June 22, 2007

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Headlines (5:45)
Lebanon’s Defense Minister has declared victory in the campaign to wipe out Fatah al-Islam positions in a Palestinian refugee camp near the northern city of Tripoli. The announcement comes as aid groups begin preparations for the return of the camp’s residents. Simba Russeau files this report from Beirut.

Sporadic fighting between the Lebanese Army and members of Fatah al-Islam continued today despite the governments declaration of victory over the militants entrenched in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. Mediators are attempting to broker a formal ceasefire. The month-long conflict has killed 75 soldiers, 59 militants, and an unknown number of Palestinian civilians. Aid agencies argue that even if fighting stops, the dangers posed by unexploded ordinances and badly damaged buildings remain. Water and sewage systems are in need of repair before residents can return to the camp. Paul Salem is the director for the Carnegie Middle East Center: (audio) “The Lebanese authorities along with Saudi Arabia with Saudi funding have promised to rapidly rebuild this camp. So, we should look forward to improved security in the camps and hopefully the government granting the Palestinians social and economic rights.” Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said that although military operations have ended, troops will remain in the area until all members of Fatah al-Islam have surrendered. Reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Beirut this is Simba Russeau.

The Bush Administration has plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, according to a report published by the Associated Press. The White House called off a Friday meeting to discuss the issue of Guantanamo between federal agencies after the the release of the media report. White House spokesperson Dana Perino says the administration hopes to transfer several dozen prisoners back to Afghanistan in the near future. The US is helping to expand a prison there, but denies that it will serve as an alternative to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

EU leaders clashed today over proposed reforms designed to strengthen the functions of the European Union. Britain and Poland have threatened to veto the talks altogether if they don’t get what they want. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

This treaty is a kind of replacement for the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005; the EU’s gone through a somewhat difficult period ever since. So, no one’s using the word ‘constitution’ because that might mean more national referenda, something few EU politicians are keen to go for again. But this ‘reformed treaty’ is meaningless without the support of all 27 EU countries and there are plenty of objections: shouting loudest, Britain wants assurances that the proposed charter of fundamental rights won’t apply in British law and guarantees that British foreign policy, social security and tax laws won’t come under the control of the EU either. What the British government doesn’t want is for EU labour laws to conflict with its more ‘flexible’ ones; they believe that will undermine the UK’s competitive advantage globally. Diplomats have indicated they expect some kind of compromise treaty to be released by this evening, but that remains to be seen. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Talks aimed at salvaging the Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations collapsed this week in Potsdam in Germany. Cinnamon Nippard has the story.

Delegates from the so-called G4 countries; the United States, the European Union, India and Brazil – met in Germany this week to try to break the deadlock that has plagued the Doha round of trade negotiations that began in 2001. The main point of contention is over agricultural subsidies and tariffs. Brazil and India criticized the US for failing to cut the billions of dollars in subsidies it gives to American farmers. While the EU and the United States say that emerging economies like India and Brazil refuse to offer new market opportunities for manufacturing exports, and criticized these nations for their inflexible stance at the meeting. India and Brazil walked away from the negotiations 2 days early saying that it was futile to continue talks with the offers the US and the EU had put on the table. Although WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy seems optimistic about reaching a resolution, this collapse will make it difficult for the full 150-members of the WTO to reach a conclusion by the end of July. The talks will now continue in Geneva. Cinnamon Nippard reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will drop deportation proceedings pending against the wife of a US soldier missing in Iraq. Yaderlin Geraldo is the spouse of Army specialist Alex Jimenez, who has been unaccounted for since an ambush on his unit on May 12th. Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy both urged immigration authorities not to deport the undocumented woman back to the Dominican Republic. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said that immigration officials have requested the termination of deportation proceedings so that the missing soldier’s wife may apply for legal permanent residency.

And finally – The Central Intelligence Agency has decided to de-classify a thick dossier known as the “family jewels”. The information contained within the documents has been the subject of many unsuccessful lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents detail covert CIA activity from 1953-1973. The declassified material could be available online by next week.

Senate Passes Energy Hill That Focuses on Renewables (4:45)
The Senate passed an energy bill focused on renewables. Democrats and environmentalists applaud the measure as a major shift in US energy policy – but as DC Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, the legislation was weakened and faces an even weaker house version of the bill.

North Korea to Disable Main Nuclear Reactor (4:20)
North Korea appears set to disable its main nuclear reactor in exchange for aid, according to Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill. The envoy’s surprise visit to Pyongyang was the first of any high-level U.S. official in almost five years. Hill says that the talks held during his visit were positive, adding that complete disarmament may take some time. A North Korean diplomat, however, says that an ongoing banking dispute involving millions of dollars of frozen funds has not been completely resolved. FSRN host Aura Bogado spoke with Professor Thomas Kim; he’s the Executive Director of the Korea Policy Institute.

Weekly Political Round-Up (4:00)
Chatter this week suggests the 2008 US Presidential race may go beyond the two major political parties. And, hundreds of progressive activists got together and voted for president. Who did they choose? Find out with this week’s political news round-up from Ingrid Drake in Washington DC.

Semper Fi: LGBT Vets (4:12)
The drive to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military received a boost this week when Maine’s two Republican Senators said they thought it was time to reconsider the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Criticism of the policy is growing, especially after the Service members Legal Defense and Education Fund revealed this spring the Pentagon has dismissed 59 Arabic linguists since 1993. All told, more than 10,000 gay and lesbian service members have been kicked out of the military since then-President Bill Clinton implemented the policy 14 years ago. From San Francisco, FSRN’s Aaron Glantz brings us the story of Lance Corporal Jeff Key, who was kicked out of the military after serving a tour in Iraq.

American Indian Community Settles with Local South Dakota School District (3:20)
The American Civil Liberties Union announced that American Indians in the South Dakota community of Winner have come to a settlement with the local school district in a lawsuit alleging discrimination against American Indian students. FSRN’s Jim Kent examines the issue and the impact of the settlement.

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