April 2, 2008

  • Bush Administration Lags on Protecting Endangered Species
  • Argentine Farmers Halt Strike
  • Advocates Respond to ICE Sweeps
  • US and Iran: The Next Cold War

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Zimbabwean Opposition Claims Victory
Zimbabwe’s leading opposition party has declared victory in Sunday’s elections. Official results are not yet in regarding the presidency, but what is clear is that President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has lost its long-standing parliamentary majority. Presidential candidates need to win at least 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off. Robert Mugabe has held uninterrupted power in Zimbabwe since 1980. The country is currently experiencing a deep economic crisis with high unemployment and the world’s worst inflation rate.

Bucharest Convergence Center Raided as NATO Summit Begins

On the opening day of the largest NATO summit in history, activists gathered in Bucharest, Romania were swept up in a mass arrest. Amy Miller reports from the NATO summit.

This afternoon hundreds of police descended on the convergence center that local activists had rented to house demonstrators from abroad and serve as a meeting space for organizations protesting the NATO summit. A team of 80 special forces agents in ski masks, armed with automatic rifles, stormed into the convergence center where people were cooking and talking. Albert – who didn’t give his last name – is one of the 60 activists arrested in today’s raid. He spoke to FSRN via telephone from the police station: (clip) “The space was taken by the police. Everybody who was inside was taken by the police. They beat everybody inside, and everybody got arrested.” One activist has been hospitalized due to injuries inflicted by the police during the raid. A police spokesperson told reporters that nothing illegal had been found within the center, but that the raid was in the context of the police department’s duty to ensure security for the summit. The city of Bucharest has denied all protest permits for the duration of the 3-day NATO meeting, thereby making street demonstrations against the military alliance, illegal in the city. For FSRN, this is Amy Miller in Bucharest.

Germany Mulls Ban on Far-Right Party
As the leader of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party or NPD, faces charges for inciting racism ahead of the 2006 World Cup, Germany is once again debating whether the NPD should be banned. Cinnamon Nippard has more from Berlin.

With hate-crime on the rise in Germany, many argue that it’s time the government ban the NPD. All 16 federal states were required to provide information on the NPD’s activities by March 31st, but 8 conservative states refused. Many have criticised this refusal, including the President of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch. The German constitution enshrines the right to freedom of speech, but many Germans are uneasy with the existence of a political party that is openly xenophobic. But some argue that banning the NPD could actually strengthen the party and by pushing it underground, where it would be more difficult for the authorities to monitor their activities. In 2003, an attempt to ban the NPD failed because the government’s case was largely based on evidence from NPD members who were informants for German intelligence. While the NPD has no seats in national parliament, since 2004 they have won 18 seats in state elections in Saxony and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in Eastern Germany. In it’s 2006 report, Germany’s national intelligence agency stated that the NPD “denigrates the democratic and legal order of the constitution.” Like all German political parties, the NPD receives funding from the government. The application to ban the NPD will be assessed at the Interior Minister’s conference in mid-April. Cinnamon Nippard, reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.

Another Torture Memo Declassified
The Pentagon has declassified a memo from the Bush Administration that authorized military interrogators to ignore interrogation standards. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

The 81-page declassified document was written in 2003 by then-Justice Department official John Yoo. The memo gave the military the green light to conduct harsh interrogations, including the use of methods classified as torture, despite international and US law prohibiting such treatment. The justification given is that Presidential powers during war time trump even the constitution when dealing with foreign “enemy combatants”. Judiciary Committee member, Representative Jerold Nadler of New York first heard the details of this memo from the press. (clip) “That’s saying the President is a dictator during a time of war.” Although its known that the Bush Administration issued a directive to permit harsh interrogations of military detainees, the details were classified until now. Amrit Singh, Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued for the memo’s release. (clip) “It shows policy coming from the highest echelons of government directing the defense department to use torture.” The ACLU has also sought the release of a Justice Department memo from 2002 that permits the CIA to use water boarding during interrogations. For FSRN, I’m Leigh Ann Caldwell.

Vietnamese Factory Strike Hits Nike
Workers at a massive Nike factory in Vietnam have ended their two day strike against the company that produces merchandise for the sneaker giant. Twenty-one thousand plant workers walked off the job earlier this week demanding a raise to keep up with inflation. The union that represents the workers declared an end to the strike after negotiating a $6 a month raise. Not all workers are happy with the $6 increase. The plant remained closed today after a police were called in to put down a melee that broke out between workers and plant security at the start of this morning’s shift. A union official told the Associated Press that the factory will likely remain closed through the end of the week. The Taiwanese-owned Ching Luh plant produces approximately 12 percent of all Nike merchandise.

Bush Administration Lags on Protecting Endangered Species

Endangered species classification is the latest point of contention between the Bush Administration and environmentalists, who charge that the Administration has created obstacles against protecting species. At a Senate hearing today, Democrats argued that polar bears are bearing the brunt of that policy. Tanya Snyder has more.

Argentine Farmers Halt Strike

Argentines are breathing sighs of relief as a 20-day farmers strike comes to a close. Mario Sandia, President of the Rural Confederation of Argentina, made the announcement at a farmer’s assembly in Gualeguaychú, the nation’s cattle capital. Growers and agricultural workers have participated in a nationwide strike for nearly three weeks over an export tax hike on soy and other grains. Marie Trigona has the latest from Buenos Aires.

Advocates Respond to ICE Sweeps

A recent series of ICE operations in the LA area, including one in Torrance yesterday, elicited a swift response from the immigrant rights movement. Dozens of family members, activists, supporters and lawyers held an emergency press conference in front of the detention center where the up to 25 suspected undocumented immigrants were detained. FSRN contributor Dan Fritz has more.

US and Iran: The Next Cold War?

The alleged trooping of US forces and warships in the Gulf near Iranian borders is sending different messages. From Amman, Oula Farawati analyzes the scenarios of a cold war between Iran and the US.

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