March 12, 2008

  • Bolivian Government Says Coca Leaf is Not an Illicit Drug
  • Big Brother’s Watching You
  • Rumors and Hopes Surround Fallon Resignation
  • Peace Deal for Uganda May Mean Immunity in International Criminal Court
  • Violence in Kenya’s Mount Elgon
  • Trouble for Sri Lankan Local Elections

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US/German Deal to Share Biometric Data
The United States and Germany have agreed to share biometric data, including fingerprints and DNA, in the latest trans-Atlantic anti-terror initiative. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

Under the new system of data exchange, each country can send DNA or fingerprints to cross-reference with the other’s database. If there’s a match or “hit”, the querying country must then make an official request for further identifying data. The agreement between the United States and Germany is based on a treaty that emerged following the 2004 train bombings in Madrid which allows the 7 EU countries that signed it to exchange data more easily. However German critics say the agreement violates domestic privacy laws, and Germany’s Independent Privacy Commissioner, Peter Schaar, says it risks violating the civil liberties of asylum seekers and activists. In Germany the data sharing agreement must still be ratified by the German Parliament, before becoming law and Germany’s Interior Minister hopes to see this happen by the end of 2008. In the meantime, the US is hoping to secure similar bilateral agreements with other EU member states. Cinnamon Nippard reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

“Eco-Terror” Indictment in Michigan
Four people have been indicted for a 1999 fire at research facility at Michigan State University attributed to the Earth Liberation Front. The building targeted in the arson housed agricultural biotechnology experiments and research. No one was harmed in the blaze, but the university estimates it caused over 1 million dollars in property damage. In the indictment, authorities linked the four to the destruction of logging equipment elsewhere in the state the following day. Radical environmental groups that engage in property destruction – like the Earth Liberation Front – are considered “domestic terrorists” by the FBI.

Rare Protests in Tibet
The Tibetan capital has been the scene of two rare pro-independence protests this week as Tibetans commemorate an uprising against China ahead of the 2008 Olympics. Severine Bardon reports from Beijing.

A second day of rare protests occurred in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa yesterday when up to 600 monks marched to the local police headquarters. The protestors were demanding the release of monks arrested on Monday after a demonstration marking the anniversary of 1959’s Tibetan uprising against China. According to a Radio Free Asia report, the monks were received by up to 2000 policemen and by tear gas. Chinese authorities acknowledged the first demonstrations and the arrests without saying how many monks have been detained. The protests have been qualified by China as “some monks doing some illegal things that challenged social stability”. The situation is increasingly tense in Tibet, with pro-independence activists worldwide using the opportunity of the upcoming Beijing Olympics to voice their demands. Even the Dalai Lama, Tibetans spiritual leader, stepped out of his usual moderation on Monday to denounce China’s “unimaginable and gross human rights abuses” in Tibet. No official reaction to this second day of unrest in Lhasa has been made public so far. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Severine Bardon in Beijing.

Tibetan Exiles in India on “Return March”
Hundreds of Tibetan exiles in India are 3 days into a pro-independence protest march back to Tibet – despite orders from Indian police to stop. Bismillah Geelani reports.

The Tibetan exiles’ “Return March to Tibet” was banned by Indian authorities hours after it began on Monday as part of a global protest to mark the 49th anniversary of the National Tibetan Uprising. The marchers were issued police notices instructing them not to leave the jurisdiction of Dharamshal town, the seat of the Tibetan Government in exile led by the Dalai Lama. The exiles defied the ban by continuing their march for the third day today. Tibetans exiles worldwide have planned a series of other campaigns ahead of the Beijing Olympics. In New Delhi today, police baton-charged and took into custody dozens of Tibetan refugee women as they tried to storm the Chinese Embassy after it opened this morning. The activists, who were holding Tibetan flags, banners and placards chanted ‘free Tibet’, ‘No Olympics in China’. The protests marked the anniversary of a 1959 uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule, which was crushed by the Chinese army, driving the Dalai Lama into exile. India is home to the majority of an estimated 1.4 million Tibetans living in exile. For FSRN, this is Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi.

New York Governor Resigns

New York Governor Elliot Spitzer resigned today over a scandal that links him to a prostitution ring. Lt. Governor David A. Patterson will now become New York’s first black governor.

Obama Wins Mississippi Primary

In other political news, Barack Obama has won Mississippi by a large margin – with the strong support of Black voters. Exit polls from the state’s primary show that African Americans made up 44 percent of all voters…90% of whom voted for Obama. Hillary Clinton did well among whites over 60. Both candidates are now focusing their campaigns on Pennsylvania.



Big Brother’s Watching You

Is your phone being tapped? Are government officials reading your credit card statements? A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans – in what is being condemned as a blatant violation of a Congressional ban on domestic surveillance. This news breaks amidst new negotiations on the foreign surveillance bill in the House. Tanya Snyder has more from Washington.

Rumors and Hopes Surround Fallon Resignation

The White House is firmly maintaining that the abrupt resignation of the top US Commander in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, was not an elimination of dissent. Admiral Fallon is a known opponent of attacking Iran, and was asked just a few days ago about an Esquire Magazine article in which he criticizes the Bush Administration. Yet as rumors fly about Fallon’s resignation – or possible termination – Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the resignation was entirely Fallon’s decision.

Peace Deal for Uganda May Mean Immunity in International Criminal Court

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni says his government will save the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels Joseph Kony and his co-accused from prosecution by the International Criminal Court if the rebels sign a comprehensive peace agreement. Uganda’s government has been holding peace talks for close to 2 years, and last month signed a series of agreements with the rebels in Sudan indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. But the rebels have refused to sign a final peace deal until the ICC drops charges against their top commanders. Joshua Kyalimpa has the story.

Violence in Kenya’s Mount Elgon

Kenya’s western region of Mount Elgon has been facing a land and air raid for the past several days from the Kenya Army, together with the Kenya Police. The army has been called in to assist in routing out armed militia that have been attacking and killing locals. It is estimated that more than 200 people have been killed there within the last year. FSRN’s John Bwakali reports from Nairobi.

Trouble for Sri Lankan Local Elections

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has ordered that country’s elections commissioner to fix an immediate date for provincial council elections in the restive east. His order comes in the wake of Monday’s successful local elections in the area in which the defectors of the Tamil Tiger rebels have won 8 out of 9 local councils with the collaboration of the ruling political party. But the United National Party, the main opposition party, gathered opposite the election office in Colombo to condemn the local poll in the east, and urged the government not to hold provincial elections there. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam has the story.

Bolivian Government Says Coca Leaf is Not an Illicit Drug

The Bolivian government is in Vienna this week, making its case to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs that coca leaf should not be classified as an illicit drug. This comes in response to a call last week by the International Narcotics Control Board for Bolivia and Peru to ‘abolish all uses of the coca leaf.’ Juliette Beck and Aldo Orellana Lopez report from Bolivia.

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