October 19, 2007

  • IMF/World Bank Protesters Hit the Streets in DC
  • AFRICOM’s Intentions Come Under Scrutiny
  • Immigrant Groups Across the US Boycott Western Union
  • US Presidential Candidates Court the Right
  • South African Reggae Pioneer Dies in Shooting
  • Citizens Pressure South Korea Denounce Violent Actions against Protesters in Burma
  • Mukasey Takes Bush Administration’s Line on Torture and Executive Power

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Karachi Bomb Attack Targets Bhutto Supporters
Twin bomb blasts in the Pakistani city of Karachi killed more than 130 last night during a welcoming rally for Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Devin Theriot-Orr reports.

Benazir Bhutto’s celebratory return to Pakistan after eight years in self-imposed exile was shattered by two bomb blasts shortly after midnight as her caravan wound its way through the streets of Karachi, where over 200,000 of her supporters had met her arrival. Ms. Bhutto was on her way to the tomb of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Jinnah, where she had planned to address her supporters. Bhutto had been warned of a possible attack, but she denied requests by the Pakistani government to shorten her route in the interests of security. 134 people are dead, including several journalists, and over 250 injured. In a press conference today, Bhutto joined other world leaders in condemning the attacks. No group has yet claimed responsibility. For FSRN, this is Devin Theriot-Orr in Lahore, Pakistan.

EU Leaders Reach Tentative Agreement on Treaty

The leaders of European Union member nations today agreed on language for a treaty to replace the bloc’s defunct constitution. The rejection of the EU constitution by French and Dutch voters two years ago created a crisis within the EU governance structure. The new treaty will take effect in 2009 if ratified by all 27 member nations.

Striking Vancouver Employees to Vote on Agreement

The strike by City of Vancouver employees will likely come to an end this weekend, after just under three months on the picket lines. Zack Baddorf reports from British Columbia.

The Vancouver Public Library workers’ union has not yet signed the agreement but a vote is expected today, bringing an end to the union’s first strike in its 77-year history. The agreement with the city comes less than a week after the striking garbage collection workers successfully finished their negotiations with the city. They resumed services earlier this week, cleaning up months of trash piled up around the province’s largest city. Seventy-eight percent of the library workers voted down a mediator’s recommendations last week because they said it didn’t fairly address pay equity amongst the mostly female staff. The tentative agreement they’ll vote on today reportedly has only minor modifications to the original deal. But with now 87 days on the picket lines, some of the workers are feeling the effects of the strike in their pocketbooks. Union representatives attended a nationwide union convention in Toronto Wednesday to ask for donations to sustain the workers, in case they opt to continue their fight. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Zack Baddorf in Vancouver.

California Prohibits Mandatory Chip Implants
As of New Year’s Day 2008, it will be illegal for anyone in California to require a person to be implanted with a Radio Frequency Identification chip in order to obtain a paycheck or government benefit. Kellia Ramares has the story:

California becomes the third state, after Wisconsin and North Dakota, to ban forced human implantation. Civil penalties of monetary damages and injunctive relief are available to people who have been coerced or defrauded into accepting an implant. Nothing in the law forbids bonuses or other incentives to entice workers into being chipped. Privacy advocate and RFID expert Dr. Katherine Albrecht hailed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signing of forced-implantation ban: (clip) “I think that’s great news and what it means is that there’s no federal plan to chip us at this point. He does what the feds tell him to do.” The new law is the first of a package of bills, sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, to pass the legislature. The others would place a three-year moratorium on the use of RFID in drivers licenses and student ID cards, and mandate security and privacy provisions in chipped ID documents required by state and local governments. Those bills will be taken up when the legislature reconvenes in January. For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.

Ninth Circuit to Reconsider Ruling on Frozen Sewage for Ski Resort

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider a ruling that prohibited a ski resort in Arizona from using recycled waste water to make snow on a mountain that is sacred to 13 Native American tribes in the southwestern United States. Christina Aanestad reports.

Native groups said using treated sewage to make snow on sacred land devalued their spiritual practices. The 9th circuit court of appeal agreed. But now the case is back in court. In a petition to reconsider the rulings, the forest service and Arizona snow bowl argued the court ruling would allow anyone to challenge federal management of the government’s own property, if it caused “spiritual disquiet.” Howard Shanker is lead counsel for the Navajo Nation, 4 other native tribes and environmental groups “Here we’ve got a non-destination ski area in a place that doesn’t get snow, on federal land, and our federal government thinks that supporting this private run ski area on federal land out balances the deeply held religious and cultural convictions of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans living in the south western united states. This is just appalling that we’re even in court.” Shanker expects the court to make a new ruling sometime next year.

Drought in the Southeastern US Threatens Atlanta’s Water Supply
A 16 month long drought in the Southeastern United States is threatening the supply of drinking water to the city of Atlanta. Florida, Georgia, and Alabama are currently locked in a three-way legal battle over access to shared water sources. A project manager from the US Army Corps of Engineers said today that Atlanta has at least 100 days worth of easily accessible water, although other estimates predict that, without rain, the city will run out of drinking water within 3 months.



IMF/World Bank Protesters Hit the Streets in DC (2:35)

As delegates to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings converge in Washington DC, so do social activists. The October Coalition – which has representation from organizations working on health care, housing and international trade and debt issues – has planned four days of actions to coincide with the meetings. The long weekend includes workshops, protests and marches. Organizers want to raise awareness of social
justice issues that are affected by IMF and World Bank policies. Katherine Jarmuhl has more from the protests in Washington DC.


AFRICOM’s Intentions Come Under Scrutiny (4:02)

The United States Africa command, AFRICOM, which was set up to promote U.S. National Security objectives in Africa, has now begun its operations from a military base in Germany. The command’s headquarters will move to Africa next year. The Pentagon claims that the primary focus of AFRICOM will be humanitarian, but some say the command’s goals are actually related to protecting U-S oil interests there. And most African states are skeptical at best. Critics agree that AFRICOM will protect US military and economic interests, but they also say the command will have negative consequences for the continent. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.


Immigrant Groups Across the US Boycott Western Union (2:00)

Immigrant groups from and around the country are organizing a boycott of Western Union. 150 groups launched boycotts last month. They say that workers transferring money to their families are being gouged by large fees and unfair exchange rates. This criticism is exacerbated by Western Union’s poor track record of investing in immigrant communities. Today they launch their campaign in Oakland, California. Eric Klein has more on the situation.


US Presidential Candidates Court the Right (3:00)

The first presidential primaries are only three months away – maybe sooner if state jockeying over who goes first continues. In this week’s political round up, FSRN takes a look at some other political elbowing. Republican candidates are courting religious conservatives, and another presidential hopeful is looking more hopeless. He’s dropped out of the race entirely. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell has more on this week’s election news.


South African Reggae Pioneer Dies in Shooting (1:23)

Violence has claimed the life of a south African reggae star. Yesterday, Gunmen shot and killed, Lucky Philip Dube, in an apparent carjacking attempt in a Johannesburg suburb. Three men are suspected in the shooting. Dube was 43. Police say Dube was dropping off his son when the attack took place. His daughter was also in the car at the time of the murder. She was not physically injured.

The singer – lauded for popularizing reggae in South Africa – rose to international stardom in the 1980s when he changed from singing traditional Zulu or mbaqanga music to the Jamaican-born reggae sound.

[Music Clip]

His first Reggae album, “Rastas Never Die,” was banned by South Africa ‘s apartheid government in 1985, but his works continued to cover political themes that included racism, justice and poverty issues.

[Music Clip]

The murder of the reggae icon shocked mourners in South Africa, who say his death reflects the nation’s spiraling crime rate. South Africa has one of the world’s highest murder rates, with as many as 50 homicides a day. There were 20-thousand killings reported in 2006 alone.


Citizens Pressure South Korea Denounce Violent Actions against Protesters in Burma (4:33)

It has been more than one month since Buddhist monks first took to the streets in Burma, sparking large street protests aimed at toppling the Burmese military regime. In that time, Burmese security forces have reacted with brutal force, arresting nearly 3,000. And human rights groups contend that the Burmese government has engaged in the torture and killing of an untold number of people. Today President Bush asked Congress to levy sanctions on Burma and is calling for the release of political prisoners.

[Bush Clip]

Another country in the region is feeling pressure from critics of the Burmese government. Burma’s detractors are requesting that South Korea demand more accountability for the brutal military crackdown.

Large groups of Koreans have held daily demonstrations outside of the Burmese embassy in Seoul, and evening candle light vigils have been held on one of the busiest streets in the capital. Eunji Kang reports from Seoul.


Mukasey Takes Bush Administration’s Line on Torture and Executive Power (1:28)

The nominee for US Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he could not rule out the use of interrogation methods such as “water-boarding,” or simulated drowning. In this clip from Thursday’s hearing, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asks Mukasey about the method’s constitutionality.


Mukasey also said the President, as Commander in Chief, may authorize a secret surveillance program. Despite the testimony, the former federal judge will likely be confirmed as the next US Attorney General, replacing Alberto Gonzales.

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