July 30, 2008

  • Taliban War Propaganda tools in Pakistan
  • Two-Way – WTO Talks Collapse
  • Politicized Hiring at the Department of Justice
  • Congress Apologizes for Slavery and Jim Crow
  • Street Beat: DC Reacts to Apology
  • McDonald’s Accused of Firing Workers with Disabilities

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Israeli PM Announces Resignation
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert announced his resignation today, saying he will step down in mid-September after his party elects a new leader. Olmert says that his resignation will allow the new chair of the Kadima Party to form a new coalition government to replace him and his cabinet. Failure to form a new coalition government could trigger early elections. Olmert has survived a number of scandals during his tenure and is currently under investigation for exaggerating his travel expenses and taking bribes from an American businessman.

Radovan Karadzic Detained Pending War Crimes Trial at The Hague
Accused Serbian War Criminal, Radovan Karadzic, has arrived in the Netherlands to face trail before a UN crimes tribunal in The Hague. Israel Rafalovich has more.

Karadzic arrived in the early morning hours in a special flight from Belgrade to Rotterdam and was immediately taken to a special detention unit in the Scheveningen maximum security prison near The Hague. Karadzic will appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Thursday afternoon to hear the charges against him. The charges include eleven counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz says the prosecution and the defense will need months to prepare for what could be a complex trial. Karadzic, who is facing a possible life sentence if convicted, says that he intends to run his own defense. The arrest of Radovan Karadzic has given the International Criminal Tribunal prosecutors their biggest case since the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic died while in custody in 2006. Israel Rafalovich, FSRN, The Hague.

New Law Bans Burmese Gem Imports
President George Bush has signed a new law that bars imports of rubies and jade from Burma, or Myanmar. Bill Baue has the story.

The Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act – named after the late Democratic Representative who introduced the measure — tightens an existing ban on trade in Burmese gems. Arvind Ganesen from Human Rights Watch welcomed the move: (clip) “The international trade in these gems helps finance repression and puts millions into the pockets of Burma’s abusive rulers. With the new law, US retailers can no longer legally profit from the trade in Burmese rubies and jade.” Since 2003, The US government has banned products from Burma, but a loophole allowed the purchase of gems from Burma that were cut or polished in third countries such as India or Thailand. The new law eliminates this loophole for rubies and jade, by far Burma’s top-selling gem exports. Contrary to some early reports, it does not cover other precious stones or forbid the sale of Burmese-origin gems legally imported to the US under prior rules. The new law also urges Chevron to consider divesting from a gas pipeline if Burma’s military junta did not embrace reforms. For FSRN, Bill Baue from Corporate Watchdog News.

TSA Training “Behavior Detection Officers” to Screen Airport Travelers

The Transportation and Security Administration may soon subject more US airport travelers to a new form of screening; on-the-spot psychological evaluations. The Los Angeles Times reports that TSA has already implemented the program known as Screening Passengers by Observation Technique at a handful of airports and is training hundreds of new so-called “Behavior Detection Officers” to expand the program to more airports nationwide. These “Behavior Detection Officers” monitor passengers around airport security checkpoints for “involuntary physical and psychological reactions” that may indicate stress, fear, or deception. Passengers deemed suspicious by TSA can be taken aside for further questioning and screening. The SPOT program was based on a model used by the Israeli Airport Authority. It was first implemented at Boston’s Logan International Airport three years ago.

Ecuador Ends US Military Lease on South American Base
Ecuador has asked the US government to abandon a military base on Manta, on the Ecuadorean coast. The US military had been using this base to conduct anti-narcotics flights and other intelligence operations. Manuel Rueda has more from Bogota.

Manta is the only US-run military base in South America. Ecuador loaned the base to the US military in 1999, for a period of ten years. And yesterday, president Rafael Correa decided not to renew the contract, asking US troops to abandon the area by the end of next year. Anti-narcotics flights formed a significant part of the base activities. But the Ecuadorean government says it had little control over these operations. The president’s supporters also claim that Manta was being used to conduct intelligence flights against Colombia´s FARC guerrillas. Thus, pulling Ecuador into it´s neighbor’s armed conflict. Manuel Rueda, FSRN, Bogota. The US military has said it will respect the Ecuadorean decision. Manuel Rueda, FSRN, Bogota.

Giant Chunk Lost from Canadian Arctic Ice Shelf
The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf – the largest ice shelf in the Arctic – has lost a huge chunk of its surface area. Scientists estimate the break that released nearly 8 square miles of the ice shelf into the ocean occurred last Wednesday or Thursday. It was the largest recorded break since 2005. Scientists believe the ice shelf formed more than 3000 years ago. Over the past century, the ice shelf has shrunk from 3500 square miles to just 400 – leaving it approximately 1/9th of its size at the start of the 20th century.


Taliban War Propaganda tools in Pakistan

As Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani meets with President
Bush this week, the New York Times reports that a top CIA official
questioned Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders on the government’s
ties with anti-US militant groups suspected of operating from the
Afghan-Pakistan border. CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes presented
new evidence earlier this month indicating connections between the
Pakistani Intelligence Agency or ISI, and a militant network which US
officials believe were involved in violent attacks inside Afghanistan.
The move is significant, as the Bush Administration and the CIA have
avoided criticism of Pakistan in the past, viewing the country as an
ally in the so-called “war on terrorism.”

Meanwhile, a growing black market of anti-US propaganda is emerging in
Pakistan’s tribal areas, with unlicensed FM radio stations and pirated
DVDs regularly reaching thousands of villagers. According to the
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), more than one
hundred pirate FM channels operate at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border
area. From Peshawar, FSRN’s Rahman Ullah files this report on the
booming anti-US video industry.

Karl Rove Moves Closer to Contempt of Congress

The House of Representatives moved one step closer to holding Karl Rove
in contempt of Congress. By a 20-to-14 vote, the House Judiciary
Committee passed a resolution holding Rove in contempt for not
appearing to testify on a range of issues, even when issued a subpoena.
Rove has ducked Congressional testimony for the alleged political
firing of US Attorneys, citing Executive privilege. It is now up to
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take the resolution to the full house for
a vote.

Politicized Hiring at the Department of Justice

While contempt resolution was being passed in the House, the Senate
Judiciary Committee looked into other administration abuses: the
political hiring of career attorneys at the Department of Justice.
Following the release of a scathing report by the Justice Departments
Inspector General Monday, the IG told the committee the Justice
Department has been severely damaged. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Congress Apologizes for Slavery and Jim Crow

More than a century after slavery was abolished, US lawmakers have for
the first time, issued the federal government’s formal apology for
slavery. Congressman Steve Cohen first introduced the resolution a year
and a half ago.

Street Beat: DC Reacts to Apology

In response to the passage of House Resolution 194, FSRN sent reporter
Naji Mujahid out on the streets of DC to gather public reaction to the

McDonald’s Accused of Firing Workers with Disabilities

This month marks the 18th anniversary of the passage of the Americans
with Disabilities Act – though the fight for equal treatment regardless
of disability continues. Protestors gathered outside a Berkeley,
California McDonald’s Tuesday, which fired several employees with
disabilities after the restaurant changed owners.  Africa Jones

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