December 23, 2002

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Skeletons in Frist’s Closet
Tennessee senator Bill Frist is the new senate Majority leader, replacing the embattled Trent Lott.  Republican Senators elected Frist by voice vote today.  Frist has been given failing grades from civil rights, environmental, and labor groups, for his voting record. Government ethics groups say the Senate?s only physician has a conflict of  interest when it comes to health policy.  His family’s private hospital company has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for Medicare fraud.  From DC, Josh Chaffin has this look at new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Small Pox Vaccination Controversy
President Bush received his small pox vaccination over the weekend amidst claims that the vaccine is known to have several harsh side effects. The President claims robust health. This as 2 hospitals have already declined to deal with the vaccine. The White House plan to begin vaccinating military and health-care personnel against smallpox in January is controversial, precisely because the vaccine has several serious known side effects. Nevertheless, the nation’s largest union of health care workers, the Service Employees International Union, says it won’t oppose the program. Still, as Kellia Ramares reports, the union thinks the vaccination plan needs improvement.

Operation Tarmac Deports Hundreds
Immigrants’ rights activists held a prayer vigil at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport last Friday, protesting the arrest of twenty-five airport workers on December 10th. The workers were the latest to be picked up in the federal dragnet called “Operation Tarmac” – a program designed to keep terrorists from breaching airport security. But as John Hamilton reports, the operation has been far more successful at deporting undocumented immigrant workers than it has at stopping terrorism.

Connecticut Deficit Means More Poverty
As the Bush administration plows ahead with its plan to restructure the economy, to the proposed tune of $300 billion dollars in tax breaks for the rich, critics already charge the plans will further erode the already dwindling federally funded social programs. Connecticut, the nation?s wealthiest state, is facing a gaping and growing hole in its state budget. Last year, the gap was closed by using up the $600 million Rainy Day Fund and making 450 million dollars in program cuts. The method officials are proposing to fill the current deficit hole threatens to further widen the gap between rich and poor. But a progressive coalition has come up with another idea. Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.

Students Occupy University in Argentina
Tens of thousands of Argentines demanding food and jobs marched past shuttered shops and hordes of riot police Friday and continuing through the weekend, the first anniversary of deadly protests that ousted the elected government in December of 2001. In the biggest demonstration since last year’s protest, when at least 27 people died, a vast cross-section of Argentinean society peacefully rallied outside the pink presidential palace to protest the country?s worst ever economic depression.  Before dawn, an information bomb spewed pamphlets criticizing the International Monetary Fund near a branch of Citibank and Spanish-run Telefonica. This mass action comes on the heels of a month-long student protest at the Public University of Buenos Aires in which  students took over the administration building of the university. The take-over came after a long year of demonstrations and discussions with university authorities about the almost five thousand students that are studying at the university yet without some of the basics like classrooms and textbooks.  Pablo Boido and Tomás Eliaschev report from the Argentina IMC.

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