July 21, 2008

  • Zimbabwe: Rival Factions Sign Off On Plan for Talks
  • Pakistan: Taliban Targeting Girls’ Schools
  • Beating Death in Pennsylvania Exposes Racial Tensions
  • Lessons from Maryland: Domestic Surveillance Expanded after 9/11
  • The Outsiders Road Within

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Detainee Trials Begin at Guantanamo Bay

Today Osama bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Hamdan, pleaded not guilty to supporting terrorism marking the beginning of detainee trials at Guantanamo Bay. FSRN Correspondent Matt Laslo reports.

Hamdan has been held since 2002. The government claims he received military training in an Al Qaeda camp and that he smuggled weapons for the organization. Hamdan’s lawyers say he was tortured by US officials. Last month the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush Administration’s initial plan to try detainees was unconstitutional, saying detainees have a right to representation. Many questions remain regarding how the US should try alleged enemy combatants. Just today Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Congress needs to define the rules for civilian trials at Guantanamo Bay, but that didn’t stop Hamdan’s trial from proceeding. At least five US military officials will decide the case. If he is found guilty he could face a life sentence. Only twenty detainees held at Guatanamo have been charged with crimes, though two hundred and sixty people are held there. Only 60 to 80 of those held are expected to have trials. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Matt Laslo in Washington.

UK Says US Defines Torture Differently

A report by British government MPs calls for a thorough review of US interrogation techniques. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee said that the UK has a “legal and moral obligation” to ensure that no rendition flights land on British territory. Citing differing definitions of the word torture, the MPS said that Britain should not accept assurances from the US that they do not employ torture. The committee used as an example the practice of water-boarding – which they clearly call torture but which the US defines as a legal technique and which President Bush has refused to ban. The report concluded that assurances were unreliable from an administration that “purports to uphold the civil and political standards of behavior, while in fact kidnapping people and taking them to places where they may be mistreated.” The report could effect extradition from the UK to the United States.

Pope’s Apology for Clergy Sexual Abuse

At weekend mass in Australia, Pope Benedict XVI said he was deeply sorry for sexual abuse committed by clergy. Critics say the apology was too little too late. They called on the Pope to commit church resources to provide support for victims and demand that the pontiff instruct Bishops in Australia to stop blocking access to the courts. They also said the apology should have been made directly to victims. Today, the Pope met with four victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

Appeals Court Overturns FCC

A U.S. appeals court today overturned the FCC’s decision to fine CBS $550,000 for airing a momentary image of Janet Jackson’s breast during the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said the FCC “arbitrarily and capriciously departed from its prior policy” that exempted fleeting violations. There was no immediate comment on the ruling by the FCC.

Nepal’s First President

IN Nepal the Constituent Assembly elected its first President today after officially ending 240 years of monarchy last May. PC Dubey reports.

The new president is Rambaran Yadav, a physician turned politician, who belongs to the Nepali Congress. Yadav defeated the Maoist candidate with 52 percent of the vote. His victory reflects an alliance between the Nepali Congress, the mainstream Communist Party and the Madhesi Jantantrik Party. In return for their support, the Nepali Congress has pledged to vote for the mainstream Communist’s candidate for Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. The Madhesi party’s candidate has already been elected Vice President of the country. Above all, the new president is expected to bridge the gap between the Madheis and Paharis in the country. But political observers fear that the defeat of the Maoists’ candidate could imperil the ongoing peace process and the Maoists could resort to terror tactics again. For FSRN, I’m PC Dubey in Nepal.

India Debates Nuclear Deal with US

The future is up in the air today for India’s coalition Government and its historic nuclear deal with the US. If the Congress Party and its allies lose a no-confidence vote scheduled for tomorrow, the Government will collapse – opening the door for the BJP to return to power. Bismillah Geelani reports.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh moved the motion of confidence in his Council of Ministers in the House beginning a two-day debate on the issue. The tally on the measure is so close the government temporarily released six MPs from jail who were serving sentences for crimes including murder and bribery. The opposition brought in two members who were in the hospital recovering from surgery. Left allies withdrew their support earlier this month protesting the contentious India –US nuclear deal. They say the deal will give the United States too much influence over India’s foreign policy. Prime Minister Singh brokered the deal with President Bush and touts it as the answer to India’s chronic energy shortage. For FSRN, I’m Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi.



Zimbabwe: Rival Factions Sign Off On Plan for Talks

Zimbabwe’s rival political factions have signed an agreement to start talks on resolving the country’s political crisis. Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF, and both Aurthur Mutambara and Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change committed to talks whose goal is to reach a resolution within two weeks. Davison Makanga has more.

Pakistan: Taliban Targeting Girls’ Schools

In Pakistan’s Swat valley, a Taliban commander has issued a “fatwa” that women’s education is un-Islamic. His forces have bombed over a dozen girls’ schools in the past month. Now The Taliban wants to transform the girls’ schools into religious seminaries. More than 2,000 girls have already quit school because of Taliban threats. FSRN Correspondent Rahmanullah has more.

Beating Death in Pennsylvania Exposes Racial Tensions

An immigrant’s  beating death in a small town in Pennsylvania is igniting debates over race and immigration. Luis Ramirez had been in Shenandoah for six years. He had steady work, two children, and a fiancé whom he planned to marry and bring back to mexico with him. The Saturday before last, friends dropped him off at a park—then got a call saying he’d gotten into a fight. When they returned, he was being beaten by a group of youth. After one kicked him in the head, his friends say, he started convulsing and foaming at the mouth. He died in a hospital the following Monday.

The group that beat Ramirez reportedly included several members of Shenandoah’s popular high school football team. Several witnesses to the beating say the group of youth beating Ramirez shouted ethic slurs. One witness—an ex-police officer—said they shouted to Ramirez’s friends that they should leave Shenandoah or, –quote—”you’re going to by laying here next to him.” But so far, both police, and local officials, say they don’t think the beating was racially-motivated. And, though investigations continue, there have been no arrests.

Joining me to discuss the issue is Margaret Barajas. She’s the CEO of PALO, the Pennsylvania association of latino organizations.

Lessons from Maryland: Domestic Surveillance Expanded after 9/11

Last Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union released documents showing that undercover officers from the Maryland State Police infiltrated and spied on peace and anti-death penalty groups in 2005 and 2006, continuing the surveillance for over a year despite finding no criminal activity. Some of the activists were placed on a watch list under the category “terrorism – anti-war activist.”  Leigh Ann Caldwell takes a look at how police infiltration has expanded in the years since September 11th.

The Outsiders Road Within

A commentary from Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

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