September 04, 2007
HURRICANE FELIX MAKES LANDFALL AS CATEGORY 5
Hurricane Felix smashed into the Nicaragua/Honduras border region this morning as a devastating Category 5 hurricane. It’s the first time in a single Atlantic basin storm season that 2 hurricanes have made landfall at category 5 intensity. Hurricane Dean struck Jamaica – and later Mexico – just two weeks ago. As Felix approached the Central American coast, authorities evacuated tourists from beach resorts by airplane, but left behind thousands of poor farmers and fishermen…citing a shortage of fuel. Felix has since weakened to a Category 3 – which is the same intensity at which Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Weather forecasts predict Felix will travel across Guatemala and into Chiapas, Mexico within the next 36 hours Meanwhile – Hurricane Henriette is on its way to the Mexican Pacific resort town of Cabo San Lucas as a category one.
CANADA MAY END MILITARY MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN
Canada’s Minister of Defense stated yesterday that the country’s military mission in southern Afghanistan will effectively end in 2009, a potential blow to NATO military operations there. FSRN’s Stefan Christoff reports from Montreal.
Canada’s Defense Minister announced in a national TV interview that Canadian military forces will halt their military mission in Afghanistan in 2009 unless parliament votes for an extension. Canadian troops are currently engaged in a NATO-led military campaign in the southern province of Kandahar. Most of the 70 Canadian deaths in Afghanistan have occurred in the past year – a fact that has contributed to increased questioning of Canadian participation in the 5 year old mission. Polls show that on a nationwide level, the majority of Canadians favor an alternative to the NATO-led combat operation in Afghanistan. Jaggi Singh is an activist with Block the Empire in Montreal. (audio) “People involved in the anti-war movement in Quebec and in Canada have demanded an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. This mission itself is problematic in so many ways, particularly in so far as it’s essentially serving a mis-guided war on terror led and directed by the United States.” British military officials recently estimated that hundreds of civilians have been killed in the past 6 months. In June, the Associated Press reported that civilian causalities caused by foreign troops outnumbered those caused by militants. Neither NATO nor US forces keep track of civilian deaths. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Stefan Christoff, in Montreal.
NORTH KOREAN DISARMAMENT TALKS
North Korea has reportedly said it will dismantle its nuclear weapons program by the end of this year. The announcement came after direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang over the weekend. But conflicting statements have emerged from both sides as to what was actually agreed. FSRN’s Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Following two days of negotiations in Geneva, Washington’s top envoy to the nuclear talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, told reporters that Pyongyang is ready to declare and disable all of its nuclear programs. But his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan, did not confirm that any timeline to disarm has been set. And that’s not the only mixed message coming from this past weekend’s talks. The meeting also aimed at establishing diplomatic relations between the two states. In order for that to happen, Washington would need to drop North Korea off its list of nations that sponsor terrorism. On Monday, Kim declared that the US will remove North Korea from that list, paving the way for relations. However, Hill maintains that the North still needs to take more steps to de-nuclearize before Washington’s policy changes. Envoys will continue to work out these details before the resumption of six party talks later this month. Foreign ministers from both Koreas, the US, Japan, China and Russia are set to meet during that round for the first time since the nuclear standoff began in 2002. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Jason Strother, in Seoul, South Korea.
CRAIG RESIGNS AMID SCANDAL
Idaho Senator Larry Craig announced his resignation over the weekend amidst charges of soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Craig was in his third term in the Senate. Idaho Governor Butch Otter has yet to name a replacement. Craig says that September 30th will be his final day in office.
FARC HANDS OVER BODIES OF FORMER HOSTAGES
The corpses of 11 regional deputies kidnapped by Colombia’s FARC guerrillas have been turned over to the Red Cross in the city of Cali after months of controversy over how the men died. Mike Ceaser reports.
The 11 were among 12 deputies kidnapped from their offices in Cali in an April 2002 raid by FARC guerrillas disguised as police officers. They had been among some 50 political hostages whom the guerrillas want to exchange for hundreds of imprisoned guerrilla fighters. The FARC alleges that the deputies were killed in June by crossfire during a battle with an unidentified group of attackers including foreign mercenaries. But the government argues that crossfire would not likely have killed all of the men and that the military carried out no attacks around that date. Officials accuse the guerrillas of taking months to turn over the remains to the families so that decomposition would destroy evidence of the cause of death. In the past, FARC guerrillas have murdered hostages when rescuers approached. Human rights organizations say the guerrillas are responsible for the deaths because they kidnapped the men and placed them in harm’s way. Identifying the remains and determining cause of death may take a week. For FSRN, I’m Mike Ceaser in Bogota.
Congress to tackle Iraq(4:20)
Congress’s summer break is over, and its members have returned to Washington. It’s the final stretch of the Congressional session, and at the top of the issues competing for Congress’s remaining time is Iraq. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell has more.
Iraq: British Pullback Shows Growing Divide with US(3:31)
Britain pulled its troops out of its last remaining base inside the walls of southern Iraq’s Basra City on Sunday. The move highlights a growing public disagreement between Washington and London over how to handle Iraq , with the U.S. administration saying the move will undermine security and strengthen Shia militias. In Britain, many hope the move is a sign of Prime Minister’s Gordon Brown’s desire to disentangle his government from the occupation. Claudia Cragg reports:
Lebanese Army declares victory over militant group; 30,000 displaced from fighting(2:38)
The Lebanese Army has claimed victory in a 3-month battle with the militant Sunni Islamist group Fatah al Islam. The group had based itself in a Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon–fierce fighting there killed more than 300 people and displaced some 30,000 Palestinians. Jackson Allers reports from Lebanon.
Abbas changes Palestinian Elections Law(3:00)
A small victory for Palestinians today: The Israeli supreme court has ruled that Israel must re-route a section of its seperation wall in the Palestinian village of Billin. That particular section of the wall cut farmers off from olive groves, appropriating roughly 500 acres of land. It has been the subject of weekly protests for over two and a half years. It is one of just a handful of the roughly 100 palestinian petitions over Israel’s wall that the Israeli courts have upheld. Meanwhile, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas amended the palestinian authority’s elections law, a move that the deposed Hamas government in Gaza has rejected. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.
DC Takes Gun Ban to Supreme Court(2:00)
Washington, DC ‘s mayor and Attorney General announced today that they will be petitioning the US Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that threw out the district’s 31 year-old ban on private ownership of handguns. Naji Muhajid has more.
Labor Tackles Health Care(3:03)
The AFL-CIO is launching a massive health care reform mobilization campaign to provide health care for all Americans by 2009. The nation’s largest labor federation plans to partner with local grassroots organizations to make an overhaul of the country’s health care system priority one in the coming election season. Max Pringle reports.