April 26, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
Somalia’s interim Prime Minister has declared victory in the battle for control over the capital city, Mogadishu. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi claimed that the city would be completely secured by tomorrow…but political observers and diplomats are not so sure. Today’s announcement comes after 9 days of heavy fighting killed hundreds of civilians and forced residents to abandon entire sections of the city. The United Nations estimates that 340,000 people have fled Mogadishu since early February.

The death toll in Baghdad continued to rise today with a car bombing in a southern neighborhood and a military raid on Sadr City. Hiba Dawood reports.

For the last three months, Iraqi security forces and American troops have arrested hundreds of followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, accusing them of forming anti-Sunni death squads. Today, a more aggressive offensive took place in Sadr City. American forces in helicopters and military vehicles raided the huge Shiite neighborhood and killed 3 members of the Sadrists, later calling them “terrorists”. Hamdallah Al Rikabi is a spokesman for the Sadr movement in Baghdad: “Sadr City is open only to Sadrists and all of the residents are followers of the movement. It doesn’t have terrorists. Iraqis have never heard of any instance in which suicide bomber later turns out to be from the movement.” Meanwhile, in southern Baghdad a car bomb killed six people and wounded fifteen others. In a separate incident gunmen today killed the wife and daughter of Hashi Majeed, the brother of Chemical Ali and cousin of Saddam Hussein. For FSRN I am Hiba Dawood.

An investigative report published this week in one of Canada’s top newspapers has accused Canada’s Conservative government of complicity in the torture of Afghan prisoners and has created a national controversy. Stefan Christoff reports from Montreal.

Canadian support for the mission in Afghanistan has wavered as the war drags on and an investigative report published this week by The Globe and Mail has sparked intense debate. The report alleges that Afghans detained by Canadian soldiers and transferred to Afghan jails have been beaten, whipped, starved, frozen, choked and subjected to electric shocks during interrogation. Graeme Smith is the Globe and Mail reporter in Kandahar who broke the story. [Graeme Smith Clip] “The people told me that they were often beaten with electrical cables, this was the most common complaint. Others said that they were electrocuted and one man make a particularly graphic description of being electrocuted with a hand-crank generator and flopping around on the floor like a fish.” Opposition political parties in Canada are calling for the resignation of the Defense Minister. An internal Canadian government report made public yesterday outlines that Canadian military and governmental authorities have been aware of the torture committed by subordinate Afghan authorities prior to the publication of the Globe and Mail report. This is Stefan Christoff reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Montreal.

The European Union Parliament unanimously passed a resolution today calling for the unconditional release of BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, who was abducted by gunmen in Gaza six weeks ago. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

The EU Parliament’s resolution urges the Palestinian Authority to intensify efforts to secure the unconditional and swift release of the BBC reporter. The resolution also calls on the Palestinian Authority to thoroughly investigate attacks on journalists and civilians in Gaza and bring those involved to justice. Palestinian, Israeli and international journalists demonstrated yesterday on both sides of Gaza-Israel border line in northern Gaza, against the captivity of Johnston, calling on the Palestinian Authority to secure his release. Jo Floto is the BBC’s senior news producer in the Middle East: (sound) “We welcome any piece of information, any news from any quarter, which is Alan is still alive and well. We still not received direct confirmation of Alan’s status.” Fifteen foreign journalists have been abducted and released unharmed in Gaza over the past three years. Johnston has endured the longest captivity of any foreign journalist or aid worker. This is Rami Almeghari in Gaza.

New Hampshire’s legislature has approved a measure to recognize same sex civil unions in the state. Governor John Lynch earlier announced that he would sign it into law. New Hampshire will become the 4th state to recognize civil unions. Massachusetts continues to be the only state where gay marriage is legal.

And finally, today marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica. On this day in 1937, during the height of the Spanish Civil War, German Nazis and Italian Fascists sent planes to the town of Guernica in Spanish Basque country. The bombing and subsequent firestorm wiped out one third of the town’s buildings and killed hundreds of civilians. The bombing of Guernica is widely regarded as the first of a series of terror bombings of civilian areas during the Spanish Civil War and WWII.

Republicans and Anti-War Groups Denounce Iraq War Supplemental (3:30)
The war supplemental is headed to the President’s desk, now that both the House and the Senate received enough votes to pass it.  But Republicans and anti-war groups are denouncing the measure. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Senate Committee Hears Testimony About Military Commissions Act and Habeas Corpus (3:30)
The Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony today in favor and against rolling back the Military Commissions Act and restoring Habeas Corpus for all detainees held by the department of Defense as unlawful enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Nan McCurdy has more from the Capitol.

FEMA to Extend Housing Assistance to Gulf Coast (2:00)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced this morning that it will continue to fund housing assistance for tens of thousands of families displaced in the Gulf Coast for an additional eighteen months.  The deadline for housing assistance was set to expire on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this summer. Christian Roselund is in New Orleans with more.

Political Crisis Continues in Ecuador as Six Lawmakers Flee to Colombia (3:30)
6 Ecuadorian opposition Congressional lawmakers have fled to Colombia; apparently seeking asylum for what they say is political prosecution. 50 lawmakers were reinstated to their posts in Congress by the Constitutional Tribunal this week, but a state prosecutor has now ordered the arrest of 24 of those lawmakers for treason and threatening the nation’s security. The arrest orders came after the lawmakers attempted to bar a vote for a constitutional assembly – prompting some of the lawmakers to flee to Colombia, and set off mass demonstrations against their actions outside Congress. The government says it has nothing to do with the arrest warrants, and has petitioned the prosecutor to drop the charges. Nevertheless, the six lawmakers say they fear returning to Ecuador. They are led by Alvaro Noboa, who lost his bid for President to Rafael Correa last year. Meanwhile, a new poll shows that after 100 days in office, President Correa’s approval rating stands at 76 percent, and that 73 percent of Ecuadorians believe the President is correct in his stance to move forward with rewriting the constitution. Host Aura Bogado spoke with Diego Falconi, advisor to Ecuador’s Interior Minister.

UK MPs Back Amnesty for Undocumented Immigrants (2:30)
A campaign in London for immigrants’ right is gaining momentum. Today, the British parliament will begin to discuss proposals to regularize up to half a million undocumented immigrants, granting them work permits and access to benefits. Manuel Rueda is in London, where he spoke with migrants who might benefit from the plan.

Federal Lawsuit Filed Against NYPD for Violating Black Cop Watch Members (2:00)
A federal lawsuit was filed today in New York ‘s South District Court claiming the NYPD violated the civil rights of three black men when they were on Cop Watch patrol for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Cop Watch is a group that seeks to expose, document and deter instances of police misconduct and abuse in communities of color. According to data released by the NYPD this year, stop and frisks have increased more than 500 percent since 2002 – and that more than half of those stopped were black. Whites made up only 11.1 percent of the stops – in a city where 25 percent if the population is black, and 44 percent is white. From New York, Rebecca Myles files this report.

Government, Gays and HIV/AIDS in China (3:45)
According to the International Red Cross, HIV/AIDS cases are increasing by 30% in China each year. It’s unclear whether this figure is the result of better data collection methods or a greater willingness to admit to being positive. But what is certain is that while certain high risk groups are gradually gaining more support from Chinese society, the male gay community still faces high levels of discrimination.  Elise Potaka has more from Beijing.

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