June 25, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced plans to propose the release of 250 members of the Fatah movement currently held in Israeli jails. Olmert made the announcement at a meeting of Arab leaders in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Earlier today, a Hamas-linked group posted an audio recording of Israeli Corporal Ghilad Shalit to its website. Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid exactly one year ago today. In the recording, Shalit asks the Israeli government to comply with his captors’ demands, including a Palestinian prisoner exchange. Israeli media reports indicate that the audio is likely that of a coerced statement, as it contains subtle errors in grammar that a native Hebrew speaker would not likely make.

A recording of another high-profile captive in Gaza emerged today. A new video of Alan Johnston shows the BBC reporter wearing a thick vest-like object and appealing to the Hamas movement and the British government to not use force to free him. Alan Johnston (audio): “As you can see, I’ve been dressed in what is an explosive belt which the kidnappers say will be detonated if there’s any attempt to storm this area. They say they are ready to turn the hideout into what they describe as a death zone if there is an attempt to free me by force.” Johnston ended his message by asking all sides to return to negotiations.

A series of bomb attacks killed 50 people in Iraq today. A huge explosion in a Baghdad hotel killed 6 Sunni tribal leaders who had joined forces to fight al-Qaeda linked groups in the Anbar province. This, as US forces carry out an extended siege of a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. Hiba Dawood reports.

US forces are into their 5th day of a siege on Adhamiya, a Sunni majority neighborhood lies in west of Baghdad. Troops are preventing vehicles from entering or leaving the area. The siege began on Thursday to crack down on suspected insurgents and their supporters. Adhamiya residents say the neighborhood is without electricity or drinking water and they are only allowed to leave on foot to get to work or go to hospitals. The US military has used these types of pressure tactics against residential areas over the last four years, but they have often backfired by increasing anger and resentment among the civilians. Elsewhere in Baghdad, American forces conducted a new raid on Sadr City, home to the Mehdi army, a militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. The raid ended with an air strike on some neighborhood houses, resulting in the deaths of two people and causing serious injuries to another. I am Hiba Dawood for FSRN.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says that NATO and US led forces in Afghanistan have killed more than 90 civilians in less than 2 weeks in anti-Taliban operations. A recent surge in civilian casualties has further weakened Karzai’s government. The Associated Press calculates that civilian causalities caused by foreign troops outnumber those caused by militants. The AP used witness testimony and reports from Afghan and foreign officials in its calculations. Neither NATO nor US forces keep track of civilian deaths.

In Washington DC, Dr. John Barrasso was sworn in today as the new senator for Wyoming. The conservative former state senator takes the place of Republican Craig Thomas, who died earlier this month of leukemia.

In other news from Washington, board members of the World Bank have confirmed Robert Zoellick as its new chief. Zoellick is a former deputy secretary of state and will replace Paul Wolfowitz on July 1st.

And finally, Brazil’s landless farmers movement, the MST, has launched a new series of land occupations. Debora Pill reports from Sao Paulo.

More than 1300 landless farmers have invaded and taken possession of 14 land estates in São Paulo state as part of four days of actions launched by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – or MST. The land targeted by the MST occupation campaign includes sugarcane plantations and cattle ranches. The MST is the largest social movement in Latin America with 1.5 million landless members organized in 23 Brazilian states. Its members occupy large land holdings to press for agrarian reform in Brazil, where 1.6% of the landowners control roughly half of the arable land. The latest actions came in protest against what the MST says is the São Paulo government’s slow pace in carrying out agrarian reform measures. The MST has publicly stated that the organization plans to take over a total of 24 estates by the end of this month. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Debora Pill in São Paulo.

Supreme Court Rules on Free Speech and Environmental Protection (4:00)
The Supreme Court today handed down two rulings today on cases involving freedom of speech and environmental protection. Yanmei Xie takes a look at the decisions.

EU Reform Treaty: Success or Compromise? (3:30)
After days of political wrangling, an agreement on the basis of a new EU Reform Treaty was reached early on Saturday morning at the EU summit in Brussels, after great opposition to the term constitution – any reference to this has been erased from the new Treaty. What is included is a new double majority voting system as well as the post of an EU president, and a High Representative in charge of foreign affairs and security policy. While some are heralding this new treaty as a success, others are saying it’s a sore compromise due to the demands of Poland and the UK. FSRN’s Cinnamon Nippard reports from Berlin.

UN Forces Under Fire in Lebanon (3:00)
Six members from the Spanish military contingent of the United Nations Force in southern Lebanon were killed by a car bomb on Sunday, while fighting in and around the northern coastal city of Tripoli claimed more than 15 lives over the weekend. These latest security incidents are all believed to be linked to Islamic jihad groups working in Lebanon. The United Nations military force in Lebanon, some 15,000 troops, are part of a rebuffed multi-national fighting force deployed to southern Lebanon as part of a UN Security Council resolution passed after the 34-day war with Israel last summer. Jackson Allers reports from Beirut on what this bombing incident means for the future of the UN force and about what observers are saying is a clear presence of al-Qaeda style groups operating in Lebanon.

Demonstration Against Hutto Detention facility (4:10)
A growing number of people are expressing human rights concerns over a detention center that holds immigrant and refugee mothers, and their children. Over the weekend, hundreds of them attended a rally to shut down the Hutto detention facility, less than half an hour from the Texas state capital. Liana Lopez reports from Taylor, Texas.

Election 2008: Mike Gravel (5:00)
Former US Senator Mike Gravel is a little-known politician from Alaska with big aspirations – to win the Democratic nomination for President. He doesn’t have the star power or the money-raising operations of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. But he does have some ideas that differentiate him from the rest of the field. FSRN’s DC Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell spent some time with him.

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