October 08, 2007

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced plans to cut British troop levels in Iraq to 2500 by next spring. Today’s announcement coincides with criticism from some Members of Parliament for Brown’s refusal to call an early election.


Iraq’s President has come out in favor of a US-backed plan to divide the country into three parts. Hiba Dawood has more.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has made public statements in support of a US Senate proposal to divide Iraq into three different regions under the control of a central government with limited powers. The plan would give control of the South to the Shiite majority there. The Sunnis would have the western part of the country and the Kurds would continue to rule the north – in the area already recognized as Iraqi Kuridistan. The division plan calls on the central government to administer the distribution of Iraq’s important oil revenue and to provide national security for the three regions. The Iraqi President, who is a Kurd, says that dividing the country into three regions would “prevent” civil war between Sunnis, Shiites, and the Kurds. Talabani also says that the division would not threaten Iraqi unity, an opinion that few Iraqis share. For FSRN, I’m Hiba Dawood reporting.


The Department of Health and Human Services has recently levied the largest fine in its history against the University of California as manager of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab for mishandling anthrax. Kellia Ramares has the story.

An uninspected package of vials shipped to a lab in Florida in September 2005, had 2 open vials and a third with a loose cap. Two workers at the Florida lab were exposed to anthrax when they opened the package. They were treated with the antibiotic CIPRO for a week, then returned to work. A second shipment, sent to Virginia, contained more vials than the allowed maximum limit. The shipments were not inspected, and the credentials of the person sending them had expired. Robert Schwartz, staff attorney for TriValley CARES, a Lawrence Livermore watchdog organization, offered his take on why the fine is so large: (clip) “We’re talking about a release of anthrax so this is a very serious incident, and the lab itself has a track history of a certain level of accidents and things of this nature so I think they wanted to send a really strong signal.” Tri-valley CARES is filing Freedom of Information Act requests to find out more about the incidents, including whether live or dead anthrax was involved. For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.


The transitional Somali government has signed a comprehensive agreement with the elders of the main opposition clan after months of stalemate. Abdurrahman Warsameh reports form Mogadishu.

The agreement contains three main points. One, the cessation of hostilities between insurgents and Somali government and Ethiopian troops. Two, the removal of military bases in civilian areas. And three, permission for thousands of displaced persons to return to their homes in the capital. Elders of the dominant Hawiye clan have opposed the presence of Ethiopian troops and Somali government policies. The agreement with the powerful clan elders comes amid growing differences between Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and his Prime Minister Ali Gedi. It is unclear if Islamic insurgents who have been waging an ongoing guerrilla war will respect the agreement signed today between clan elders and the government. For FSRN, I’m Abdurrahman Warsameh in Mogadishu.


Costa Ricans appear to have passed a measure to sign a free trade agreement with the United States, but the opposition has demanded a manual recount. Nan McCurdy has more on this story.

President Oscar Arias, who supports the deal, declared victory once preliminary results indicated a slight lead for the “yes” vote. Leaders of the movement against the trade deal refuse to recognize the results until after a manual vote count scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Costa Rica is the only country that has not ratified DR-CAFTA, the free trade deal between five Central American Countries, the Dominican Republic and the United States. In the last few days before the referendum, US trade representative Susan Schwab stated that the US would not renegotiate a trade agreement Costa Rican voters did not approve DR-CAFTA. Critics of the trade deal fear an avalanche of cheap subsidized grains from the United States as well as the possible privatization of public sector services will compromise the quality of life in the only Central American country with a large middle class. For FSRN, I’m Nan McCurdy.

Iraqi Investigation finds that Blackwater Security Bodyguards Should Be Prosecuted for Civilian Deaths(3:26)

An Iraqi investigation committee today found that Blackwater Security bodyguards to State Dept. officials were criminally liable during a free-fire melee that occurred September 16th. The committee recommended prosecution of those responsible for the deaths.

Pervez Musharraf’s reelection is challenged in Pakistan (4:38)

Pervez Musharraf has been reelected president in Pakistan after the Supreme court refused to intervene on the issue of Musharraf’s eligibility to run. Musharraf is a Bush administration ally, who came to power in military a coup in 1999. As Devin Theriot-Orr reports, the credibility of his election is in doubt as more than 40% of eligible members of national and provincial parliaments, who elect the president in Pakistan refused to participate, with many resigning from parliament.

Hundreds Protest Columbus Day Festivities in Colorado(2:54)

Today is Columbus Day, which is still a federally established national holiday. Over 500 Columbus Day protesters took to the streets in Denver to protest against the annual Columbus Day Parade, and to stop what they think is a colonialist holiday and celebration of mass destruction of indigenous peoples of North America. The protests included over 83 arrests. In 1907 Colorado was the first state to recognize Columbus Day as a holiday, but in recent years protests have come to symbolize the event. Most of the arrested protesters will be charged with interfering with a parade route and interfering with a lawful assembly. Denver police also said some will be charged with resisting arrest.Blake Wesley was on the scene and has that report.

Employers may Become Responsible if Employee Social Security Numbers Are a Mismatch(3:48)

A temporary restraining order is preventing the Social Security Administration from sending out 140,000 no-match letters that would include new regulations issued by the Department of Homeland Security. The new regulations would hold employers responsible if employee names don’t correspond to their social security numbers. While the aim is to crack down on unauthorized immigrant workers, business owners and documented workers could also be affected. Zoe Sullivan reports from New York.

Italy Hosts Annual Peace March (2:04)

Yesterday the 17th annual Italian Peace March took place which gathered 200.000 people from all over the country in solidarity with Burmese monks and the victims of all the Middle East wars. Diletta Varlese has more from Rome.

Batwa Struggle in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Continues(4:24)

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples after 22 years of debate. What impact this will have on marginalized people around the world remains to be seen. Joshua Kyalimpa reports on the obstacles still facing the Batwa of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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