May 25, 2007
INFLUENTIAL IRAQ CLERIC COMES OUT OF HIDING
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr re-appeared in public during Friday prayers after months in hiding. Al Sadr is well known for his opposition to the American occupation of Iraq. Hiba Dawood has the story.
Muqtada Al Sadr re-appeared today during prayers at the main Shiite mosque in Kufa – a holy city south of Baghdad. Al Sadr went into hiding in February when American troops announced their crackdown on the Mehdi Army and started to arrest hundreds of his followers accusing them of fostering ties with Iran. American officials say Al Sadr fled to Iran to escape arrest, buy his spokesmen denied that he was outside Iraq. Al Sadr’s reappearance comes as his main rival Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, is out of the country receiving treatment for lung cancer. Al Sadr led two uprisings in 2004 against the American occupation. He also assisted the Sunni resistance in Falujah in 2004. Today, a delegation from the Anbar Salvation council, a group of Sunni tribal leaders whose mission is to defeat Al Qaeda, is meeting with a group of Sadrists leaders to discuss reconciliation between the two sects. This is Hiba Dawood for FSRN.
CONGRESS PASSES WAR SUPPLEMENTAL
Congress has passed a measure to continue funding the Iraq War to the tune of $120 billion dollars. The House separated domestic measures, like the minimum wage increase, from the war supplemental. One hundred and forty House Democrats voted against the war funding portion…but in the Senate, the bill passed by margin of 80 to 14. Two of the Senate’s Democratic presidential hopefuls, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, voted against the war supplemental. President Bush has already said he will sign the bill into law.
LOS ANGELES BUS FARE TO NEARLY DOUBLE BY JULY
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a controversial rate hike for the county’s bus and rail service. Laura Cambron has more.
With a 9-4 vote, the MTA Board of Directors approved a fare increase that will raise day passes from $3 to $5 come this July. Monthly passes will jump from $52 to $75 by 2009, and fares across the board will continue to increase through 2011. Around 1500 riders opposed to the fare hike packed the MTA’s public hearing yesterday; a surprizingly large turnout for a meeting held during business hours on a weekday. The transportation system serves more than 1.5 million riders a day, who according to the Bus Riders Union, earn an average of $12,000 a year. Many students like Brenden from Westchester High School attended yesterday’s hearing. He says the fare increase will have a negative impact on everyday life. “I already have kids everyday, friends of mine, who tell me, who come up and ask me,25 cents, a dollar, because they can’t afford to choose between eating that day or having to walk from Westchester all the way to Normandie in some bad neighborhood where they have to fear for their lives every next block.” The Bus Rider’s Union is threatening to pose a legal challenge to the fare increase, saying it disproportionately affects people of color. For FSRN, this is Laura Cambron with Soul Rebel Radio.
MEXICO’S OMBUDSMAN ON OAXACA’S CONFLICT
Mexico’s human rights ombudsman has issued a report critical of the state and federal government’s role in the suppression of last year’s political uprising in Oaxaca. Vladimir Flores has the story.
The report issued by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission places direct responsibility on Oaxaca’s governor Ulises Ruiz for acts of violence committed against members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca and local public school teachers. The report documents numerous human rights violations over the course of the six month social upheaval, including at least 20 political assassinations, 162 arbitrary arrests, and one hundred forty one cases of people held incommunicado. Other violations noted include the cases of fifty people who were held in detention at a military air base, thirteen documented instances of torture by federal and state police, and total of 98 people who suffered injuries in conflict-related violence. Governor Ulises Ruiz says that he will soon respond to the recommendations to investigate government officials. The national ombudsman wants federal judges and the national congress to investigate the responsibility of the governor in the conflict. To date, all state-sponsored violence against the social movement in Oaxaca has gone unpunished. Vladimir Flores, Oaxaca City, FSRN.
RCTV TO LEAVE VENEZUELA’S PUBLIC AIRWAVES ON MONDAY
Venezuela’s opposition-oriented RCTV network will go off the air on Monday after it failed to obtain a court injunction this week. Greg Wilpert reports from Caracas.
Venezuela is bracing for demonstrations and possible unrest on Sunday and Monday as a result of RCTV’s departure after 53 years of broadcasting on the public airwaves. Venezuela’s Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction against the non-renewal of RCTV’s broadcast license on Wednesday, but said that a trial challenging the legality of the non-renewal may proceed. The decision met with mixed approval from Venezuela’s opposition, which called it contradictory. President Hugo Chavez has said that RCTV’s support for the 2002 coup and the 2003 oil industry shutdown made the channel contrary to the public interest. A new public service channel will replace RCTV just after midnight on Monday. The government’s refusal to re-new the private network’s license has met widespread international disapproval from groups such as Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Chavez has dismissed the criticism, saying that as in any other country, the Venezuelan state has the sovereign right to decide which broadcasters can use the public airwaves. Greg Wilpert reporting for Free Speech Radio News from Caracas, Venezuela.
The Plight of Palestinian Refuges in Lebanon (4:20)
Fighting between Lebanese Security Forces and the Sunni Islamic group, Fatah al Islam, entered its sixth day in north Lebanon today. Exchanges of gunfire were heard throughout the afternoon on Friday, as the Lebanese Army resumed heavy shelling and fortified positions around the camp – in what some observers are saying is the set-up for what may be a large assault on the camp in the coming days. The United States and their Arab allies have added to the speculation – as military supplies, including large amounts off ammunition, began arriving in Lebanon today. Meanwhile, up to 20,000 Palestinian refugees have been caught inside the Nahr al Bared refugee camp – as Fatah al Islam has refused to surrender to the Lebanese Army. More than 12,000 Palestinians refugees from Nahr al Bared have streamed into the nearby Baddawi Palestinian refugee camp, and as Jackson Allers reports from north Lebanon, the Lebanese government’s move to crush Fatah al Islam is overshadowing the growing humanitarian crisis.
Peru Hosts Cluster Bombs Conference(3:30)
A 3-day conference to set an international treaty to the production of cluster bombs wrapped up today in Peru. Pamela Cuevas and Alfredo Cuadros report from Lima.
Immigration Contracts Cause Concern(3:15)
While President Bush got his money from Congress for continued war with Iraq, some immigrant rights groups warn that immigration reform legislation directs funds to militarize the Mexico-US border. Ingrid Drake reports from Washington, DC.
H1B Visas Added to Immigration Legislation(4:20)
Little noticed in the immigration debate, is the claim by high tech employers that they need “an infinite number of H-1B visa workers” because of the shortage of highly skilled US workers. The claim doesn’t sit well with labor organizations and skilled tech workers who can’t find full-time permanent jobs. The first “H-1B Visa Reform Bill” to protect US workers was introduced by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin in April. The bill originally received scant attention, but was successfully attached to pending immigration legislation yesterday. The amendment, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, would increase employer fees on H-1B visas and use the resources for scholarships in math, science, engineering and nursing. Martha Baskin has more.
Weekly Political Round Up(2:30)
Presidential candidates recorded votes on Iraq war funding. John Edwards invited attacks for criticizing the so-called “war on terror.” And powerful lobbyists are Hillary Clinton’s fundraisers. Yanmei Xie rounds up this week’s politics from The Hill.