March 6, 2008

  • Negroponte Grilled on Emergency Appropriation Request
  • OAS Condemns Colombia’s Incursion into Ecuador
  • Plan to Import 20,000 Tons of Nuclear Waste into the US Criticized
  • Kenya’s Power Sharing Tested in Parliament
  • Less Than 5 Percent of Government Contracts Go To Women

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Small Explosion at Military Recruiting Center in Times Square
New York CIty Police are investigating a small explosion that targeted a military recruiting station early this morning in Times Square. Kat Aaron has more from New York.

The 3:45 am blast shattered the windows at the famous station which houses recruiting offices for the Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy. No one was injured in the bombing. According to police, the explosion came from a (quote) “low order explosive”. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that police are seeking information about a cyclist seen near the recruiting station just before the bombing. Kelly said a witness saw a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a backback riding a bike on the island where the station sits in Times Square. According to reports, police are exploring a connection to two small bombings at the Mexican Consulate in 2007 and British Consulate in 2005, both here in New York. A similarly attired cyclist was reportedly seen near the Mexican Consulate after that incident. Traffic and trains through Times Square were shut down for several hours this morning, but business is back to normal here at one of the city’s busiest intersections. I’m Kat Aaron in New York.

UK Introduces Controversial Biometric ID Cards
The British government announced the introduction of controversial biometric id cards today; but their plans represent a rethink. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

The government originally planned the 10 billion dollar id card scheme to be compulsory for everyone. But the government now says ID cards will become compulsory for non-European nationals this year and for airport baggage handlers next year; after that the ‘opportunity’ to apply for and purchase an id card will be ‘offered’ to young people. The wider population may not be forced to have an ID card at all and could instead opt to use biometric passports. Home Secretary Jackie Smith: (clip) “What’s important is that we lock somebody’s identity to them through the use of biometric fingerprint information and put them on the register and then issue a card to represent that, it’s not the carrying of the card that is compulsory. From 2011 when you apply for a passport you will be registered on the national identity register and we will roll out much more quickly for people who want at that point to apply for an id card.” Campaigners believe this new government approach may still lead to compulsion. But for now it’ll be non-Europeans who will bear the brunt of this scheme. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

House Passes Mental Health Parity Bill

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to improve insurance coverage for mental health issues and treatment for addictions. Tanya Snyder has more from Washington.

The Mental Health Parity Bill passed the House with an 80-vote margin, offering some protections to people with mental health problems and addictions from what they call health care discrimination from insurance providers. The House bill does not require insurers to cover mental health, but it guarantees that those that do would no longer be able to limit treatment options or charge higher deductibles and co-pays than they would for physical health ailments. Pat Taylor, Executive Director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, says that insurers often cut off treatment before it has a chance to work. (clip) “We’re very excited about this bill because it would allow people to get the help they need and continue to get the help they need until they are able to enjoy long-term recovery from addiction.” Though stronger than the Senate bill, the House version includes some compromises to address concerns from the business community that mental health parity will cost employers too much money. Advocates say failure to treat mental health and addiction costs the country far more: an estimated 1/3 of a trillion dollars a year in lost productivity, new prisons, and accidents. For FSRN, I’m Tanya Snyder in DC.

Protests Against CAFTA in El Salvador
Five thousand people marched in the streets of San Salvador today in opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Meredith DeFrancesco has more.

Small farmers, union members, teachers and other organizations came out in force this morning to protest what they call the negative effects of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Today’s march marks the two year anniversary since El Salvador became the first Central American country to implement CAFTA. Since then, small and mid-sized farmers say they are being crushed from subsidized agricultural imports dumped from the US onto the domestic market. Organized street vendors also came out to today’s protest – as intellectual property stipulations within CAFTA have fueled the Salvadoran government’s crackdown on street vendors selling pirated CDs and DVDs, a significant portion of the growing informal economy. These vendors were also the first to have El Salvador’s new anti-terrorism law applied to them, though charges were later changed. The same anti-terror law was also applied to 13 Salvadorans for their opposition to attempts to privatize water. Among the criticisms voiced by CAFTA opponents is precisely the new ease with which public services and utilities can be privatized under CAFTA. For FSRN, this is Meredith DeFrancesco in El Salvador.

Puerto Rican Teachers Suspend Strike

And in a follow up to a story covered last week, public school teachers in Puerto Rico have voted to suspend their strike. The teachers began their walkout late last month to demand better conditions at the schools, more materials like text books and computers, and continued say in the direction of the curriculum. The Department of Education – which controls the territory’s public school system – has promised to return to the negotiating table in exchange for the strike’s suspension.



Negroponte Grilled on Emergency Appropriation Request

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte testified before the State and Foreign Operation Subcommittee, to ask for the balance of a 7 billion dollar emergency appropriation request the Bush administration made last year. The money would go to Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Mexico and the Palestinian Authority – with the majority of the funds going to Iraq. At today’s hearing, members grilled Negroponte on the plans for the money. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more

OAS Condemns Colombia’s Incursion into Ecuador

The Organization of American States is condemning Colombia for launching a raid on Ecuador that resulted in the killing of FARC’s number two leader Raúl Reyes. The operation has triggered a major diplomatic crisis in South America. FSRN’s Jorge Garretón reports from Santiago, Chile.

Plan to Import 20,000 Tons of Nuclear Waste into the US Criticized

Utah-based EnergySolutions is trying to get permission to ship twenty thousand tons of radioactive waste from Italy into the US. The plan has stirred up public outrage and concern on Capitol Hill – and the agency charged with licensing the company has extended the public comment period due to overwhelming requests. Yanmei Xie has the story.

Kenya’s Power Sharing Tested in Parliament

After former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan managed to broker a peace deal in Kenya between President Kibaki and Prime Minister designate Raila Odinga, the focus turned on Kenya’s parliament to ensure that the peace accord was translated into relevant constitutional amendments. Today’s official opening of Kenya’s 10th parliament has ushered in the next phase of the search for peace in Kenya. FSRN’s John Bwakali reports from Nairobi.

Less Than 5 Percent of Government Contracts Go To Women

The number of female owned small businesses has grown substantially in the past two decades, but it is still hard for those women to get federal contracts. Currently, more than 95 percent of all government contracts go to male owned businesses. FSRN Correspondent Matt Laslo reports from Washington on the fight female small business owners are having with the US government.

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