November 17, 2008

  • People’s Economic Summit in Washington
  • Iraqi Parliament Prepares to Vote on Pact with US
  • Kashmir Elections
  • South Africans Protest Against Sexual Violence
  • Workers Wary in Indonesia’s Economy

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Pakistan Says it Had No Deal With US

Pakistan denied today that it gave tacit approval to the United States to conduct Predator drone attacks on its soil. The Washington Post yesterday cited unidentified Pakistani and U.S. officials as saying that the two countries agreed on a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy that allowed unpiloted aircraft to launch nearly 20 attacks since September in the border region with Afghanistan.  But Pakistani ministers said there was no such agreement. Also today, Pakistan reopend the Khyber Pass amid heightened security after 13 trucks were hijacked last week. Most supplies, including fuel and food, for US and NATO forces in landlocked Afghanistan are trucked through the pass.

Abbas and Olmert Meet

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met today amidst growing violence in the coastal region. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

During their meeting in west Jerusalem, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called on PM Olmert to prevent further deterioration in Gaza.  Israel sealed Gaza border crossing two weeks ago. While very limited humanitarian aid did cross the border today, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says major hospitals in the Strip are about to stop providing services to patients, due to lack of essential medicines and prolonged power outages. However, Olmert denied any humanitarian crisis in Gaza, holding the ruling Hamas party responsible for the latest developments and warning of worse to come if the homemade rocket fire continues into nearby Israeli towns. Olmert did pledge to release 250 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, in what the PM calls a good will gesture towards Abbas. Over the weekend, the Israeli army killed four Palestinian fighters in northern Gaza, and Gaza-based fighters responded with homemade rocket fire, wounding 6 Israelis.  According to Palestinian media sources, 22 people have died as a result of Israeli attacks on Gaza over the past two weeks, threatening a five-month-old Egyptian-brokered cease fire deal.  For Free Speech Radio News , I am Rami Almeghari in Gaza

More Jailing in Burma

Seven more democracy activists in Burma were sentenced to prison today in closed door trials. Last week some 70 opposition activists, writers, musicians and Buddhist monks were given sentences ranging from 2 1/2 years to 65 years — many were transferred to remote prisons today. Most of the charges stemmed from mass pro-democracy protests that were crushed by the ruling junta in September 2007. Many believe the military-ruled government is locking up opposition leaders to squash dissent ahead of elections scheduled in Burma for 2010.

Annual Whale Hunt Begins

Anti-whaling activists staged protests today as the first of Japan’s whaling fleet left port for the country’s annual hunt in the Antartic.  The rest of the fleet is expected to leave from another port this month but details of their departure remain secret.  Japanese whalers plan to catch nearly 1,000 whales. Tokyo says the hunts are part of a scientific program that provides crucial data on populations, feeding habits and distribution of the mammals. Opponents of the hunt call that research a cover for commercial whaling, which was banned in 1986.

National Strike in Chile

Public sector workers in Chile launched a national strike today after wage negotiations failed. FSRN’s Jorge Garretón has more from Santiago.

Chile’s entire public sector is shut down indefinitely except for some essential services that are being staffed by skeleton personnel. The Public Union Workers is demanding a 14.5 percent wage increase. Union leaders say that just 4.5 percent of that is a real wage increase. They say the rest offsets the high inflation that has hit the country. The government is only offering 6.5 percent. The strike has closed public schools just before the end of the school year. Essential services like public health centers and hospitals are providing emergency care only, and municipal services like garbage collection are cancelled. Tax collection and national identity registry are closed down. A government spokesperson called the strike unjust, saying it hurts the average person who needs public services. Chile forbids public sector workers to strike, but officials are not enforcing the law. Government negotiators are calling union leaders back to the negotiation table to hammer out an agreement. But union leaders say they will only sit down to negotiate when the government is serious about discussing wage demands. For FSRN from Santiago, I’m Jorge Garreton.

ACLU Says Undocumented and Refugee Teens Denied Reproductive Care

The American Civil Liberties Union has turned to the federal court to force the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to comply with a Freedom of Information request. They want the ACF to turn over documents outlining U.S. policy limiting refugee and undocumented teenagers’ access to reproductive health services. ACF issued the policy on the heels of media reports that the Commonwealth Catholic Charities of Virginia fired workers for facilitating access to pregnancy termination services and contraception. Commonwealth Catholic Charities receives funding through a federal grant.

FDA Opens in China

The Food and Drug Administration will open three offices in China this week in an effort to increase the safety of products manufactured for export to the US. The international presence of the FDA comes after melamine tainted milk, lead in children’s toys and problems with the blood thinner heparin all manufactured in China.



People’s Economic Summit in Washington

Leaders from the world’s 20 economic powers gathered in Washington this weekend in an attempt to begin tackling a declining world economy. The final G20 Summit communiqué stops short of concrete action to overhaul the global economic order and pledges instead to continue working to hash out modifications in the coming months. Meanwhile, a People’s Summit also took place in Washington this weekend, focused on building sustainable alternatives to current economic structures. Tanya Snyder was there and brings us this story.

Iraqi Parliament Prepares to Vote on Pact with US

Iraq’s Parliament will be voting on a security pact with the United States, which has already been approved by the Iraqi Cabinet. One key provision in the pact bars the US from using Iraq’s territory to attack neighboring countries, including Iran and Syria. The US military must withdraw from Iraq’s cities by the end of June, 2009, and must withdraw fully by the first of January, 2012. We speak with Nabil al-Tikriti, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Mary Washington.

Kashmir Elections

Elections for the State legislature in Indian administered Kashmir began Monday, amid a poll boycott call by separatists. Officials say 55 percent votes were polled in the ten constituencies that went to polls in the first of seven phase elections today. A curfew like situation prevailed in Srinagar and major towns with heavy deployment of police and troops to prevent a poll boycott march called by separatists. Meanwhile, many are hopeful a new US Administration may bring about change in Kashmir. In the run up to elections, President elect Barak Obama talked about a possible role in resolution of Kashmir issue.  There are reports that former president Bill Clinton may be appointed as his envoy on Kashmir. While the reports have irked India, which holds the restive portion of Kashmir along with Pakistan, these have generated fresh hopes in Kashmir. Shahnawaz Khan has this reports from Srinagar.

South Africans Protest Against Sexual Violence

Protesters in Cape Town, South Africa demonstrated this weekend against sexual violence in their country. Organized by the “The One in Nine Campaign”, participants aim to raise awareness about how many sexual attacks go unreported. The campaign was established in 2006 at the start of the rape trial of ANC president Jacob Zuma. One in Nine represents the statistic that only one of every nine rape survivors in South Africa reports the attack to the police – and the justice system convicts only 5% of those cases that do reach the courts. Erna Curry and Terna Gyuse report from Cape Town.

Workers Wary in Indonesia’s Economy

As the fear of the global slowdown worsens, Indonesia’s government has moved to cap wage rises and restrict factory working hours. Wages are usually set once a year to compensate for inflation – which is running at 10 percent this year. Indonesia’s new government regulation caps any wage increase to no more than 6 per cent for the next year: the forecast pace of economic growth. They have also told factory workers to work on weekends in order to reduce peak demand for electricity to stave off an energy crisis. Southeast Asia’s largest economy suffers from power shortages as demand has steadily risen, with little new investment in power-related infrastructure. As Rebecca Henschke reports, the crisis may mean lights out for workers.

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