College students, beware of cutting classes: INS jails and threatens to deport foreign students for taking less than 12 credits; Electronic tracking of international students begins Jan. 30: Schools must transmit students grades, course loads, majors, addresses to the INS and State Department; The Supreme Court of Venezuela suspends a referendum on President Hugo Chavez & the government halts foreign currency trading: We go to Caracas
9:00-9:01 Billboard 9:01-9:06 Headlines 9:06-9:07 One Minute Music (Juan Avilar w/friend) 9:07-9:20 Across the country hundreds of thousands of college students are returning from winter break. Yashar Zendehdel almost wasn t one them. The Iranian-born student is a junior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he is majoring in economics. Last spring he dropped his course load from 14 credits to 10 credits. For that he was arrested, jailed and almost deported. Because he was an Iranian on a student visa, in early December he was required to register with the INS. When INS agents examined Yashar Zendehdel s school record they found a problem. He wasn t in any academic or disciplinary trouble. He also had no criminal record. And his immigration paperwork was fine. His problem was that he took less than 12 credits of classes last spring. Under new INS regulations that is now a deportable offense. At least five other foreign-born students in Colorado were jailed last month on similar grounds. 9:20-9:21 One Minute Music Break 9:21-9:40 INS tracking of international students is about to get even more intense. One week from today, the INS will implement a new program called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS. Under SEVIS, all colleges, universities and graduate programs which receive federal funding will be required to transmit electronically detailed information on every international student directly to the INS, the State Department, and the Department of Education. Schools will transmit students grades, course loads, majors, addresses, and any changes to this information. If schools fail to do so, they will lose federal funding. USA Today reports that up to a thousand schools will not be ready by the Jan. 30 deadline. The INS will force these schools to suspend international student registration. All of this comes after hundreds of foreign students were either denied visas by the State Department or missed the start of the fall semester because of delays in immigration proceedings. GUEST: Murray Welch, director of the Office of International Services at Johns Hopkins Medical School GUEST: Greg Leonard, Vice President for Newfront Software based in Cambridge. New Front has been developing the software that will be used in the SEVIS system. 9:40-9:41 One Minute Music Break 9:41-9:58 The Supreme Court of Venezuela yesterday indefinitely postponed a nationwide referendum scheduled for next month on whether embattled President Hugo Chavez should resign. The ruling has stunned opposition leaders. The referendum would have been nonbonding, but they had hoped a resounding defeat would increase political pressure on Chavez to step down. Also yesterday, the government closed the markets for five days, hoping to stem the exodus of capital and prevent its crippled currency from falling further. US-owned multinational corporations including Microsoft and Ford have begun to close local offices and pull people out of the country. Protests both for and against Chavez continue. On Monday, one person died and more than 20 were injured in protests. More protests are scheduled for today, an especially symbolic day for Venezuelans. On Jan. 23, 1958, a popular uprising backed by the military forced the dictator General Perez Jimenez to flee the country. Since then the day has been celebrated almost like Independence Day is celebrated here in the U.S. [The country s crisis was precipitated by a management lock out that crippled the petroleum industry and shuttered supermarkets and malls in December and early January. Most businesses are open now, though, and the effort to topple Chavez appears to have failed. Guest: Deepa Fernandes, reporter for Free Speech Radio News who has been in Caracas for the last three weeks. Guest: Jennifer McCoy, director of the Americas Program at the Carter Center and Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She has just returned from Venezuela where she was part of former President Carter s delegation to Venezuela which met with President Chavez and Opposition Leaders in an effort to negotiate a resolution to the conflict There are no ads for laundry detergent or breakfast cereal on the Venezuelan private TV channels. Just one attack ad after another after another, all blaming Chavez for the country s ills. Tape: anti-Chavez ad 9:58-9:59 Outro and Credits Democracy Now! is produced by Kris Abrams, Mike Burke, Angie Karran, Ana Nogiera and Alex Wolfe. Mike Di Filippo is our engineer and webmaster.