April 17, 2008

  • US Lawmakers Want Iraqis to Pay for Reconstruction
  • Final Democratic Debate Before Pennsylvania Primary
  • Exiled Tibetans Hold their Own Olympic Torch Relay in India
  • South Korean President to Push for Free Trade Deal
  • Haiti’s Food Crisis
  • Palestinian Prisoners’ Day
  • Immigration Raids May Protect the Bottom Line

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Raila Odinga Sworn in as Kenyan Prime Minister
Kenyan opposition leader and former presidential candidate Raila Odinga was sworn in today as prime minister. The position came out of a power-sharing agreement to end weeks of deadly unrest that flared in Kenya in the wake of a bitterly contested election. Many of Odinga’s supporters accuse the ruling party of rigging the elections to keep President Mwai Kibaki in power. The peace deal has created the largest and most expensive cabinet in Kenyan history.

Oil Hits $115 a Barrel as Dollar Plummets

Oil prices have hit another record high at $115 a barrel. The price of unleaded gas now averages $3.40 a gallon nationwide, while diesel has risen to nearly $4.15 a gallon. Gas has already reach $4/gallon in some parts of California and many predict $4 will be the national average price at the pump by summer. Meanwhile, the dollar overnight fell to a record low against the euro.

Climate Talks Open in Paris
Climate talks between nations accounting for 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions kicked off in Paris today…and President Bush’s remarks are drawing heavy fire from delegates there. Brian Edwards-Tiekert has more:

President Bush’s speech laid out a number of vague principles, but set only one concrete goal: (clip) “Today, I’m announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.” That’s not exactly ambitious—it would allow US emissions to keep increasing for the next 17 years. [By contrast, projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change indicate that, to avert the most catastrophic effects of global warming, rich nations like the U.S. will have to cut emissions at least 25 percent below what they were in 1990—and they’ll have to do it within 12 years.] Critics in the U.S. attacked Bush’s climate speech as an attempt to pre-empt congressional efforts to pass greenhouse gas regulations. . . and international efforts to create a post-Kyoto climate change plan. At the talks beginning in Paris today, Bush’s remarks drew fire from several European representatives, who called it “disappointing,” and “a bit late.” The South African environment minister said –quote—”we are looking forward to whoever succeeds the present administration.” Brian Edwards-Tiekert, from KPFA in Berkeley.

NY City Council Urges Congress to Pass Measure to Ease Ability to Unionize
The New York City Council approved a resolution Wednesday urging Congress to pass a measure that would make it easier for workers to form unions by requiring them to sign union cards to gain recognition, rather than going through a National Labor Relations Board election. Ari Paul has more from New York.

The Employee Free Choice Act would amend existing federal labor law to ease requirements to join unions and enact stricter penalties for employers who break labor laws during union drives. The New York City Council passed a resolution urging Congressional approval for the bill after hearing testimony from local workers about harassment and intimidation they faced on the job when they chose to organize. Ed Ott is the Executive Director of the New York Central Labor Council. (clip) “In poll after poll, over 60 percent of workers express a desire to be professionally represented by a union. They never ask the second question: Are you willing to lose your job in order to do it? It’s common knowledge that employers fire workers who attempt to create unions.” The EFCA currently has bipartisan support, but not enough to override a presidential veto, something Bush has already threatened. In New York, this is Ari Paul, for FSRN.

Mistrial in “Liberty City 7” Terror Case in Miami

A federal judge in Miami has declared a mistrial in the case of 6 men accused of plotting terrorist attacks on US targets. The case is known as the “Liberty City 7”, although one of the seven was acquitted late last year. Federal prosecutors said the men were planning to blow up the Sears Tower. The government’s case was based entirely on evidence gathered by an FBI informant posing as an al-Qaeda operative. The ringleader of the group says he was just going along with the informant in order to receive the $50,000 that had been promised to finance the attacks.

Terrorism Case Dropped Against Salvadoran Anti-Privatization Activists
The government of El Salvador has lost its case against 13 community activists and organizers it had charged with “terrorism” for their opposition to measures to privatize the public water utility. Meredith DeFrancesco has more from San Salvador.

All charges have been dropped against 13 Salvadoran activists who were swept up in a violent arrest operation last July ahead of an anti-privatization forum. Those arrested were charged under El Salvador’s Decree 108; the “Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism”, which has been criticized for it’s ambiguous definition of what constitutes an act of terrorism. The law has only been applied in two cases thus far: that of the Suchitoto 13 and the other against street vendors accused of violating intellectual property rights. Terrorism charges stood against the Suchitoto 13 for seven months before the special tribunal hearing the case reduced them to public disorder. The penalties for public disorder dramatically increased last year. Therefore, any convictions in this case would set a precedent. But the courts dismissed the Suchitoto case altogether in February. The government immediately appealed. The courts rejected the appeal yesterday, effectively releasing all 13 accused. The case has raised formal challenges against Decree 108, although the law still remains on the books. For FSRN, this is Meredith DeFrancesco in San Salvador.



US Lawmakers Want Iraqis to Pay for Reconstruction

As the occupation of Iraq enters its sixth year, the Bush Administration says US reconstruction of schools, roads and hospitals in the country are underway. But now US lawmakers are saying it’s the Iraqis that need to foot the bill to rebuild the country. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

Final Democratic Debate Before Pennsylvania Primary

An un-insightful Democratic debate in Philadelphia last night left voters no more informed about the foreign and domestic policy views of either candidate. Much of the debate put Barack Obama on the defensive over recent flaps about bitter small town voters clinging to guns and religion, his impassioned pastor Reverend Wright, the absence of the American flag on his lapel, and his association in Chicago with a former member of the Weather Underground.

Exiled Tibetans Hold their Own Olympic Torch Relay in India

The Olympic Torch completed its Indian relay in New Delhi today. Indian authorities made massive security arrangements to ensure its smooth run in the country’s capital. Meanwhile, thousands of Tibetan exiles organized a parallel torch relay to demand end to the violence in Tibet and negotiations on the issue of Tibetan independence. India is home to the largest number of Tibetan exiles and their government in exile. The community has been protesting for more than a month now against China’s crack down on Tibetan protesters. Bismillah Geelani has the details

South Korean President to Push for Free Trade Deal

South Korean president Lee Myung Bak is on his first official visit to the US this week. Before he meets with President Bush on Saturday at Camp David, he’ll try to persuade skeptical members of Congress to ratify a pending bilateral free trade agreement. Even though the deal was brokered a year ago, lawmakers in both nations must still sign off on it before it can go into affect. FSRN’s Jason Strother has the story from Seoul.

Haiti’s Food Crisis

Food prices around the world have nearly doubled in the last three years. Haiti is particularly susceptible to rising food prices because it imports most of the food it consumes. Nick Whalen reports from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that before any peace deal is reached with Israel, all Palestinian prisoners must be released. Abbas used the occasion of Palestinian Prisoner’s Day to make the remarks in a televised address. People across the West Bank commemorated the day – citing that Israel holds as many as 11,000 Palestinian detainees. FSRN’s Ghassan Bannoura reports.

Immigration Raids May Protect the Bottom Line

Immigration and Customs officers detained more than 350 people in immigration raids across the nation yesterday,which took place in chicken processing plants, a doughnut factory, and several Mexican restaurants. Maria Jimenez is special projects coordinator for the Central American Resource Center in Houston. She says the raids negatively impact families and entire communities.

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