Unregulated Money and Decline of Independent Journalism Empowered Fringe Groups to Close Federal Government
Interview with John Nichols, Washington correspondent with the Nation Magazine, conducted by Scott Harris
With the government shutdown entering its third week and the threat of default on the national debt looming, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders came together to propose a deal, that if accepted by legislators in the GOP-controlled House, would fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the nation’s borrowing authority through Feb. 7. But members of the “Tea Party” faction in the House initially rejected the Senate solution to the crisis and were preparing to vote on their own proposal to end the political impasse.
The Republican-driven government shutdown, planned months ago with $200 million in support from the conservative multi-billionaire Koch brothers, has jeopardized many federal programs that assist the young, ill and elderly, such as nutrition assistance for women, infants and children; school breakfast and lunch programs for disadvantaged students and Meals on Wheels that feed vulnerable senior citizens.
Although Tea Party Republicans initially demanded the defunding or delay in the implementation of the Obamacare health reform law in exchange for reopening the government, those demands have now switched to cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Progressive Democrats and advocates for preserving the nation’s social safety net are concerned that earlier statements by President Obama indicate that he may agree to benefit cuts in these programs to reach a so-called “Grand Bargain” deal with Republicans in future White House-Congressional talks. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with John Nichols, Washington, correspondent with The Nation magazine, who discusses the political dysfunction that set the stage for the government shutdown, examined in his new book, “Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America,” co-authored with Robert McChesney.
For more information on “Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America,” visit Dollarocracy-book.com
In Midst of Government Shutdown, Immigration Rights Activists Continue to Pressure Congress to Adopt Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Interview with Christian Ramírez, director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Program of AFSC, conducted by Scott Harris
Although the nation’s attention is focused on the political conflict in Washington that led to the government shutdown and concern about default resulting from inaction on raising the U.S. debt ceiling, immigrant rights activists continue to push for immigration reform legislation. Due to the shutdown, forward motion on most legislative efforts have been stalled, but eight members of Congress made the decision to be arrested with 200 other activists in front of the Capitol building on Oct. 8 in order to draw attention back to the immigration reform debate.
Members of Congress and activists who were blocking streets in front of the Capitol building were arrested as part of a planned act of non-violent civil disobedience coinciding with the “Camino Americano Rally and March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect” organized to send a message to House Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders to bring pending immigration bills up for a vote. An estimated 15,000 people participated in the pro-immigration reform rally on the National Mall.
While the U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill in June, that included billions of dollars for increased border security and a 13-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., the House has yet to take action on several narrowly focused GOP-sponsored legislative proposals, none of which embraces a path to citizenship. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Christian Ramírez, director of the U.S.- Mexico Border Program of the American Friends Service Committee. Here he talks about the continuing effort by immigrant rights activists pushing Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Find more information on the U.S.-Mexico Border Program of the American Friends Service Committee at afsc.org/content/us-mexico-border-program.
Health Hazards Fuel Opposition Against Wisconsin Taconite Mine
Interview with Frank Koehn, president of the Penokee Hills Education Project, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
The largest proposed mine in the history of the state of Wisconsin has generated opposition across a broad spectrum of the state’s citizens. If given the green light, the iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills near Lake Superior would produce taconite, a mineral used in the steel-making industry. The project is being promoted by Gogebic Taconite, or G-TAC, a company whose owners made large campaign contributions to influential Wisconsin state legislators in their successful effort to change state law to allow the mine to proceed. These regulatory changes were made despite the fact that independent scientific analyses have shown the ore to be mined contains high levels of asbestos, a substance that when inhaled increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma and other respiratory diseases including asbestosis.
The company projects $1.5 billion in taxable revenue and 700 jobs. Republican supporters include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. While a broad coalition of opponents include most Democratic state legislators, environmentalists, city and county governments from the area surrounding the mine site, and all of Wisconsin’s 11 sovereign Tribal Nations, including the local Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Ojibway. Tribal activists are skeptical of the rosy income and job predictions and are concerned about asbestos health hazards and acidification of area waters.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Frank Koehn, president of the Penokee Hills Education Project, a grassroots group organizing on the environmental, health, social, and economic issues of mining that disproportionately affect Native and rural populations. Here, Koehn describes the impact the proposed mine on the local ecosystem and residents of the area, and what people are doing to oppose the mining project.
Find links to more information on the Penokee Hills Education Project of Northern Wisconsin by visiting www.miningimpactcoalition.org.
This week’s summary of under-reported news
Compiled by Bob Nixon
A year after she was shot in the head by the Taliban as she was sitting in a school bus, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager and advocate for girls’ education won the Sakharov Prize for free speech awarded by the European Parliament. During the same week, Malala released her memoir, and appeared with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. (CNN, New York Times, Salon)
Over the last two years, the United Nations estimates 40 million fewer people were chronically under-nourished across the globe, showing a slow but steady reduction in hunger and extreme poverty. Most of the progress came in South East Asia, especially in China and Vietnam, while hunger remains deeply embedded in sub-Saharan Africa. (The Guardian, Inter Press News Service)
Houston resident Sebastian Prevot knew he was in trouble as soon as police officers tried to pull him over for a minor late night traffic infraction – he had stopped just past the white line at a four-way stop sign. (Texas Monthly )