February 1, 2008

  • Farmer’s Caravan Arrives in Mexico City to Protest Corn and Bean Tariff Removal
  • Plan to End Post-Election Violence in Kenya Emerges from Mediation Talks
  • Anti-War Protesters Demand Meaningful Change Outside the Democratic Debate in Los Angeles
  • US Border Patrol Agents Fire Teargas Canisters over the Mexican Border, Injuring Several Residents
  • “Wounded Warriors” Aid May be Too Little, Too Late for US Veterans
  • Los Angeles Activists See Release of Khallid Al Alim by Local Authorities a Victory

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Double Suicide Bombing in Baghdad Markets
Nearly simultaneous bombings in two different Baghdad markets killed more than 70 people today in the deadliest attack the Iraqi captial has seen in months. Witnesses say the suicide bombers in both attacks were women with explosive vests. One of the targets, the Ghazil Pet Market, is protected against car bombs by a concrete blast wall. The Ghazil Market has witnessed two other deadly bombings since January of 2007.

Report Says National Guard is Unprepared for National Emergency
The National Guard is stretched too thin to deal with a catastrophic threat at home, according to a newly-released report. Africa Jones has the story.

(sound)”You couldn’t move a girl scout unit with the kind of planning they’re doing right now.” That’s Arnold Punaro speaking of a report which says the National Guard is not prepared to deal with domestic threats or disasters. Punaro is chair of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, an independent entity charged by Congress to make legislative and policy recommendations to ensure that the Guard and Reserves are ready and able to meet national security requirements. (sound) Commission chair Punaro says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have significantly strained the guard. Over 180,000 National guard members are currently serving overseas, making up around half of the wars’ fighting forces. Some of the report’s recommendations include improved planning and government coordination and a restructuring of the guard for the post 9/11 era. Earlier this week, Vermont state legislators introduced a bill to recall the Vermont National Guard from duty in Iraq and similar legislation is underway in at least 6 other states. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Africa Jones.

Climate Meeting in Hawaii Produces Hot Air
Representatives from the world’s worst polluters have wrapped up a climate conference in Hawaii. The 16 countries invited to the conference produce 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush Administration has led a policy of opposing mandatory reduction targets for industrialized nations. Some delegates at the Hawaii conference have commented on new flexibility in US position, but the meeting ended without any concrete measure to reduce emissions.

DoJ Files a New Round of Lawsuits Against Rio Grande Valley Property Owners
The Department of Justice has filed a new set of lawsuits against property owners in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Some of the landowners – including some small town governments – have refused federal surveyors temporary access to their land to prepare for the construction of a border wall with Mexico. The federal government is currently suing more than 30 property owners in the Rio Grande Valley. Those named in the suits filed yesterday face a court hearing next week.

Cut Undersea Cables Affect Internet Service in Mid East, North Africa and South Asia
Severed undersea fiber optics cables have been blamed for widespread Internet outages and reduced bandwidth across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia this week. Kathryn Jarmul reports.

The cut fiber optics cable running from the Suez canal to Sri Lanka is the third severed underwater cable found this week. The damage has limited internet access for more than 75 million users throughout the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. FLAG Telecom repair ships are en route to fix the two cables cut earlier this week. No official statement has been made about what caused the damage, but one theory is that the cables were cut by a ship attempting to anchor during a storm. Repairing the underwater cables involves lifting them out of the sea bed, then using underwater robots to mend them or haul them onboard the ship. Workers must re-bury the cables once repairs are complete. Most of the world’s internet communications companies still use cables for connectivity. FLAG Telecom estimates repairs will be complete by February 12th. For FSRN, I’m Kathryn Jarmul.

UK Considers Forced Removal of Child Asylum Seekers
The British government wants to start a process to forcibly remove unaccompanied child asylum seekers. Many fear they will be sent back to war zones where their safety and welfare cannot be guaranteed. Naomi Fowler reports from London:

The precise numbers of children who apply for refugee status in the UK is disputed but it appears to average around 3,000 annually. The majority arrive from countries experiencing armed conflict and/or serious oppression of minority or political groups. Top of the list over the last few years were Somalia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 8,000 unaccompanied child asylum seekers are currently in the UK awaiting a decision on their petitions. British law allows all unaccompanied minors to remain in the UK until they are 18 if authorities are unable to locate a parent or guardian and/or adequate care facility. But now the government wants to do away with what it calls ‘the state of limbo’ which ends when asylum seekers turn 18 and become eligible for deportation. Many organizations say it is unlawful and morally wrong to force a child to return against his or her wishes to a place where their safety and welfare cannot be guaranteed. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.



Plan to End Post-Election Violence in Kenya Emerges from Mediation Talks

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon joined his predecessor Kofi Annan in Nairobi today to boost Kenyan mediation talks. The talks follow more than a month of civil violence in Kenya resulting from claims the national elections were rigged. More than 800 have died and thousands have been displaced from their homes.

Against the backdrop of two recently murdered opposition legislators, the talks have made promising progress over the past two days. In fact, a new 18-point plan to help end the violence has reportedly been reached. FSRN’s John Bwakali reports from Nairobi.

Anti-War Protesters Demand Meaningful Change Outside the Democratic Debate in Los Angeles

Barak Obama has picked up several notable endorsements over the last week – Edward Kennedy and Toni Morrison. And now the Progressive internet community Moveon.org has offered their endorsement as well.

Still up for grabs is a large block of voters formerly supporting John Edwards, who dropped out of the presidential race on Wednesday. At last night’s Democratic debate, both Obama and Hillary Clinton offered sweeping compliments to John Edwards and his campaign. Perhaps the key to the race will be drawing Edward’s supporters.

The debate, held in Los Angeles, was the final before a large block of states will vote on Super Tuesday. Defying expectations, Clinton and Obama spent the evening civilly trying to explain their differences. The goal of getting Republicans out of the Oval Office seemed paramount for both. But as correspondent Sylvester Rivers reports, the debate was only one part of the evening.

US Border Patrol Agents Fire Teargas Canisters over the Mexican Border, Injuring Several Residents

A special team of U-S Border Patrol agents in the San Diego area has recently adopted new tactics to thwart attacks on agents. They’re using tear-gas bombs and pepper spray against Mexican nationals — on Mexican territory. According to the agency, agents stationed along the border with Mexico have been attacked – mostly with rocks — nearly 1,000 times during the past year, A 30 percent increase from 2006. Of those attacks, 254 have been reported in the San Diego sector.

So far, eleven people have been injured as a result of tear gas canisters fired into Mexican territory — including a pregnant teenager, an elderly couple, and a 15 year old boy. The Foreign Relations office in Mexico has condemned the attacks. The Human Rights Commission has opened a file to demand further investigation and has even suggested taking the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Court.

But right on the fence, tensions are rising and frustration from agents, residents and authorities is making for recurrent confrontation. Alonso Rivera and Mariana Martinez report from Tijuana.

“Wounded Warriors” Aid May be Too Little, Too Late for US Veterans

On January 27th, President Bush signed into law a new Defense Authorization bill that included a special “wounded warriors” section. It offers extra help to returning veterans. Despite this new aid, serious problems continue to afflict many American veterans. Making matters worse, a recent incident on Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” leaves homeless veterans worried that their problem is being overlooked. Julian Suchman has more from New York City.

Farmer’s Caravan Arrives in Mexico City to Protest Corn and Bean Tariff Removal

Farmers from across Mexico streamed into the countries’ capital all day long yesterday, ending a caravan that began on January 18th. Many rode tractors, some walked, and others brought their cattle. All were there to protest against the recent removal of import tariffs on farm goods, specifically corn and beans from US and Canada under NAFTA.

It was the last wall to come down in the 14-year-old Free Trade Agreement, and for Mexico the most symbolically important.

Victor Manuel Alvarez grows corn, beans and vegetables in the State of Guanajuato.


According to the National Farmer’s Union about 130-thousand people attended the protests; the police put the number between 30 and 50-thousand.

Much of the anger at the protest was directed towards the current government. Farmers said Mexican President Felipe Calderon has done nothing to help them compete in the free market, and has only offered support to large-scale farms. They now want subsides to keep their farms alive and a re-negotiation of the treaty regarding beans and corn. In addition, sky-high electricity prices are a central concern.

Pedro Perez is a corn farmer from Guanajuato:


For the indigenous, many of whom rely on corn and beans to survive, the threat is especially critical.

The National Confederation of Farm Workers was the main organizer of the march, but hundreds of Unions from the Telephonistas, to the electricians, to Lopez Obrador supporters showed up to march in solidarity.

Many Mexico City residents also showed up to cheer the marchers on, or join them. Special thanks to FSRN Correspondent Trevor Snapp for this report.

Los Angeles Activists See Release of Khallid Al Alim by Local Authorities a Victory

Activists in south Los Angeles are breathing a small sigh of relief today with regard to the case of a man convicted of multiple counts of assaulting a police officer. They say community-wide support caused the judge in the case to have second thoughts about sentencing the man to prison. Thandisizwe Chimurenga has the details.

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