October 8, 2009

  • Former soldiers with cancer say military exposed them to toxic sites
  • House seeks earlier date for credit card regulations
  • Turkish unions denounce intimidation of workers and union busting in textiles sector
  • International diplomats demand reinstatement of Zelaya; Honduras negotiations continue

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Iranian protester sentenced to death
A man charged with organizing protests against this past June’s elections in Iran has been sentenced to death, according to an Iranian reformist website.  Supporters of Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani say he was coerced into confessing membership in a terrorist group, and plotting against Iran’s political system.  Ali-Zamani is one of about 100 protesters facing charges of fomenting unrest in the streets; under Iranian law he will be able to appeal the death sentence.

Bomb in Afghanistan/arrests at anti-war protests
A bomb in Kabul targeting the Indian embassy has killed at least 17 people and injured more than 60.  Last year, the same embassy was attacked, with a bomb that killed 54 people.  The bomb, which the Taliban has taken credit for, came one day after the 8th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan; the date was marked by protests across the United States.

Small protests have been held all week. On Wednesday, police arrested 2 protesters in New York City.  In Rochester, New York, more than 100 people were marched in the streets as part of nationwide demonstrations organized by the college campus based group Students for a Democratic Society.

Video footage shows police tackling a woman to the ground; her face bloodied from the attack.  Police arrested 12 people; law enforcement officials say the protesters were blocking traffic, but video is raising questions in the local media about those claims.

CBO estimate on Senate Finance Committee Healthcare Bill
A cost analysis of the Senate Finance Committee’s Healthcare reform Bill says that the proposal would meet President Obama’s goal of costing less than 900 billion dollars, but the plan would leave 25 million people uninsured, 17 million of them US citizens.  The cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office is being touted as good news by many Democratic supporters of the bill, while some Republicans say the lower cost doesn’t matter because the full Senate will bump up the total number when they debate the full bill.  The Senate Finance committee is scheduled to vote on the bill next Tuesday.

UN Will Not move up debate over Goldstone report
The UN Security Council has rejected a request by Libya to hold a formal debate on a report accusing Israel and Hamas of war crimes. But world leaders will discuss issues raised in the report on October 14th, 6 days ahead of a regularly scheduled meeting on Middle East issues.   Based on what is known as the Goldstone report, the council could have voted as early as this Friday on whether to condemn Israel and Hamas for their actions during the December to January war, but last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas caved to pressure from the US, and requested that the vote and discussion be delayed until March.  Street protests against Abbas prompted him to backtrack.  Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, the UN Permanent Observer of Palestine, said Palestine supports the upcoming debate, although he’s skeptical that anything will come out of it.

“We know that the track record of the Security Council is premised on double standard and selectivity, but we see what they do on the 14th.  And we have fall back positions; we will go to the general assembly if the Security Council fails to implement the recommendations of the Goldstone report.”

New Bi-National Police force in Tijuana

The US Ambassador to Mexico is in the battle-scarred border city of Ciudad Juarez today. The diplomatic visit comes on the heels of a trip to Tijuana, where officials announced plans for a new bi-national police force. Shannon Young has more.

The recently appointed Ambassador Carlos Pascual congratulated police in the border city of Tijuana for efforts to purge corrupt elements from their ranks and reduce the city’s murder rate. Earlier this week, officials in San Diego and Tijuana announced plans to create a bi-national task force to make the area safer for tourists. The proposal calls on police from the US side of the border to provide training and intelligence, but details on the size of and funding for Mexico’s side of the force are hazy.  The economies of Mexican border cities have historically depended upon revenue generated by US visitors to the area, but raging drug cartel violence has sharply reduced cross-border tourism.  It’s unclear at this point if plans for a bi-national task force similar to the one in Tijuana are also in the works for the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez corridor.

Berlusconi no longer has immunity from prosecution
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may soon be defending himself in court, as Italy’s high court has overruled a law that granted top government officials immunity.   Two trials against the prime minister, one of them for corruption, were suspended in 2008 when his administration passed the immunity law.  But the majority of a 15-judge panel has ruled that the immunity law violated the principal that all Italians are equal in the eyes of the law.

Community Radio Act passes out of committee
One more significant step has been taken for local communities trying set up low power FM radio stations, or LPFM’s. Shuhei Nakayama has more.

Today the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet passed the Local Community Radio Act, 15 votes to 1. The Act, if it makes it through Congress, will repeal the regulations Congress imposed on LPFM’s in 2000.  Advocates say it could result in the creation of hundreds of new low power radio stations. Bigger broadcasters had claimed that low power stations could obstruct their signals, but that has since been disproved by a study. The Act will likely be adopted by the end of the year, according to Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle.

And those are today’s headlines.  For Free Speech Radio News, from Oakland, I’m Andrew Stelzer.



Former soldiers with cancer say military exposed them to toxic sites
Former US Army members who suffer from cancer, leukemia and lung damage say the US military is to blame for their illnesses. At a hearing today in the US Senate, former soldiers and their relatives said the military made them live and work at sites known to be toxic. FSRN´s Karen Miller reports.


House seeks earlier date for credit card regulations
In Washington, DC, the House of Representatives hopes to move up the date that new regulations for credit card companies go into effect. The move comes as credit card companies are increasing interest rates and fees on consumers, before new restrictions will make it more difficult to do so. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Turkish unions denounce intimidation of workers and union busting in textiles sector
Protests against the IMF and the World Bank in Istanbul, Turkey resulted in the arrests of nearly 130 people, including 22 children, according to the government. But some civil groups say the number could exceed 200. Police in riot gear used tear gas and water cannons on Tuesday and Wednesday, hitting protesters and journalists alike.

In this CNN video, reporter Ivan Watson attempts to deliver a report but is overcome by the effects of tear gas.

“We just got hit by a real cloud of teargas it´s pretty painful. Right now the riot police have been firing gas into this alleyway here, again in this notorious neighborhood Talibasha and you can see down the alleyway protesters with anti-IMF World Bank site…”

Videos show some protesters breaking storefront windows. World Bank President, Robert Zoellick, says participants in the meetings are trying to find ways to reactivate the global economy and act against threats like rising unemployment.

Those protesting the meetings include Turkish labor unions that are critical of economic austerity programs adopted by their country following the advice of the IMF and the World Bank. Other demonstrators included students and public employees.

During these meetings, the IMF and the World Bank are discussing ways to give developing countries more say in the future of these institutions. Developing countries only have a third of the votes in the IMF´s governing board. Emerging economies like Brazil and India are seeking a greater role.

Meanwhile, Turkish trade unions representing textile workers are taking their case to the international court of public opinion in an effort to highlight alleged union busting at a major textiles plant. Many of the products produced in these factories are for the North American and European markets. So Turkish trade unions and international labor advocates have appealed directly to the retailers and brands that use factories where workers complain of intimidation. FSRN’S Jacob Resneck reports from Istanbul.


International diplomats demand reinstatement of Zelaya; Honduras negotiations continue
In Honduras, political negotiations continue after a team of international diplomats met with the country´s two presidents Wednesday. In a meeting that was broadcast on national television yesterday, diplomats from Europe, Latin America and North America asked De Facto President Roberto Micheletti to restore democracy and facilitate the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Micheletti argued in front of the cameras that Zelaya´s ouster was legal because it had been approved by the Honduran Congress and the Supreme Court, after Zelaya made an illegal attempt to change the Honduran constitution through a national referendum.

The situation remains tense in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Yesterday, police once again dispersed Zelaya supporters who gathered around the Brazilian embassy, where the ousted President has taken refuge. Today, the national front against the coup d´etat called for another march in the streets of Tegucigalpa.

For more on on this crisis and the current negotiations, FSRN contacted regular guest Larry Birns. Birns is a former diplomat and a long-time Latin America analyst. He´s the founder and director of a Washington think tank, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

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