October 12, 2007

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The income inequality gap between rich and poor Americans is larger now than at any other time since the 1920s. A Wall Street Journal report published today shows that the country’s wealthiest one percent earned just over 21 percent of all income in 2005. Meanwhile the bottom half of Americans took home just under 13 percent of all income that same year. The report based its figures on data from the Internal Revenue Service.

The Prime Minister of Burma’s military junta has died from a long term illness. The death of General Soe Win will have little impact on the country’s government, as the prime minister position shares power with a troika of senior generals. Ronald Aung Naing has more.

Rumors about General Soe Win’s death began circulating early last week, but Burmese state-run media reports he died today in a military hospital. General Win rose to prominence in the military junta after coordinating an assassination attempt against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The United Nations Security Council issued a statement yesterday criticizing the military government’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. The statement calls on Burma to hold talks with the opposition and to release political prisoners. Earlier this week, Aung San Suu Kyi rejected talks with the military junta after top General Than Shwe insisted she drop her so-called “confrontational attitude” as a pre-condition to dialogue. The number of dead and detained from the crackdown on Buddhist monks and pro-democracy activists remains unclear. The government has admitted to 13 deaths and 2,000 detainees. Internet service returned to Burma last week, but many telephone lines remain cut.

Environmental groups are criticizing the Canadian government for staying a pollution charge against the city of Vancouver for its improper disposal of 10 billion gallons of raw sewage. Zack Baddorf has the story.

A prominent environmental group in British Columbia says the government has all the evidence it needs to take the “big powerful polluters” to trial. The sewage effluent flowing into nearby waterways contains PCBs, pesticides, heavy metals and other toxic substances that pollute coastal waters and harm fish. The T. Buck Suzuki Foundation says Metro Vancouver needs to do the right thing. The environmentalists demand upgrades of two treatment plants to stop the dumping of this “foul mix” of human waste and toxic chemicals. The criticism comes the same day the metropolitan waste management committee announced plans to buy land for a new sewage treatment plant. Officials said the nearby indigenous communities, known in Canada as First Nations, voiced their concerns about repeated dumping in the area. Metro Vancouver officials deny any wrongdoing and say they are merely “improving” their systems. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Zack Baddorf in Vancouver.

On the 515th anniversary of the start of the European colonization of the Americas, indigenous groups are meeting in Sonora, Mexico for an international “encuentro” – or gathering – of first nations. Vladimir Flores has the story.

Hundreds of native people of several indigenous nationalities yesterday opened the continental meeting of indigenous peoples of the Americas in the Yaqui community of Vícam, in the Sonoran desert of northern Mexico. Encuentro participants have complained of harassment by police and soldiers at checkpoints set up on the roads leading to the community.(audio fade down) During the event’s opening ceremony, Juan Chavez from the National Indigenous Congress of Mexico, said the encuentro is a message of rebellion against neoliberal economic policies and that one of its objectives is to fortify the liberation struggles of the continent’s indigenous people. The Zapatista rebels of Chiapas had an important role in calling for the event and its organization. The indigenous encuentro will include a weekend of group dialogue, strategy discussion, and exchange before it concludes on Sunday. For FSRN, I’m Vladimir Flores reporting.

The only teenager convicted in the case of the Jena 6 is back in police custody. A Louisiana judge ruled yesterday that Mychal Bell had violated his probation from a previous charge when he participated in a fight after white students hung three nooses from a schoolyard tree. The judge who sent Bell back into custody for 18 months is the same who improperly sentenced him as an adult in the Jena 6 trial. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Jena 6 case next week.

Al Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Former Vice President and Presidential candidate Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Climate Change. He and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change join the ranks of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jimmy Carter as the select few to attain such recognition for their work to promote peace. But this is the first time the issue of climate change has been determined a necessity for peace. To talk about this and the latest in climate change, FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell spoke with Kevin Knobloch (NOB-block), President of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Campaign against the Construction of a Border Fence in Texas
Residents and community organizers in the border region of Texas have kicked off a weekend of events to oppose the construction of a wall in the Rio Grande Valley. Ansel Herz brings us this report from Austin.

German Government Goes to Court over Cyber-Surveillance
In the latest initiative to fight terrorism, the German government has asked the country’s highest court for permission to conduct internet searches of suspect’s computers. The case began on Wednesday with the government arguing that authorities should be allowed to plant “Trojan” spyware on the computers of suspected terrorists, sparking intense debate across Germany. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

Deadlock in Nepal Peace Process
Nepal is in a political deadlock after a yearlong peace process. The Maoists are demanding that the interim parliament abolish the monarchy and implement a new, fully representative voting system. But, the other major parties, especially Nepali Congress, oppose the idea. This could further deepen the political crisis in the country, threatening the peace process. India, Nepal’s closest neighbor, sent a special envoy to Kathmandu to mediate the deadlock. After three days of meetings with top leaders of all major political parties, including the Maoists, the Indian envoy said a parliamentary vote is the only way out of the current stalemate. Despite some skepticism, it appears the Indian bid could help ease the crisis. PC Dubey reports from Kathmandu.

South African Public Health Crisis Compels Nurses to Leave
South Africa’s public health sector is experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses who are leaving the country at alarming rates in search of better working conditions. And a recent scandal involving an increase in infant mortality rates in public hospitals has put a spot light on what critics say is a rapidly deteriorating public health system. Medical workers have been among the most affected. Tiny Magija reports from Capetown.

FSRN Brings You a Summary of This Week’s Election News
In this week’s political round up, one candidate makes his debate debut, a past presidential contender puts his support behind a current one, and one republican candidate says his party doesn’t think he is republican enough. Karen Miller has more.

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