July 09, 2007

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Headlines (5:45)
President Bush has once again invoked executive privilege to keep former White House staffers from testifying under oath before open sessions of Congress. The Judiciary Committees of the House and the Senate are seeking testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor as part of the investigation into the dismissals of eight US Attorneys. The Bush administration has offered members of Congress to interview both former aides off-the-record and behind closed doors. White House counsel Fred Fielding today informed Congressional investigators that the president will not provide documentation to back up his claim of executive privilege, which opens the doors to a possible contempt of Congress citation.

With heightened fears of terrorism following the recent attacks in Britain, Germany’s Interior Minister has called for tougher anti-terrorism laws including pre-emptive detention and even assassination of terror suspects. Cinnamon Nippard reports from Berlin.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right political party, the Christian Democratic Union, is Germany’s most vocal advocate of harsher anti-terror laws. Schäuble’s new proposals include deploying the German army in domestic operations and searching suspects’ computers without their knowledge. He also says that Germany should follow the US example by classifying terror suspects as “enemy combatants” in order to detain them without charge, and that there may be cases where it’s appropriate to kill suspected terrorists. This is despite the fact that the death penalty is forbidden in Germany. Schäuble’s comments have provoked shock and outrage throughout the country. Social Democrats leader, Kurt Beck, responded by saying: “We mustn’t kill liberty in an effort to defend it”. Konrad Freiberg from the German Police Union says German anti-terror laws are already tough enough and that Schäuble’s suggestions are irresponsible and motivated by party politics. Cinnamon Nippard, reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

Campaigners are celebrating today after the news that Britain’s controversial government arms sale body – the Defense Export Services Organization – is to be disbanded. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

This secretive government body has a long history of scandal; most recently, it was accused of approving and facilitating £1bn worth of bribes to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia from British arms company BAE. The Defense Export Services Organization was set up in 1966 when the arms industry was still largely state-owned; it subsidies and helps the highly profitable British arms industry sell around £5bn of equipment a year to foreign governments. The British government now believes such close involvement in the selling of arms to developing countries with appalling human rights records is damaging Britain’s reputation. Didier is a campaigner in exile from what he calls the Un-Democratic Republic of the Congo (sound): “There are markets selling weapons throughout the world, it’s a big, big industry in the UK. In the Congo we’ve got 3 million people that died. This the highest death toll since the Second World War! UK must know that they are creating wars, they are supporting wars and unfortunately if you are supporting the butchers, you are a butcher too!” Campaigners hope today’s move will limit unacceptable levels of access by the arms companies to government. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

The standoff between Pakistani security forces and armed militants inside of Islamabad’s Red Mosque has continued into its seventh day today. The government sent a team of negotiators to communicate with the holdouts over loud speaker, but no progress was reported. Those inside include women and children students from the mosque’s religious schools. Twenty one people have already died in the standoff. The mosque has generated controversy in Pakistan for its calls to implement Sharia law in Islamabad and for vigilante style attacks against perceived violators of public morality.

Special police units in Zimbabwe have arrested more than 1300 shop keepers for removing merchandise after Zimbabwe’s ruling party imposed price controls on many basic goods in an attempt to put the brakes on the country’s economic crisis. From neighboring South Africa, Terna Gyuse reports.

Independent economists say prices in Zimbabwe today are 200 times higher than in January. Basics like food and transportation are well beyond the reach of most people. In several parts of the country, there are reports that farm workers – among the country’s lowest wage earners – now prefer to exchange their work directly for food and clothing. Gumbo Hopewell is with Zimbabwe’s Coalition on Debt and Development (sound) “The government is no longer in control of the basic government apparatus of providing health, providing education, or all those facilities. What probably remains under its control by virtue of intimidation remains the army and the police.” A quarter of Zimbabwe’s population is thought to have fled the country. The UN estimates 4 million Zimbabweans will need food aid in the next year. (sound) “How many more statistics should we give of the people who are dying in Zimbabwe today of hunger?” Activist Grace Kwinje was savagely battered by police at a protest rally in March and is now in exile in South Africa. The wave of state violence has subsided, but Kwinje believes the international community should be doing much more. (sound) “At what point are we going to give that resolution that not one person should be tortured, should be beaten up for what they believe in?” For FSRN, I’m Terna Gyuse.

The War in Iraq: The Battle in Congress (4:30)
Congress is gearing up for another battle over the war in Iraq. With recent opposition by three GOP Senators, Democratic leaders hope there’s enough momentum to change Iraq policy. Meanwhile, peace groups are also gearing up for the war debate, engaging their members of Congress. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell has more.

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan (3:00)
An estimated four million Iraqis have fled their homes since the US-led invasion in 2003. Approximately two million of those have fled to Jordan and Syria, countries whose governments already struggle to provide for their own citizens. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which requested $60-million in aid Iraqi refugees at a donor conference in Geneva in April, is now asking for almost twice that much money for the coming year. FSRN’s David Enders reports from Jordan.

Turkey’s People To Vote on Electoral Referendum (3:30)
Turkey stands at the brink of launching a military operation in Iraqi-Kurdistan as it amasses 140,000 troops at Iraq’s northern border. A Turkish military invasion of northern Iraq poses the threat of postponing parliamentary elections, scheduled for July 22. However, Turkish media has recently reported that the government could request parliament’s authorization to send in the military as early as this week. Meanwhile, Turkey’s highest court has rejected an appeal by the president to quash an upcoming referendum on electoral reforms. The reform package, put forth by the ruling Justice and Development Party, would make it possible for the president to be elected by a popular vote. The office of President is currently elected to a seven year term by the Turkish Parliament. FSRN’s Ezgi Saritas has more from Ankara.

Peaceful Demonstrators Charged with Terrorism in El Salvador (4:30)
13 people opposed to the privatization of water in El Salvador are facing terrorism charges under El Salvador’s new Anti-Terrorism law. The 13 detainees include two leaders of the Association for the Development of El Salvador, known as CRIPDES by its Spanish acronym. The arrests came as Salvadoran President Tony Saca presented his plan for “de-centralization of public services” in the town of Suchitoto. Opponents of the plan regard it as a clear move toward privatization of public resources, as it gives private and foreign corporations control over the public water system. Leaders of CRIPDES, an organization critical of the privatization plans, were arrested at a police roadblock as they traveled to protest the president’s visit. Police charged them with creating public disorder, destruction of property, and now, “Acts of Terrorism”. All 13 detainees now face trial in special tribunals outside the jurisdiction of the provincial court system. On Saturday, the judge hearing the case decided to send the 13 to prison for three months, while charges are further investigated. Host Aura Bogado spoke with Salvador Marroquin, an Assembly Member of the Association for the Development of El Salvador, CRIPDES.

A Look at China’s Rural Health (4:30)
The phenomenal growth of China’s economy in recent decades has had uneven benefits. For the 70 percent of people that reside in rural areas, living standards are often below those of their urban counterparts. One effect of China’s move away from socialism is that many rural residents have been left without any means to pay for medical treatment. In the past, local communes had footed the bill, but when these communes disbanded, healthcare became an unaffordable luxury. With more than 700 million people living in rural areas, the government has been under intense pressure to put more money into rural health. And now they’re responding with a new rebate scheme aimed at improving access to healthcare in rural areas. FSRN’s Elise Potaka takes a look at how the scheme has impacted on one small rural hospital.

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