said they were bringing a message of god’s love to a city of sinners, but protesters disagreed. Ed Rippy files this report.

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