December 16, 2009
Iran test-fires long-rang missile
Iran announced today it has tested a long-range missile powerful enough to reach Israel and some parts of Europe. In response, the US State Department has rebuked the move, saying it undermines Iran’s assertions that it has peaceful intentions. British PM Gordon Brown said the launch furthers the case for sanctions.
Switzerland agrees to take Guantanamo detainee
Switzerland says it will take one of the prisoners the US government is trying to move from Guantanamo. Several other European nations have also volunteered to take prisoners from the US detention center. President Obama’s plan to close the facility by January has been delayed as the government struggles to place the prisoners elsewhere. Yesterday the Obama Administration announced it would move up to 100 detainees at Guantanamo to a facility in Illinois.
Bomb targets Pakistani politician, kills more than 20 at market
A chaotic scene in the Punjab province of central Pakistan today, as smoke and the sounds of sirens filled the air. A car bomb exploded outside a market and killed more than 20 people. The target was apparently a senior Pakistani politician whose home was nearby.
Bolivia lashes out at US for exclusion from Andean Trade Pact
The Bolivian Government has expressed anger at the US over the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Earlier this week, the US House of Representatives approved a one-year extension that excludes Bolivia. FSRN’s Leny Olivera reports from Cochabamba.
Bolivia’s government criticized the US House of Representatives for once again excluding it from the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.
The Act was born in the early 1990s to foster economic development in the region and combat narcotics production. Originally Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Bolivia were allowed to export thousands of products to the United States duty-free, as long as they cooperated with the US war on drugs.
Bolivia was first excluded from this agreement in 2008 when the Bush Administration argued the country was not respecting its commitments satisfactorily.
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera calls the continued exclusion retaliation – because Bolivia no longer subordinates itself to the US. He announced that he will continue to seek other markets for Bolivian products. For FSRN, I’m Leny Olivera from Cochabamba, Bolivia.
British Airways and other transport strikes threaten to cripple holiday travel
Representatives from British Airways and the Unite Union are meeting today after cabin crews for the airline announced they would go on strike for two weeks beginning next week. Crews are fighting changes to their pay and work conditions being implemented by the Airline. They say it’s a breach of their contract. The Airline claims the pending strike is illegal because of faulty union balloting and is challenging the decision in British court. A strike during the busy holiday season would impact over a million travelers, according to an Airline representative.
Baggage handlers and other airport staff in the UK – at Heathrow and Aberdeen airports – plan multi-day strike actions over the holidays as well. In addition the drivers of the Eurostar Train service plan to strike for four days in protest of what they consider sub-standard meal per diems. Eurostar is perhaps best known for connecting the UK and France through the Chunnel.
Federal incitement in PA hate crimes case
The FBI has issued hate crimes indictments for two Pennsylvania teens. A local court convicted Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky of assault in the beating death of Luis Ramirez in July of 2008 and sentenced them both to less than two years in jail. Witnesses say that they heard racial slurs being used during the attack. And many accused the police department of mishandling the case.
The federal indictments also charge Donchak and three members of the Shenandoah police department – including the Chief –with obstruction of justice. Police allegedly helped the teens cover up their crime, lied to federal investigators, and destroyed evidence. Gladys Limon, the lawyer for Ramirez’s fiancée spoke to CNN.
“It’s been very difficult for her. So this has provided some sense of relief and will provide her with a sense of peace this Christmas.”
If convicted for federal hate crimes, Donchak and Piekarsky could serve life in prison. The officers face sentences of 20 years for each count of obstruction. The officers have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to attend a bail hearing today.
Thousands march on Copenhagen convention center as clashes erupt
In the streets of Copenhagen today, clashes between police and protesters caused chaos as thousands marched on the Bella center and activists inside staged a walk out. An estimated 260 people were arrested, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Brian Edwards-Tiekert has more from Copenhagen.
Climate talks unravel as heads of state arrive
Inside the climate change conference center, relations among negotiators appeared to reach a new level of discord. Several countries raised more concerns over the behind-closed-doors negotiating process. They also complained of a lack of access to the conference venue for delegates and environmental advocates. FSRN’S Jenny Johnson has more.
Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi meets with political party leaders
Today in Burma, detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with leaders of her political party, the National League for Democracy. It’s the first time in a year that she has been able to meet with the party’s leaders. And it seems that – at least one of the topics of the talks was a reorganization of the party that could come ahead of a national election in 2010.
To discuss today’s meeting and what it means for Burma, we’re joined by Aung Zaw. He’s an editor at the Burmese news magazine Irrawaddy, based in Thailand.
Republicans force withdrawal of single payer health care amendment
On Capitol Hill today, Republicans successfully defeated a proposal to create a single payer health care plan. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders withdrew an amendment that aimed to cover every American legally residing in the country with health insurance. Republicans had launched a procedural move to read aloud the entire 700-plus-page amendment, thus effectively blocking the debate on health care and threatening Democratic plans to pass the bill before Christmas. FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.
House prepares to vote on $154 billion legislation on jobs
The House of Representatives passed a spending bill today that provides more than $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also extends unemployment insurance and health care for people who lost jobs in the recession – but does not cover the cost of the additional 30,000 troops that President Obama plans to send to Afghanistan in 2010. Also today, Congress members prepared to vote on a $154 billion jobs bill. The bill is meant to augment last year’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill plan. FSRN’s Matt Pearson reports.