November 29, 2007

  • Republicans Give Democrats a Break and Instead Bash Each Other
  • Musharraf Retires from Military, but Critics Doubt it Will Make a Difference
  • US Vows to Admit 12,000 Iraqi Refugees in 2008
  • Public Opinion Favors Teachers in WA Disciplined for Alleged Involvement in a Student Anti-War Walk-Out
  • The European Union’s Agriculture Policy Faces an Overhaul

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Military Standoff at Manila Hotel
A curfew is in effect in the Philippine capital and about a dozen surrounding provinces after rebel soldiers today staged a seven-hour siege on a luxury hotel in Manila’s financial district. The soldiers demanded the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over allegations of corruption and electoral fraud. Girlie Linao reports from Manila.

The crisis began when about 30 soldiers attending a court hearing for rebellion charges walked out before noon today. While the soldiers were supposed to have been in custody, their armed guards did not stop them and instead joined in their march along the streets of the financial district of Makati City. The rebel soldiers then took over the Manila Peninsula hotel and urged the public to support their call for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s removal from office ahead of the end of her term in 2010. They vowed to not leave the hotel until the creation of a new government to replace the Arroyo administration. But the rebel soldiers surrendered almost seven hours later after police stormed the hotel, firing teargas and warning shots and ramming an armoured personnel carrier through the lobby. More than 40 journalists and media crewmembers were arrested after the standoff as part of the police investigation, triggering condemnations from press freedom groups and news organizations. Officials said the midnight-to-dawn curfew would help authorities hunt down other people involved in the latest attempt to oust Arroyo. They did not say until when the restrictions would remain in effect. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Girlie Linao in Manila.

Possible Compromise Candidate for Lebanon’s Presidency
Lebanon has been without a president for nearly one week now. The US-backed government and the opposition political forces have been unable to find a consensus candidate – and have held off a parliamentary vote five times in 3 months. A candidate has since emerged, but lawmakers must first amend the Lebanese constitution before they can move forward. Jackson Allers has more from Beirut.

Lebanese Army commander General Michel Suleiman has received tacit approval from both the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Hizbullah led political opposition. But electing Suleiman would require a constitutional amendment to allow a senior civil servant to run for president. Such a move would also require Suleiman to resign from his post as Army chief. One prominent pro-government MP has been quoted as saying that government loyalists will not oppose amending the constitution in this case. General Suleiman also has good relations with Hizbullah, and he heads what analysts say is the one functioning multi-party, multi-sect government institution in Lebanon. Tomorrow is officially the fifth time parliament will convene to choose a president in the last three months, and most observers expect another delay so that both political camps can discuss their formal endorsements of Suleiman’s candidacy. Meanwhile, Lebanon continues to be under a de facto state of emergency with a heavy military presence throughout the country. Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, this is Jackson Allers for FSRN.

Executive Privilege and Immunity Claim Not Legally Valid: Leahy
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy today ruled against President Bush’s claim of executive privilege to shield former and current White House staffers from Congressional subpoenas in the investigation into the firings of 9 US attorneys. Leahy has directed White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, former White House political director Sara Taylor, former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and White House deputy political director J. Scott Jennings to immediately comply with subpoenas issued earlier this year. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said that their failure to produce requested documents and answer questions under oath could lead to possible contempt citations.

Another Labour Party Financing Scandal Triggers Calls for Reforms
In Britain, yet another political party financing scandal has prompted renewed calls for political funding reform. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Once again, potentially unlawful donations appear to have been received by the Labour party through third parties. Cash in exchange for honors allegations scandals dogged Tony Blair’s last months in office. Blair was Britain’s first Prime Minister ever to be interrogated as part of a police inquiry. $2 million and 16 months later, no one was charged. By that time, Gordon Brown had taken over as Prime Minister: (audio) “These were very serious allegations, it’s right that the police investigated these matters. As far as the reform of the political funding in Britain is concerned, proposals are already on the table and we should move ahead to try and get a better system of funding in our country.” But just before this latest party funding scandal surfaced, cross-party negotiations on the issue broke down without agreement. The sticking point is that the Labour party doesn’t want to give up its funding from the trade unions and the Conservatives don’t want to agree a cap on large donations. Another police investigation may well now follow, adding more pressure on parties to agree on some kind of state-funded political system. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Polish Prosecutors Investigate Deadly Taser Incident
Polish prosecutors announced yesterday they are probing the death of a Polish immigrant who died at the Vancouver airport Oct. 14 after being Tasered by Canadian national police. The investigation is the ninth since the incident that sparked international protests against the use of Tasers. Zack Baddorf reports.

Polish authorities say they don’t want to wait for the results of eight Canadian investigations into Robert Dziekanski’s death. Dziekanski is one of six people to die from Taser usage in the past few weeks. British Columbia’s attorney general said they will cooperate with their Polish counterparts, making all information available about the incident. Canadian police are planning to send some of their own to Poland to complete their investigation. Meanwhile, the Canadian Border Services Agency released its report Monday, disclosing details of the man’s last hours. The agency also announced reforms to prevent future similar incidents, including adding more cameras and updating a list of employees who speak languages besides English and French. The UN Torture Panel and Amnesty International USA have both said within the past week that the weapon can be a form of torture. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Zack Baddorf in Vancouver.



Republicans Give Democrats a Break and Instead Bash Each Other

With just more than a month remaining before the first votes are cast in the first Presidential caucuses in Iowa, the race is getting tighter and more intense. Hillary Clinton now has another Union endorsement under her cap – from the 180-thousand member Amalgamated Transit Union. She now has nine national unions backing her, promising on-the-ground campaign support in primary states.

Mitt Romney is also racking up union support – of another sort. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, has gone back on his original intention to remain neutral, and is supporting Romney. The ACU is a major conservative lobbying force. Keene told the A-P that Romney has emerged – quote – “as the single candidate most worthy of conservative support.”

At last night’s Republican debate in Florida, candidates tried to prove their conservative credentials and differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack. To do that, the presidential-hopefuls tried on a recent Democratic tactic – and attacked their fellow Republican opponents. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell has more.

Musharraf Retires from Military, but Critics Doubt it Will Make a Difference

Former-General Pervez Musharraf was sworn-in today as the civilian president of Pakistan, a day after he retired from the post of army chief. The decision to retire was hailed by his domestic opposition, as well as world leaders. But many political analysts say this will not end the turmoil that has gripped the nuclear power for more than eight months. FSRN correspondent, Masror Hussain looks at what lies ahead for Pakistan.

US Vows to Admit 12,000 Iraqi Refugees in 2008

The Iraqi Government is pushing to speed up the process by which refugees who fled the country during the US war are able to return home. Several hundred refugees crossed back into Iraq via bus convoy from Syria today where they were greeted by Iraqi officials at the border, who have promised 750 dollars per family to help them resettle. But only a small percentage of Iraqi refugees are opting to take the cash and go back to Iraq and others are still seeking refuge.

Today, the State Department announced a new goal of bringing 12,000 Iraqi refugees to the United States in 2008. But with the millions of Iraqis displaced since US occupation began, some say this effort is too little, too late. Karen Miller has more from Washington, DC

Public Opinion Favors Teachers in WA Disciplined for Alleged Involvement in a Student Anti-War Walk-Out

In the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, six schoolteachers are being disciplined for their students’ participation in an anti-war walkout on November 16th. The School District threatened the teachers with termination if they discussed the student-protest. But one teacher is back in the classroom today, after being put on a week’s paid leave. Jill Freidberg has more from Washington State.

The European Union’s Agriculture Policy Faces an Overhaul

As a part of a “health check” or review of it’s Common Agricultural Policy, the European Commission, or E-C, recently proposed to cap subsidies for Europe’s biggest farmers. The E.C. proposed a similar scheme of redistributing funds in 2003, but it was abandoned after staunch opposition. The present proposal is being reconsidered after strong criticism from the United Kingdom and Germany.

This latest review is a follow-up to reforms made in 2003 aimed at modernizing the EU’s Agricultural Policy. But now this policy will be scrutinized by a larger, 27-member body.

In addition to capping farm subsidies, last week the European Commission proposed to phase out milk quotas, to scrap rules on keeping land fallow and to limit the safety-net public storage system for cereals, except for wheat. FSRN’s Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

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