May 22, 2007

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Lebanon is reeling from a third day of fighting between Lebanese Army forces and a Sunni Islamist group in a Palestinian camp in the country’s north. At least 80 people have died in what has been the worst internal fighting since the Lebanon’s 15 year civil war. Jackson Allers has more from Beirut.

The fighting broke out in the northern coastal city of Tripoli on Sunday after Lebanese Security forces stormed the hideout of alleged suspects in a bank robbery. The violence quickly spread to the streets and then to the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al Bared – home to some 30,000 Palestinian refugees. Over the last three days, the Lebanese Army has continued to pound the camp relentlessly with artillery rounds and tank fire in an attempt to root out Fatah al Islam, and fears of a humanitarian crisis within the camp continue. Human rights groups are pleading with the Lebanese government to recommit to a more peaceful means of dealing with the Islamist group. All ceasefire attempts have failed to hold, and a United States government official said today that Washington may provide military aid if the fighting continues. Meanwhile, analysts say that the government needs to attend immediately to the needs of the 30,000 Palestinians trapped in the crossfire if it wants to avert a larger sectarian conflict with the more than 400 thousand Palestinians living in Lebanon. Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, this is Jackson Allers for FSRN.


The Philippines’ Commission on Elections said today it is investigating allegations of massive fraud in last week’s mid-term polls. Girlie Linao reports from Manila.

The most serious allegation of cheating in the May 14 elections was received from the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. A public school teacher alleged that she and several others were forced to fill up ballots with names of administration candidates running for 12 seats in the Senate hours before polling precincts opened. Children were then allegedly asked to put their thumb prints on the ballots. The teacher, whose identity has been withheld for her protection, said registered voters were not allowed to vote in Maguindanao and the filled-up ballots were used instead. The allegations have prompted the Commission on Elections to defer the canvassing of votes from Maguindanao. The province was also implicated in an electoral fraud scandal during the 2004 presidential election. Aside from 12 senators – or half of the Senate – Filipinos also voted for all of the more than 200 members of the House of Representatives and some 17,000 local officials on May 14th. Most of the winners in the congressional and local elections have already been proclaimed. A majority of them are allied with the administration. The results of the senatorial race are still being tallied, but opposition bets are so far leading. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Girlie Linao in Manila.


Efforts to enforce strict family planning measures in China’s Guangxi region have triggered massive riots. FSRN’s Elise Potaka has more.

Rioters set fire to government buildings and vehicles in Guangxi’s Bobai County in response to a crackdown on families violating China’s one-child only family planning policy. Villagers and witnesses reported online that in recent months, families with more than one child had received fines of over $1000. Some also said that women who had violated the family planning laws would be sterilized after the second child. Reports suggest that upwards of ten thousand people participated in the riots and that as many as five people were killed in the weekend’s violence, though there has been no official confirmation. China’s one-child family planning policy has been in place since the 1970’s, but weakly enforced in some parts of the country. This latest crackdown in Bobai county comes after a meeting in Guangxi earlier this year criticized the enforcement efforts of local authorities. In Beijing, I’m Elise Potaka for Free Speech Radio News.


A state government in Northern Nigeria has initiated legal action against the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer for allegedly using children to test its drugs. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

The government of Kano State in Northern Nigeria is suing Pfizer and its Nigerian subsidiary for 2.7 million dollars over the alleged use of 200 children as guinea pigs to test a drug in 1996 during a meningitis epidemic. The state government is demanding the payment on behalf of the children some of whom reportedly died or ended up with disabilities after the drug trials. The government said that the company came under a false guise of offering free drugs to the victims, whereas its objective was to secretly test unapproved drugs. The incident sparked outrage in Nigeria and the Muslim populace in the northern part of the country has since become suspicious of free drugs from western countries and companies. For FSRN, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.


A ban on renting to undocumented immigrants was set to go into effect today in a Dallas suburb. But a federal judge has ordered the city to hold off on enforcing the measure. FSRN’s Renee Feltz has more.

Just a week ago, more than 70 percent of voters approved a ban on apartment landlords renting to undocumented immigrants…but Monday, a federal judge said their frustration w/ immigration reform does not allow them to violate the US Constitution. Citing the supremacy clause of the US Constitution, US district judge Sam Lindsay granted a temporary restraining order against the rental ban. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and local merchants requested the judge halt the local enforcement of federal immigration law. The judge’s argument is expected to send a message to cities considering similar legislation. The next step for Farmers Branch is a hearing to determine if the injunction against the ban will remain in place while its challenged in an upcoming trial. For FSRN, I’m Renee Feltz.


The expansion of Canadian gold and silver mining operations throughout Central America has sparked growing regional resistance in local communities and a large protest yesterday at the Canadian Embassy in San Salvador. Sebastian Dario reports.

Bus loads of people demonstrated yesterday outside of the Canadian Embassy in the capital of El Salvador to call on the Canadian government to demand accountability from mining companies operating within El Salvador. Gold and silver extraction is leading to escalating confrontations between transnational mining companies and local communities who maintain the operations endanger their land and water resources. A large number of the 29 mining projects in El Salvador are run by companies based in Canada. The mining operations cover more than 10% of the northern region of the country. At a 3 day conference held over the weekend, representatives of communities from all over Central America came together to demand an end to the quote “plundering of the resources of our subsoil by transnational mining companies, with the approval, protection, and participation of government officials”. Local communities and the Catholic Church in El Salvador oppose mining because of the quote “irreversible damages to the environment and nearby communities.” Communities throughout El Salvador have vowed to defend their natural resources from foreign companies at all costs. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sebastian Dario in San Salvador.

Senate Continues Immigration Debate, As More Critics Weigh In(4:05)

The Senate is in the second day of debate on immigration reform today on the Hill – where criticism against the proposed legislation is growing louder. Some Democrats say the proposal would flood the US with cheaper labor, while immigrants’ right advocates say the legislation offers migrant workers little protection. Yanmei Xie reports from DC.

Violence Rages on in Western Iraq(3:33)

25 people were killed and 60 others wounded today, when a suicide car bomber detonated in a crowded market in Baghdad. Other attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq claimed more than a dozen lives. Meanwhile, in the western part of Iraq, Sunni tribes created the Anbar Salvation Council to fight Al Qaeda with U.S. troops – and as FSRN’s Hiba Dawood reports, fighting between these tribes has been escalating for the last month.

Los Angeles MTA Proposes to More than Double Fares Across the Board(4:38)

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has proposed massive fare increases, to be phased in by the first of January, 2009. Under the proposed increases, Day Passes would jump from three dollars to eight dollars; monthly passes from 52 to 112 dollars; and semi-monthly passes would be eliminated. The cost of senior, disabled, Medicare and student passes would all be raised significantly as well. The MTA has scheduled a public hearing this Thursday to hear from its customers, but few riders seem to know about the proposal – much less the hearing. FSRN Host Aura Bogado has more.

California University Designs Program to Help Vets Graduate(3:49)

More than one and a half million U.S. soldiers have already been discharged from the military after fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many signed up for the military in order to get money for college – up to 72,000 dollars for active duty soldiers and 23,000 for reserves. But after leaving the military, many veterans have trouble in school … and many drop out. Help for those veterans is scarce. Of the 33 public universities in California, for example, only one has a program designed to help vets graduate. From California’s North Coast, FSRN’s Aaron Glantz takes a look at that program and how it works.

EPA Holds Hearing on California Request to Impose Greenhouse Gas Standards(2:37)

The Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing today concerning California’s request for permission to impose greenhouse gas standards for emissions in the state. FSRN’s Naji Mujahid reports.

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