February 21, 2008

  • Bush Pushes AFRICOM Agenda and Touts the Success of AIDS Prevention in Africa
  • Armenian Election Results Lead to Mass Protests from Opposition Supporters
  • Activists Launch New Strategy for Opposing the Iraq War
  • New Information about the Guantanamo Detainee Trials Raises Questions about Fairness and Intent
  • Second Anniversary of the Slaying of Eight Colombian Peace Community Members Marked by Continued Impunity for Perpetrators
  • Food Safety Issues Examined in Wake of Massive Beef Recall
  • Death Penalty Laws in California Scrutinized by State Commission

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Pakistani Opposition Leaders to Form Coalition
Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is reportedly set to form an allliance with Asif Zardari, the widower of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Both opposition figures have already met this week with the US ambassador to Pakistan. In Islamabad, Zack Baddorf reports.

The alliance would give the two leading political parties a two-thirds majority, allowing them to move toward impeachment of President Pervez Musharaff. But Musharaff is striking back. The retired general’s lawyers urged a Geneva court today to start prosecution against Asif Zardari on a 10-year old corruption charge of funneling $55 million in kickbacks into a Swiss bank account. The case against Zardari, now the co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, stalled last year when Musharaff agreed with Benazir Bhutto to drop all corruption charges in order to achieve “reconciliation”. Zardari’s lawyers said this is a “simple” “political” move. In the nation’s capital on Monday, Zardari said he will not permit corruption under his leadership. (clip) “And even today, I promise you, I shall not take any crumb from any table. If anybody does, I will stand in front of him and make sure he doesn’t.” A Western diplomat told FSRN there’s a “very strong sense” that Musharaff has “overstayed his time” in power. This official said the country has been at a “screeching halt” for months and hopes the party officials work “quickly” to form a coalition. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Zack Baddorf in Islamabad.

New Anti-Terrorism Legislation Passed in Canada
Canada’s Senate has rushed through a new anti-terrorism bill after only one day of debate. The bill has now gone to the Governor General’s desk to await its signature into law. Seth Porcello has more from Montreal.

Bill C-3 re-affirms a two tiered system of justice, which permits the indefinite detention of non-citizens under so-called security certificates. Detainees to not have the right to a trial by jury, nor do they have access to the evidence against them. This bill will replace former anti-terrorism legislation that Canada’s Supreme Court declared unconstitutional last year. Adil Charkaoui spent almost two years detained without charge under a security certificate and is currently under house arrest: (clip) “Really I am very disappointed by this whole legislative process. The new law of security certificates is exactly the same as the last one. There has been no change, the only change that they have brought has been to make it worse. To legitimize a system that is unjust at it’s base.” The new legislation introduces a special advocate into the system, who will be appointed by the Canadian Security Agency (CSIS) and will have access to the evidence but not the accused. The Canadian Bar Association, the Quebec Bar Association, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations have all spoken out against the legislation, saying it does not address the core issues identified by the supreme court and will likely also be declared unconstitutional. For FSRN, I’m Seth Porcello.

Secret British Dossier on Iraq Made Public

The British government fought hard but failed to stop the declassification of the discredited Iraq dossier.The dossier, which made dubious claims about the reasons why the UK should join the US invasion of Iraq was released this week, but with specific parts of the first draft missing. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

The first draft of the Iraq dossier made public was a high-level working document aimed at presenting the best case for the Iraq invasion. A document seen by the Guardian newspaper reveals that where the dossier claimed that apart from Iraq: “no other country has flouted the United Nations’ authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” a government official had hand-written words to the effect that Israel has flouted the United Nations’ authority in a manner similar to that of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The British government successfully argued before a tribunal that this particular reference – and any other that referred to Israel’s huge nuclear arsenal – shouldn’t be released because it would seriously damage the ‘strong international system” and jeopardise “an important national interest in relation to counter-terrorism.” However, they weren’t so sensitive about unfavourable references to other countries in the same document being made public: alongside the dossier’s claim that no other country apart from Iraq had twice launched wars of aggression against neighbours, an unknown official wrote: “Germany? US in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico.” Against a reference to the use of chemical weapons, the official had written: “Japan in China?” Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

Texas A&M Fined for Negligence at Biolab
The federal government has imposed its largest fine to date for the mishandling of potential bioweapons. Kellia Ramares has more.

The Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services has fined Texas A & M University 1 million dollars for violating rules pertaining to the handling of “select agents”. These are organisms that have potential for use as bioweapons. Last June, the Centers for Disease Control shut down all operations at the Texas A & M biolabs after its investigation revealed numerous problems, including unapproved experiments and missing samples. The CDC investigation was prompted by discovery by a watchdog group that the university had failed to report worker exposure to brucellosis and Q fever. The million dollar fine is the largest yet for violating rules governing the handling of select agents. But it is also an amount chosen by the university. Edward Hammond, director of the Sunshine project, which made the discoveries that prompted the CDC investigation, called the fine “a pittance”. (clip) “The violation that A&M had been citied for carried well over $10 million in potential fines, as well as up to five years in jail for several A&M officials.” Texas A & M has not yet received clearance to reopen its labs. It expects a visit from CDC inspectors in early March. For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.


Bush Pushes AFRICOM Agenda and Touts the Success of AIDS Prevention in Africa

President George W Bush is wrapping up a 5-country visit to Africa. During the tour through Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia, Bush focused on issues such as oil supplies in the Gulf of Guinea and a search for an American military command, or Africom, headquarters location. Along the way, President Bush agreed with a power-sharing solution to the crisis in Kenya, but mainly touted success stories in the fight against HIV/AIDS. From Senegal, Ndiaga Seck reports.

Armenian Election Results Lead to Mass Protests from Opposition Supporters

The Armenian presidential elections are over and the results are in. The new president of the country is the chairman of the Republican Party, Serge Sargsian. He secured nearly 53% of the eligible votes.

The victory is significant, because Sargsian’s main opponent – the first post-soviet president, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, only received 17%. Ter-Petrosyan has accused Sargsian, who is leader of the parliamentary majority, of using his position to win.

Garegin Khumaryan reports from the Armenian city of Yerevan where massive protests have occurred.

Activists Launch New Strategy for Opposing the Iraq War

With less than a month to go before the five-year anniversary of the US occupation in Iraq, anti-war activists and some members of congress are gearing up for their own new offensive to get troops home. The message? In the face of the growing US recession, billions of US tax dollars are being spent on the war. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more from Washington.

New Information about the Guantanamo Detainee Trials Raises Questions about Fairness and Intent

A former top military official says the military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees are rigged. Colonel Morris Davis, who resigned from his post in October of last year, told The Nation Magazine that, Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes, who now heads the tribunal system, said acquittals are not an option. An acquittal would mean the US could not justify holding the detainees for so long. Vince Warren is Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights:

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Colonel Davis has spoken out against the tribunals since he left his post last year. The Pentagon recently announced that it would seek the death penalty for 6 detainees. Many of the 270 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have never been charged with a crime.

Second Anniversary of the Slaying of Eight Colombian Peace Community Members Marked by Continued Impunity for Perpetrators

Eight members of a Peace Community in northern Colombia were brutally killed in 2005. Community members and international human rights observers attest that it was the Colombian army that did the killing. Among the victims were 3 children. The government, however, said, at that time the victims were FARC collaborators who were killed for trying to leave the group. From Bogotá, Nicole Karsin has more on the continued impunity of the perpetrators.

Food Safety Issues Examined in Wake of Massive Beef Recall

Earlier this week, the US Department of Agriculture issued the largest meat recall in US history –143 million pounds of beef processed over the last two years at the Westland-Hallmark Meat Company in California. 37 million pounds of that meat ended up in school lunch cafeterias across the nation. The Human Society of the United States captured undercover video at the facility showing cows that were unable to walk being dragged, shocked and prodded with forklifts.

Members of congress have been quick to pounce on the issue –saying it reveals huge holes in the country’s food safety inspection system. Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin has made a call for a single food safety agency, instead of the 12 different federal agencies that currently monitor different aspects of the food supply.

To examine some other ideas of how to improve food safety in the United States, I spoke with Ronnie Cummins, the Executive Director of the Organic Consumer’s Association. I asked him what additional safety and oversight measures are needed.

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Ronnie Cummins is the Executive Director of the Organic Consumer’s Association.

Death Penalty Laws in California Scrutinized by State Commission

California ‘s death penalty system has been the target of intense scrutiny. Last month, California’s Chief Justice Ron George said there were serious problems with the way the death penalty is implemented in the state. Yesterday the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice held its second of three hearings that could lead to sweeping changes in capital punishment statewide. FSRN’s Dan Fritz attended the meeting in downtown Los Angeles and files this report from KPFK.

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