April 27, 2007

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Headlines (5:20)
Police in Saudi Arabia have arrested 172 suspected militants for allegedly planning to carry out attacks against oil facilities, military installations, and public figures. Saudi authorities say some of the men had been sent abroad to learn how to fly airplanes in order to carry out the attacks.

The sting operation in Saudi Arabia comes as the Pentagon has announced that a key member of al Qaeda has been transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi has been accused of leading attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan and of plotting to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He joins 14 other so-called “high-value detainees” in Guantanamo.

Mourners of two Sunni Muslims killed this week lined the streets of Beirut today as politicians called for calm in what has been a tense standoff between two rival political camps vying for control of the Lebanese government. Jackson Allers has more from Beirut.

As hundreds of mourners chanted anti-opposition slogans, the leader of the PSP – Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, called for calm and urged their followers not to politicize the deaths of Ziad Qabalan, aged 25, and Ziad Ghandour, aged 12. The two were Sunni Muslims associated with the pro-western PSP party. Security sources said the two had been shot several times, and Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said the killings might have been a retaliation for the slaying of a Shi’a Muslim activist shot in January during clashes between pro and anti-government supporters. Hizbullah, the Shi’a Muslim group leading the opposition, has soundly condemned the killings. Ten people have lost their lives thus far in sporadic violence since the opposition of Hizbullah and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement initiated a campaign to topple the current United States-backed government. Local paper, As-Safir warned of an impending crisis along the lines of the sectarian violence in Iraq, if the political standoff in Lebanon is not resolved peacefully before the summer. Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, this is Jackson Allers for Free Speech Radio News.

A Spanish court has charged 3 US military personnel with murder in connection with the death of a Spanish cameraman in Baghdad in April of 2003. Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso was killed when an American tank opened fire on the Palestine Hotel – a location well-known as the seat of the foreign press covering the invasion. A Reuters television cameraman also died in the incident. Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz accused US forces of carrying out a campaign to terrorize journalists, noting that on the same day as the shelling of the Palestine Hotel, US troops opened fire on the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi Television. The US has already refused to extradite the three soldiers.

Representatives from Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba, and other Caribbean countries are in Venezuela to discuss the implementation of ALBA – a Latin American alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas…but tension is high in Caracas due an attack on the Bolivian embassy. Diletta Varlese reports.

The blast near the Bolivian embassy in Caracas coincided with preparations for the opening of this weekend’s ALBA economic conference. Yesterday’s dynamite explosion has caused more political tension that actual physical damage. No one was harmed in the blast. Venezuela’s government has announced that the person responsible to the explosion is in custody and has confessed to the crime. Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister, Nicolas Maduro: (sound) “This person belongs to the Venezuelan opposition, and could be part of  a strategy of national and international destabilization, linked to powerful interests in the world. Just 48 hours before the ALBA meeting, there has been terrorist attack against fellow member state; Bolivia.” Maduro also mentioned that the recent release of Venezuelan national and accused terrorist Luis Posada Carilles from a US prison has encouraged the more violent elements within Venezuela’s opposition movement. The conference will open tomorrow in Barquisimeto city and will touch on issues relating to Latin American integration, such as health, literacy campaigns and support for economic development. The meeting will be the first for several Caribbean countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Barbados, which have recently joined the treaty. The summit will conclude on Sunday afternoon. For FSRN, I’m Diletta Varlese in Barqusimeto, Venezuela.

A UN delegation concluded its fact-finding mission in Kosovo today in preparation for renewed talks on the future of the Serbian province. Elise Hugus has more.

Fifteen UN Security Council ambassadors wrapped up a four-day tour of Serbia in which they met with international and local representatives in Belgrade and Kosovo. Russia and Serbia called for the fact-finding mission in order to clarify the issues on the ground, ahead of a Security Council vote on the breakaway province’s future. Following the release of a UN report by calling for “supervised independence” last February, the Security Council is divided on the issue of Kosovo’s “final status.” Neither the Serbs or Albanians are satisfied with the proposal. After meeting with UN delegates, the Kosovar Albanian leadership declared that they foresee independence as soon as May. The Serbian government has stated it will offer the majority ethnic-Albanian province “significant autonomy” but will never agree to full independence. The United States is expected to present a resolution concerning Kosovo in the Security Council next week. For FSRN, I’m Elise Hugus in Bucharest.

Weekly Political Round Up: Presidential Campaign Kicks Off (5:00)
The Presidential Campaign season officially kicked off last night – all 8 Democratic Presidential candidates participated in the very first debate for the 2008 elections. In an extended edition of this week’s Political Round Up, Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell brings us what was said.

Human Rights Groups Press Congress to Shut Down School of the Americas (2:30)
Alongside 80 other cities across the US and Latin America, human rights groups held a hunger fast in Washington DC this week to push for legislation to close the School of the Americas, the infamous military training facility in Ft. Benning, Georgia. While the legislation was 15 votes short of passing during the last Congressional session, activists are optimistic the School will soon be shut down. Ingrid Drake reports from Washington, DC.

Colombia’s “Para Politica” Scandal Links Politicians with Right-Wing Paramilitaries (4:17)
The Colombian government has been recently plagued by scandals known as “para-politica” linking senators, governors, Colombia’s secret intelligence chief, and most recently President Alvaro Uribe to the right-wing paramilitary group known as the United Self Defense Forces, responsible for thousands of brutal killings of civilians during the past few decades. Last week in Colombia’s Congress, opposition Senator Gustavo Petro used depositions and documents to expose President Uribe’s ties with the paramilitary death squads when Uribe was governor of the Antioquia province from 1995-1997. From Bogotá, FSRN’s Nicole Karsin has more on the aftermath of these Congressional hearings.

Umoja Fire: Miami Shantytown Destroyed (2:45)
The Umoja village shantytown in Miami, Florida burned to the ground on Wednesday night when a candle in a resident’s shanty fell over. For the past six months, people directly confronted South Florida’s housing crisis by taken up residency in shanties on an abandoned public lot. FSRN’s Andalusia Knoll has more.

Anniversary Marks Victory for Disability Civil Rights Law (4:10)
Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the Federal government’s adoption of the nation’s first major disability civil rights law. The disability community won a resounding victory when Joseph Califano, Secretary of the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, signed regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, making it illegal for the federal government to discriminate against the disabled. Califano signed Section 504 only after some 150 people with physical, hearing, visual and mental disabilities occupied the Department’s San Francisco offices for 24 days. They were supported by several hundred people who maintained a vigil outside the building. Daveed Mandell files this report from San Francisco.

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