April 23, 2008

  • Clinton’s Tough Stance on Iran
  • National Security Letters Under Scrutiny
  • Ecuador’s New Mining Decree Keeps Industry and Activists Weighing In
  • FBI’s Mueller Questioned at House Judiciary Committee
  • Ward Connerly’s Colorado Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative Called Dubious

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At least 80 killed in Tamil Tiger Territory

Sri Lankan military officials say at least 80 were killed this morning as troops made a fresh bid to break into the Tamil Tiger territory. Ponniah Manikavasagam has the story.

According to a military spokesman, the Army suffered its heaviest casualties in a single day since the Government pulled out of a ceasefire with the rebels in January. The rebels are known as LTTE – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam. Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara:

(sound clip)“Due to the confrontations, 52 LTTE cadres were reported killed, 38 soldiers also reported killed and 84 injured.”

A rebel spokesman, denying the claim of the military, said over 100 soldiers and 16 rebels were killed in the confrontations. The Tamil Tigers are fighting for a separate state for the minority ethnic Tamils. Both sides offer wildly fluctuating casualty figures, that cannot be independently verified as the government has barred journalists from entering frontline areas. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Ponniah Manikavasagam, in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

EPA Scientists Under Political Pressure

A survey of scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency shows that hundreds are complaining about political interference and pressure from superiors who want to skew their findings. The survey by the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists said more than half of roughly 1,600 EPA staff scientists who responded reported they had experienced incidents of political interference in their work.

Blackout in Gaza Averted

Gazan’s narrowly missed a blackout today –Rami al-Meghari has more.

After a five day embargo, Israel resumed shipments of fuel this morning. Gaza’s crossings remain completely sealed off. According to energy officials, the fuel shipment averted a total blackout in Gaza, as the power plant was set to shut down this evening for lack of fuel. The power plant provides the Gaza Strip’s residents with about 45 percent of their electricity, while Israeli power companies supply the remaining amounts. Derrar Abu Sisi is the operations director of Gaza power plant (In Arabic): “the plant consumes about 550 cubic meters of diesel on daily basis, producing an amount of 65 megawatt everyday.” The fuel shortage crisis in Gaza has been crippling over the past two weeks, after Israel closed the Nahal Auz fuel terminal in eastern Gaza, following a Palestinian cross-border attack. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Rami aL-Meghari in Gaza

Petraeus to Head Centcom

President Bush will nominate the Iraq war commander, Army General David Petraeus, to head Central Command. The command is responsible for U.S. military operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If confirmed by the Senate, Petraeus would replace Admiral William Fallon, who resigned abruptly in March after a magazine reported that he was at odds with President Bush over Iran policy.

Iran Widens Nuclear Talks

Iran’s President now says he will discuss the nuclear issue with any country – but those who want Iran to forfeit its rights to nuclear energy will be “slapped on the mouth.” Saideh Jamshidi has more.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that Iran is ready to negotiate its nuclear program with any country, but will not yield its right to produce nuclear energy. The President previously agreed to talk only with the UNs nuclear watchdog group. The International Atomic Energy Agency — or IAEA’s — Chief Inspector Olli Heinonen met with Iranian officials this week to discuss detailed and specific allegations against Iran’s nuclear dispute. The next IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program is due for publication next month For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Saideh Jamshidi.

Chileans Protest Emergency Contraceptive Ban

Thousands took to the streets in Chile yesterday to protest a ban on emergency contraception in the public health care system. Jorge Garreton reports from Santiago.

Yesterday, women’s and pro choice groups organized demonstrations to condemn the banning of emergency contraceptives in the public health care system. Some 15 thousand women and supporters marched on Santiago streets in a colorful peaceful demonstration. Other cities in the country also had major demonstrations in opposition to the ban. The ban comes after the Constitutional Court ruled the emergency contraceptive is an abortion causing pill and contravenes the Constitution that enshrines life at the point of conception. Yesterday public heath clinics closed their doors also in opposition to the decision. The Government accepted the ruling, but municipal governments have begun discussions about selling the pill in their heath clinics for 1 peso or no value in dollars. Doctors say they will continue to prescribe the pill, as will licensed midwives. The emergency contraceptive cost about US$15 in pharmacies, a price prohibitive to lower income women whose families earn close to the minimum wage of US$300 per month. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.



Clinton’s Tough Stance on Iran

The Democratic presidential primary continues: with another win for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, the contest has now moved on to Indiana and North Carolina, while more pressure is being piled on the super delegates to choose their candidate. Meanwhile, Clinton has shifted her stance on Iran, taking a much more aggressive approach. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports from the campaign trail.

National Security Letters Under Scrutiny

The government keeps coming up with new ways to get the information it wants – even about US citizens, even about people who haven’t necessarily done anything wrong. A Senate committee discussed a recent report about abuse of National Security Letters, one way the FBI collects information without any court approval. FSRN’s Tanya Snyder has the story.

Ecuador’s New Mining Decree Keeps Industry and Activists Weighing In

Ecuador’s National Constituent Assembly approved a new mining decree last week, which purports to suspend all large scale mining exploration until the executive government rewrites the country’s mining law. It’s been estimated that the decision could result in the cancellation of up to 80% of existing mineral concessions without compensation. In response, the executive government of President Rafael Correa is both trying to comfort companies with a pro-mining stance, while assuring the Ecuadorian public with promises of greater state participation – but the industry and activists are on their toes. The mining industry promises to launch a new campaign for responsible mining, while anti-mining activists are keeping the pressure on to implement the decree and lobby to have Ecuador declared free of large scale mining. FSRN’s Jen Moore has more from Cuenca.

FBI’s Mueller Questioned at House Judiciary Committee

FBI Director Robert Mueller sat before the House Judiciary Committee today, where he touted a plan to demand internet service providers keep user’s records for two years, to be available for review at a later time by law enforcement. As FSRN’s Naji Mujahid reports from the Capitol, Mueller also responded to various inquiries from more than two dozen Representatives.

Ward Connerly’s Colorado Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative Called Dubious

Strong animosity is brewing over upcoming November elections in Colorado, because of a controversial anti-affirmative action initiative making its way on to the ballot. If adopted, the amendment would end all affirmative action programs, including equal opportunity measures in higher education and public employment. Similar anti-affirmative action initiatives have also been introduced in Nebraska, Missouri, Arizona, and Oklahoma. Founder of the American Civil Rights Coalition, Ward Connerly, is spearheading this national effort to end affirmative action. The California millionaire has had success in the past with similar measures in California, Washington, and Michigan. However, Connerly has come under sharp criticism by voters and pro-affirmative action groups who question the ethical nature behind the petition process. Dozens of Colorado voters who signed a petition supporting the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Amendment 46, claim petitioners lied to them in order to convince them to support the measure. Blake Wesley is in Denver and files this report.

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