July 3, 2008


  • Growing Tension with Iran
  • Ingrid Betancourt, 14 Others Liberated in Colombia
  • Gaza Families Long to Visit Prisoners
  • DC Braces for New Wild West
  • Commentary by Mumia Abu Jamal


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California Judge Re-Affirms FISA Authority in Wiretapping

A federal judge in California has rejected the government’s argument that the president – as commander-in-chief – has the authority to circumvent laws on foreign intelligence surveillance. The FISA legislation, passed by Congress in 1978, requires a judicial warrant for wiretapping activities. The Senate is due to vote on new FISA legislation next week. The Oregon case was unique among other pending suits on wiretapping because the plaintiffs actually had proof of the warrantless surveillance. The government accidentally sent the Islamic charity a classified document back in 2004 that referred to the wiretapping of the organization and 2 of its attorneys. Judge Vaughn Walker dismissed the suit on Wednesday, ruling that the classified document or any recollection of it is not admissible as evidence.

EU-US Data Sharing Agreement Generates Controversy
The ongoing negotiations between the US and the EU on the sharing of citizens’ personal data between law enforcement authorities have been described by the head of the European Commission’s justice and home affairs department as “painstaking” and “difficult.” From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

These controversial negotiations have been going on behind closed doors for 18 months now and they’re far from over. There are various sticking points concerning the duration of data retention, protection of sensitive information such as health; and also ‘appropiate safeguards’ to prevent the US authorities from requesting further information such as the religion, political opinion and the ‘sexual life’ of a European resident. EU negotiators also want Europeans to have the same rights as US citizens to file a lawsuit against the US government if they think their data rights have been infringed. Speaking in the European Parliament MEP Sarah Ludford summed up concern that the US is applying pressure on different member states: [clip] “You see a pattern of a disunited Europe, member states running round like headless chickens subject to divide and rule by the United States and we are ineffective, dysfunctional and we are letting our citizens down. We must stop this incoherence and achieve a clear and assertive EU competence to safeguard our privacy.” Negotiators hope to have a legally binding international deal sometime next year. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

US Jobs Cuts for Sixth Consecutive Month

New economic data shows that in June US employers cut jobs for a 6th consecutive month. According to the Labor Department, payrolls fell by 62,000 last month with heavy losses in manufacturing, construction, and employment services. The government estimates that 8.5 million Americans are unemployed, up from 7 million in June of last year.

Value of Dollar Drops 41% During Bush Administration
The dollar isn’t do too well either. Just ahead of next week’s G8 summit of wealthy nations, Bloomberg reports that the value of the dollar against the euro has dropped 41 percent in the time that George W. Bush has been in the White House. Items on building economic confidence and tackling the rising cost of fuel have pushed climate change completely off the G8 meeting agenda. Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were originally supposed to have top priority at the Hokkaido summit.

Ruling Against Coal-Fired Power Plant Could Provide Important Legal Precedent
This week, a US judge – for the first time ever – revoked an air pollution permit to a coal-fired power plant based on its carbon dioxide emissions. The ruling comes just days after a top NASA scientist cited coal-fired power plants as the top source of greenhouse gas emission in the country…but it’s unclear what the wider impact of this ruling will be. Bill Baue from Corporate Watchdog Radio files this report.

In her ruling on Monday, a Georgia Superior Court judge admonished regulators for not taking carbon emissions into account when deciding on the plant’s environmental impact – given that the US Supreme Court has confirmed carbon dioxide is a pollutant requiring regulation under the Clean Air Act. The ruling has put the brakes on what would have been Dynegy’s new coal fired power plant in Georgia…but it’s unclear if it will serve as a legal precedent for other challenges to coal-fired power plants nationwide. Environmentalists in Virginia have already started to mount a campaign in reaction to a decision that gave Dominion Virginia Power the green light to build a proposed $1.8 billion coal fired power plant in the state. Dominion has used the controversial practice of mountain top removal to mine its coal. Coal plants were also on the mind of leading climate scientist, James Hansen. In Congressional testomony last week, Hansen said coal-fired power plants pose the greatest threat to the climate. In a sharply worded speech, he said the CEOs of oil and coal companies who delay action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions should be tried for crimes against humanity and nature. For FSRN, I’m Bill Baue with Corporate Watchdog Radio in Amherst.

Big Sur Evacuated as Northern California Fires Continue to Rage

Fires from dry lightening nearly 2 weeks ago have burned nearly 500,000 acres in California. Several areas have been given evacuation warnings and orders-including Big Sur where over 60 thousand acres are burning. FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports.

More than 1700 forest fires continue to rage across California. The cause? An estimated 5 to 6 thousand dry lightening strikes 2 weeks ago. The Los Padres national forest may be the worst impacted area with over 60 thousand acres burning. Communities near Big Sur are under mandatory evacuation orders. In Mendocino County, 123 fires have burned over 37 thousand acres. Authorities report they are gaining the upper hand with 83 fires contained. One of the Mendocino County blazes has claimed the life of a firefighter. Another 14 injuries have been reported. The estimated cost to Mendocino County alone is estimated at $13.1 million. Meanwhile, air quality remains unhealthy in some areas. Officials report a smoke plume from northern California, went as far as Idaho. Officials say some fires may not be put out until the start of the winter rains. For FSRN, I’m Christina Aanestad in Mendocino County, California.



Growing Tension with Iran

Tensions between Iran and the US and Israel have spiked this week as government officials in the US have escalated threats of a military attack, prompting retaliatory statements from Iran. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports on the latest developments.

Ingrid Betancourt, 14 Others Liberated in Colombia

The Colombian army has rescued a group of fifteen FARC hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt and three US military contractors. Betancourt, a former Presidential candidate, was the best-known of hundreds of hostages that are currently being held by the FARC guerrillas – she was also one of the guerrilla’s greatest bargaining chips. She was liberated by Colombian secret agents, who tricked the FARC guerrillas into loading the hostages into a white helicopter, which was supposed to take them to an isolated guerrilla camp. The guerillas who accompanied the hostages were arrested during the flight. Manuel Rueda has more from Bogota.

Gaza Families Long to Visit Prisoners

Gaza’s ruling Hamas party emphasized the need today to reopen the Rafah crossing terminal – Israel closed the crossing following a rocket launched from the Strip into Southern Israel, which did not result in any reported injuries or death. Meanwhile, hundreds of Gaza-based families of prisoners have been denied visits to their loved ones inside Israeli jails for more than a year now. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

DC Braces for New Wild West

It’s been a week since the US Supreme Court overturned the gun ban in Washington DC, and DC police are expected to start taking application for those gun permits in just two days. Washington DC officials are wrestling on how to implement the changes that could legally put guns in the hands of DC residents for the first time in 32 years. Karen Miller has more.

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