April 14, 2008

  • On the Campaign Trail
  • What the US-Colombia Free Trade Deal Could Mean for Small Farmers
  • Uncertainty for Hebron Orphanage
  • Residents Oppose Utah Water Diversion
  • Army Dissenter Promoted to Staff Sergeant
  • Mumia Commentary: Symbols versus Substance

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Haitian PM Ousted Over Food Riots
The Prime Minister of Haiti has been forced to step down as a result of last week’s food riots. The skyrocketing price of staple foods sparked demonstrations and unrest throughout the Caribbean nation. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere and the overwhelming majority of its citizens live on less than $2 a day. Soaring food prices have put basic nutrition out of reach for many Haitians. President Rene Preval has announced subsidies to reduce the price consumers pay for rice as well as measures aimed at increasing production in the countryside.

American Axle Strike Continues in Detriot
The United Auto Workers union today rejected the latest offer from American Axle. Doug Cunningham spoke with workers on the American Axle picket line in Detroit.

Despite six weeks, workers standing in the cold here in Detroit outside the big American Axle plant are still in no mood to cut their wages in half and give up benefits to the profitable company. Chris Workman says this is easy for all workers – union or not – to understand. [Workman]: “This is a fight for our livelihoods here, and not only the UAW but throughout the rest of the country. Whatever happens here is gonna have a domino effect throughout the other auto parts manufacturers. It’s very important that we make a stand here and stop, stop breakin’ down the middle class, ‘cause that’s what they’re doin’. We’re not greedy people. We just wanna maintain a living, along with the rest of the world. And we want you – the rest of the world – to support us.” A striker who identified himself as “D” says American Axle is financially attacking workers. [D]: “It’s a attack against the working class. And they have to make a certain amount of money per year, so they have to come to us for it. But when we go to them for raises, it’s moiré, no, we’ll see what we can do.” American Axle is a major parts supplier to GM and other automakers. It’s demand to cut wages in half and end pensions and healthcare benefits for future retirees triggered the UAW strike, which in turn has shut down production at dozens of GM plants nationwide. Doug Cunningham, FSRN.

Infiltration of Farmworker Organizations Traced to Burger King
An investigation by the Fort Myers News-Press reveals that people with ties or possible links to Burger King have attempted to infiltrate the Student Farmworker Alliance and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Both groups campaign to pressure fast food giants to use their buying power to raise wages and put an end to modern day slavery in Florida’s tomato fields. Andalusia Knoll has more.

Members of the Student Farmworker Alliance and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have been pressuring Burger King for the past year to pay one penny more per pound for the tomatoes they purchase from Florida growers. Burger King has refused, although giants like McDonalds and Taco Bell have both agreed to the largely immigrant farmworkers’ demands after similar campaigns. According to Student Farmworker Alliance organizer Marc Rodrigues, Burger King has hired people to infiltrate their organization. (clip) “A woman by the name of Cara Shaffer called our office posing as a student and was trying to get on our conference calls, and it turns out later on that she is actually the president of a private investigation firm and intelligence firm based right outside of Miami where Burger King has its headquarters, ironically enough.” On their website this firm “Diplomatic Tactical Services” says they specialize in “handling all types of investigative activity during strikes, and organizational attempts.” Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith says he’s unaware of any efforts by his company to spy on the farmworker organizations. The Student Farmworker Alliance and Coalition of Immokalee Workers say that they will continue their work undeterred, confident that Burger King will eventually agree to pay one penny more per pound of Florida Tomatoes. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Andalusia Knoll.

(Listen to the FSRN documentary on the Immokalee workers HERE)

Zimbabwean High Court Rules Against Releasing Election Results

Zimbabwe’s High Court has rejected an argument from the country’s leading opposition party to immediately release the results of the presidential election. Official results are still unknown, more than 2 weeks after Zimbabweans cast their votes in an election that pitted an opposition leader against the long-ruling president, Robert Mugabe.

Maoists Sweep Nepal’s Elections
Maoists in Nepal appear to have a won a landslide victory in last week’s elections. Nepal’s Maoists agreed to transition from a guerrilla force to a political party just two years ago. Although the results are not yet official, preliminary tallies leave little doubt that the Maoists will hold the majority of elected seats in a constituent assembly to re-write Nepal’s Constitution. One country paying close attention to the Nepali election is neighboring India – which has been battling its own Maoist insurgency for decades.

Maoist Attack in Northern India

Maoist militants in the Indian state of Bihar launched a deadly attack on a police station last night. India’s Prime Minister recently described the Maoists as the gravest threat to internal security. Bismillah Geelani reports.

Hundreds of heavily armed guerrillas of the Communist Party of India-Maoist stormed a police station yesterday evening, killing six and seriously wounding four others. Among the dead are 4 policemen. The rebels escaped with police weapons. The police say the attackers raided the outpost at Bihar’s Jhajjar railway station and forced its staff to leave before detonating a dynamite blast. The attack has dealt a severe blow to the Government’s claims of the success of a recently launched anti-Maoist operation. Three Indian states jointly raised a special force last month to flush out the rebels from their hide outs in the region’s forests. The Maoists, better known here as the Naxellites, say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless laborers, and often attack police patrols and destroy government property. Thousands of people have been killed in the insurgency, which began in the late 1960s and stretches across 13 districts of eastern and central India. India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described the guerrillas as the country’s gravest internal threat and called for effective measures to eradicate them. For FSRN, this is Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi.



On the Campaign Trail

The Pennsylvania primary is almost here, just 8 days away. Hilary Clinton is trying to gain any leverage she can, it’s largely been jumping on Barack Obama for comments he made that people who “cling to guns or religion” are “bitter.” Meanwhile, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain said he would not leave Iraq if it meant looking for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

What the US-Colombia Free Trade Deal Could Mean for Small Farmers

Democrats in Washington recently stalled a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, asking the White House to provide more protection to US workers who would lose their jobs if the deal is signed. The Colombian government was disappointed by the decision, saying it would push back the country’s development. But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s opposition is relieved: they say that the FTA would put millions of small farmers out of business, encouraging them to grow illegal crops, like coca leaf, to make a living. Manuel Rueda visited the Cauca Valley, one of Colombia’s main centers for cocaine production.

Uncertainty for Hebron Orphanage

The Israeli military issued orders in late February for the closure and confiscation of orphanages, schools and other facilities in the West Bank city of Hebron owned by the Islamic Charitable Society, accusing the group of having ties with Hamas. The organization has filed an appeal with Israel’s high court, which demanded the military provide justification by April 6. The military asked for an extension but has yet to provide evidence, and the Israeli court has not yet ruled on the appeal. The closure orders were temporarily frozen for a week – but the Israel Army told the charity last week that they had until Sunday to evacuate. Zack Baddorf reports that as of today there has been no move to force the closure.

Residents Oppose Utah Water Diversion

Some 150 southwestern Utah residents gathered for a water symposium Saturday – calling for a referendum on a proposed water pipeline for a growing area that they say will endanger water resources and contribute to urban sprawl. Jon Pike has more.

Army Dissenter Promoted to Staff Sergeant

One of the leading voices of dissent inside the US Army has been promoted. Sergeant Ron Cantu, who signed a petition to Congress demanding the US withdraw from Iraq and gave interviews to 60 Minutes, Democracy Now!, and Free Speech Radio News detailing his opposition to the war, has seen his rank upgraded to Staff Sergeant. Some observers say Cantu’s promotion shows the military is now so stressed by the ongoing war that it’s finding it difficult to crack down on dissent within the ranks. Aaron Glantz has more.

Commentary: Symbols versus Substance

Mumia Abu-Jamal with a commentary from Death Row.

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