January 8, 2009

  • Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (BART) Police Protests Intensify in Oakland
  • Civil Rights Attorney, John Burris on Making  BART Accountable
  • Obama Officially Becomes President Elect
  • Daschle Tapped to Run Department of Health and Human Services; Appears Before Committee
  • Tennessee Valley Authority Officials Testify About Coal and Ash Disaster
  • President Mwai Kibaki Signs Kenya’s Media Gag Law

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Lebanese Rockets Barrage Israel
A barrage of rockets showered Israel today – but not from their usual source in Gaza – this time the rocket fire came from Lebanon.  At least three rockets hit northern Israel, injuring two people.  And Israel struck back by shelling Southern Lebanon.  The Lebanese government denounced the aggression and a high-ranking information minister said he did not believe Hezbollah launched the attack.  No group has claimed responsibility.

UN Suspends Aide Work in Gaza
The death toll in Gaza today approached 700 people as Israeli attacks on the region continued into their 13th day.  Israeli tanks have blocked roads into Gaza City and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees – or UNRWA – has suspended relief work in the Gaza Strip.  FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

In a statement released today, UNRWA decried the Israeli army shooting of their relief crews in southern Gaza.   Today, the Israeli army killed a Palestinian aid worker and wounded another near the Kerem Shalom crossing.  According to medics, Israeli military attacks in Gaza killed 13 residents in all, including two children and five Islamic Jihad fighters.   UNRWA said it would suspend their efforts in the region until further notice.
Meanwhile, international mediation efforts continue in Egypt today.  Hamas is expected to respond soon to an Egyptian-European ceasefire proposal that would put an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as homemade rocket fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns.  For Free Speech Radio News, I am Rami Almeghari in Gaza.

Russia Will Restart Natural Gas Shipments to Europe
Russia says it will reinstate its natural gas shipments to Europe as soon as international monitors are in place in the Ukraine.  The observers will monitor fuel delivery through the country.  Russian and Ukrainian officials met today to discuss their conflict over Natural Gas supplies, which has resulted in the halt of all fuel shipments through the Ukraine pipeline to Europe.

India Calls for Pakistan to Accept Responsibility for Mumbai Attacks

Fallout continues in Pakistan a day after the country officially confirmed that Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Mumbai attacker, is a Pakistani national.  Prime Minister Geelani dismissed his National security advisor Mahmood Ali Durrani for accepting India’s accusation before the media without his approval. On the other side, India today reacted by asking for action against the Pakistan-based groups involved in the conspiracy. Bismillah Geelani has more from New Delhi

Islamabad’s admission of Kasab’s Pakistani citizenship is being celebrated as a major diplomatic victory in India. But the official response from New Delhi has been lukewarm. Rejecting Pakistan’s offer for a joint investigation, India’s minister of state for external affairs, Anand Sharma, today demanded that Pakistan must now claim responsibility for the other attackers as well.  He insisted that Pakistan must also take action against the groups responsible. Meanwhile international pressure continues, with the United States urging Islamabad to do more.  Today Assistant U-S Secretary of state Richard Boucher told media in New Delhi that while steps taken by Pakistan have been promising, they must do more to eliminate the terror threat.  For FSRN, this is Bismillah Geelani from New Delhi.

Sri Lankan Journalist Shot During Morning Commute
Following the announcement of Sri Lankan military victories over Tamil Tiger rebels, the media in the island nation have come under attack.  Ann Raber has the story from Colombo.

This morning the editor of an independent weekly newspaper was shot while driving to work. Lasanath Wikramatunga was the popular editor of the Sunday Leader, a newspaper known for its biting irreverence on political matters, and investigative reporting on government spending. Wikramatunga died of his injuries in a nearby hospital. Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakja condemned the killing, calling the editor a courageous journalist and close friend.  This is the second time members of the media have been attacked this week.  On Tuesday, 20 armed gunmen raided the headquarters of Sirasa Media, a private radio and television station.  Sirasa had been criticized by members of the state media for their coverage of last week’s suicide attacks in Colombo. The station was called “unpatriotic” for giving more time to the suicide bombings that it did to the announcement that government troops has captured the Tamil Tiger stronghold of Killinochchi.  No one was killed in the raid, but both Sirasa stations were off the air temporarily.  Sirasa and The Leader are known as independent voices amidst a tightly controlled media.  And although the President has ordered an investigation into both attacks, the editor of The Leader had previously blamed violent actions against his paper on government-backed operatives.  In Colombo, I’m Ann Raber for Free Speech Radio News.

IL Legislature Could Start Blagojevich Impeachments Proceedings Tomorrow
The Illinois legislature issued a draft report today calling for the House to move forward with impeachment proceedings against Governor Rod Blagojevich.  This clears the way for a possible vote tomorrow.  If the report is accepted, Blagojevich will become the first Illinois governor to be impeached.  Blagojevich is accused of attempting to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s senate seat to the highest bidder.

PTSD Suffers Not Worthy of Purple Heart Says Pentagon
And finally two stories about the US Military.  The Pentagon says it will not award the Purple Heart to members of the military who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.  The Purple Heart is given to service members who are wounded or killed in action.  A Pentagon spokesperson said because PTSD is not a wound intentionally caused by the enemy, it does not qualify.  And the US Army is apologizing for letters sent to the families of service members who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan – because they were addressed: “Dear John Doe.”  The letters provided information about assistance organizations and were sent to more than 7000 family members.  The Army blames the mistake on a printing error.


Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (BART) Police Protests Intensify in Oakland

Demonstrators took to the streets of Oakland, California to protest the killing of unarmed black man by BART Police.  Oscar Grant was twenty-two years old, and the father of a four year old daughter.  He was shot in the back as he lay on the ground in a public transit station on New Year’s Day. People in the community are angry – and the protests in support of Oscar Grant have been growing in scale and intensity. From Oakland, Africa Jones reports.

Civil Rights Attorney, John Burris on Making  BART Accountable

Grant’s family, community leaders, and politicians are questioning both the shooting and investigation into his death. Joining us now to discuss what legal avenues the family is pursuing is the Grant’s attorney, John Burris.
John Burris is the Civil Rights attorney for the family of Oscar Grant, who was shot in the back and killed by a BART Officer on New Years Day, in Oakland California.

Obama Officially Becomes President Elect

Barack Obama is now officially President elect. With Vice President Dick Cheney presiding, the House of Representatives sealed the results of November 4th’s electoral college. Reading the results state by state, applause and laughter erupted during the reading of Ohio’s results.  The states votes were contested because of alleged illegal vote activity which resulted in George Bush winning the 2004 Election.

Obama Tries to Sell His Stimulus Plan

As Official President Elect, Barack Obama laid out a dire economic situation that he cautioned could get worse if action is slow or absent. He made his case to the public for an economic recovery package. Before Congress has worked out the details of the plan, Obama gave more details of what he expects to be included.  Central to his plan, creating three million new jobs.
Obama says his plan includes a national electronic health care system, updating schools and universities, and expanding broadband access. He says money will be given to states, and  most people will get tax cuts.
As Obama spoke, Congress held its first hearings on the recovery package. And Democrats met to discuss specifics of the plan. Although Republicans are pleased with the level of inclusion in the process, they warn moving too quickly could make for harmful results.

Daschle Tapped to Run Department of Health and Human Services; Appears Before Committee

Meanwhile, a Senate panel held the first confirmation hearing for an Obama appointee.  Former Senator Tom Daschle, picked to head the Department of Health and Human Services appeared before the committee today.  As Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, Daschle promises to cooperate with the Senate to drastically reform health care.

Tennessee Valley Authority Officials Testify About Coal and Ash Disaster

Three weeks after a massive environmental disaster in Tennessee, lawmakers on Capitol Hill grilled officials from the Tennessee Valley Authority about the safety of the their coal-fired power plant.  FSRN’s Karen Miller was there and files this report.

President Mwai Kibaki Signs Kenya’s Media Gag Law

In Kenya, journalists and media activist are protesting a controversial law signed by president Mwai Kibaki.  Kenyans fear for their freedom of press.  And also for the fragile coalition government which came together last year to end the post-election violence that left half a million people displaced and more than a thousand people dead.  Arusha Topazzini reports from Nairobi.

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