November 13, 2007

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Benazir Bhutto, on House Arrest, Calls for Musharraf to Step Down

In Pakistan, General Musharraf appears to have succeeded in
preventing Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s “long march” from
Lahore to Islamabad. She called on Musharraf to step down. Devin Theriot-Orr reports.

Bhutto was placed under house arrest today, hours before the planned protest procession against emergency rule, and over a thousand Pakistan People’s Party supporters were detained overnight. The combined action by Musharraf prevented a large showing for Bhutto’s promised march, and those who did attempt to march were arrested. In the U.K., the Commonwealth issued an ultimatum to Musharraf, threatening to suspend Pakistan’s membership unless Musharraf ends martial law and steps down as army chief within 10 days. Additionally, Human rights activists are expressing dismay at Musharraf’s enactment of a new law permitting military trials of civilians in closed courtrooms without the assistance of lawyers. The U.S. administration continues to support Musharraf, claiming that he is an indispensable ally in the war on terror, yet since the imposition of martial law, opposition fighters have captured soldiers and gained substantial territory in the north of Pakistan, where the government admitted to relocating prisoners in order to avoid encroaching fighters. For FSRN, this is Devin Theriot-Orr in Lahore.


President Bush Vetoes Health and Human Services Budget, Approves $471B for Defense

In Washington, President Bush vetoed a six-hundred-billion-dollar spending bill this morning. It would have funded education, health and labor programs for the current fiscal year. At the same time, he signed a bill to provide increased funding for the Defense Department’s non-war budget items, to the tune of four-hundred-seventy-one-billion dollars. Bush claimed the domestic funding bill was too expensive, and he sends it back to a Democrat-led Congress that passed it just three votes shy of a veto-proof majority.

India Urged to Support Burmese Democracy, and to Stop Arms Sales to Military Junta

A top Burmese opposition leader, Tint Swe, has urged India to support pro-democracy parties in Burma with military and financial aid, and to halt all defense sales to the ruling military establishment. Bismillah Geelani has more…

The leader of Myanmar’s National League of Democracy, Swe, sought an immediate change in India’s foreign policy towards Myanmar. Drawing parallels between India’s cautious policy, as opposed to a bolder approach by China, which had maintained contacts with both the regime and opposition groups. He warned If India did not change its policy, it will have to work harder, maybe for a decade, for better ties with a democratic regime in the country in the near future. He also demanded that the Myanmar opposition should be allowed to set up radio stations in India rather than broadcast from Norway, and called for a revival of the Burmese broadcast of All India Radio, which he said was the most relied-upon news source during the 1988 pro-democratic uprising. Tint Swe has been living in exile in India since 1990 after he was elected a member of parliament in the elections which the military junta did not accept. For FSRN, this is Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi.

Germany’s Labor Minister Resigns Amidst Party’s Shift to the Left, Coalition in Upheaval

Germany’s coalition government has undergone an upheaval today as Vice-Chancellor and Social Democrat labor minister, Franz Münterfering, announced his resignation. Cinnamon Nippard, from Berlin.

The German government is made up of a ruling coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, while being each other’s biggest rivals, they were forced to compromise and form a government together after the last election as neither party had enough votes on their own to form a government. Müntefering cited family reasons as his decision to resign because his wife is very ill with cancer. But this announcement comes at a bad time for the German government which is fraught with bitter infighting within both factions – Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party or CDU, and Müntefering’s Social Democrats, or SPD. Müntefering was one of the most experienced members of the SPD with over 40 years in politics. He was an essential part of the coalition, and until recently was a staunch ally of Merkel. Müntefering was the most influential member of Germany’s previous SPD-led government which made significant cuts to the welfare state to try to revive the economy. However recently Münterfering was becoming isolated within his own party as it shifted more to the left, advocating for a return to more generous welfare policies. Cinnamon Nippard reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

Yesterday’s Gaza Violence Followed by Overnight Arrest of Fatah Presidential Adviser, Others

Less than 24 hours after violence ripped through Gaza at a Fatah memorial for Yasser Arafat, Hamas-dominated police forces rounded up hundreds of Fatah supporters. Protests in the West Bank were under way. Rami Al Meghari reports.

Hamas-dominated government sources denied the arrest campaign was politically-motivated, whilst Fatah branded it ‘a political repression’. The Hamas-affiliated Gaza police today arrested Kamal Alsherafi, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the northern Gaza Strip. Today, thousands of Fatah supporters protested in the West Bank city of Ramallah and in Bethlehem against what they term ‘Hamas’s crimes against the people in Gaza yesterday. The Islamist Hamas Party took over the coastal region in June, closing a chapter of a power struggle with the moderate Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas, who outlawed Hamas and called on Gaza residents to boycott it. For Free Speech Radio News and, this is Rami al-Meghari in Gaza.



Future Generations Have Huge War Debt to Pay Off, According to Report (3:33)

Japan’s lower House of Parliament has voted to resume its naval support-role in the US-led war in Afghanistan. Japan had been part of the Coalition of the Willing from the very beginning; their primary role was to refuel US ships. But a new political party won control of Japan’s Upper House of Parliament and voted to discontinue their involvement on November 1st.

The Prime Minister of Japan has been pushing to rejoin the war in Afghanistan, but the opposition party maintains that doing so violates the country’s pacifist constitution. The Japanese Prime Minister is scheduled to meet with President Bush later this week. Bush has been urging Japan to resume its mission in Afghanistan. Stateside, constitutional challenges aren’t the fodder for the anti-war movement today. Instead the hefty price tag of the US’s involvement in war zones is at issue.

A new report finds that the cost of the war in Iraq is even more staggering that previously thought – 1.6 trillion dollars through 2008. The report breaks down the price of the war, finding it has cost the average family 21-thousand dollars. The report was released as Congress prepares to debate a 50 billion dollar bridge fund to pay for the wars for the next few months. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Racial Disparity in Economic Mobility Persists in the US (2:14)

If you are a man in the United States, chances are your overall income over the past thirty years has not increased, when adjusted for inflation. And if you are a black man in the US, chances are your income has gone down. Although, according to a new study released by the Brookings Institute, there is good news. Julia Issacs is the author of the study, says because women’s incomes are steadily increasing, family income levels continue to rise.

The report shows that racial disparity in income levels and mobility persists across the board.

There’s also a racial disparity when it comes to the stability of the middle class. For white families, achieving middle class is like buying life-long membership to a club, but it seems black families have to renew that membership every year.

These findings fly in the face of claims that the economic playing field has evened out for African Americans. The Brookings report’s findings are derived from census bureau, and do not point to causality. Issacs says she hopes the report will be a springboard for explorations into why the disparities are so great.

Congolese Refugees Cross Border into Rwanda – Fleeing One Horrific Situation Just to Wind Up in Another (5:06)

The Democratic Republic of Congo now has the go-ahead to forcibly disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels operating within its borders. This comes after a meeting with the Rwandan government. The rebels groups are comprised of ex-Rwandan soldiers and other militias and have contributed to the destabilization of Eastern Congo. Both governments are looking to ease tensions, and stop the flow of refugees between borders.

The increasing clashes between the Congolese government and rebel militias have led to reports of horrific sexual violence against women and girls. And they’ve sparked fears of an impending refugee crisis into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. In crossing the border, refugees are exchanging a nightmare existence in Congo for only fragile security in Rwanda. Lauren Vopni filed this report from the Kiziba refugee camp in southwestern Rwanda.

India Promises Limited Troop Withdrawal from Kashmir (4:38)

India has announced that its troops occupying schools and hospital buildings in Indian- administered Kashmir will vacate these buildings by November 30. The decision comes amid demands for troop reductions and relocation by Kashmir’s People’s Democratic Party. Shahnawaz Khan reports.

Eastern Lawmakers Fight to Protect Western Lands (4:02)

Eastern lawmakers are fighting hard to preserve the ecosystem of over twenty million acres of the Northern Rockies. But lawmakers from the area fiercely oppose the measure. They want the area to stay open to industry. FSRN Correspondent Matt Laslo with a report from Washington, DC.

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