April 1, 2008

  • Big Oil on the Capital
  • Fossil Fools Day Targets Oil Industry
  • Chaos Likely as Zimbabweans Await Election Results
  • Effort to Register Madrassahs in Pakistan Meets Resistance
  • The Ray Charles of Cambodia Preserving Culture

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Al Maliki Declares Success in Basra
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki declared success today in the week-long military operation against Shiite militias in Basra. Hiba Dawood has more.

The southern Iraqi city of Basra has been relatively quiet since Monday after Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr called on his followers there to observe a ceasefire. In turn, the Iraqi security forces agreed to halt their offensive. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has also ordered security forces in Baghdad not to carry out raids or arrests without a warrant signed by a judge. This was a key demand from the Sadrist camp. Al Malki announced today that the central government will fund major reconstruction projects to provide local services to people of Basra. The Iraqi Interior Ministry estimates that 510 people died in the past week of fighting in Basra, Baghdad, and other southern cities. Sadrists say that the real death toll is much higher. The recent fighting in Shiite majority areas has largely contributed to making March the deadliest month of this year for Iraqis – doubling the death toll of February. This is Hiba Dawood for FSRN.

NATO Summit in Romania
The Western world’s top military brass and governmental figures are in Romania for a 3-day NATO summit. FSRN’s Amy Miller has more from Bucharest.

It is being billed as the largest NATO summit in history. In addition to the thousands of official delegates, military figures, and journalists covering the event, Bucharest has seen a huge influx of security personnel, numbering approximately 26,000. City residents have been encouraged to leave town, with schools and workplaces closed for the duration of the summit. Bucharest’s Police Chief publicly warned that protests against the summit would not be tolerated. All protest permits have been denied, making anti-NATO demonstrations illegal. Activists attempting to enter Romania from other European Union countries say they have been denied entry with no cause given. Meanwhile, local media ‘Realitatea’ is reporting that activists are coming to destroy Bucharest and encouraging residents to meet them with force or alert police to anyone who may appear to fit the description. NATO maintains a military force in Afghanistan, a police force in Kosovo, and a training mission for security forces in Iraq. Bucharest was chosen as the location due to Romanias ongoing troop deployment to Afghanistan and police security training missions in Iraq and Kosovo. Amy Miller, FSRN, Bucharest.

At Least 40 Burmese Protestors Sentenced to Prison: Amnesty International
Amnesty International says that at least 40 people in Burma have been formally sentenced to prison for their participation in the monk-led uprising against the military junta six months ago. Ronald Aung Naing has more.

Human rights organization, Amnesty International says it knows of at least 40 closed-door trials that have resulted in prison sentences for people accused of participating in last year’s pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist monks. Of those 40 sentenced, 7 are monks and 3 are people who offered water to the monks on the streets during demonstrations. Amnesty International estimates that at least 700 people arrested after last September’s protests remain behind bars. Aung Myo Min, director of the exiled Human Rights Education Institute of Burma says the military junta is specifically targeting people who defend the rights of others. (clip) “People have been living in fear. People who involved in the uprising, many people got arrested and their family got arrested. Now, situation is getting worse because the people who are defending the rights of the people had been brutally attacked in the day light because they are promoting the human rights in Burma.” Late last week, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling on the Burmese junta to release all political prisoners in custody and to take urgent action to improve the human rights situation. For FSRN, I’m Ronald Aung Naing on the Thai-Burma border.

Accused Zapatistas and Others Released from Prison in Chiapas
The top judicial official of Mexico’s southern Chiapas state has announced the release of 137 political prisoners, 43 of whom have been on a hunger strike since February 25th. Tim Russo reports from Chiapas, Mexico.

The announcement of the release of 137 prisoners from 11 of the 14 state prisons comes amid demonstrations, international pressure and an ever complicated medical situation for 43 indigenous political prisoners on a 36 day hunger strike. Most of the prisoners were pre-trial detainees, never convicted of a crime. Charges ranged from theft, to homicide, to “attacks on the peace and tranquility of the State”, but the accused are widely regarded as prisoners of conscience as most are identified with the Zapatista rebels or other campesino organizations and the charges lack evidence to back them up. Chiapas state Minister for Justice, Amador Lozano said yesterday afternoon the release marks the end of reconciliation negotiations. However, the suspension of the reconciliation table was viewed as a blow to liberating 15 accused who are still on hunger strike and at least nine other Zapatistas incarcerated in the neighboring state of Tabasco. Supporters in Mexico City called for a demonstration today demanding the release of the remaining prisoners. For Free Speech Radio News this is Tim Russo in Chiapas, Mexico.

Report on National Drop Out Rates

A new report shows that suburban and rural high school students are much more likely to graduate than their urban peers. Kellia Ramares has more:

Seventeen of the nation’s 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, according to a report issued by America’s Promise Alliance. The report estimated the likelihood that a 9th grader would complete high school on time with a regular diploma. According to this calculation, New York City ranked 43rd out of 50. The bottom three were Cleveland, Indianapolis and Detroit, the last of which had a graduation rate of just under 25%. Researchers also found a big gap between urban schools and suburban schools in the same metropolitan area. For example, just over 34 and a half percent of Baltimore’s public school students graduate, compared with 81 and a half percent in Baltimore suburbs. But some school officials think that the report underestimates graduation rates. Ohio, for example, includes summer graduates in its calculations, making its totals nearly twenty percentage points higher than those in the report. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has called for incorporating a uniform way of reporting graduation statistics into the renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act. For FSRN, I’m Kellia Ramares.



Big Oil on the Capital

Executives from the top five Western oil companies defended their record profits to Congress – as they encouraged more access to oil on US territory. But Congress members on both sides of the aisle criticized the men for the current high prices at the pump. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Fossil Fools Day Targets Oil Industry

Declaring it “Fossil Fools Day”, the international Rising Tide network is targeting corporations they say are accountable for massive carbon dioxide emissions today. The group wants to re-focus the debate away from individual actions like turning off light bulbs, to ending the extraction of fossil fuels. Eight people were arrested in North Carolina, after four of them locked themselves to bulldozers at a Duke Energy construction site, about 50 miles west of Charlotte. FSRN Anchor Aura Bogado spoke with Abigail Singer, who works with Rising Tide in the US.

Chaos Likely as Zimbabweans Await Election Results

Zimbabweans remain unsure of the future of their crisis-ridden country, just days after a presidential that threatens to drive Robert Mugabe from power. Analysts are predicting mayhem if either the ruling party Zanu PF or the opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) is declared winner. Davison Makanga reports.

Effort to Register Madrasahs in Pakistan Meets Resistance

A Pakistani government effort to register religious schools has hit strong opposition. As FSRN’s Rahman Ullah reports, clerics and religious students consider registration an interference of the schools’ internal affairs.

The Ray Charles of Cambodia Preserving Culture

Kong Nay is known as the Ray Charles of Cambodia. He wears the same dark sunglasses and is also an incredibly talented musician. But that’s where the similarity ends. This 61-year-old is a master of the Chapei, a long necked guitar with two strings. It’s an ancient instrument that is thought to have arrived in Cambodia two thousand years ago. But due to decades of war, traditional music is under threat. More than 90 percent of Cambodia’s musicians died during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime; with them died their skills and knowledge. Now, Kong Nay is part of a movement to save Cambodia’s ancient arts. Rebecca Henschke met him in his home in the centre of Phnom Penh.

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