August 25, 2009

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Simultaneous car bombs kills dozens just after preliminary poll results released in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan today, officials announced preliminary election as coordinated bomb blasts in Kandahar killed scores. Some observers say the turmoil could lead to civil war. FSRNs Asma Nemati has more.

At 5 p.m. in Kabul,  and throughout the country, ears and eyes were glued to radios and television, waiting for preliminary voting results for Afghanistan’s second presidential elections. With 10% of ballots counted, incumbent Hamid Karzai is barely ahead of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai had 40.6% of those votes, while Abdullah garnered 38.6%. The Independent Elections Commission, however, announced that final results will not be in until the third of September. Moreover, Dr. Abdullah is charging Mr. Karzai’s campaign of election fraud, telling the Associated Press in a meeting early this week that Mr. Karzai rigged last week’s elections and that government officials had a hand in it. Also, Abdullah’s supporters are promising street violence similar to that in Iran, if they believe the election was stolen. In other news, A few hours after the preliminary election results were released, five explosive-laden cars were detonated in Afghanistan’s largest southern city of Kandahar. According to a doctor, almost 30 people have died so far and at least another 30 have been wounded. Afghan officials say the blast appeared to target a Japanese construction company which mainly employs Pakistani engineers. However, details of the blast are not yet known. For FSRN, this is Asma Nemati reporting from Kabul.

Kenya begins controversial census
Security increased in Kenya today, where officials began conducting a national census. There’s been  contention over a question on the survey. For the first time, Kenyan officials will ask about ethnic groups – many Kenyans, say this is inappropriate after more than 1000 people were killed in sectarian violence after elections in 2007. Officials say they need to gather tribal data to adequately address questions of discrimination in social services and resource allocation – critics say the data is misused by politicians. The last census was taken in 1999 – the government never released official results. The census is expected to continue all week

Deficit expected to reach 1.5 trillion – Bernanke reappointed

In financial news, the Congressional Budget Office announced today that the federal deficit will hit about $1.6 trillion this year. While a staggering figure and the largest deficit in the US since World War II, the projection is actually slightly lower than earlier anticipated.  The CBO also said that unemployment figures are expected to top out at 10 percent.  But one guy whose job prospects look pretty good is Ben Bernanke – President Obama reappointed him today as the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Bernanke said  he will strive to create a solid foundation for prosperity and price stability:

“The Federal Reserve, like other economic policy makers has been challenged by the unprecedented events of the past few years – we have been bold or deliberate as circumstances demanded but our objective remains constant – to restore a more stable financial and economic environment in which opportunity can again flourish and in which Americans hard work and creativity can receive their proper rewards.”

But confirmation is not a given, Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd wasted no time today in assuring that Bernanke will face what he called a “thorough” confirmation hearing.


Israel launches airstrike on Gaza-Egypt tunnel – 3 dead
According to Palestinian health officials, three people were killed and seven wounded by airstrikes on a tunnel between the Gaza strip and Egypt early today. The Israeli military says that the strike was in response to mortar attacks into Israel yesterday in which an Israeli soldier was injured.


NRDC says tap water nationwide may contain unsafe levels of herbicide

Across the US, Children, nursing mothers and women in their child bearing may face risks when drinking tap water — the NRDC says EPA monitoring of a common herbicide Atrazine is not good enough. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.

According to the National Resources Defense Council – or NRDC – the EPA is insufficiently monitoring Atrazine in water systems. Atrazine can affect the hormone system, the development of reproductive organs, and may contribute to certain forms of cancer. May Woo Staff Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“What we are finding is that when frogs are exposed to Atrazine, they are actually  starting to become hermaphrodites.”

Woo says because animal and human hormone systems can work the same way, this is cause for alarm.

“Pregnant women who you know drink water that is contaminated with high levels of Atrazine there is some concern that there might be effects on the development of the fetus and the same goes for children and young infants who are also still developing.”

The NRDC had also expressed concern for wildlife and ecosystems; — they’ve called for the EPA to take Atrazine off the shelves. The Obama administration says it will quote take a hard look at the chemical. Karen Miller FSRN Washington.

Argentina says no jail for joints

Argentina’s Supreme Court overturned a law mandating jail terms for possession of small amounts of drugs today. Justices said that the focus should be on treatment and police should pursue major drug traffickers. While not an outright legalization of drug possession, lawmakers in Argentina have been waiting for the Court to rule before proposing such a measure to Congress.


Pakistan: Taliban members turning up dead
In Pakistan today another 24 bodies have been discovered in the past 24 hours, nearly all of them Taliban members. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says the extra-judicial killings were likely carried out by security forces. And two high level Taliban deputies acknowledged today that their leader Baitullah Mehsud – is in fact dead.



De-classified CIA report reveals Bush-era torture practices
Yesterday’s release of a classified report on interrogations shows that the CIA used violence and psychological torture when questioning suspects and detainees.  The secret program appears to be a covert operation working outside the confines of the law.

Interrogators operated with little direction and had no system to follow. What resulted were intense interrogations that many allege constitute torture. This is the clearest look to date at the interrogation program created after September 11th, 2002.  The findings of the released information prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.

FSRN’s Washington Editor, Leigh Ann Caldwell, discussed the details of the report.


Military contractors exceed US troops in Afghanistan
The CIA report, released recently by the Department of Justice, also talks about how the intelligence agency used contractors or paramilitary officers to carry out interrogations.

One part cites the example of a contractor who beats a detainee with a metal flashlight and kicks him during interrogations.  The detainee dies in custody and the contractor is moved to another job.  The report admits that the contractor, whose name is redacted, had received no training in interrogation methods.

A report by the US Defense Department that was recently published in the Wall Street Journal, says that at the end of June there were 74,000 contractors in Afghanistan, compared to 58,000 US soldiers.

The number of contractors could be even higher, with two contractors for every US soldier in Afghanistan. To look deeper into the issue of US contractors, FSRN spoke to  Pratap Chatterjee. Chatterjee is a contributing editor of and he recently published, “Halliburton´s Army.”


Honduras Supreme Court rejects OAS mediation plan
In Honduras today, the Organization of American States continued meetings in Tegucigalpa. The OAS mission, led by Secretary General Miguel Insulza, is there to pressure the Roberto Micheletti de facto government to accept a political resolution to the 58-day-old Honduran conflict.

But they might not have an easy job. The Honduran Supreme Court has said that the proposal is unconstitutional. And the de facto President is also rejecting the mediation plan known as the San Jose Agreement.  FSRN´s Tim Russo has the story.


Drought in India generates economic crisis and farmer suicides
In India, a delayed and deficient monsoon season has severely affected farmers. Nearly a third of the country’s districts are experiencing drought and communities there are facing a grave situation. The affected areas include some of the most populous and poor states where many, including farmers, are struggling to get by.

The drought has already pushed the prices of many essential commodities up and is also expected to slow down the country’s economic growth. From New Delhi, FSRN’S Bismillah Geelani has the story


FSRN correction for RNC 8 story aired August 17th, 2009
On Monday August 17, FSRN aired a story by Andrew Stelzer on the RNC 8 that included the assertion that a spokesperson for the Ramsey County’s attorney´s office would not comment specifically on “any connection between the RNC 8 and other cases.” In fact, the spokesperson refused to comment further on the cases in general.

The story also incorrectly stated that one of the charges against the RNC 8 was “conspiracy to destroy federal property.” The charge was actually “conspiracy to destroy property.” Additionally, we stated that 37 people pleaded guilty to charges brought by Ramsey County. In fact, that’s the number of people who pleaded guilty to charges brought by the city of St Paul, Ramsey County and the federal government combined. FSRN regrets the errors and any misunderstanding this may have created.

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