April 10, 2007

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The House Judiciary Committee today issued a subpoena for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. This is first high ranking subpoena issued during the Bush Presidency. In a written statement, the Committee called the subpoena a last resort resulting from the Justice Department’s lack of cooperation with the congressional investigation into the dismissals of 8 US Attorneys last year. Chair of the Committee, John Conyers, is demanding the testimony of DOJ staffers and documents, but the department has yet to cooperate.


The Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers has announced another victory in its campaign to ensure living wages for farm workers who pick tomatoes for fast food suppliers. Coalition of Immokalee Workers member Lucas Benitez explains the details of the agreement reached yesterday with McDonald’s: (audio) “First, McDonald’s promised to pay a penny more per each pound that they buy from their suppliers. Two, we are going to create a stronger code of conduct to be implemented among all of the suppliers – and in the long term – at the industry-wide level. And third, during the development of all this, the worker is going to be included in the decision-making from start to finish.” The agreement with McDonald’s is expected to take effect in time for the start of the winter growing season in November. The farmworkers won a similar victory against Taco Bell in 2005.


Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has sent a new an educational reform bill to Congress to amend the country’s Education Act – a law that passed on the last day of the Pinochet dictatorship. Jorge Garretón has more from Santiago.

Chilean students have been mobilizing off and on for the past year to demand changes to the country’s Education Act. The law has been in the books since March of 1990. It upholds the for-profit model and free market provisions in Chile’s education system. The bill sent to Congress yesterday by President Bachelet proposes changes that would enshrine into law the right to education, seek excellence in education, end discrimination on the grounds of economic, cultural, and ethnic status. The bill also does away with government subsidies to for-profit private schools. If the reforms pass, the Government will only fund State schools and give subsidies only to not-for-profit educational corporations. High school students present during yesterday’s presidential ceremony said after the event they will debate the new bill in their assemblies throughout the country before making public statements on the reforms. The bill will likely spark heated congressional debate from conservatives opposed to the measures and and from legislators who feel it does not go far enough in guaranteeing public education for all. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.


The death toll from the recent 4-day siege of Mogadishu has risen to over 1000. This, according to statements made today by elders of the city’s dominate Hawiye clan. The clan’s spokesman told AFP that the number of those wounded tops 4300. The period from March 29th to April 1st has been described as the heaviest fighting in Mogadishu in 15 years. The United Nations refugee agency estimated that at least 124,000 people have fled the Somali capital since early February.


Nepal’s Maoists guerrillas today registered themselves as a political party in their bid to run in the June 20th elections for the country’s Constituent Assembly. PC Dubey reports.

The Maoist outfit registered with the Electoral Commission under the name of the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoists (CPN-M). It also submitted signatures of its 10,000 members to meet the Electoral Commission’s requirement to prove it has a large enough support base to run. The Maoists now join 5 other mainstream political parties that have already registered. Political analysts say the Maoists move towards party politics demonstrates their commitment to multi-party democracy and their renunciation of violence that characterized their deadly 11 year insurgency. Meanwhile, the UN mission chief, Ian Martin, who monitors the Maoists’ demobilization has expressed doubts that the elections will happen on time. Martin says that the demilitarization process is still incomplete, as is the full implementation of electoral reforms. Many of the country’s war-weary citizens fear delays in the elections could trigger a greater political crises that pro-monarchy forces could use to foil the country’s prospects for democracy. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m PC Dubey.


President and Congress Continue the Showdown on War Funding

A woman suicide bomber killed at least 16 people in Iraq today when she walked into a crowd of 200 Iraqi police recruits in a town just north of Baghdad. At least 33 people were injured, most of them Sunni Muslims. This, as Washington is at a standoff over war funding. For the second time in one week, the President urged Congress to give him the war spending bill without conditions – further increasing tensions between the two branches. DC Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports on this, and Congress’ response.

Senate Introduce New Stem Cell Research Act

The debate about the proper management of embryonic stem cell research raged on today across party lines on Capitol Hill. Rebounding from President Bush’s 2006 veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, members of the Senate have introduced a new version. Naji Mujahid reports.

Criminal Justice Under Fire in New Orleans

A US House Judicial Subcommittee held a hearing in New Orleans today to discuss ways to repair the city’s broken criminal justice system and deal with the skyrocketing murder rate, which many feel is discouraging business and residents from returning. But as Christian Roselund reports, many feel that the problems with the city’s criminal justice system are the result of deeper systemic issues.

Texas Lawmakers Consider Reforms to Benefit Those Accused to Crimes They Didn’t Commit

The thirteenth man in Dallas, Texas to be proven innocent through DNA evidence received an apology from the Dallas District Attorney yesterday. Today, he testified at the Texas capital in favor of reforms that would keep the wrongfully convicted out of prison, and fairly compensate those who lost decades of their lives for crimes they didn’t commit. From Houston, Renee Feltz reports.

Ethiopia Admits to Arbitrarily Detaining 41 Foreign Nationals

Ethiopia’s government has admitted to detaining 41 foreigners from 17 countries – a claim they denied just last week. Ethiopia was accused of collaborating with Kenya and the United States in the arbitrary detention and disappearance of people fleeing war-torn Somalia during heavy fighting in December and January. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying five prisoners have already been released, 29 have been ordered released – leaving 12 detainees in prison, still awaiting charges. We’re joined on the line by Georgette Gagnon; she’s the Deputy Director for the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, which issued a new report detailing Ethiopia’s role in these disappearances last week.

Latin American Heads of State Strategize to Re-Activate Plan Puebla Panama

Events and marches throughout Mexico today commemorate the 88th anniversary of the assassination of the country’s revolutionary hero, Emiliano Zapata – who is best known for defending indigenous autonomy and land rights for small farmers. Meanwhile, a group of Latin American heads of state is meeting in the southern state of Campeche to re-activate Plan Puebla Panama, an infrastructure project that – to many indigenous small farmers – represents the largest single land grab in Central America and Mexico since colonial times. FSRN’s Vladimir Flores reports from Oaxaca.

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