July 26, 2007

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Headlines (5:30)
Four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have announced they are asking the solicitor general to appoint a special counsel to investigate potential perjury by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Senators want the special prosecutor to investigate if Gonzales lied while testifying under oath about the extent of domestic surveillance and dissent within the Justice Department regarding those programs. Senator Chuck Schumer speaking at today’s press conference: (sound) “Earlier this week, Attorney General Gonzales testified before the Judiciary Committee…and his inability to answer simple and straightforward questions was just stunning. The Attorney General took and oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Instead, he tells the half-truth, the partial truth, and everything but the truth”. Senator Dianne Feinstein says the committee has called for a special counsel from outside of the Justice Department, largely for 3 reasons: (audio) “One, to look at whether in fact the department has been politicized. Two, to evaluate his misleading, and often untrue, statements to the Congress. And to also look at the administration’s decision to block any United States attorney from pursuing charges of contempt of congress against officials who have refused to comply with congressional subpoenas. I have never seen an Attorney General so contemptuous of Congress and his role as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.”

In related news, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy issued subpoenas today for two key White House officials. Presidential adviser Karl Rove and White House Political Affairs Deputy Director J. Scott Jennings have been ordered to testify before congress as part of the ongoing investigation into the mass firing of US attorneys. The two White House officials have been cited to hand over documents and give testimony by the of August 2nd.

In other news, The Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers met with senior Israeli politicians in Jerusalem yesterday in a bid to revive a peace initiative approved by 22 Arab states. The meeting marked the first official visit ever made to Israel by an Arab League delegation. Ghassan Bannoura reports from Bethlehem.

The plan calls for full recognition of the state of Israel and normalization of relations in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders, the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and “an agreed, just solution” for the Palestinian refugees of 1948. Israel and the US have sought to involve more nations in the talks, and yesterday Olmert asked the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers to encourage more Arab states to join their next meeting on the initiative. But other nations have so far refused to participate in the talks, and the head of the Arab League indicated that the two ministers were not acting on behalf of the organization. Israeli media has reported a separate Israeli proposal for general principles of agreement that would potentially form the basis for peace negotiations. The Israeli proposal calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on 90% of the land currently comprising the West Bank and Gaza, with borders likely following the route of the illegal separation wall. I am Ghassan Bannoura for FSRN.

The security situation in the Southern Iraqi city of Basra has taken a turn for the worse. Hiba Dawood files this report.

Basra hospital doctors are 3 days into a strike, called in response to the deteriorating security situation for hospital staff. Two doctors were killed last week, another was kidnapped, and another doctor’s house was raided and ransacked by an armed group. The striking doctors want the Iraqi government to provide more security to the health care workers, particularly since medical professionals are under tremendous pressure in the war-torn country. Today, seven katyushka missiles fell on a residential district in Basra, causing damage to buildings and cars. In another incident, three employees from Iraq’s Southern Oil Company were arrested for robbing an armored truck that was delivering salaries to the company’s workers. The recent surge in violence is unusual for Basra, which has had a relatively stable security situation for the last four years. Basra is important to Iraq’s economy, as it lies in an oil-rich region and is the location of the country’s only sea port. I am Hiba Dawood for FSRN.

A report released today by the Environmental Integrity Project predicts that CO2 pollution from old and inefficient electricity generating plants could lead to a 34 percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030. The non-profit environmental group has just published a list ranking the 50 dirtiest power plants in the country. Five of those facilities are in Texas, which tops the list of states with heavy concentrations of dirty power plants. Other states with problem facilities include: Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama, and Georgia. The Environmental Integrity Project estimates that US power plants release roughly 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year.

Allegations of Human Trafficking in Building US Embassy in Iraq (4:15)
In Iraq today at least 25 people were killed and 60 injured in a car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Karrada district. The attack occurred just south of a US embassy and several Iraqi government buildings. It was the deadliest of a number of attacks that killed at least 40 people across the country today. Allegations of human trafficking of workers to build the 600 million dollar US Embassy in Iraq was highlighted in Congress today. Two whistleblowers accused a multifaceted defense contractor of ‘kidnapping’ workers from developing countries and forcing them to Baghdad to work. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell has more on this story.

South Korean Hostages Plea for Help in Afghanistan (2:00)
A South Korean woman has pleaded for her release and the release of 21 other South Koreans who were abducted by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan last week. Yo Syun Ju told an Afghan reporter in a telephone interview that all of the hostages are sick. This comes as the dead body of the abducted group’s leader, Protestant pastor Bae Hyung-kyu, was found yesterday with multiple gun shots. Seoul has sent an envoy to Afghanistan to negotiate the remaining hostages’ release. Jason Strothers reports.

$3 Billion Approved for Border Militarization (1:45)
The US Senate today approved a measure to spend an additional 3 billion dollars to crackdown on the southern US/Mexico border. The measure, which is part of the massive Homeland Security spending bill, received wide support from both parties with a 98 to 1 vote. The measure would deploy an additional 23,000 border patrol agents, purchase 4 unmanned aerial vehicles, build 700 miles of the border fence and purchase 45,000 beds that would go towards new detention facility to hold people who are caught entering the country without proper documentation. Kat Rodriguez, with the immigrant rights group coalicion de derechos humanos in Tuscon Arizona, says lay lawmakers from non border communities don’t realize what these measures do for those living near the border. The three billion dollar border crackdown measure must still be reconciled with the house of representatives.

Farm Bill in Limbo (3:00)
This week the US House continues to consider a multi billion dollar farm bill. The measure has run into trouble as Democrats have inserted into it an oil and gas corporate tax that has caused Republicans to withdraw their support. Meanwhile, the bill continues to offer large federal subsidies for American farmers. Matt Laslo reports that some say the bill would continue to keep poor US farmers poor and as well as cripple farmers across the globe.

California Grocery Workers Avert Strike (4:00)
Southern California grocery workers averted a strike when they voted in favor of a new contract over the weekend. Critics say while the agreement provides some improvements, it doesn’t go far enough for the most vulnerable workers. Leilani Albano has more on the story.

Concerns of Renewed Fighting in Nagalim (4:30)
At the three-way junction of India, China and Burma, a bloody war has been going on for sixty years. The indigenous Naga population’s demand for a separate homeland started in 1947 when India annexed the area into Indian Union of States. Since then A bitter guerrilla war has taken over 200,000 lives. A 1997 ceasefire has been followed by a decade of uneasy peace. And as Vinod K. Jose reports, there are concerns of a resumption in fighting.

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