September 24, 2007

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The United Auto Workers began a nationwide strike today after contract negotiations with General Motors broke down. The UAW contract with Gm expired on September 14th, but workers stayed on while negotiations continued. The union leadership cited job security as the most contentious issue in the talks. The UAW represents some 73 thousand workers at more than 80 GM facilities in the US. It is the first nationwide strike against an auto manufacturer since 1976.


Ongoing protests led by Buddhist monks in Myanmar continue to gain momentum. Thousands poured into the streets today in what was the largest mobilization against the ruling military junta in nearly 20 years. Ronald Aung Naing reports.

Eyewitnesses in Rangoon say more than one hundred thousand people flooded the streets of Burma’s business capital today. It’s the largest protest yet in the current mobilizations led by Buddhist monks. Demonstrators in more than twenty towns and cities across Burma today responded to the monks’ call to pour into the streets.(ATMO- 7 sec) The protestors are demanding that the government lower prices on fuel and basic commodities, release political prisoners – including Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – and enter into a national reconciliation dialogue with opposition leaders. The military government has been unusually patient with the protests, only taking photographs of the demonstrators. However, the regime today launched a media counter-offensive featuring a national televised address by a pro-junta monk leader calling on the monks to stop mobilizing under threat of legal action. For FSRN, I’m Ronald Aung Naing in Chiang Mai.


New details have emerged about a Department of Homeland Security program that monitors and stores data on Americans who travel abroad. Privacy advocates with the Identity Project obtained their own records from the Automated Targeting System, which collected, compiled, and analyzed personal data on the travel habits of US citizens who leave the country. That program has since been legalized and renamed as the Automated Passenger Information System – or APIS. The government routinely stores travel data like itinerary, meal requests, contact information, and method of payment. The Identity Project investigation found that the DHS is also making note of the race of travelers, their profession, their travel companions, the contents of their luggage (if inspected) and even the books they take on trips. The Identity Project is opposing DHS efforts to exempt the APIS program from the Privacy Act.


A major human trial of an HIV vaccine has been abruptly halted after results showed the vaccine was ineffective. KPFA’s Kellia Ramares has the story.

The vaccine, called V520, was developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck over ten years. The trial, known as STEP, involved 3,000 international volunteers, who were healthy but at high risk of contracting HIV. An independent safety board examined interim results for 1,500 trial participants and declared the trial likely to fail, after finding that more people in the vaccine group contracted HIV than in the placebo group. The vaccine was supposed to stimulate the production of killer T cells that would destroy the virus when it entered the bloodstream. A sister study in South Africa called Phambili has been “paused” until local researchers can study the American data. Phambili was the largest HIV vaccine trial so far in Africa. For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.


The second Vice President of Costa Rica resigned over the weekend to quell discontent over a leaked strategy memo in the run-up to a national referendum on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Nan McCurdy has more on this story.

Costa Rican voters will go to the polls next month to decide the fate of DR-CAFTA, the free trade agreement between 5 Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and the United States. Costa Rica is the only country that has not signed on to DR-CAFTA. The resistance to the agreement by civil sectors there has been so well organized, that the government has had to put DR-CAFTA to a nationwide vote. Costa Rica’s second vice president Kevin Casas resigned on Saturday due to a scandal caused by a leaked memo he authored. In it, Casas recommended to President Oscar Arias that the government implement a fear campaign ahead of the referendum to tell voters that failure to pass the agreement could lead to massive job loss. He also recommended threatening mayors with loss of government funds if the “No” vote wins in their municipalities. Casas also suggested a media campaign to insinuate that Fidel Castro of Cuba, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua have intervened in Costa Rican affairs to defeat DR-CAFTA. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Nan McCurdy.

Amidinijad Creating Stir at the United Nations(4:01)

More than one hundred world leaders have gathered in New York City as the United Nations general assembly convenes. The presence of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Makmud Amidinijad, has created a stir. Matt Laslo reports from Washington.

Kashmir: Ceasefire Hopes Dwindling(3:17)

The possibilities of a Ramadan ceasefire in Indian administered Kashmir have dwindled. Despite calls for peace during the holy month from both pro-India and separatist groups, violence continued as the month of fasting began. Shahnawaz Khan reports.

Wal-Mart Under Fire for Labor Practices in Argentina(3:43)

Argentine lawmakers are starting to scrutinize anti-union practices at retail giant Wal-Mart. Over the weekend, workers and human rights activists protested outside a Wal-Mart store in Buenos Aires to call attention to working conditions in the retail chain. Marie Trigona was there:

Ramadan In Cairo(4:11)

Muslims across the world celebrate Ramadan this month. It is a time when the observant abstain from food and drink during the day to purify the soul and come closer to God. Reporter Aya Batrawy has this look at how Muslims in Cairo, Egypt are helping one another this Ramadan, while attending the needs of the poor.

Victory, But No Payout, for Radiation-Poisoned Islanders(4:24)

In the 1940s and 50s, the US tested 23 atomic bombs at Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. The most powerful was the 1954 Bravo Shot – a 15 megaton explosion that rained fallout on nearby Rongelap Atoll and its 87 inhabitants. Last April, a Nuclear Claims Tribunal formed under the terms of the U.S.-Marshall Islands Compact of Free Association awarded Rongelap over a billion dollars to compensate its victims and restore the atoll. But as David Kattenburg reports, Rongelap islanders are unlikely to receive a cent.

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