April 25, 2007

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Headlines (5:45)
All nine of Ecuador’s Supreme Court judges have been fired for trying to reinstate opposition lawmakers removed from Congress two weeks ago. Quito correspondent Joseph Mutti files this report.

Since taking office on January 15th, President Rafael Correa has managed to successfully take on his nation’s entrenched political establishment without a single member from his own political organization seated in a Congress he had described as a “sewer of corruption”. The judges from the nation’s highest body, called the Constitutional Court in Ecuador, were removed by a newly reformed Congress for going against the will of 82% of the electorate which recently approved a new Constituent Assembly. Six of them are likely to face charges for abusing their authority by reinstating 57 opposition congressional representatives after they had been removed by another court two weeks ago for blocking the referendum. With police deployed around Congress on Tuesday to ensure that none of the fired lawmakers entered the building, Correa has made in an open war with the powerful oligarchy that had ruled the country uninterrupted until his election last November. “We are living a magical moment in Ecuador’s history with an awakening of a people who have said ‘enough!’ ” declared Correa on Tuesday night – his 100th since taking office. For FSRN, I’m Joseph Mutti.

The US Supreme Court today overturned the death sentences for 3 Texas inmates on the grounds that jurors were not given proper instructions when they chose between life in prison or a death sentence. All three inmates had been convicted before Texas revised its sentencing guidelines in 1991 to allow jurors to consider mitigating factors such as mental retardation and child abuse when deciding on the severity of punishment in capital cases.

A 2 hour riot in an Indiana prison has caused the state’s correctional officials to suspend plans to accept hundreds of inmates from Arizona. Prison authorities say around 500 inmates took part in yesterday’s unrest. Arizona prisoners allegedly started the riot, unhappy over their recent transfer and lack of recreation time. Prison staff reportedly used concussion grenades and tear gas inside of the facility to regain control. More than 200 inmates have since been transferred from the New Castle prison. The facility is run by the Florida-based GEO group, formerly known as the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.

Just two days after banning the entry of a former Prime Minister, Bangladesh’s military government today took a U-turn and lifted restrictions on two of the country’s former leaders. Vinod K. Jose reports.

One former Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, has been under virtual house arrest in the capital, Dhaka. Another former Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has not been allowed to return home from abroad. Hasina was this week blocked in London from boarding a flight and told to take refuge in Saudi Arabia. The military-backed interim government is behind the recent decisions to slap restrictions on the country’s most recognizable figures. The interim government took control in January, charged with creating the conditions for a free and fair general election. But now it is up against two former Prime Ministers, Awami League party leader Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Khaleda Zia. The two women were fierce political opponents for over 20 years. Now they find a common ground. Charges against the 2 former leaders vary from corruption to murder. But the interim government made a U-turn today, announcing that all restrictions on the two former prime ministers had been lifted. That would mean Sheikh Hasina can come back home and Khaleda Zia can leave her house. Temporarily at least, the two women seem to have won this particular battle with the government. But elections are nowhere in sight. For FSRN, From New Delhi, this is Vinod K. Jose.

The French politician who came in third in the first round of presidential elections has founded a new party and refused to back either of the candidates in the May 6th run-off. Tony Cross reports from Paris.

François Bayrou won nearly seven-million votes last weekend … so his voters hold the balance between the two candidate who went through to the second round. (sound Bayrou..fade down) Bayrou says he won’t recommend support for either right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy or Socialist Ségolène Royal. The 3rd place candidate seems to harbor more ill-will towards Sarkozy, although most of his supporters seem set to vote for the right-winger. Bayrou claimed that the main-stream right-wing candidate has “a taste for intimidation and threats” and that he would concentrate power as never before. When it came to Royal, Bayrou judged her less of a threat to democracy but more of a threat to the economy. Bayrou went on to declare that he will establish a new party, the Democrats. He already had one – the UDF – and has been a minister in previous right-wing governments. But now he hopes to capitalize on his unexpected support in the presidential poll by portraying himself as a centrist. He’s advocated coalition government and says he wants “social democracy for the 21st century”. Judging by his criticisms of the Socialists, that would tend to the right on the economy, while defending liberal social attitudes. For FSRN, I’m Tony Cross in Paris.

The Legislative Assembly of Mexico City has overwhelmingly passed a law to legalize first trimester abortions. Political observers say the measure could inspire a shift in abortion policy in other parts of traditionally Catholic Latin America. Abortions performed after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy continue to be a crime in Mexico City, punishable by prison sentences for both the doctor and the patient.

Congress Issues Subpoenas (4:10)
Flexing their oversight muscle, Congress issued a number of subpoenas today on a variety of issues, including the US attorney scandal, the improper use of Republican campaign resources, and the Iraq war. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

House Set to Vote on Iraq Supplemental Bill (1:00)
The House of Representatives will vote on the Iraq supplemental this evening. The $124-billion emergency spending bill calls for a troop withdrawal to begin as early as July, no later than October, with a non-binding goal of completing the withdrawal of combat forces 6 months later. The supplemental passed the House the first time by 2 votes – a narrow passage is expected again. Just before the House is set to vote on the supplemental, General David Petreus visited the Hill to meet with both legislative bodies. He is expected to tell lawmakers that the troop surge is working, and that the military needs the emergency funds. But it will be a tough sell to a skeptical Democratic majority who is clinging to something else Petreus has said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

Tiny Minorities Targeted in Iraq (3:20)
The February 2006 bombing of the Askariya Shrine in Samara – a site sacred to Shiites – marked the start of sectarian war between Sunnis and the Shiites. Since then, thousands of Iraqis have been killed. While the occupying US Army faces opposition to its plan to wall in Baghdad’s Sunni and Shi’a populations into separate zones, FSRN’s Hiba Dawood reports that sectarian violence is extending its reach to even the tiniest minorities in Iraq.

Kucinich Introduces Impeachment Article (2:30)
Dozens of supporters of impeachment of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney gathered on Capitol Hill today. They brought their message to their representatives on the heels of the introduction of articles of impeachment for the Vice President, submitted by Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich on Wednesday. Darby Hickey reports.

Vaccines: WHO vs. Indonesia (4:50)
Indonesia has led the struggle for what they describe as a fairer, wiser and better system of disease prevention at the World Health Organization. Indonesia continues to push for revisions to the way the 50 year old system of vaccine products work, which they say puts developing countries at a disadvantage. Rebecca Henschke reports from Jakarta.

Radical Math Conference in New York Draws Conservative Criticism (4:00)
Teachers in New York City are holding a conference this weekend on making math more relevant to students. The conference, dubbed “Creating Balance in an Unjust World,” has drawn some criticism from conservative commentators as ‘indoctrination’. Planning for the math conference began with a group called “Radical Math Teachers,” which was founded by a teacher in a Brooklyn high school last year. The conference’s organizers aren’t the only public school teachers in the city that have come under fire in recent weeks. Neoconservatives and parents in one Brooklyn neighborhood have recently questioned whether a high school focused on teaching Arabic set to open next year might be a security risk or be a vehicle for what they call “Islamist” ideology. Also drawing fire is a Manhattan history teacher who for the past three years has taken students on spring break trips to visit and learn about Cuba. Teachers, however, insist that they’re just trying to bring more of the real world into their classrooms. David Enders has this report.

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