October 23, 2008


  • Government Requiring Gender and Birthday to Fly
  • Big Banks Could Eat Small Banks with Bail-Out Money
  • Alternative Lenders Avoid Banking Crisis
  • Obama Leaves Campaign Trail
  • Two Third Party Candidates Set to Debate
  • Same Sex Marriage in Jeopardy in California
  • Indigenous March Against Free Trade Policies


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Wisconsin Judge Throws Out Voter Suppression Case
This morning, a Wisconsin judge threw out a lawsuit that questioned the eligibility of thousands on voter rolls in Wisconsin.  Molly Stentz reports from WORT radio in Madison.

Earlier this year, the state of Wisconsin cross-checked their database of voters, as required by the new Federal Help America Vote Act.  They found thousands of names in the state voter file that didn’t match DMV records due to misspellings, typos, and middle initials.  The state elections agency found those voters could consequently be forced to re-register at the polls or use a provisional ballot. So they decided not to use it.  The State Attorney General, a Republican and co-chair of the McCain campaign in Wisconsin, sued to force the state to use the cross-checked data and purge those people from the rolls.  But today’s ruling throws out that case.  Lester Pines, attorney for the state election agency, referred to as the Government Accountability Board, SPOKE outside the courtroom today.  “The point is the government accountability board was right and the Republican Party and the Attorney General were wrong. The US Attorney General has the right to seek to enforce the federal law.  No other entity has the right to bring a lawsuit about the Help America Vote Act. Period.”  In the motion to dismiss the case, the Judge cited Wisconsin’s long history of protecting the right to vote, regardless of clerical errors.  For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Molly Stentz from WORT FM in Madison.

Judge Orders Maricopa County Jails to Improve Conditions
In other legal news, US district court judge Neil Wake has ruled against the infamous Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.  The judge said the conditions in the Maricopa County Jail are unconstitutional and put the health and safety of prisoners at risk.  Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project says the ruling covers pre-trial inmates who have not been convicted of a crime.   For more than 6 years, the Sheriff sought to avoid a federal decree mandating he improve conditions at the jail to constitutional minimums.  The ACLU calls the decision a “sweeping rebuff” of Arpaio’s efforts.  In a show of how poor conditions in the jails are, Judge Wake ordered that inmates be given basic medical and mental health care, as well as access to prescribed medications and basic necessities like toilets and toilet paper, soap and food that meets federal guidelines.  Now, according to Winter, comes enforcement of the ruling.  The ACLU says conditions in the jails have caused terrible suffering to inmates and that even the “Toughest Sheriff in America” has to abide by the Constitution.

Amnesty Groups Call for Release to Two Female Activists Arrested During Peaceful Protest in Zimbabwe
Amnesty and human rights groups around the world are calling for the release of two women who were arrested last week in Zimbabwe when a peaceful protest was dispersed violently by police.  The activists are members of the grassroots organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise.  Their protest called for stabilization of the government, which is currently struggling to implement a power-sharing deal, and food relief for the millions suffering as the country’s economy fails.  Witnesses to the protest say police attacked the women with batons as they waited for government officials to hear their demands.  Amnesty International is calling Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu prisoners of conscience.  Prison authorities did not transport the women to their bail hearing because they say they did not have gas for their vehicles.

EU Awards Top Human Rights Prize to Chinese Activist
The EU has given its top human rights award to Chinese activist Hu Jia.  He was jailed in China after testifying before the EU assembly last year about human rights violations in the country.  Today the Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the EU for awarding the Sakharov Prize to Hu, calling him a criminal.

Deaths Connected to Prescription Drugs Reach Record Levels
A record number of people have died this year from prescription drug use – according to the medical watchdog group Safe Medication Practices.  Nearly 5000 people are dead and over 20-thousand people suffered injuries associated with prescription drug use.   This is a 38% increase from last year.  The main culprits are the anti-smoking drug Varenicline and the blood-thinner heparin.  The heparin cases are linked to contaminated batches of the drug imported from China.



Government Requiring Gender and Birthday to Fly

When you fly, the government will now ask for your full, legal name, gender, and birthday. Not to give you special deals on your special day, but they say it’s to make sure you are not the same Susan Smith or Jay Jones on the no-fly list.  The program is called Secure Flight. Airlines will require the information and pass it over to the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration. Joining us to talk about this program is Tim Sparapani, Senior Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Big Banks Could Eat Small Banks with Bail-Out Money

On Capitol Hill, A Senate panel quizzed Neel Kashkari, the Treasury official in charge of spending 700 billion taxpayers dollars on Wall Street. Lawmakers want assurance that the banks will use the money to loosen credit and issue loans, not to expand the banks personal portfolio.  The questions arise one day after Treasury Secretary Paulson said banks might use government money to buy smaller banks.  FSRN’s Karen Miller reports.

Alternative Lenders Avoid Banking Crisis

While massive banking institutions, like Wachovia, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and others hope to weather this financial storm, alternative lenders who avoided the pitfalls that have brought down the big banks appear to be as strong as ever. They say credit is flowing and business is good. But some microfinance institutions and affordable homeownership organizations are feeling some of the pain as the impacts trickle down from Wall Street. FSRN’s Tanya Snyder reports.

Obama Leaves Campaign Trail

In campaign news, Barack Obama has left the campaign trail to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii.  His wife Michelle will take his place on the road.

Two Third Party Candidates Set to Debate

Tonight third party candidates will debate in Washington DC. Two candidates have confirmed participation – Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. Journalist Chris Hedges will moderate.

Same Sex Marriage in Jeopardy in California

On November 4th, voters in states around the country will vote on ballot initiatives.  In California, one initiative is on same sex marriage.  Same sex couples are currently enjoying new equal marriage rights in the state. But if Proposition 8 passes it would be an enormous step backwards in their long struggle for equality under the law.  Eric Klein reports.

Indigenous March Against Free Trade Policies

In Colombia, thousands of indigenous people are staging a week long march.  Marchers plan to march through 70 miles of Colombia’s countryside. They say they want to change economic policies that are impoverishing their nations. And they reject the presence of US corporations on their lands.  Manuel Rueda joined the march as it passed through Colombia´s Cauca Province.

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