January 21, 2009

  • President Obama’s first full day in office
  • At his nomination hearing, Geithner defends financial bailout
  • Hundreds gather urging comprehensive immigration reform
  • Homeless weigh in on ideas for “Change”
  • Challenging San Francisco’s camera surveillance
  • East African group accused of brutal massacre

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Israel Out of Gaza, Investigates Use of White Phosphorous

The Israeli military says it pulled the last of its troops out of Gaza
before dawn this morning.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights
claims nearly 900 civilians were killed during Israel’s three-week
long attack.  The Israeli foreign minister is in Europe today seeking
international cooperation in battling Gaza arms smuggling.  In related
news, the Israeli Army says it is investigating claims that one of
their paratrooper squads illegally used white phosphorus in a raid in
Northern Gaza.  Under international law, white phosphorus cannot be
used near civilian populations, but can be used as a smoke screen.
Amnesty International made the initial accusation on Monday after
touring the region.  Medics say dozens of people suffered burns from
the shells.

UK Unemployment Rate Hits 12 Year High
More British banks may be nationalized if the latest government
bailout fails to kick-start lending again.  Overall the UK economy
appears to be sinking deeper into trouble.  Naomi Fowler reports from

‘Britain’s unemployment figures announced today are the highest since
1997, and they’re expected to continue to rise.  The latest round of
bank bailouts may have encouraged panic rather than confidence, and
Gordon Brown’s government has increased the national debt
substantially in the process.  With a higher debt often follows higher
insurance costs to protect the world’s 5th largest economy against
default.  Veteran US investor Jim Rogers told Bloomberg that the UK
economy is “finished.”  And the value of the pound has fallen sharply
throughout the day.  Bankers at the center of the financial turmoil
have something else to worry about; lawyers confirmed today there may
be extradition requests from the US where prosecutors have been more
active in investigating banks and senior executives.  This is Naomi
Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.’

Mexican Tycoon Bails out NY Times
As the US economy continues to flounder and more people seek news
online, newspapers across the US are cutting back, laying off and
facing or filing bankruptcy.  The New York Times is no exception.  But
the parent company of the world’s “Paper of Record” has found an ally
to help it through its financial troubles…Mexico’s richest man.
Shannon Young reports.

Mexican telecom tycoon, Carlos Slim, has agreed to lend $250 million
dollars to the New York Times Company to help manage its more than 1
billion dollar debt. The loan will come with a steep 14 percent
interest rate. AND In the event the company cannot pay back the loan,
Slim could become the largest single shareholder outside of the
controlling Sulzberger family. Forbes ranks Carlos Slim as the world’s
second richest man; between Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Slim owns
the Mexican landline telephone monopoly, as well as the lion’s share
of the country’s internet service and cell phone market.  Many in
Mexico regard him as the incarnation of a system of wealth, power, and
political cronyism that has expanded the gap between rich and poor
since the 1990s. Even the New York Times has criticized Carlos Slim.
An August 2007 editorial referred to him as a robber baron and a
coddled titan while pointing out that his $60 billion dollar net worth
is equivalent to seven percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product.
For FSRN, I’m Shannon Young in Oaxaca.

Supreme Court Declines to Review Online Porn Law
Today, the US Supreme Court declined to review a law that would have
made it illegal for internet sites to make porn available to minors.
Bill Clinton signed the Child Online Protection Act into law in 1998,
but it never went into effect because of freedom of speech challenges.
Under the act, pornographic and some sexual health sites would have
to actively confirm the ages of their viewers before allowing access.
Last summer a Philadelphia appeals court ruled the law did not violate
the 1st Amendment because web filters can accomplish the same outcome
without restricting overall access.

War Resister Group Calls on Obama to Grant Amnesty
On Barack Obama’s first day in office, a war resisters support group
based in Seattle is calling on the president to grant amnesty to US
soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq. Mark Taylor-Canfield has more
from Seattle.

Hundreds of US soldiers have relocated to Canada, Europe or Latin
America after choosing not to serve in the US war and occupation in
Iraq. Many of the soldiers have gone into Canada by crossing the
border between Washington State and British Columbia, which also
served as a point of entry for conscientious objectors escaping to
Canada during the US war in Vietnam.  Now Project Safe Haven is
calling on President Barack Obama to grant immediate amnesty to all US
war resisters who have refused to serve in Iraq.  The group is also
calling for the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and an
end to the war in Afghanistan. Other demands include reparations for
the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and full benefits and healthcare
for US military veterans.  According to Project Safe Haven organizer
Gerry Condon, the petition was circulated among national anti-war and
veterans groups and was delivered to the President-elect’s transition
team.  This is Mark Taylor-Canfield for Free Speech Radio News in


President Obama’s first full day in office
On his first full day as President, Barack Obama is getting straight to work. In one of his first actions in office, President Obama issued an order to halt all military commissions for detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The 120 day stay will be used to assess the commissions set up by the Bush administration. Just hours after being sworn in, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel issued a memorandum halting many of Bush’s “midnight regulations” until Obama’s staff can conduct a legal and policy review.

President Obama also signed executive orders today that change the rules that oversee lobbyist’s role in the new administration: presidential appointees will no longer be able to accept gifts from lobbyists, and will be barred from returning to lobby the administration once they leave their post. The sweeping ethics reforms, which some groups say are groundbreaking, also limits the role of lobbyists who come to work for the administration.

Addressing the Mideast crisis, Obama called the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Fatah party; he did not call Hamas leaders. As many await an announcement about troop withdrawal from Iraq, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also held a meeting on Iraq with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other military and foreign policy advisors.

Turning to the economy, Obama was briefed by economic advisors, including National Economic Director Lawrence Summers, and by the White House coordinator of energy and climate policy Carol Browner, as evidence of a critically injured economy continues to mount as the financial markets bore a disastrous day yesterday.

(At his nomination hearing, Geithner defends financial bailout.)

Moving down Pennsylvania Avenue, from the White House to the Capital, Congress also addressed the economy. The Senate held a confirmation hearing for Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury nominee, Timothy Geithner. Geithner’s confirmation turned mildly controversial, due to his failure in paying a portion of his taxes. But at his confirmation hearing, Senators appeared to overlook his tax delinquency for the sake of an ailing economy in need of a cabinet official tasked with oversight and direction. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell has the story.

Hundreds gather urging comprehensive immigration reform
Past inaugurations in D.C. have drawn massive protests alongside the official pageantry. But few activists demonstrated yesterday – and most people that made their way to D.C. to witness the inauguration support the new administration to some degree. Today was a bit different.  Hundreds of grassroots activists and religious leaders marched through D.C. and made their way to the front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building, demanding a moratorium on raids and action on comprehensive immigration reform. Aura Bogado spoke with a day laborer and an undocumented student about why they attended the demonstration.

Homeless weigh in on ideas for “Change”
Among those weighing in on President Obama’s promises for change are the homeless. Some of those who have personally spent time on the streets say they have some innovative suggestions on working towards eliminating homelessness. FSRN’s Andalusia Knoll has more from Washington.

Challenging San Francisco’s camera surveillance
San Francisco’s surveillance camera program is coming under scrutiny. It was introduced in high-crime areas four years ago as a deterrent to crime, but a new study finds the cameras are not effective in reducing violent crime. As Africa Jones reports, civil rights advocates warn the surveillance could be misused.

East African group accused of brutal massacre
And now we go to Uganda and the DR Congo, where violence against civilians is intensifying after two years of relative calm. Uganda’s Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is accused of attacking civilians in neighboring DR Congo. At least 620 people were brutally massacred with axes, bats and machetes in less than three weeks between December and January – according to Human Rights Watch and Justice Plus, a Congolese organization which took a two-week mission to the region.  Survivors who managed to stay alive say the LRA is wiping out entire villages, and abducting children. The bloodshed began after Uganda’s military attacked suspected LRA camps. FSRN’s Joshua Kyalimpa has more.

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