December 26, 2007

  • Turkey Continues Bombing Iraqi Kurdistan
  • Serbia Moves to Cut Ties with US and EU
  • South Korea Soaring Suicide Rate
  • Transgender Violence in New York’s Prisons
  • Commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal: The Power of Black Music

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Afghanistan Expels 2 European Diplomats
Two European diplomats have been ordered to leave Afghanistan amidst accusations that the two were engaging in improper talks with the Taliban. One of the men is an Irish national representing the European Union. The other is a Briton with a high-level position within the United Nations assistance mission. A UN spokesman said the men had met with tribal elders, local authorities and people from different political backgrounds in the recently recovered city of Musa Qala in the volatile Helmand province. The expulsion orders are the first issued to Western diplomats since the US led invasion brought Hamid Karzai to power.

Private Radio Station Ordered to Close in Mogadishu
An independent radio station in Mogadishu has become the latest casualty of media restrictions in Somalia. Mohamed Shiekh Nor reports.

The privately-owned Somaliweyn Radio is off the air today after the mayor of Mogadishu ordered the station to shut down. Somaliweyn Radio staffers said the mayor issued the orders over the phone after the station aired an interview with an exiled member of the deposed Islamic Courts Union. The National Union of Somali Journalists has condemned the action, as has Reporters Without Borders. Somali media has been working under stiff restrictions since the transitional government returned to power with the assistance of Ethiopian military action. The Committee to Protect Journalists now ranks Somalia as second only to Iraq as the deadliest country in which to work as a journalist. Seven reporters have been killed this year in Somalia; most of them worked in radio. Mohamed Shiekh Nor, FSRN, Mogadishu.

FARC Set to Release 3 Hostages to Venezuelan President Chavez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says that Colombia’s FARC guerrillas are ready to release three hostages into his custody. Chavez says he has aircraft on standby to pick up the two women and the infant as soon as the Colombian government authorizes the pick up operation. The Venezuelan president had been mediating talks between the rebels and the government, but the Colombian president abruptly suspended Chavez’s role last month.

FBI to Build Billion Dollar Biometrics Database
The FBI is set to award a 1 billion dollar contract to amass a the world largest database of biometric information, according to a recent Washington Post report. Kellia Ramares has more.

The project, called Next Generation Identification, is a 10-year effort to gather iris scans, scars and face shape information, as well as fingerprints and palm prints. According the the FBI, the new database will make identification of criminals and terrorism suspects faster and easier because the accuracy of identification is improved when techniques are combined. But currently, the National Crime Information Center database is exempt from the Privacy Act requirement that records be accurate. FBI officials have claimed that in law enforcement data collection, “it is impossible to determine in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely and complete.” Preventing identity theft also could be more difficult with biometrics. If someone steals your credit card, you can cancel it and get a new one, with a new account number. But if someone steals your iris scan, you cannot cancel your eyeballs and get new ones. For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.

Landslides Kill Upwards of Eighty People in Indonesia
Scores of people are missing or dead after heavy rains triggered landslides on Indonesia’s Java Island. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta.

Monsoon rains caused mud slides and severe flooding during the night as residents slept. In the hardest hit area, residents and rescue workers combed through the debris with their hands in search of victims. Key roads into affected areas about 300 miles east of the capital are blocked. Days of torrential rain have caused rivers to overflow their banks across Indonesia, inundating tens of thousands of homes. Landslides are frequent in Indonesia, where years of deforestation have left many hillsides with little vegetation to hold the soil. In December last year, flooding and landslides killed more than 100 people and drove an estimated 100,000 more from their homes in north Sumatra Island. For Free Speech Radio, I’m Chad Bouchard in Jakarta.

Nepal’s Political Parties and Maoist Rebels Sign Deal to Dethrone King
Nepal’s main political parties have reached an agreement with Maoist rebels to abolish the monarchy. The demand had become the main condition for the demobilization of a decade long Maoist insurgency. A deal signed on Sunday will require King Gyanendra to step down along with the election of a Constituent Assembly to rewrite Nepal’s constitution. Elections are expected in the first half of 2008, although a firm timetable has not yet been established.



Turkey Continues Bombing Iraqi Kurdistan

Turkish jets launched fresh attacks across the border into Iraqi Kurdistan. Today’s bombing of eight PKK bases adds to Turkey’s military claims of more than 200 targets hit by air strikes, and 175 Kurdish guerrillas killed as a result of the raids. Al Jazeera is reporting confirmation of the attacks by Iraqi Kurdish forces, but not the number of Kurdish fighters killed. Turkey’s military says the raids, that started on the 16 th of December, left no civilians harmed. However, both Kurdish authorities and international bodies, including the United Nations, report that many families had to flee their villages, and a civilian woman was killed in the raids. Kurdish regional authority in northern Iraq Mesud Barzani condemned the Turkish raids and charges that innocent people have been killed. Ozgur Baris has more from Ankara.

Serbia Moves to Cut Ties with US and EU

Kosovo’s newly elected government is likely to unilaterally declare independence in line with recommendations of a report submitted to the UN Secretary General this month. The Serbian Parliament is debating a resolution today to cut diplomatic ties with the EU and the US if a declaration of independence by its breakaway province is recognized. Amy Miller reports from Belgrade.

South Korea Soaring Suicide Rate

In just a few decades, South Korea transformed itself from a third world country devastated by war, into the world’s 13th largest economy. But the fast pace of the so-called Korean Miracle has a dark side, according to many mental health experts. South Korea now has the highest suicide rate in the developed world, and the number of those taking their own lives is steadily increasing. FSRN’s Jason Strother is in Seoul, where he looks at the possible causes behind the rise and speaks with a group that is making suicide prevention its top priority.

Transgender Violence in New York’s Prisons

Transgender, inter-sex and gender non-conforming people are routinely subject to abuse and violence in New York State Men’s Prisons by correctional officers and fellow inmates. This according to a new report released by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City, which also examines the pervasive discrimination and police harassment faced by transgender people. Andalusia Knoll has more from New York.


Commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal: The Power of Black Music

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