April 18, 2008

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Staggering Statistics on 25 Years of Suicide Bombings
Suicide bombings spiked to a record level last year, according to a report published in today’s Washington Post. The newspaper cited US government experts as documenting 658 such attacks in 2007. That’s more than double the number of any other year since the attack on the US Embassy in Beirut put suicide bombings on the front page 25 years ago. More than 86 percent of all recorded suicide bombings have occurred in the past seven years. The majority of suicide attacks have taken place in Iraq – all of them after the US-led invasion of 2003.

State Department Representative in Beirut on Anniversary of US Embassy Bombing
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs is in Beirut today to discuss Lebanon’s presidential crisis with rival political leaders. Lebanon has been without a president for nearly five months. Simba Russeau has more from Beirut.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch unexpectedly arrived in Lebanon yesterday – his second surprise visit since December – due to international concern over Lebanon’s failure to elect a president. The post has been vacant since former President Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his term last November. Welch’s visit coincides with a ceremony today to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the US embassy bombing in Beirut. The bombing on April 18, 1983 killed 52 people; 35 Lebanese and 17 Americans. In a written statement to commemorate the anniversary, US President George W. Bush blamed Iran and Syria for undermining democracy in Lebanon. Lebanese lawmakers are scheduled to make an 18th attempt to elect a presidential successor on April 22nd. For Free Speech Radio News in Beirut, this is Simba Russeau.

Study Finds Symptoms of Major Depression or PTSD in 1 of 5 Military Service Members Returning from Afghanistan and Iraq
Nearly 1 in 5 military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or severe depression, according to a new study by the RAND Corporation. Researchers found that only slightly more than half of these veterans have sought treatment, mostly out of concern that doing so could have a negative impact their careers. Of those who do seek treatment, the RAND study found only half receive care that qualifies as “minimally adequate”. The 500-page study estimates proper treament will cost the nation $6.2 billion.

Protests as Zimbabweans Mark Independence Day

Zimbabwe today marks its 28th anniversary of Independence from colonial rule… but the tone of this year’s event was less than celebratory due to economic hardships and post election deadlock. Official results are still a secret, 20 days after the election. Zimbabweans in neighboring South Africa took the the streets today, calling for a solution to the political stalemate. Davison Makanga reports.

Exiled Zimbabweans demonstrated in South Africa’s major cities demanding the official results of the March 29th presidential elections. Students at the University of Cape Town marched while chanting slogans for change in Zimbabwe. Sarah Rhynn is with the Save Zimbabwe Campaign in Cape Town: (clip) “The purpose of the demonstration today was for UCT students to unite on Independence Day and to mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe and to make our voices heard not only to South Africa but to the world at large.” South Africa is home to the majority of Zimbabwean exiles. South Africa wields the most political influence in the region and many Zimbabweans would like to see South Africs apply more pressure on President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is widely believed to have lost the recent election to his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai. For FSRN, I am Davison Makanga in Cape Town, South Africa.

Nepal’s Maoist Give King 28 Days to Vacate Palace
On the heels of their recent electoral landslide victory, Nepal’s Maoists have issued a warning to the country’s monarchy that its days in power are numbered. PC Dubey has more.

The Maoists have made no secret of their intent to abolish the 240 year old monarchy and turn Nepal into a republic. The Maoists’ number two commander today gave King Gyanendra 28 days to vacate the traditional royal palace, known as Narayanhiti, and move to his private home in Kathmandu. The Maoist leader warned the king that failure to comply with the order could lead to his forced removal from the royal residence. Political observers, however, say King Gyanendra will honor the ultimatum in order to retain a measure of popular support should the Maoists fail to deliver in the future. The Maoists have plans to convert the palace into a museum. Meanwhile, a pro-monarchy candidate was shot dead today in southern Nepal by unidentified gunmen, sending a chill through the otherwise calm post-election political climate. From Birganj in Nepal, I am PC Dubey for FSRN.

Austin Peace Activist Found Dead
A well-known peace activist has been found dead in Austin, Texas. Rachel Clarke has more on the story.

Austin police are still investigating the cause of death of Lebanese-born peace activist Riad Hamad. Hamad’s family reported him as a missing person on Monday night. His body was found floating in Austin’s Lady Bird Lake on Wednesday with hands and legs bound, his eyes covered with duct tape. Austin police do not suspect foul play and say that the bindings are consistent with Hamad having done this himself. The family confirms Hamad had a number of “extreme stressors” in his life and the missing persons unit of APD had been informed that he had been experiencing suicidal thoughts. Riad Hamad was best known as the founder of the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, or PCWF. Hamad’s dedication to providing aide and books to children in the occupied territories also drew the attention of the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hamad lived many years under confirmed government surveillance and scrutiny. The most recent incident involved an FBI raid of the Austin PCWF offices last month. Reporting from Houston, I’m Rachel Clarke, Free Speech Radio News.



Progressive Catholics Protest Outside the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Today was a big day for American Catholics. The Pope addressed the United Nations in New York City calling for a strengthening of Human Rights around the world. This morning President Bush spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which brings thousands together every year in Washington, DC. But outside the doors, progressive Catholics held a vigil in protest, saying the Catholics who organized the prayer breakfast don’t represent them.FSRN’s Tanya Snyder was there and Files this Report.

The FCC Considers BitTorrent File Sharing in the Latest Battle over Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission held a public hearing at Stanford University in California on Thursday to determine whether Internet service provider Comcast violated FCC policy by blocking BitTorrent file sharing. Torrent is the fastest most efficient way of transmitting large files over the internet. Comcast claims the transfers potentially eat up large amounts of bandwidth slowing connection speeds for its users. BitTorrent is one of the latest fronts in the battle for Net Neutrality.The FCC hearing is the second in what promises to be a series of debates fueled by public concern that Internet Providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are blocking information for financial and political gain. Comcast has recently announced a deal with the BitTorrent and denied charges that they maliciously targeted the file sharing website. Joshua Emerson Smith reports from Silicon Valley.

Paraguay Could Become the Next South American Country to Shift to the Political Left

One more country may join the Latin American march to the Left this weekend, as voters in Paraguay head to the polls on Sunday. The progressive former bishop, Fernando Lugo is leading the pack of presidential hopefuls attempting to break the Colorado party’s 60-year grip on the Paraguayan government. But in the days leading up to the election, Colorado candidate Blanca Ovelar is beginning to close the gap. As FSRN’s Mike Fox reports from Asuncion, Lugo spoke before a crowd of thousands in the capital city last night.

Assassinations in Oaxaca Highlight Mexico as Most Dangerous Country in Western Hemisphere for Journalists

The recent assassination of two community radio reporters in Oaxaca’s Triqui region has triggered widespread international condemnation. Mexico has ranked as the deadliest country for journalists in this hemisphere for years. The two young reporters were from a self-declared “autonomous municipality” in an area characterized by decades of bitter violence. Community activists and the Mexican government’s National Human Rights Commission visited the area earlier this week on a fact-finding mission. Vladimir Flores has the Latest from Oaxaca.

The Clean Water Restoration Act Makes its Way through Congress

A group of Democrats and independents in Congress are trying to expand federal protection for the nation’s streams and wetlands. They say the Clean Water Restoration Act will return much-needed power to the Environmental Protection Agency and clarify the original intent the 1972 Clean Water Act. Environmental groups like Earthjustice say this is the most important clean water legislation in 35 years. Republicans are pushing back fiercely, saying the legislation is an attempt to inflate federal bureaucracy. Yanmei Xie has the Story.

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