May 23, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
The Democratic leadership in Congress has capitulated to the White House demand for a war funding bill without a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The move comes after President Bush vetoed legislation that would have required a phase pullout to begin on October 1st and Congressional approval of progress reports in order to obtain further funding. Some House Democrats say they will vote against the war spending measure in the absence of a time line. Representatives plan to remove domestic spending measures from the war funding bill in order to hold two separate votes tomorrow. US taxpayers have already spent an estimated $500 billion dollars on the war.

Several hundred anti-war protesters rallied outside the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, this morning as President Bush was speaking to graduates inside the gates. Melinda Tuhus reports.

(chant run under) Calls for impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and for an end to torture mingled with the overriding demand to bring the troops home from Iraq. One of the speakers at the rally was veteran Ted Goodnight, who fought in Afghanistan. He said after the war in Iraq started, American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan found themselves short of equipment, which was going to Iraq. (sound) “Iraq didn’t attack us, so why were our resources given the priority of Iraq and not al Qaeda, not Bin Laden.” Meanwhile, in his speech, Bush said al Qaeda had grown in Iraq and must be targetted for destruction.  Anti-war forces agree that al Qaeda is now in Iraq, as a direct result of the U.S. invasion there. (name calling run under) A smaller group of pro-Bush demonstrators took up positions across the street, often shouting “Commie!” at the anti-war throngs, while the latter screamed back, “bigot!” and “fascist!” It was not a day for changing any minds. For FSRN, I’m Melinda Tuhus in New London, CT.

Two US aircraft carriers and 7 battleships are patrolling off the coast of Iran in what the Pentagon calls a security exercise. It is the largest daytime show of US naval force in the Persian Gulf since the start of 2003 invasion of Iraq. The nine warships are reportedly carrying 17,000 crew members and 140 aircraft. The government of Iran had not received prior notification of the exercise.

The build-up comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency has issued a report highlighting Iran’s expanded practice of uranium enrichment, despite UN Security Council demands to stop the program. Sanctions have already been imposed on Iran and the Security Council could meet in the coming days to discuss further punitive measures.

Amendments to the immigration reform bill now under consideration in the Senate could mandate prison time for people who cross the US border illegally. FSRN’s Renee Feltz has more.

The give and take debate underway now in the US Senate will include several amendments to the immigration reform legislation on the table. The changes will allow lawmakers to shape the bill in response to criticism. For Republicans, critics are mostly core supporters from the far right. So far, the temporary worker program has been the focus of overhaul efforts. Now, in response to complaints the bill is too lenient, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham is emphasizing its security enforcement measures: “Before 9-11. I would argue illegal immigration was a social and economic problem. After 9-11, I would argue its a national security problem. We have millions of people running around in our country and we don’t know who they are and what they’re up to.” Today, Senator Graham is set to offer an amendment to require mandatory prison sentences for people who cross into the US illegally. The wording of the bill already mandates more than 27,000 new detention or prison spaces along the borders. Under current enforcement measures, more than 32,000 immigrants are projected to be in detention this summer. Debate on immigration continues this week. A vote on the bill is expected in June. For FSRN, I’m Renee Feltz.

A former administrative assistant at Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters received an 8 year prison sentence today for planning to steal secret documents and sell them to Pepsi. Joya Williams was charged last year along with 2 other men. One of the co-accused has already been sentenced to 5 years in prison. The 3 were outed by PepsiCo, which co-operated with the FBI’s investigation.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that all of the city’s 13,000 taxis will have hybrid engines by the year 2012. The mayor says the policy will reduce the city’s carbon emissions by half over the next 10 years.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s Former Top Aid Testifies Before House Committee (3:30)
She pleaded the 5th Amendment for two months – but today, Monica Goodling had to testify. As the former white house liaison for the Justice Department and as a former top advisor for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Goodling is one of the last Justice Department officials to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the firing of US prosecutors on what she and the White House knew. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

Intra-Palestinian Conflict and the Impact of Israeli Attacks on Gaza (3:30)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas, agreed Wednesday to a joint strategy to reinforce a fifth Hamas-Fatah ceasefire in a week, as Israeli military attacks continue on the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Israel has threatened to assassinate Hamas leaders, including Haniya himself. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

Tamil Tigers Say Fighting Must End Before Peace Talks are Renewed (5:00)
In Sri Lanka, fighting rages between the government forces and the rebels known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Heavy losses of lives are reported on both sides, and civilians are longing for a peaceful settlement with, despite no hopeful signs for peace talks. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam reports from Sri Lanka.

UK Government Pushed Plan for Nuclear Power (2:30)
The British government published a controversial energy review paper today which confirms yet another five month consultation will begin over the government’s wish to build a new generation of nuclear power stations across the country. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Amnesty International Releases Report: Human Rights Violated Worldwide (4:00)
Authoritative governments and armed factions are provoking fear to wash away human rights around the world – that’s the finding of Amnesty International’s Report 2007, issued today – which assessed human rights worldwide. Host Aura Bogado has more.

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