August 31, 2007

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Headlines (6:00)
White House spokesperson Tony Snow has become the latest in a series of Bush Administration officials to resign. News of Snow’s plans to step down comes precisely on Karl Rove’s last day on the job as presidential adviser.

A military airplane carrying a congressional delegation came under rocket fire Thursday night shortly after taking off from a Baghdad runway. Passengers on the plane included Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Representative Bud Cramer of Alabama. The flight landed in Amman, Jordan after what Representative Cramer described as a (quote) “close call”.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is appealing the dismissal of a class action civil case against a former Israeli official accused of ordering the 1996 Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon. FSRN’s Zein El-Amine reports.

Moshe Ya’Alon was the head of Israeli army intelligence on April 18, 1996 when the IDF targeted a UN compound that was sheltering Lebanese civilians during the “Operation Grapes of Wrath” military siege. The Israeli bombing of the compound killed 106 civilians, mostly women and children. Ya’Alon was facing a civil suit in U.S. federal court on charges stemming from his involvement in the bombing. The plaintiffs are all Lebanese citizens who were injured and/or lost relatives in the attack. One of the plaintiffs, Ali Mohammed Ismail lost his wife and three children in the attack. On July 30, 2006 a different massacre in Qana made international headlines when the mixed Muslim and Christian village was again bombed by the IDF causing 60 civilian deaths, mostly children. A US federal judge dismissed the suit late last year after ruling that Ya’Alon was acting in his official capacity in the IDF and not subject to prosecution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The CCR appeal argues that Ya’Alon was no longer a government official when sued and that the the shelling of the UN compound sheltering civilians violated international law. For FSRN, I’m Zein El-Amine in Washington DC.

Taliban kidnappers have released all of the remaining South Korean hostages. The Christian aid workers had been held in captivity since their bus was seized in Afghanistan on July 19th. News of a breakthrough in hostage talks came on Tuesday. In exchange for the hostages, South Korea has agreed to withdraw their 200 troops by year’s end and to prohibit nationals from traveling to Afghanistan to conduct missionary work. The freed hostages are expected to arrive in Seoul on Saturday.

Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez arrived in Bogota today to try to mediate hostage negotiations between Colombian Pres. Alvaro Uribe and leftist guerrillas. Mike Ceaser reports.

Colombia’s leftist FARC guerrillas hold thousands of hostages. They want to exchange some 50 of the most high-profile ones for hundreds of imprisoned guerrilla fighters. But Pres. Uribe has rejected one of the guerrillas’ principle demands – that he first demilitarize a region in the country’s south. Uribe says demilitarization will come only after the hostage release. The hostage issue has been front and center in Colombian politics ever since 11 regional deputies kidnapped by the guerrillas in 2002 died in captivity two months ago. Also, a schoolteacher who walked halfway across the country in a campaign to free his son, whom the guerrillas kidnapped almost a decade ago, has vowed to camp on the city´s main plaza until an agreement is reached. The leftist Chavez and the conservative Uribe are ideological opposites and have clashed over a number of issues. Many Colombians also suspect that the socialist Chavez sympathizes with the guerrillas. While Chavez wanted to visit for two days, Uribe gave him only six hours. For FSRN, I´m Mike Ceaser in Bogota.

President Bush announced this morning that the Federal Housing Administration will guarantee loans for homeowners who are 90 days behind on their payments. The announcement comes as foreclosures on sub-prime mortgages are at a record high. Zoe Sullivan reports from New York.

Previously, the FHA would only assist people who had never missed a payment. But an international financial crisis sparked by failures in the sub-prime loan market has forced the government to make policy changes. Sub-prime loans are more expensive than “prime” rate loans. The claim is that people who receive sub-prime loans are greater credit risks and so lenders must charge them more to protect themselves. However, Countrywide Home Loans, one of the largest mortgage lenders in the US, is facing a Federal Lawsuit for racial discrimination. Earlier today, Bush offered refinancing through the Federal Housing Administration: [Bush] “The coming days, the FHA will launch a new program called FHA secure. This program will allow American homeowners who have a good credit history but cannot afford their current payments to refinance in FHA-insured mortgages. This means that many families that are struggling now will be able to refinance, pay their mortgages and keep their homes.” The FHA would help people to refinance, but what will happen to the multitude of Americans with bad credit is unclear. Although Bush said that cheaters would be held accountable, just what types of punishment predatory or discriminatory lenders will face remains to be seen. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Zoe Sullivan in New York.

NOLA Tribunal Continues (4:40)
The International Tribunal in New Orleans Louisiana is hearing testimony from Hurricane Katrina survivors through the weekend. Many of those testifying claim that local, state, and federal governments violated their rights during the storm and the aftermath. The Tribunal will hear testimony from Hurricane Katrina survivors through Sunday. Once it concludes, the Tribunal plans to gather all the evidence it collects and potentially legal proceeding to US and international courts. Journalist Davy D, host of KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio in Berkeley California, is covering the tribunal in Louisiana. Recently Davey D caught up with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Weekly Political Roundup (3:15)
In this week’s political round up, the presidential candidates remember the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and a top Clinton and Democratic fundraiser finally turns himself in for fraud FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Migrants In Lebanon (4:00)
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, there are over 200 million migrant workers worldwide and roughly half of them are women. Many migrants travel abroad in search of employment to support their families but in Lebanon they endure conditions that akin to slavery, physical and psychological abuse. Simba Russeau has more from Beirut.

IDF Investigates 6 Of Its Own (4:00)
The Israeli Defense Forces are investigating six Israeli soldiers who ran amok in the West Bank last month… they commandeered a Palestinian taxi, bound and gagged the driver and then shot a Palestinian teenager they saw in the street. The soldiers ran away – leaving the teenager lying outside, bleeding from a chest wound. The patrol commander is in prison facing charges. The Israeli military says this was not an authorized operation… and denies it indicates a culture of abuse within the Israeli Defense Forces. Irris Makler reports from the village of Dahariya in the West Bank.

Australian Security Beef Up Before APEC (3:30)
Australian police were given additional powers to not only search and arrest people, but to lock them up for the duration of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings which will be held in Sydney next week. The APEC forum runs from 2nd-9th September, and the police powers last until midnight on 12th September. Sydney-siders have found themselves facing a whole range of new security measures – including a 5 kilometer, 2.8 meter high fence, the purchase of a water cannon, and 31 mobile transit buses to be used as holding cells. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Sydney.

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