June 28, 2007

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Headlines (5:30)
The White House has moved to block congressional subpoenas issued as part of the investigation into the dismissals of 8 US attorneys. A letter issued today by White House counsel Fred Fielding states that President Bush is exercising executive privilege to keep those subpoenaed from turning over documents. The announcement comes just one day after the Senate Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas for documents relating to the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy described the the president’s move as “Nixonian stonewalling”.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav has agreed to resign as part of a surprise plea bargain that allows him to avoid jail time for sex offenses. Katsav has been the subject of a year long investigation into charges of sexual crimes against former employees. Rape charges have been dropped, but the Israeli president has pleaded guilty to charges of sexual harassment, indecent acts, and obstruction of justice.

The US and the EU have revised a deal to share data on all passengers on trans-Atlantic flights under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Cinnamon Nippard reports from Berlin.

At present, within minutes of a flight’s departure for the US, up to 34 pieces of data, including passengers names, addresses, seat numbers, credit card and travel details, are forwarded to US authorities. Sharing this information actually breaches European data protection laws, but in 2004 the European Commission and the governments of the 27 EU member states negotiated an exemption for the US. However last year the European Court deemed the agreement signed in 2004 to be illegal, and gave the EU until the end of July to come up with a new deal. Under the latest draft agreement, the 34 types of data would be reduced to 19, but the United States would be able to keep this data for up to 15 years. The European Union’s data protection supervisor, Peter Hustinix has criticized the deal saying that the privacy rights of EU citizens have become casualties in the US War on Terror. European authorities will release the details of the passenger data exchange program tomorrow. Cinnamon Nippard reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a short-term extension of a South American trade agreement…but some in Congress have indicated that the president’s fast track authority may have a tough time when it comes up for renewal. Matt Kaye reports from Capitol Hill.

The 365 to 59 House vote for an 8-month extension of the Andean Trade Preference Agreement cleared the way for possible action soon on trade deals with Peru and Panama—and maybe Columbia, at a later date. But the vote angered Democratic critics of the deals, who have vowed to oppose any renewal of presidential ‘Fast Track’ powers, which expire Saturday. Fast Track Authority speeds trade deals through Congress on ‘up or down’ votes without allowing for changes or amendments. Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur: (sound) “We’re here today to say that this process of ‘fast-balling’ measures through the Congress on ‘Fast Track’ is over, is over…because we have to begin restoring a regimen in this country that creates American jobs—not, exports them, and begins to represent the American people, at the table of global trade.” Kaptur vows legislation to fix inequities she SAYS exist in NAFTA…and will join with House and Senate allies to propose tougher new labor and environmental rules for all future trade deals—and for renewing presidential trade powers. Matt Kaye, Washington.

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers in South Africa have called off their 4 week old strike. The Congress of South African Trade Unions, known as Cosatu, joined smaller independent unions in accepting a 7.5 percent wage hike. The strike was the largest show of force by organized labor since the end of apartheid.

Maoist rebels in eastern India have been carrying out a campaign of shutdown strikes and sabotage in opposition to governmental policies to promote big business investment in the region. FSRN’s Vinod K. Jose reports.

State governments across a broad swathe in southern, central and eastern India have made themselves largely unpopular with their constituents due to aggressive promotion of industrial development projects and so-called “special economic zones”. Small farmers have been among the hardest hit, as governments appropriate their land to make way for industrial complexes. The level of frustration has allowed a well-organized Maoist guerrilla force to acquire the muscle to openly challenge the state and its economic system. Maoists in the state of West Bengal enforced a successful two-day shutdown strike earlier this week. Before dawn yesterday, a hundred Maoists raided a railway station there, chasing away railway authorities and damaging the station’s signal network. The raid caused no casualties but did disrupt train service for several hours. On, Tuesday the Maoists blew up tracks and partially destroyed a cargo train in the neighboring state of Jharkhand. The attacks come after weeks have seen blockades, strikes and acts of sabotage targeting railways, communications systems and mining companies. The government has taken it as a law and order issue and sent more troops. For FSRN From New Delhi in India this is Vinod K. Jose.

Immigration Bill Dies in the Senate (4:30)
The Senate immigration bill was again halted for the second time this month. Members failed to gain the 60 votes necessary to move forward with the bill. It was a successful bid to kill the bill by a number of Southern Republicans. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Supreme Court Splits Over Using Race as a Factor in School Diversity Plans (4:15)
In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against voluntary desegregation in public schools. The high court heard appeals in cases involving two public school districts, one in Kentucky, the other in Washington State, where parents say the use of race in determining school assignments discriminated against white students by barring them from attending popular schools. FSRN Host Aura Bogado spoke with John Brittain, chief council with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights in Washington, DC.

UN Tribunal in Lebanon (4:00)
Since the end of last summer’s devastating 34-day war with Israel, Lebanon has been plagued by violence – car bombings, increased sectarian strife and 2 targeted assassinations of anti-Syrian officials – all since last November. For the past five weeks, well-armed Islamic militants have been battling Lebanese security forces in northern Lebanon. Meanwhile, the pro-Western government has joined the U.S. government in blaming Syria for the unrest. In Paris this week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated U.S. support for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1757 – which aims to set up an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri. Syrian officials are alleged to have been involved, and as Jackson Allers reports from Beirut, the U.N. tribunal will likely be the next battleground for Lebanon’s government and the political opposition, led by Hizbullah, a group that maintains close ties with Syria.

Push for Bio Fuels Displacing Indigenous Communities (4:00)
Some 7 million acres of forest are being cleared in Indonesia for palm plantations every year. The government plans to double the number of plantations in the next six years to meet rocketing worldwide demand for bio-fuel made with the palm oil. They argue it will lift poor communities out of poverty and create millions of jobs. But the indigenous inhabitants of Central Kalimantan, the Indonesia province of Borneo, are being forced off their land to make way for this development. Dayak nomadic farmers who have lived in harmony with the forests for thousands of years are losing their ancestral lands at a dramatic rate. Rebecca Henschke has more.

Sexual Assault Against Native American Women Addressed at US Social Forum (3:00)
According to the US Department of Justice, Native American women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the US. FSRN’s Karen Miller reports from the US Social Forum in Atlanta, where several groups highlighted this often ignored issue.

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