January 9, 2008

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Iran-US Ship Incident in the Straits of Hormuz Continues to Stir Controversy
Sunday’s incident involving US warships and Iranian speedboats in the Gulf of Hormuz continues to stir up controversy. The Pentagon has released footage and audio it says was recorded during the incident. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claims the contents of the recordings are fabricated. The blurry video shows speedboats approaching US warships while the audio supposedly contains an exchange between radio operators on both sides: (audio clip) The US called the incident a provocation, while Iran called it routine. The flap over the recordings comes as President Bush is in the Middle East to meet with the Israeli and Palestinian heads of state.

Kenyan Political Dispute in Mediation
The political conflict that fueled unrest last week in Kenya has moved into mediation. John Bwakali reports from Nairobi.

Kenya’s mediation hopes were bolstered yesterday with the arrival of the African Union Chairman, president John Kuffour of Ghana. He has since held talks with both President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The mediation team includes former Presidents of Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Botswana. However, the mediation talks have so far only yielded vague statements from both parties with President Kibaki assuring Mr. Kuffour that he was ready for dialogue with other Kenyan leaders. Dialogue between the president and Raila Odinga is expected to take place on Friday. Meanwhile, president Kibaki yesterday named his new cabinet, sparking riots in Nairobi and Kisumu. But even as Kibaki pushes forward with his new government, the opposition is vowing to occupy the ruling party’s side of the aisle when parliament opens on Tuesday. For Free Speech Radio News, I am John Bwakali reporting from Nairobi.

Trade Unions Threaten General Strike Tomorrow in Guinea
Guinea’s ruling party has appealed to citizens to boycott a general strike called for tomorrow by trade unions, arguing it would plunge the West African country back into chaos. The pending strike date comes one year after the start of countrywide anti-government demonstrations, which ended with the deaths of more than 180 protesters. In neighboring Senegal, Ndiaga Seck has more.

The government is currently holding talks with union leaders, political parties, and civil society in a last-ditch effort to avert a general strike tomorrow. The trade unions threatened to take strike action after President Lansana Conte sacked a member of a consensus government last week. Union representatives accuse President Conte of violating the power-sharing deal that ended last year’s violent protests in the world’s largest bauxite exporter. Conte has ruled Guinea with an iron fist since 1984. The deal that kept him in power gives the Prime Minister the sole authority to name the members of his cabinet. The sacking of the reformist Communication Minister caused riots on Friday in Guinea’s capital Conakry. Guinea’s economy has suffered from high inflation in the past year and some opposition parties, religious leaders and other community figures have publicly opposed the threatened strike. The outcome of the ongoing negotiations had not been announced by deadline. For FSRN in Senegal, I’m Ndiaga Seck.

UN Facilitates Talks Over Status of Western Sahara
Diplomatic talks on the future of Western Sahara continued for the second day today without any sign of a major breakthrough. Haider Rizvi has more from the United Nations.

The desert territory of Africa’s Western Sahara has been at the center of a decades-long dispute between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s personal representative Peter van Valsum is facilitating the current round of negotiations between the two sides, but there has been no word by deadline about whether Morocco and Polisario have agreed on a mutually acceptable solution. The talks are the result of recent pressure from the Security Council urging both sides to hold negotiations “without preconditions.” Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975. Morocco claimed it as a province based on a deal struck during the final days of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The Polisario Front, on the other hand, wants to establish an independent homeland. A UN brokered ceasefire has been in effect since 1991 although the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement about sovereignty over the territory. For FSRN, I’m Haider Rizvi at the United Nations.

Foreclosure Crisis Continues to Worsen
The nation’s largest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, announced today that the number of foreclosures and late payments in December hit a record high. The company documented in its monthly operating report that its foreclosure rate has doubled over the past year. New data from Miami-Dade county shows that foreclosure filings there last year shot up 168 percent over 2006 levels. Meanwhile, non-profits that give legal advice and assistance to those who cannot afford it report that caseloads have increased dramatically with the subprime lending crisis. Unlike in criminal cases, those wishing to contest a foreclosure do not have a constitutionally protected right to a lawyer. Foreclosures are said to be at their highest ever rate since the Great Depression.



Bush in the Holy Land

There’s a lot at stake this week as President Bush begins his Middle East visit today – as failure to create a long-sought peace between Israelis and Palestinians may cause further political fallout in the region. Israeli settlers began constructing new outposts on Palestinian land, and rockets were launched into Israel from Gaza as Bush began his visit, which is a follow up to the Middle East Conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November. And while there is some optimism, some analysts say the meetings may not yield any results. Anneli Radestad reports from Jerusalem.

Hilary and McCain Took New Hampshire

Two states have now chosen who they want to be the Presidential nominees: New Hampshire voters chose their candidates last night and they chose differently than Iowa. Of more than 200,000 votes cast between the two, Hillary Clinton beat Obama by 7,000 votes… definitely a desired outcome by the Clinton campaign. John Edwards finishes a distant third and Richardson then Kucinich round up the Democratic ticket. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from the campaign trail.

The Stragglers Keep Pushing in Presidential Race

The frontrunners from the New Hampshire Primary command almost all media attention. Yet those who are lagging behind continue to campaign vigorously. As Yanmei Xie reports, these stragglers are a reminder that the race is not all about winning.

Sri Lanka ‘s Tea Estate Workers

Sri Lankan government’s announcement to withdraw from the 2002 truce signed with the Tamil Tiger rebels has sent shock waves across the country. The government’s move to find a military solution to the long running ethnic issue has affected the economy and the cost of living is rising at a rocket speed. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam reports on tea estate workers who depend on daily wages to make ends meet.

Philip Agee Passes

Philip Agee, known as the first major defector from the ranks of the Central Intelligence Agency, died yesterday in Cuba. His book, “Inside the Company: CIA Diary”, exposed the agency’s activities and agents – provoking an aggressive response from the US government. Tanya Snyder reports.

Pakistan After Bhutto

Commentary from Mumia Abu-Jamal.

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