July 17, 2008

  • US HIV/AIDS Policy
  • Antioch Discrimination Suit
  • Iraq War Now Costing $12 Billion Per Month
  • Ashcroft Testifies on Torture Memos
  • Oil Speculation Bill

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US Diplomacy in Iran a Possibility
The Guardian of London is reporting that the Bush Administration will soon announce plans to establish a US interests section in Iran – a possible precursor to an embassy . Just yesterday, the White House announced it will send a top State Department official to participate in talks in Geneva on Saturday about Iran’s nuclear program. If the White House does indeed establish an interests section in Tehran, it will be the first US diplomatic mission in Iran since the storming of the embassy in 1979.

Maryland Police Spy on Anti-War Activists and Death Penalty Abolitionists

Maryland State Police spent hundreds of hours spying on a Baltimore peace group and anti-death penalty activists from 2005 to 2006. That’s according to documents obtained under a Maryland Public Information Act lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which filed the lawsuit, says that none of the 43 pages of summaries and computer logs makes reference to any criminal or potentially criminal activity, aside from isolated references of plans for non-violent civil disobedience. The documents reveal that, over the course of 14 months, Maryland State Police agents from the Homeland Security and Intelligence Division infiltrated and monitored the activities of the activist groups for a collective total of at least 288 hours. Maryland police then forwarded their reports onto other departments and agencies, including the National Security Agency. Agents seemed to take a particular interest in long-time pacifist Max Obuszewski, whose name was entered into a database of terrorism and drug trafficking suspects as an anti-government terrorist and anti-war protestor.

DoJ Goes After Former Nazi in Seattle Suburb
The US Department of Justice has filed a motion to revoke the citizenship of Peter Enger, an 86-year-old man living near Seattle because the government says he participated in Nazi war crimes during World War II. Mark Taylor-Canfield has the story.

According to a Justice Department complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Peter Enger, a resident of Bellevue, Washington, was a member of a Nazi SS unit working in German-occupied Serbia from April 1941 to September 1943. The government says Enger told federal officials in February 2007 that he served in an SS unit guarding prisoners who were being transferred to a concentration camp. The Department of Justice claims that the SS unit forced Serbian Jews, into a specially designed van where they were gassed with carbon monoxide. The bodies were then transported to a location outside Belgrade for mass burial. Enger’s SS unit is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 17,000 civilians. He immigrated to the United States in 1960. In the argument to revoke Enger’s citizenship, Justice department attorneys say he lied on his application for naturalization and failed to mention his involvement with the Nazi SS. If he loses his US citizenship, Enger will be subject to deportation to Serbia, where he could face charges for war crimes. This is Mark Taylor-Canfield for Free Speech Radio News.

CA Supreme Court Clears the Way For Ballot Initiative on Same-Sex Marriage
California’s Supreme Court has cleared the way for voters to determine if the state will continue to recognize same sex marriages. Proposition 8 would amend the California constitution to define marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. The justices on Wednesday unanimously refused to hear an argument from an advocacy group that sought to keep Proposition 8 off the ballot in November’s elections. The dismissal came exactly one month after the state Supreme Court ruled the ban on same sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

Argentine Senate Rejects Controversial Export Tax Hike
Argentina’s Senate has rejected a measure to raise taxes on grain exports. The tax increase proposed by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner created a 4-month long conflict with farmers which escalated to road blockades and the withholding of agricultural products from the country’s main cities. María Inés Aiuto has more from Buenos Aires.

After a marathon 18 hour debate, the Senate rejected the tax hike proposal by a one-vote margin; 37 to 36. Leaders of agricultural interests groups cheered after watching the Senate president cast the tie-breaking vote on live television. The legislation would have raised taxes on soybean and sunflower exports from 35 to 44% while lowering those for wheat and corn. Argentina is a major international producer of soya, a crop that has been fetching high returns on world markets. The rationale behind the president’s tax proposal was to create a revenue stream for the government while soy prices are high and to provide an incentive for increased production of corn and wheat, which are more costly to produce than soya. Argentina has steadily moved towards a monocultural system of soy for export, which in turn has led to deforestation, soil degradation, and the increased use of chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. President Fernández de Kirchner is expected to make a speech on the matter later this afternoon. For FSRN in Buenos Aires, María Inés Aiuto.

Uribe Admits to Use of Red Cross Insignia in Hostage Rescue Operation
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has admitted that Colombian troops used the symbol of the Red Cross during the rescue operation that freed former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages held by the FARC guerrillas. Manuel Rueda has more from Bogota.

The government had previously said that fake insignia had been used during the surprise operation two weeks ago that led to the release of 15 hostages. CNN began reporting yesterday morning that it had seen pictures and video footage, which showed a Colombian officer wearing a Red Cross bib, minutes before the hostages were loaded on to a white helicopter. Within a few hours, President Uribe went on National TV. (clip) “The officer has told his superiors that as the helicopter was landing he saw such a great number of guerrillas that he became very nervous and he began fearing for his life. So he pulled out a piece of cloth bearing the symbols of the International Committee and put it over his vest. We regret this incident.” Uribe said that the soldier was not following orders…but critics say the army must learn to respect the rules of war, even as it fights irregular forces like the FARC. They say Uribe has broken international law in previous military operations, such as a cross border raid into a guerrilla camp in Ecuador earlier this year. Manuel Rueda, FSRN, Bogota.




The Senate passed legislation last night authorizing $48 billion for HIV/AIDS programs worldwide – a program that originally started with $15 million in 2003. The renewal bill had been delayed for weeks, stymied by some Republicans who opposed an increase in funding, and objected to some provisions in the bill. While many welcome the boost in funding, some say the bill was compromised by Washington politics. Naji Mujahid has more from Washington.

Antioch Discrimination Suit

Civil rights lawyers filed a class action lawsuit in Federal Court against the city of Antioch, California. The suit alleges that Antioch, a working class suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area and its city police force have been engaging in a campaign of intimidation, harassment and discrimination against African American renters in Section 8 housing. Eric Klein has more.

Iraq War Now Costing $12 Billion Per Month

Most people have felt economic instability in one form or another, although critics say that not enough focus has been placed on the largest drains to the US economy: including the Iraq War, which is costing $12 billion a month. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke tried to calm economic fears as he testified before lawmakers in Washington yesterday – but the outlook is dismal. Erik Leaver is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies – he says that the costs incurred in the Iraq War need to be taken into account.

Ashcroft Testifies on Torture Memos

Meanwhile, Former Attorney General John Ashcroft testified before the house judiciary committee about what he knew and when concerning torture memos authorized by the Bush Administration for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Karen Miller has more.

Oil Speculation Bill

Renewable, oil, gas, conservation, speculation, high cost: Washington has its share of buzz words when it comes to energy – and they don’t always gel. In an attempt to push forward, Congress is holding forums, information sessions, and introducing legislation to address what some would call an energy crisis – but Al Gore refers to as an energy opportunity.  FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

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