January 22, 2008

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US Economic Woes Hit International Stock Markets
The economic recession in the US rippled out to created major turbulence in stock markets all over the world today. Claudia Cragg has more.

Fears that a US recession will hurt economies around the world hit Asian stock markets with huge losses on Tuesday. Europe’s key stock exchanges also suffered their biggest one-day drops since the September 11 attacks on the United States. The turbulence even caused trading to be suspended briefly in South Korea and India. Trillions of dollars have been wiped off markets worldwide already this year in the climate of serious worries about the fundamentals of the US economy. The US market was closed on Monday for Martin Luther King day. However, in the first few minutes of trading on the Dow Jones today, the market plunged more than 400 points, despite a surprise overnight interest rate cut by the Fed of 3/4 percent, or 75 basis points, designed to staunch the sell-off. Instead, markets have just kept losing in 2008 — some of them are nearly 20 percent down since January began. For FSRN, I’m Claudia Cragg.

Padilla and Co-Defendants Sentenced

A Miami judge sentenced Jose Padilla to over 17 years in prison today for conspiracy to murder and kidnap people abroad and for material aid to terrorism. One of his co-defendants received a sentence of over 15 years while the other got more than 12 years. Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for all three men. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft originally accused Padilla of plotting to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb on US soil, but those charges were later dropped. Padilla was held for 5 years in a South Carolina military brig before his case went into the civilian court system. His legal team says that his extended time in solitary confinement combined with sensory deprivation techniques literally destroyed his mental health. Conspiracy charges – like the ones brought in this case – require very little evidence to secure a conviction. Judge Marcia Cooke stated at today’s sentencing hearing that there was (quote) “no evidence the defendants personally killed, maimed or kidnapped anyone”. The government reportedly has plans to appeal the sentence, viewing it as too lenient.

Surge of Violence in Eastern Nepal
Violence has surged in Eastern Nepal over the past 2 days, fueling fears of instability in the lead-up to a key election. The outbreak began as the newly-appointed Home Minister toured the region to monitor security preparations for the April 10th constituent assembly election. PC Dubey reports.

Extremists detonated seven bombs in the important eastern city of Rajbiraj while the home minister was there. The bombs caused only minor structural damage. Early this morning, militants attacked three police posts in the region and looted a dozen sophisticated weapons with nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. Later today, armed men robbed a bank Rajbiraj, killing its manager and making off with about three million rupees. Police blame the incidents on armed Madhesi militants. The Madhesi are communities of Indian origin who live in the Nepalese lowlands. They make up approximately 50 percent of Nepal’s population. Most of Nepal’s political power is concentrated in the highlands. Political observers say the sudden outbreak of violence in eastern Nepal, the cradle of Madhesi movement, has serious potential to disrupt the proposed election unless the government takes concrete steps to address the Madhesi greivances. For FSRN, I am PC Dubey in eastern Nepal.

International Summit in Berlin to Pressure Iran

Ministers from Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States met in Berlin today to talk about imposing tougher sanctions on Iran, which continues to defy Western demands that it halt it’s nuclear program. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

Following talks in Berlin this afternoon, the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, announced that they have agreed on the content of the next resolution against Iran. While the full details wont be released until the agreement has been distributed to the rest of the Security Council, a senior US official said that the new resolution “increases the severity of the sanctions already in place and will also introduce new elements.” Iran maintains that it’s nuclear program is for civilian uses – not atomic bombs, and says that sanctions will not get in the way of it’ “legitimate” right to nuclear energy. Even recent American intelligence reports concluded that Iran stopped it’s nuclear weapons program back in 2003. However the US says further action is needed because Tehran has failed to provide transparency or respond to western demands to halt it’s nuclear enrichment program. Cinnamon Nippard, reporting for Free Speech Radio News, Berlin.

Israel Eases Gaza Fuel Blockade for One Day
The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency meeting today to discuss recent Israeli actions against the Gaza Strip, as Israel eased its blockade to allow the entry of fuel for one day. FSRN’s Rami Al-Meghari has more.

The fuel supplies allowed into Gaza today are not enough to resolve the intense fuel crisis gripping the coastal strip. Israel eased its blockade for one day to let in two hundred and fifty thousand liters of fuel needed to generate electricity at Gaza only power plant. Gaza’s Fuel stations society – the body that brings fuel into the region – says benzene was not allowed in. Benzene is used to process sewage in Gaza and to power cars. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session this morning, upon request from the UN’s Arab states group, to discuss condemning Israel’s actions as ‘collective punishment’. Gaza has suffered an almost total blackout over the past couple of days after the Gaza’s power plant was forced to shut down due to the Israeli blockade of fuel supplies. Israel declared yesterday it would implement what it termed the ‘second step of actions on Gaza’, which reportedly will include the jamming of portable electronic devices like laptops and digital recorders, used by Gaza-based reporters. For Free Speech Radio News , I’m Rami Al-Meghari in Gaza.



Opponents Chip Away at Abortion Rights
Thirty-five years after the Roe versus Wade ruling, political and religious groups are working to overturn it. Since 2000, they have been succeeding, steadily chipping away at the law and severely narrowing the scope of what services are legal. This has largely been made possible by the Bush administration. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad files this report.

Catholic Health Administrators Vie to Buy Colorado; Critics Fear Limiting of Heath Services
With ballot initiatives underway in a number of states that would re-define a person as any human being from the moment of fertilization, 2008 is already looking like a year of significant battles for reproductive rights. Those battles aren’t just on the ballots and in legislatures. In Colorado, the battle is also in the boardroom. There, a proposal for the Kansas-based Catholic Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System to become the sole owner of Exempla Healthcare is on the table. The deal would mean the Exempla hospitals would have to follow the Catholic ethical and religious directives. Critics say the change in policy would restrict services for contraceptives, sterilizations, pregnancy terminations and fertility treatments. Mandy Walker has the story.

SC Democratic Debate Gets Testy Over Campaign Contributions
On to election news: Republican Fred Thompson has officially dropped out of the race, on the heels of poor showings in the early primary states. The actor and former Tennessee Senator announced his candidacy late in the game and never seemed to be able to catch up. On the other side, sparks flew at the Democratic Debate last night in South Carolina. It was hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus and CNN and focused on the economy. But the issue was clouded with accusations of inconsistencies among the presidential candidates. Those accusations included challenges on campaign contributions. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell takes a look at the campaigns’ fundraising practices.

Hundreds of Thousands in Kenya Displaced by Post-Election Violence
Two hundred fifty thousand people have been displaced so far in the aftermath of the post-election violence gripping Kenya. They are currently being hosted in Displacement Centers that have been set up all across the country. But the government is yet to announce a long-term plan that will serve this population. FSRN’s John Bwakali reports from Nairobi.

Traditional Hawaiian Crop Threatened by Large-Scale Biotech Testing
Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer who took on biotech giant Monsanto, is at it again. Monsanto sued Schmeiser in 1999 for growing their genetically modified crops without paying for them. Schmeiser maintained he didn’t actually plant GM seed; instead he says pollen blew into his field. He lost the case in the Canadian Supreme Court. This time Schmeiser is going on the offensive. He has sued Monsanto in small claims court for the equivalent of $600 US Dollars, the amount he paid to have Monsanto’s oilseed rape plants removed from his field. In his case Schmeiser claims this kind of field contamination is the equivalent of pollution – and polluters should pay to clean their messes. If won, the case could set a precedent that could make Monsanto liable for inadvertent GM contamination worldwide. The case is scheduled to be heard tomorrow. In related news, the biotech industry in Hawaii boasts more open field-testing than anywhere else in the world. Leading biotech companies, including Monsanto, Dow, Pioneer and Syngenta, presently have more than 4000 open field-tests of Genetically Modified Organisms in the state. As Anne Keala Kelly reports, there is no data to determine absolute health risks to humans. And in regard to cultural and intellectual property, ground zero for resistance to the biotech industry centers on one plant associated with the origins of the Hawaiian people.

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