January 30, 2004

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Billy Tauzin and Medicare
It has been reported yesterday on the website CNN.com that Republican Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, one of the 20 co-sponsors of the new 540 million dollar Medicare Prescription Bill, received an offer worth more than one million dollars, to represent the main pharmaceutical lobbying group, The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Ivy Fitgerald has more.

Extortion leads to violence in Jamaica
The Jamaican Town of Spanish Town is under siege from what many describe as criminal gangs drawn from the opposite sides of that country’s political spectrum. In the past two weeks some twelve people have been killed and 20 others have been injured as the group’s battle for control of the town’s extortion racket. FSRN’s Ian Forrest, reports.

Young ‘Enemy Combatants’ Released
The United States releases three “enemy combatants” from Guantanamo Bay,young teenagers captured in Afghanistan and held in Cuba since early 2003. Jackson Allers reports from WBAI in New York.

CBS and Freedom of Expression
Tens of Millions of Superbowl Sunday viewers would have seen a 30 second ad this weekend depicting [DEPICTING] children laboring IN adult jobs and ending with the question, “Guess who’s going to pay off President Bush’s $1 trillion deficit?” But CBS has refused to air the ad, funded by MoveOn.org, saying it was too controversial. Sandra Ahten has more on this story.

South Carolina Debate – WMD’s and Government Oversight  (4:45)
The Washington Post is reporting that both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in their investigations of prewar Iraqi intelligence said that the failure was due, in part, to the fact that the CIA’s analysis did not seriously consider that Saddam Hussein no longer had weapons of mass destruction. According to an unnamed Congressional official the Committees have determined that the CIA relied heavily on circumstantial and outdated evidence and became overdependent on satellite and spy-plane imagery and communications intercepts. Meanwhile, Democratic Presidential Candidates debated last night in South Carolina where they blasted President Bush on misleading the public on the reasons for going to war. Two of those same candidates voted in 2002 in the Senate to authorize the invasion. Mitch Jeserich reports.

Plea for Death Row Clemency in CA  (3:39)
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger faces the first clemency appeal of his administration. Schwarzenegger will be deciding the fate of a man scheduled for execution for 4 murders committed in 1983. Supporters of clemency say there are serious problems with the evidence presented at the condemned man’s trial. 6 jurors from the trial have joined in asking for clemency. FSRN’s Christopher Martinez reports from KPFA.

Mandatory Minimums Under the Spotlight in CT  (3:19)
With hundreds of thousands of defendants moving through U.S. criminal courts each year and more than two million incarcerated at any one time, the government has had to find a way to keep the system from totally clogging up and shutting down. One solution is plea bargaining. 95 percent of all criminal defendants in state courts in the United States cop a plea rather than go to trial. If a defendant is guilty and admits it, then plea bargaining is an efficient way to move cases through the system. Yet many defendants who are innocent accept plea bargains because the alternative is to go to trial and, if convicted, receive a hefty mandatory minimum sentence. Mandatory minimum sentences have come under attack not only from people caught in the system and their families, but from judges, who complain such sentences undermine their own authority to impose an individually crafted penalty on an individual defendant saying one size does not fit all. Increasingly, legislators are also beginning to oppose mandatory minimums as unjust. In Connecticut, these forces are coming together to push a criminal justice reform bill in the legislative session about to get under way. Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.

Natural Gas Drilling  (3:29)
Fourth-quarter profits at Exxon Mobil rose 63 percent with the oil giant saying it benefited from higher prices for crude oil and natural gas. This dramatic increase comes as the US is facing  three storm systems which are affecting the country this week and the National Weather Service has issued warnings and advisories from Washington State to Maine. The snow removal budgets of municipalities are being strained by rock salt prices that have climbed from $34 a ton to $52 a ton in the last few weeks. Although natural gas storage appears to be sufficient for this winter’s heating needs, our ability to keep away the cold by burning fossil fuels is in permanent decline and the government has only short-term solutions. Kellia Ramares filed this report.

FCC Localization Hearings  (4:14)
As major news networks ramp up their election coverage, questions are being raised as to the diversity of programming available in media markets across the country. When the Federal Communications Commission approved new and looser media ownership rules in June of 2003, it received an overwhelmingly negative response from the public. Thousands of letters were sent opposing the rule changes – many noting big media’s poor track record on providing programming relevant to the needs of local communities. And this week, in a belated public relations maneuver, FCC Chairman Micheal Powell responded to complaints by forming a task force to hear public concerns. On Wednesday, the task force held its second of six public hearings in San Antonio, Texas. Renee Feltz reports from Pacifica station KPFT in Houston.


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