February 26, 2008

  • India and Pakistan Fight for Geographical Indicator Patent for Pashmina Wool
  • Senate Republicans Allow Debate on Democratic Plans to Withdraw Troops from Iraq
  • A House Judiciary Subcommittee Votes to Subpoena the Former Ohio Secretary of State about Voter Suppression
  • Pakistani Lawyers Press New Government to Reinstate Judges
  • Democratic Burmese Activists Flee the Interior for Border with Thailand

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Native American Health Care

After more than a decade’s delay, the US Senate today passed a bill modernizing the healthcare system for Native Americans. Yanmei Xie reports from Capitol Hill.

The Indian Healthcare Improvement Act passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin.

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The healthcare system for Native Americans hasn’t been updated since 1992. Funding is provided annually and lags BEHIND population growth and inflation. Tribal clinics often have to ration care and treat only the most urgent cases. The updated bill would authorize 16 billion dollars for Indian Health programs over the next five years and 35 billion dollars over the next ten. North Dakota Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan is Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee and principal author of the bill.

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A similar bill has been introduced in the House, but it’s still waiting for meaningful action. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Yanmei Xie on Capitol Hill.

UAW Strike

The United Auto Workers union has gone on strike against American Axle. The strike — the third called by the union against a U.S. automotive company in the last six months — began just after midnight as a four-year contract expired. At issue is the company’s call for significant reductions in wages and benefits. The walkout affects some 3,600 workers and has shut down American Axle plants in Michigan and New York.
Nigerian Elections Stand A tribunal in Nigeria has upheld the election of President Yar’Adua. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

The tribunal, Seated in the Federal Capital of Abuja, rejected petitions by the presidential candidates of the two main opposition parties claiming fraud and vote rigging during the election that brought President Yar’Adua to power. The tribunal said there was no evidence that the violations of the electoral law were substantial enough to invalidate the election result. While President Yar’Adua’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party hailed the verdict, the opposition says it will appeal. The appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court, which will have the final say on the matter. International and local election monitors observed that the election, conducted in April last year, and concluded it was deeply flawed. Election tribunals have removed about 50 elected officials, including seven state governors and the senate president. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos

More Casualties in Turkey/PKK Conflict

The Kurdish PKK – or Kurdistan Workers Party — resumed fighting last night as a response to attacks that began Thursday. Hiba Dawood has more.

The Kurdistan Workers Party — or PKK — is a Kurdish guerrilla group the Turkish government accuses of attacking Turkey from the Iraqi border. Today, the PKK announced an attack in Al Zaab area along the border between Kurdistan and Turkey that resulted in the death of 21 Kurdish soldiers. They also said that the PKK still has five of the Turkish soldiers’ dead bodies. One PKK soldier was killed and two were injured. PKK officials say that the Turkish forces have partially withdrawn but continue fighting on two fronts. PKK spokesperson Rose Wilat says that the Turkish situation is difficult due to the strong resistance they are confronted with from the PKK. They expect a military escalation from the Turks side will likely resume as a part of a bigger operation. Thousands of people rallied in the southeastern city Diyarbakir against Turkey’s ground operation. The pro-Kurdish party DTP, who organized the rally, made a statement calling Turkey to end the operation. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Hiba Dawood.

Biodiversity Preserved

A vault carved into the Arctic permafrost and filled with samples of the world’s most important seeds was inaugurated today. Aimed at safeguarding biodiversity in the face of climate change, wars and other natural and man-made disasters, the new seed bank IN Norway has the capacity to hold up to 4.5 million batches of seeds. That’s twice the number of crop varieties believed to exist in the world today.



Senate Republicans Allow Debate on Democratic Plans to Withdraw Troops from Iraq

The day after anti-war groups launched a multi million dollar campaign to highlight the cost of the war, Senate Republicans have agreed to consider measures that would diminish the US’s troop presence in Iraq. But Republicans are not necessarily interested in actual troop withdrawal; they say they will allow the debate so they can highlight the successes US forces have had in the country. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

A House Judiciary Subcommittee Votes to Subpoena the Former Ohio Secretary of State about Voter Suppression

Today the House Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing on voter suppression. Notably missing from the testimony was that of Kenneth Blackwell, the Former Ohio Secretary of State. He oversaw Ohio’s 2004 Presidential Elections and the ensuing charges of widespread voter disenfranchisement. Democratic Congressmen John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler asked Blackwell to testify, but were reportedly turned down. Now the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has voted to allow Conyers to issue Blackwell a subpoena. Naji Mujahid has more from Washington.

Pakistani Lawyers Press New Government to Reinstate Judges

After the significant opposition victory in last week’s Pakistani election, lawyers in the country are pressing the victorious politicians to reinstate the judges fired by President Pervez Musharraf. Unrest among those in the legal profession was a key factor in the defeat of Musharraf’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q. As newly-elected politicians try to form a new government, lawyers are campaigning to make the restoration of an independent judiciary one of the government’s first orders of business. FSRN’S Tony Cross spoke with lawyers in Islamabad about the situation.

Democratic Burmese Activists Flee the Interior for Border with Thailand

The Burmese government announced last week that there will be a referendum in May on a new constitution. The document was drafted following the country’s National Convention, which was convened by handpicked military representatives. The Military Junta also announced a new election will be held in 2010.

But real democratic reform still seems out of reach. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and several other political dissidents are still under detention. In the meantime, the Junta continues hunt those who took part in last year uprising. More than 150 activists and monks have managed to escape to the border. FSRN’s Ronald Aung Naing has more.

India and Pakistan Fight for Geographical Indicator Patent for Pashmina Wool

A new facet in the continuous tug of war India and Pakistan have over the state of Kashmir has recently emerged. The two countries are now fighting over a Geographical Indicator Patent for high quality Cashmere wool called Pashmina. Shahnawaz Khan has this report.

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