January 16, 2009

  • El Salvador Holds Historic Elections Amid Violence
  • US Interference in Salvadoran Elections Diminishes
  • Mexican Police Violence Makes Immigration More Dangerous
  • Equal Pay is on its Way
  • “Huey – A Memory” Commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Six States Challenge Midnight Health Provider Rule
Seven states have filed a lawsuit to block a Bush administration rule that would vastly expand the rights of health care providers to deny women’s reproductive health care – from abortions to birth control. The rule is scheduled to go into effect on January 20th.  Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven, CT.
CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed the lawsuit on behalf of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Oregon. All these states have what Blumenthal described as “balanced, carefully crafted laws” that provide for freedom of conscience for providers, but ensure that women’s health needs are met. The new rule would be a disaster, he said.
“This rule from the Bush administration would empower any random individual on duty to deny critical health care on a whim or a wish, so it would decimate professional accountability. Countless women may be denied emergency contraception, even after rape, without adequate information or alternative.”
The lawsuit seeks to block the rule from going into effect, which would be quicker than leaving it to President-Elect Barack Obama.  Even though Obama says he opposes the policy, it could take six months or more to reverse.  For FSRN, I’m Melinda Tuhus in New Haven.

Federal Court Says Warentless Wiretapping Legal
A federal court has ruled the Bush Administration’s warentless wiretapping of US citizens is not a violation of the Constitution.  The seldom-convened Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review actually issued the ruling last August.  But a declassified verson was just released yesterday.  Many details of the case are still classified.  The decision could help telecomm companies that are being sued for handing over phone records to the US government.

Bush Administration Gives Bank of America Additional $20 Billion
The Bush Administration has agreed to give Bank of America an additional 20 billion dollars in bailout money.  The nation’s largest bank sustained heavy losses when it bought out Merrill Lynch.  The US government will now own a portion of the bank.

NYPD Stop and Frisk Stats Show Racial Profiling
The Center for Constitutional Rights claims preliminary analysis of New York City Police Department’s own data shows officers engaged in racial profiling in determining who they stop and how they are treated.  Rebecca Myles has more on this story…
“I’m not a criminal and I shouldn’t be treated like one.”
David Ourlicht, a 21-year-old student, was stopped and frisked by NYPD three times last year.  Ourlicht is one of four plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit that charges the New York Police Department engages in racial profiling, violating the 4th and 14th amendments of the US Constitution.  Vincent Warren, from the Center for Constitutional Rights analyzed NYPD’s stop and frisk data and found 80 percent of all 1.6 million stops in a 3 year period were of blacks and Latinos.
“It shows us that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be frisked, have force used against them but not more likely to be arrested.  What that tells us is that the stop and frisk method is not an effective law enforcement tool.”
In a statement, the NYPD said –quote- “the plaintiffs assertions do not constitute a study of the data but a restatement of unfounded accusations in its lawsuit.”  But this is not comfort for David Ourlicht.
“What I have to deal with every day is a fear, I cannot trust the people that are supposed to protect me and that’s scary.”
For Free Speech Radio News, I am Rebecca Myles reporting from New York.

Hamas Says No to Israeli Ceasefire Demands
Negiotiators say Israel and Hamas are close to coming to a ceasefire agreement, but there are still several obstacles standing in the way.  Israel has ignored calls from the United Nations to withdraw.  And today Hamas said it will not accept Israel’s casefire demands.  More than 1100 people have died in the 21-day old conflict.

Taliban Forces Closure of Girls Schools in Swat, Pakistan
In the Swat region of Pakistan, many young girls and parents are listening anxiously today to the pirate radio station controlled by the Taliban.  They hope the group will lift a ban on girls’ education that began Thursday, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Afradai Afridi reports.
Last month, the Taliban issued a January 15 deadline for all girls schools in Swat to close.  And despite offers of protection from the government, hundreds of girls’ schools caved to the deadline. School administrators don’t believe the government can provide adequate protection.  Although most people do not agree with the BAN on girl’s education, they are afraid of armed militants who walk in the streets of the district. The Taliban want to establish Sharia, or Islamic Law.  They say if Islamic law is enforced in Swat, they will allow Girls to attend school.  Government officials have done nothing more than verbally condemn the threats.  For FSRN, I am Afridai Afridi

Somalians Celebrate Withdrawal of Ethiopian Troops
Thousands are celebrating in Somalia today, following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Mogadishu this week.  The troops have been in the country for two years to help control Islamists.  And within 24 hours of the withdrawal, Islamic militants once again took control of the city.  The transition has been peaceful so far.

Venezuela Once Again Seeks Foreign Oil Investment
In a quiet, but 180-degree turn around, Venezuela is now seeking international oil company investment.  This, after years of President Hugo Chavez demonizing the firms as imperialist profiteers.  With the price of oil low, the country’s cash reserves are being stretched.  So far nearly 20 companies have indicated they are interested.



El Salvador Holds Historic Elections Amid Violence
Millions of Salvadorans will vote for new mayors and Congress members this Sunday. Some are calling it the most contested election since 1992. The two largest parties, the leftist FMLN and the rightist ARENA, concluded their campaigns but in a violent context. Hundreds of international observers have arrived to the Central American country to verify clean elections. But as Ricardo Martínez reports, violence and intimidation could factor into the results.

US Interference in Salvadoran Elections Diminishes
As Ricardo Martinez just reported, international observers are in El Salvador to monitor the election, including officials from the United States. The US has historically taken a prominent role in El Salvador’s politics. But things are changing. To find out what’s different in this election cycle, we talk to Geoff Thale, the Program Director of the Washington Office on Latin America. Before joining WOLA, he founded and directed the El Salvador Policy Project in Washington. Geoff Thale, thanks for joining us.

Mexican Police Violence Makes Immigration More Dangerous
Southern Mexico has long been a risky area for Central American migrants hoping to reach the United States. Migrants carrying cash to pay smugglers are often the targets of extortion or armed robberies. They’re targeted by corrupt police or organized criminals along the routes traditionally used to pass northwards through Mexico. But the four deaths that occurred this past week are unusual even for these dangerous paths. Shannon Young has the story.

Equal Pay is on its Way
A bill that would make it easier for employees to sue for discrimination is making its way through Congress. The Lilly Ledbetter Pay Restoration Act would reverse a 2007 Supreme Court ruling on the statute of limitations for such claims. That ruling was criticized, since employees often don’t know they’re being paid less than their coworkers until after the statute of limitations runs out. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

“Huey – A Memory” Commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning journalist who chronicles the human condition. He has been a resident of Pennsylvania’s death row for twenty-five years. Writing from his solitary confinement cell his essays have reached a worldwide audience. His books “Live From Death Row”, “Death Blossoms”, “All Things Censored”, “Faith of Our Fathers” and the recently released “We Want Freedom” have sold over 150,000 copies and been translated into nine languages. His 1982-murder trial and subsequent conviction have been the subject of great debate.

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