March 14, 2008

  • Iraq War Vets Give Chilling Testimony at Winter Soldier Hearings
  • Secret Session Yields New Electronic Surveillance Legislation
  • At Least Two Dead after Pro-Tibet Demonstrations Turn Violent
  • Burma’s Child Soldiers
  • Chad and Sudan Re-Pledge Peace at Islamic Summit in Dakar

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Congress Passes Budget Outline
The House and Senate have each passed a 3 trillion dollar budget blueprint. The outline is a non-binding framework for federal spending. Democrats praise their efforts to increase social spending and cut taxes for the middle class while rejecting an extension of President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. Campaign politics tinged the vote as all of the top three Presidential contenders co-sponsored an amendment to prohibit earmarks. It failed overwhelmingly. Arizona Senator John McCain skipped out on voting on an amendment that would fund the construction of a barrier along the border with Mexico and deploy 6000 National Guard troops to enforce it.

Yuma, AZ Reportedly Plans to Build Moat to Deter Migrants
Authorities in the Arizona town of Yuma are reportedly planning to try a new approach to border enforcement; the construction of a moat. Both Reuters and the Guardian of London report that the proposal has won approval from environmentalists as it will carve a channel to replenish a former wetland area with water from the Colorado River. Authorities plan to use the earth from the digging of the channel to build a levee system that can support Border Patrol vehicles.

Funeral Held for Slain Iraqi Archbishop
Iraqi Chaldean Christians held funeral services today for their archbishop one day after the kidnapped cleric was found dead. Hiba Dawood has more.

Unidentified gunmen abducted Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho on the 29th of February as he left his church in Mosul just after performing Mass. Three of his bodyguards were killed in the kidnapping. Rahho’s violent abduction sparked calls for his release from other religious and ethic groups in Iraq. The archbishop’s body was found abandoned in a shallow grave outside of Mosul yesterday. Rahho’s body showed no signs of torture or murder. The cause of death has yet to be determined, but the cleric was known to have chronic health problems which may have been complicated by his captivity. The spiritual leader of the Chaldean Christians and delegations of Christians from Baghdad, Kirkuk, and other cities traveled to the Mosul area to attend today’s funeral services. Christian policemen created a security cordon around the Maar Church in the town of Karmlis to protect the ceremony from an attack. Violence against Iraq’s Christian minority has increased significantly since the US-led invasion, as Islamic extremists accuse Christians of allying themselves with Western troops. This is Hiba Dawood for FSRN.

British Teachers Object to Military Re-Write of Iraq War History
Britain’s largest teachers’ union says the government may have broken the law with the creation of a lesson plan that presents students with a one-sided view of the Iraq war. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Britain’s 1996 Education Act is supposed to ensure all political issues are treated in a balanced way in schools. But balance and fairness is absent from government-issued history lesson plans about Iraq according to the National Union of Teachers: their members are threatening to boycott what they see as military involvement in schools and a propagandistic attempt to rewrite history – not by the Education Ministry, but by the Ministry of Defense. Teachers have complained that the Student Worksheet makes no mention of any civilian casualties as a result of the war while stressing the “reconstruction” of Iraq, noting that 5,000 schools and 20 hospitals have been rebuilt. In the “Teacher Notes” section, it says the “invasion was necessary to allow the opportunity to remove Saddam Hussein.” It also fails to include the lack of United Nations backing for it.
The British Education Minister thanked the union for bringing the matter to his attention. However, the Ministry of Defense said it had consulted widely on the lesson plan. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

MyLai Massacre Anniversary This Weekend
And finally, this Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the MyLai massacre. The event will be commemorated in Vietnam by looking forward as much as back. WORT’s Norman Stockwell reports.

On March 16th 1968 at about 7:30 am, members of Charlie Company, under the leadership of Lt. William Calley entered a hamlet they called MyLai 4 in the village of Son My in central Vietnam. Within four hours they had killed 504 civillians, mostly women and children. The incident, known as the MyLai massacre changed the way people in the United States viewed the war. Today in MyLai, the memories are still strong, but at the memorial monument and museum, the goal is to look forward. Pham Thanh Cong, director of the site, and himself a survivor of the massacre explains: (clip) “The most important job of this museum is to keep the evidence of the My Lai massacre …. this museum also educates our offspring to remember the history of what happened in our village and to not let this massacre happen again and live peacefully.” Sunday’s ceremonies at the site will include a visit by Japanese hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and members of the Madison Quakers whose projects here include a peace park, a primary school, and a thriving microcredit loan program. Also attending will be many US veterans and Peace activists, and Larry Colburn, the only surviving member of the helicopter crew that tried to stop the killings on that day. Reporting for FSRN from Quang Ngai province, this is Norman Stockwell.


Iraq War Vets Give Chilling Testimony at Winter Soldier Hearings

This weekend hundreds of veterans and active duty service members from across the country are gathering in Maryland to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the war enters its sixth year, Winter Soldier, aims to make their experiences public. Kat Shiffler reports.

Secret Session Yields New Electronic Surveillance Legislation

After an unprecedented secret session of the House of Representatives, lawmakers narrowly passed a new version of electronic surveillance legislation. Most Republicans opposed the measure partly because it does not include immunity for telecommunication companies. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

At Least Two Dead after Pro-Tibet Demonstrations Turn Violent

At least two people are dead in the Tibetan city of Lhasa, where the conflict between Tibet pro-independence supporters and Chinese authorities has grown brutally violent. Peaceful protests began Monday, marking the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule. Hundreds of monks marched in various cities – and dozens of beaten and arrested. By Thursday, thousands of supporters had joined the peaceful actions – and at least 500 students from Tibet University were arrested.

The northern Indian City of Dharmsala has been the headquarters for the Tibetan government-in-exile for decades. But Thursday, Indian police arrested some 100 protestors attempting to march to the Chinese border. Friday evening, another 70 demonstrators were taken away by police for holding a candlelight vigil before the Chinese embassy in New Delhi. FSRN Producer Monica Lopez spoke with Suhash Chakma, Director of the Asian Center for Human Rights in New Delhi.

Burma’s Child Soldiers

The UN’s human rights expert on Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says that the military government’s assertion that it is committed to democracy is as believable as “gnomes, trolls and elves”. Pinheiro was granted a visit to Burma in November, but has not been allowed back since. He has asked the Human Rights Council to take action in investigating the government’s detention of nearly 2,000 political prisoners.

In January, the UN secretary general called on the Burmese military and various ethnic rebel forces to stop recruiting child soldiers. One of the groups Ban Ki Moon condemned was the Karen National Liberation Army, or KNLA. But the rebel group says they banned the presence of soldiers under the age of 18 in their armed forces. In 2004, the Burmese government created a high-level committee to stop the recruitment of underage soldiers in their ranks. Human Rights Watch’s most recent report finds there are still problems on both sides. Zack Baddorf reports.

Chad and Sudan Re-Pledge Peace at Islamic Summit in Dakar

The presidents of Chad and Sudan have signed a non-aggression agreement to end rebel attacks between the two countries. It’s the sixth deal in five years, with the aim of restoring peace and stability. From The 11th Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Dakar, Ndiaga Seck reports on the New Deal, and the summit’s other goals.

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