November 15, 2007

  • US House Passes War Funding Bill that Includes Troop Drawback Provisions
  • FISA Legislation Moves Closer to Passage
  • Army Asks for More Funding; Senate Asks Why, When Initial Funds Mismanaged
  • German Carmakers’ Emission Standards Under Fire
  • Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Says Adieu
  • Residents Say Poverty is the Real Cause of Extremism in the Philippines
  • Oil Spill Caused Environmental Devastation Continues in San Francisco Bay

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Israeli forces targeted air strikes on a group of Palestinians in northern Gaza today, following a series of Palestinian homemade rocket attacks. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has demanded Palestine recognize Israel as a Jewish state, before the upcoming Middle East peace conference. Rami Al-Meghari has more from Gaza.

Medical sources report that two Palestinian resistance fighters of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, linked to president Abbas’ Fatah party, were killed, including two civilians, when Israeli air crafts hit targets in northern Gaza. The Israeli army said the air strikes were in response to a barrage of homemade rockets, which Palestinian resistance factions fired into nearby Israeli areas, slightly wounding four Israelis in southern Israel. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, demanded yesterday that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state prior to the upcoming Washington-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, United States. Palestinians and Israelis have yet to agree on a joint document on core issues such as the borders of Palestinian state, the Palestinian refugee problem, and the status of Jerusalem, which U.S Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, has failed to secure, despite repeated visits to the region. For Free Speech Radio News and, this is Rami aL-Meghari in Gaza.


A powerful cyclone with winds of up to 155 miles an hour is racing toward India after hitting Bangladesh’s southern coast. Large scale evacuation is underway in both the countries. Bismillah Geelani reports from New Delhi:

Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from coastal areas in the Indian States of West Bengal and Orissa, while about 600,000 people have already been moved to safer places in neighboring Bangladesh after the storm hit the country’s southern coast this evening. According to the officials of Regional Meteorological Centre the storm is fast racing towards the West Bengal coast and was likely to make landfall with a speed of 180 to 200 km per hour by midnight tonight. The Union Home Ministry has issued alert advisories to both states and the Army is also on standby to assist civil administration in rescue and relief work. The cyclone, packing winds of speed up to 120-180 km per hour, is the most severe after the super cyclone of 1999 which claimed more than 10,000 lives in Orissa. For FSRN, this is Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi.


A majority of member nations of the United Nations wants the world body’s General Assembly to adopt a resolution against the death penalty. Haider Rizvi has more from the UN:

More than 90 countries, including all the 27 members of the European Union, have endorsed the proposed resolution against the death penalty. But, it seems highly unlikely to pass due to strong opposition from a number of countries, including major powers, such as the United States and China Last year 2,790 people were executed in China, while the United States put 53 people to death. Those in favor of the moratorium on the death penalty say the practice goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but opponents argue that every country has the right to pursue its own course of legal actions.


The Georgian Parliament ruled today that they will lift the nationwide state of emergency tomorrow. But, one independent television station will not be allowed back on the air. Deborah Wild has more from Tblisi.

President Mikhail Saakashvili introduced the 15-day nationwide state of emergency after riot police dispersed opposition protests with tear gas and rubber bullets in the capital Tbilisi more than a week ago, on November 7th. Two independent television stations were taken off the air and newscasts curtailed. The measures drew harsh criticism from the West. Nevertheless, a court has suspended the broadcasting license and froze the assets of Imedi TV, which is co-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, claiming that the station’s coverage of the November 7th events amounted to incitement to overthrow the government. The management both from Imedi and from News Corporation has called the charges ludicrous and are planning an appeal. The opposition sees the media ban as a major obstacle to campaigning ahead of presidential elections scheduled for January 5th, 2008. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Deborah Wild in Tbilisi, Georgia.



US House Passes War Funding Bill that Includes Troop Drawback Provisions

The house narrowly passed an Iraq funding bill that includes a troop withdrawal measure. The 50 billion dollar bill, one quarter of the president’s 2008 war funding request, gathered the support of most progressive members of congress, many of whom never voted for Iraq war funding in the past.

Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat from California, interprets the legislation as a funded withdrawal of U.S. troops. The troop draw-down must begin in 30 days, even though the bill doesn’t call for a complete withdrawal or set a deadline.

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The bill leaves troops in the country for Iraqi assistance, security, and counter-terrorism purposes. It also clarifies that all U.S. personnel must follow torture prohibitions – and requires that all troops sent to Iraq are certified, trained and equipped. Four Republicans joined the Democrats but 16 Democrats did not vote for the bill. Most of them are conservative Democrats who thought the legislation ties the hands of the President.

The bill will now head to the senate where its journey will be much more difficult. One Democrat, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, has already announced he’ll oppose it. He calls the bill weak because it doesn’t include a firm deadline for a troop withdrawal.

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Republicans hope to offer their own version, a 70-billion dollar war-funding bill with no conditions attached.

FISA Legislation Moves Closer to Passage

Both the House and the Senate are moving closer to passing surveillance legislation. At the heart of the debate are Fourth Amendment Rights for Americans living abroad – and the issue of immunity for telecommunications companies. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Army Asks for More Funding; Senate Asks Why, When Initial Funds Mismanaged

Insufficient equipment, post-traumatic stress disorder, lack of readiness, even some recruits getting waivers to join up after methamphetamine usage… these are just a few items on a growing list of problems that Army Cheif of Staff General George Casey and Army Secretary Pete Geren brought to a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee today. General Casey says the army needs funding to – quote – “get back in balance.” But at the hearing, some senators fired back and asked how we ended up with these problems in the first place. Karen Miller has more from D.C.

German Carmakers’ Emmission Standards Under Fire

German car-makers have come under fire today from their French and Italian counterparts for not doing enough to reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, German car emissions have increased, while French and Italian automakers have decreased emissions in their vehicles. Next month the European Commission is due to outline proposals for reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of new cars by 2012. But the European Union Parliament recently proposed giving car manufacturers until 2015. For their part, Environmentalists say the 2015 deadline this is too long, and binding targets are needed. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Says Adieu

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has announced he will be stepping down from his Senate seat before the end of the year. The Illinois Republican had previously announced he would not seek reelection, but this early departure is somewhat surprising. He has not given a reason for his early retirement. Representative Hastert gave his farewell address on the House floor earlier today – he praised the work of current Speaker Nancy Pelosi and made the call for bi-partisan politics.

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Hastert was the longest serving Speaker of the House in U-S history, serving from 1998 to 2007. Democrats in Illinois are already strategizing a run in Hastert’s suburban district – one they think is now vulnerable for a Democratic take-over.

Residents Say Poverty is the Real Cause of Extremism in the Philippines

“Welcome to island Paradise” is the sign that greets visitors to Baslian Island in the South Pacific. However, there are no longer international tourists on the palm-fringed beaches. The Sulu Archipelago in the Southern Philippines is renowned for the wrong reasons. It’s home to Abu Sayyaf, a home-grown , small, but vicious, militant group with the stated goal of creating an Islamic State.

Washington, Manila and Brussels have added it to their list of terrorist organizations. And thousands of troops from Manila, backed by the United States, have been sent to destroy the radical group. They claim they are close to wiping Abu Sayyaf out after killing senior leaders.

But most locals think poverty, rather than Islamic ideology bent on separatism, is to blame for the rise of the terrorist organization. They say only a marked improvement in living standards will rid the area of the terrors of violence. Rebecca Henschke investigates from Baslian.

Oil Spill Caused Environmental Devastation Continues in San Francisco Bay

It’s been over a week since a cargo ship struck a bridge in San Francisco Bay, spilling 58-thousand gallons of fuel oil into the water. The following investigation has found that the ship’s radar was operating properly, despite a statement by the ship’s pilot that the equipment was malfunctioning.

The US Coast Guard is also taking some heat for their handling of the investigation. Under federal law, the ship’s captain is responsible for ordering drug tests of the crew, but the tests were not administered until more than two days after the wreck. The Coast Guard is responsible for making sure the tests are completed within 32-hours of the incident. The Coast Guard has replaced the lead officer in charge of the investigation.

Meanwhile, the spill continues to have an ecological impact on the Bay – with numerous cities being effected by the spill. As Correspondent Erin Siegel reports, the crab fishery has been closed and clean up efforts are slow.

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