September 25, 2007

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The Supreme Court has announced that it will rule on whether lethal injections violate the constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The issue has been the subject of legal disputes in a number of states, but the country’s highest court has yet to rule on it. The case will likely produce one of the most significant rulings to come out of the upcoming term.


In other legal news, the Pentagon may soon resume military commissions at Guantanamo Bay after a military court overruled a decision to halt the proceedings. A ruling in June determined that the military commissions had no jurisdiction to try persons who were not previously classified as “unlawful enemy combatants”. Yesterday’s ruling gave the military courts the power to classify defendants. Prior to the creation of the military commissions, persons captured on the battlefield fell under the jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions.


In Ohio, Computer security experts will begin testing electronic voting machines this week in all of the state’s 88 counties. Evan Davis has the story.

Ohio’s secretary of state Jennifer Brunner campaigned on a promise to clean up Ohio’s flawed election processes. Immediately after taking office, Brunner began to assemble a team of computer security experts to examine the state’s controversial electronic voting machines. A similar investigation in California led that state to de-certify electronic voting machines from some of the same vendors used in Ohio. Brunner had to petition the legislature for a waiver of the state’s competitive bidding requirements to allow her testing team to get started in time to issue their findings before the 2008 primary season. The Control Board granted the waiver yesterday – but only after Brunner agreed to include a bi-partisan panel of election officials to serve as an advisory body to the investigation. Brunner says she does not expect the investigation to result in a wholesale abandonment of existing electronic voting machines in Ohio, but she acknowledges the findings of the California investigation and has pledged a thorough and impartial analysis. Brunner’s report is expected to be released on December 14. For Free Speech Radio News this is Evan Davis in Columbus, Ohio.


The Lebanese parliament suspended a presidential vote today because members of the Hizbullah-led opposition refused to convene in parliament. Jackson Allers has more from Beirut.

Lebanon’s parliament adjourned until October 23 to allow for government representatives more time to reach a 2/3rds majority for appointing a new president. A simple majority is all that is needed to appoint a president, but a long-standing agreement has existed whereby a 2/3rds vote is honored. After the assassination of a pro-government MP last week, the government’s edge in parliament was reduced to 68 out of 127 seats in the assembly. Six pro-government MP’s have been assassinated since 2005. Loss of another two seats would mean a loss of the simple majority the current government holds in parliament over the Hizbullah-led opposition that includes an alliance with the largest single Christian political party, the Free Patriotic Movement. The US-backed Lebanese government side said it would vote by simple majority in October, regardless of whether the two rival political camps agree or not. Reporting from Beirut, this is Jackson Allers for Free Speech Radio News.


A new Prime Minister took office today in Japan. Claudia Cragg has the story.

A divided Diet, the Japanese parliament, elected Yasuo Fukuda as prime minister yesterday. Fukuda replaces Shinzo Abe, who resigned abruptly 2 weeks ago. The new prime minister comes from the Liberal Democratic Party, which recently lost control over the upper house of parliament. The opposition controlled House of Councilors elected Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan. After failing to reach an agreement between the two levels of parliament, the Lower House prevailed under the Constitution. The son of a 1970s prime minister, Fukuda has vowed to “keep fighting terrorism”, to improve relations with other Asian nations and to address inequalities in the world’s second-largest economy. His first task is to try and push the Afghan measure through parliament which the opposition has vowed to defeat. For FSRN, I’m Claudia Cragg.


Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada today vowed to appeal his life sentence for massive theft from the country’s treasury. This comes amidst speculation that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may grant Estrada a pardon. Girlie Linao reports from Manila.

A senior official of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today met with former president Joseph Estrada to discuss the possibility of a pardon, but the former president has indicated he would rather first exhaust all legal remedies to secure his release. Applying for a pardon implies an admission of guilt. Estrada’s lawyers have until Thursday to appeal his conviction of plunder – or theft of public funds – in excess of one million dollars. The former president was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on September 12. Recent surveys show the majority of Filipinos favor a pardon for Estrada. But anti-corruption and civil-society groups oppose the move, noting that it appears to be a political gimmick for Arroyo to shore up her dismal public ratings. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Girlie Linao in Manila.

New US Sanctions Against Dictatorships Announced(3:30)

President Bush’s speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly focused on “liberty and freedom.” He announced that the US would enforce new sanctions against Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Cuba – to punish their governments for oppressing political dissidents. But he failed to give any updates on the US war on terror and ongoing occupation of Iraq, and he did not elaborate on allegations of terrorism in Iran. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Hamas Alleges Hundreds are Detained by Palestinian Authority(4:40)

In the West Bank, activists from the Islamic group Hamas allege that the Palestinian Authority is detaining hundreds of Hamas activists- and using brutal interrogation tactics- before releasing them without charge. Fatah officials deny Hamas claims that the arrests are part of a campaign of imtimidation that follow Fatah’s takeover of the Gaza Strip three months earlier. Fatah officials say that the methods they are using are legal and necessary in order to prevent Hamas gaining power in the West Bank. Irris Makler reports from Bethlehem.

“Rescue” Scams Flourish as Foreclosures Continue(4:27)

With no end in sight to the fall-out from predatory lending, millions of homeowners risk losing their homes to foreclosure. The Mortgage Bankers Association- which began conducting surveys in 1953- says that foreclosure rates-for the third consecutive quarter- are the highest that they’ve ever been. Also on the rise are “foreclosure rescue scams” that prey on vulnerable and distressed homeowners. Martha Baskin has the story.

Radio Station Takes on Government Propaganda(3:35)

Radio CutivalĂș operates in the mountainous mining region in the north of Peru. They have gained national and international support for their decision refusing to broadcast a government advertisement that supports mining. The challenge made by the radio station has become a serious test of journalistic standards and independence in Peru. Tom Allan has the story.

El Salvador’s International Law Enforcement Academy Faces Criticism(4:25)

Two years ago the US established an International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador. Today, civil and human rights organizations fear that Salvadoran cooperation in the US war on terror can only increase the repression against social movements there. Ricardo Martinez reports from San Salvador.

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