February 5, 2008

  • Campaign Spending and Iraq War Questions Continue to Hover on This Super Tuesday
  • Optical Voting Machines May Leave Paper Trail, but Problems Still Rampant
  • Immigrants Brought in to Rebuild the Gulf Coast Tricked into Debt
  • Pork Barrel Money Found to Go Disproportionately to White Members of Congress
  • Abuses by the Indian Military in Kashmir Rankle Human Rights Advocates

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France Threatens Military Intervention in Chad
The United Nations Security Council has called on member states to support the government of Chad after a massive rebel attack on the capital. France has since threatened military intervention in its former colony to support President Idriss Deby. The Chadian military claims to have crushed the armed uprising which stormed the capital over the weekend, but the rebels say their pullback today was a tactical withdrawal. Ndiaga Seck reports from Senegal.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says that France is ready to take military action against Chadian rebels if necessary. The rebels, who agreed to a Lybian-brokered ceasefire today, have accused the former colonial power of already intervening in the fighting, by using helicopters and tanks to back President Idriss Déby, actions which have allegedly caused civilian casualties. The rebel attack on the capital city sent an estimated 20,000 refugees into Cameroon and Nigeria. The attack also left hundreds dead and many more injured. France has already used its troops stationed in Chad to evacuate at least 700 French and other foreign nationals from the landlocked oil-producing country. The rebels are demanding the resignation of President Deby. Deby came to power in a 1990 coup, but has since won elections. Chad’s Prime Minister has openly accused Sudan of supporting the rebels, something Khartoum denies. For FSRN in Senegal, I’m Ndiaga Seck.

EU Approves Mission to Kosovo
The European Union has voted to send a mission to Kosovo just one day after Serbia’s presidential election. Amy Miller reports from Belgrade.

The EU mission to replace the UN presence in Kosovo will consist of around 2000 police officers, judges, and civilian administrators. That’s in addition to the 16,000 strong NATO force that will remain on the ground in the Serbian breakaway province. The announcement came just one day after Serbian voters re-elected Boris Tadic as president. Tadic supports Serbian integration into the European Union and plans to sign the EU mission agreement on Thursday. Some prominent Serbian politicians are uncomfortable with the terms. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kustunica says the EU mission is incompatible with the EU integration plan. Kustunica wants to be able to subject any EU decision on Kosovo to ratification by the Serbia parliament before it can take effect. Kosovo’s new Prime Minister Hasim Thaci has openly stated his intent to declare unilateral independence for Kosovo in the coming weeks. Recognition of an independent Kosovo by Western countries could trigger tension with Serbia and it’s geopoitical ally, Russia. For FSRN, I’m Amy Miller in Belgrade, Serbia.

Italy Without Interim Government Ahead of Snap Elections

Italians will head to the polls for early elections in April after political factions were unable to agree on an interim government today. Diletta Varlese reports.

President of the Italian Senate, Franco Marini said today that deep divisions between the left and right coalitions prevented the formation of an interim government to conclude work on reforming the country’s electoral laws. President Giorgio Napolitano put Marini in charge of negotiations to form an interim government after the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Romano Prodi collapsed late last month. Right wing coalition leader and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi led efforts to prevent the formation of an interim government. Berlusconi, who owns most of Italy’s private media, is favored to win a third term as prime minister in early elections scheduled for April. President Napolitano is expected to officially dissolve both houses of Parliament tomorrow. For FSRN, I’m Diletta Varlese in Brescia, Italy.

Accidentally Distributed Classified Documents Weaken Case Against Canadian Detainee at Guantanamo
Lawyers for Canadian citizen Omar Khadr today called on US military prosecutors to drop all charges against their client. The move comes after an unusual mix-up resulted in the distribution of top-secret documents to courtroom reporters attending Khadr’s hearing. Stefan Cristoff has more.

The US military has been holding the Canadian citizen at Guantanamo Bay since his capture in Afghanistan 5 years ago. Khadr is accused of killing a US soldier after throwing a hand grenade during a firefight. The documents accidentally leaked yesterday include an interview with a US agent who was at the scene of the battle. Sameer Zuberi is with the Canada Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR Canada: (clip) “The latest revelations is that, Omar Khadr was shot twice in the back and that would indicate that he was not a combatant possibly in this fire-fight.” The anonymous agent whose interview appears in the document also says he did not witness Khadr throw the grenade and that – contrary to previous claims – Khadr was not the only person alive at the time US forces stormed the building. For Free Speech Radio News this is Stefan Christoff.

Oregon Begins Implementation of Controversial Read ID Act

The state of Oregon began implementation of its version of the ‘Real ID Act’ yesterday, amidst protests by immigrant rights groups. Saed Bannoura has more from Portland:

Protesters are concerned about the impact the new regulations will have on immigrant communities in Oregon. Ramon Ramirez with the Immigrant Rights Coalition, helped organize the protests: (clip) “It’s a real important public safety issue. Not only for immigrants or Latinos, but for all Oregonians. People who drive in the States should have driving licenses, no matter what their legal status is. Many of these workers who are gonna be affected, they’re the backbone of the agricultural industry, food processing, reforestation and service industry in our state.” The Real ID Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, sets new national standards for state-issued ID cards. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has required all states to implement new ID standards by May 11th of this year. Nineteen state legislatures have passed legislation opposing the implementation of the Real ID Act, citing concerns for privacy and civil liberties. Similar legislation is pending in twenty other states, including Oregon. For FSRN this is Saed Bannoura reporting from KBOO in Portland, Oregon.



Campaign Spending and Iraq War Questions Continue to Hover on This Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday is well underway in 24 states. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are battling it out for the Democratic nomination and John McCain and Mitt Romney appear to be at the front on the republican side. But still, evangelical Mike Huckabee and anti-war libertarian Ron Paul both hope to pick up as many delegates as possible. The Green party also heads to the polls in 4 states to choose delegates in its first-ever primary process.

Joining us to talk about Super Tuesday and the factors in play is Free Speech Radio New Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell. She’s been closely following this process and has reported from the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

Optical Voting Machines May Leave Paper Trail, but Problems Still Rampant

On this Super Tuesday, questions about the effectiveness of voting machines are once again beginning to surface. Most voters will be casting their ballots on an optical scan voting machine – these machines generate a paper trail, but scan and record the votes electronically. Five states in today’s primaries still use touch screen machines.

Because of the paper trial, optical scanners are perceived as being the more secure option. But already today, there have been reports of voting machine failure – the most publicized instance was in Hoboken, New Jersey where the state’s Governor was forced to wait nearly an hour because the machine wasn’t working. Dozens of voters were turned away in the meantime.

Reporter Dori Smith brings us a story from another state that uses the optical scan machines – Connecticut. Voters there are currently at the polls.

Immigrants Brought in to Rebuild the Gulf Coast Tricked into Debt

Every election year, there seems to be one group of people politicians on the right like to beat up on. This year, the target group is undocumented immigrants. The good news is, the American people as a whole don’t seem to be casting votes against that population. On the Republican side, John McCain, who is rather moderate in his views, has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney, who has taken a hard-line stance against undocumented workers.

But, undeniably the issue will continue to ferment as the presidential race progresses. And immigrants in the US still face serious challenges.

Sabulal Vijayan was one of nearly 300 workers contracted by Signal International to rebuild the Gulf Coast. He wanted to better the life of his family and also help what he thought was a great country. Arriving on what is known as an H2B visa, he soon discovered he had been tricked and shackled into debt. Rachel Clark Alvarez has more from Huston.

Pork Barrel Money Found to Go Disproportionately to White Members of Congress

A new study shows that minority members of Congress get far less federal money for their home districts than their white counterparts. This money, often called “pork barrel spending,” goes to fund local projects and is a mainstay for members of the House and Senate. Leaders from the Congressional Black Caucus are pressing to make the distribution of funds more equitable. Yanmei Xie has more from Capitol Hill.

Abuses by the Indian Military in Kashmir Rankle Human Rights Advocates

The government in Indian administered Kashmir has claimed it has implemented a zero tolerance policy for human rights violations during the past year. The policy targets police and the military in the province. The claim has been mocked by Kashmiri separatists and civil rights groups who are citing instances of grave abuses by Indian troops in the region. Shahnawaz Khan has more from Kashmir.

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