March 15, 2007

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Headlines (5:45)
A Senate panel today approved subpoenas for 5 Justice Department officials as part of the investigation into the dismissal of 8 US attorneys. The Senate Judiciary Committee also authorized subpoenas for 6 of the fired attorneys. The committee will vote next week on whether to issue subpoenas for White House figures, including Karl Rove, Harriet Myers, and the president’s deputy chief of staff. Some lawmakers want Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign for allegedly purging the ranks of the US attorneys for political reasons.

In Colombia, evidence of ties between right wing paramilitary groups, government, and big business continue to emerge. Mike Ceaser has the details.

Chiquita Banana has agreed to pay the US government a $25 million fine after admitting to having paid illegal paramilitary groups to protect its Colombia operations before the year 2004. The settlement is the result of a federal lawsuit in Ohio brought against the Cincinnati-based company. In Colombia, many companies allegedly pay protection money to paramilitaries – ostensibly to defend their operations from attacks by leftist guerrillas. However, the paramilitaries are also notorious for massacring peasants and assassinating union leaders. The Birmingham, Alabama-based Drummond coal company and Atlanta-based Coca Cola are also defending themselves in court against accusations of links to Colombian right wing paramilitary groups. The lawsuits come as a major scandal spreads within the government of president Alvaro Uribe – the Bush administration’s closest ally in South America. The expanding scandal of politicians’ ties to paramilitary groups has already brought the arrest of eight senators. The governor of the eastern department of Magdalena was arrested this week for allegedly working with the paramilitary groups to intimidate local residents into voting for him. The governor of the neighboring department of Cesar has also been called to testify regarding similar accusations. President Uribe says the charges and arrests show that the government is vigorous about investigating corruption within its ranks. For FSRN, I’m Mike Ceaser in Bogota.

Maoist guerrillas today killed some 50 policemen and maimed over 20 in an attack on a security post in central India. PC Dubey reports.

Today’s attack is the Maoist guerrilla’s worst ever assault against a police camp. The post in the state of Chattisgarh had some 80 security personnel and a huge cache of arms and ammunition. The guerrillas seized all of the weaponry and set the camp ablaze. Many of the policemen who survived the assault are reportedly in serious condition. Eye witnesses say further injuries were caused by bombs attached to the bodies of the dead. The provincial government says it has launched a massive operation to catch the guerrillas. The Maoist insurgency has been active in the region for more than a decade. I am PC Dubey for Free Speech Radio News.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced an embarrassing rebellion when 95 of his own Members of Parliament rejected his plans to renew Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine system at a cost of 38 billion dollars. Blair won the vote when the main opposition party backed him. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Tony Blair’s in an uncomfortable position as members of his own party have opposed this nuclear weapon renewal policy. Three members of his government even resigned over the issue so they could vote against him. Frantic back room efforts to stem the revolt included suggestions that MPs miss the vote altogether rather than be recorded as a ‘no’ vote. Opponents of the renewal of the Trident system say it violates the UK’s commitments under the UN nuclear non-proliferation treaty of which Britain is a signatory. They say this decision will undermine that treaty and persuade other countries to breach it too. Menzies Campbell of the Liberal Democrats: (sound) “The rush to judgment on this topic is first of all related to pressure from the manufacturers and also to some sense perhaps on the part of the Prime Minister that he’s going to leave something by way of legacy.” Legacy it may be, but this latest defense expenditure comes the same month that the $17 billion cost of the British part of the Iraq invasion and occupation have been made public. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Community groups in New Orleans came together today to demand rent control and affordable housing. From New Orleans, Mayaba Liebenthal has the story.

Members of community organizations brought a petition signed by over 10,000 New Orleanians nationwide to the New Orleans City Council today. The petition demands rent control – or at least a subsidy for renters. Renters made up 60% of the pre-Katrina population, but since the levee breech and massive flooding of August 2005, the price of “rent in New Orleans has dramatically increased”. Malcolm Suber is from the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund: (sound). Although the city is experiencing a major housing shortage, entire public housing projects that largely survived the storm remain off limits. Renters have not received any compensation from the Louisiana Recovery Authority as they are not homeowners. For FSRN, this is Mayaba Liebenthal.

House Democrats Move Closer to Passing Timeline for Troop Withdrawal (4:00)
House Democrats cleared their first hurdle on passing a timeline for a troop withdrawal from Iraq. All but one Democrat supported the proposal at the committee level, advancing the measure to the House floor. But as Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, emotions were high inside and outside of the committee room.

Republicans Push Against No Child Left Behind (2:30)
Senate and House GOP lawmakers are introducing a bill to change No Child Left Behind, giving states more power to decide how funding is used. The National Education Association says it’s just another attempt to privatize public schools in the United States. Nan McCurdy has more from the Capitol.

Immigrant Rights Advocates Protest Recent Raids and Call for Mayday Boycott (1:50)
Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) in Washington last night, protesting the recent increase in immigration raids around the nation, and demanding just and humanitarian immigration reform. Meanwhile, this afternoon, representatives from immigrant rights groups officially announced a Mayday economic boycott. Javier Rodriguez of the March 25 Coalition was on of the speakers at the national Press Club in Washington DC. This year’s coalition, The National May 1st Movement for Workers and Immigrant Rights, also called for an end to immigrant raids and deportations.

Fallout from New Bedford Raids Continues (4:20)
The fallout from the massive ICE raid last week in New Bedford, Massachusetts continues, after agents rounded up some 350 textile workers, mostly women, leaving their children stranded. Community organizers are aiding effected families, and pressuring the government to stop the raids. Chuck Rosina has more from Boston.

Thousands of Shipyard Workers Continue Their Strike In Southern Mississippi(3:40)
Thousands of shipyard workers in Southern Mississippi began their second week of a strike for better pay today. Christian Roselund spoke with striking workers on the picket line, who say that they are not able to keep pace with post-Katrina cost of living increases.

Residents in Southern Spain Say Construction is Out of Control(4:30)
In Forbes Magazines recent listing of the world’s newest millionaires, 10 of this year’s names were people from Spain. 9 of those 10 are involved in Spain’s booming construction and real estate market. But several years of tremendous success for a few wealthy individuals has had devastating economic and environmental effects, and there’s a growing movement in the south of the country to try and stop the out of control, and sometimes illegal, construction frenzy. From Granada, Andrew Stelzer has the story.

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