Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is set to sign into law a bill critics say will trample the free speech rights of prisoners. Last week, lawmakers openly said they passed the legislation as a way to target one of the state’s most well-known prisoners: journalist and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 of killing of a Philadelphia police officer, but has long maintained his innocence. During a late night vote last Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House unanimously approved the "Revictimization Relief Act," which authorizes the censoring of public addresses of prisoners or former offenders if judges agree that allowing them to speak would cause "mental anguish" to the victim. The measure was introduced after Abu-Jamal delivered a pretaped commencement address for graduating students at Vermont’s Goddard College earlier this month. We air Abu-Jamal’s response to the bill and speak to Noelle Hanrahan, founder of Prison Radio, which has been recording and distributing Abu-Jamal’s commentaries from prison since 1992.
On Monday, the Israeli government made a rare appearance before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, but its delegation refused to acknowledge responsibility for the conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupied by Israel for nearly half a century. We speak to a legal expert who has just spent six years trying to hold Israel to account for its actions in the Occupied Territories. Richard Falk recently completed his term as special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights for the United Nations Human Rights Council. His writings about the Israel-Palestine issue and his experience as U.N. rapporteur are compiled in the new book, "Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope."
Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would not act to prevent the Islamic State from seizing Kobani because the Syrian Kurdish town was not a "strategic objective." But as news cameras on the Turkish-Syrian border showed Islamic State fighters assaulting a town in plain sight, the U.S.-led coalition responded with the most airstrikes of its Syria campaign. The U.S.-led coalition has also begun dropping air supplies of weapons and aid to the Syrian Kurds, a move it had resisted for weeks. Now Turkey says it will open its border with Syria to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters join the fight. The Turkish government had opposed aiding the Syrian Kurds in Kobani because of their links to Turkey’s longtime foe, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. To help us sort out this complicated picture, we are joined by longtime international law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, who has just returned from four months in Turkey.
Meet the Media Enabled Musketeers, a group of Russians and Americans with disabilities who have banded together to raise awareness about disability issues through film. They have created a dozen short movies that delve into the everyday challenges faced by people with disabilities — issues of accessibility, love, dreams and prejudice. One of the films, "Don’t Look Down on Me," has become a YouTube sensation, viewed more than 2.6 million times. The film chronicles a day in the life of Jonathan Novick, a New York resident with achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism, who uses a hidden camera to expose the prejudice and insensitivity he encounters on a daily basis. We broadcast excerpts of the Musketeers’ films and speak to four of the people involved about how the Russian-American project provides a deeper understanding of life with disability while bridging the divide between their two countries.
Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent feminist critic of video games, was forced to cancel a speech at Utah State University last week after the school received an email threatening to carry out "the deadliest shooting in American history" at the event. The email sender wrote: "feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge." The sender used the moniker Marc Lepine, the name of a man who killed 14 women, most of them female engineering students, in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian canceled the talk after being told that under Utah law, campus police could not prevent people from bringing guns. We speak to Sarkeesian about the incident, the "Gamergate" controversy, and her campaign to expose misogyny, sexism and violence against female characters in video games despite repeated physical threats. "Online harassment, especially gendered online harassment, is an epidemic," Sarkeesian says. "Women are being driven out, they’re being driven offline; this isn’t just in gaming, this is happening across the board online, especially with women who participate in or work in male-dominated industries."
As we broadcast from Denver, Colorado, we examine how the state’s U.S. Senate race in the upcoming midterm election could shape who controls Congress. Republican candidate Cory Gardner and Democratic incumbent Mark Udall are neck and neck in the polls. Gardner is a two-term congressman and son of a tractor salesman who has attacked Udall’s support of the Affordable Care Act and close family political ties. Meanwhile, Udall has accused Gardner of being too far to the right, especially in his previous support for Colorado’s "personhood" ballot measures, which declared that rights begin at conception. Outside groups have poured millions of dollars into the campaigns. We look at the Gardner-Udall contest — and other key issues in the midterm election — with Mike Littwin, a longtime Denver Post political columnist who now writes for The Colorado Independent.
As Denver faces a string of police brutality cases, a federal jury has awarded a historic $4.6 million in damages to the family of a homeless preacher killed while he was in the booking area of the Denver jail. Marvin Booker died after he was grabbed and then piled on by a team of officers who handcuffed him, put him in a chokehold and tasered him. The coroner ruled his death a homicide, but prosecutors declined to charge the deputies involved, and Denver Sheriff Department officials never disciplined them, saying Booker could have harmed someone and that force was needed to restrain him. The case highlights a history of alleged misconduct by the police department, and has added momentum to calls for reform both locally and nationwide in the aftermath of calls for justice in the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by an officer in Ferguson. We are joined by two guests: Rev. Reginald Holmes, pastor of the New Covenant Christian Church/Alpha and Omega Ministries, who has been a leading voice calling for law enforcement accountability, and Susan Greene, editor of The Colorado Independent and longtime reporter formerly with The Denver Post.
We look at a book out this week that offers a new vision for the pro-choice movement. In "Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights," Nation columnist Katha Pollitt dissects the logic behind the hundreds of abortion restrictions enacted over the past few years and shows that, at their core, they are not about safety, but about controlling women. In order to reverse the tide of eroding access, Pollitt concludes, the pro-choice movement must end the "awfulization" of abortion. She writes, "I want us to start thinking of abortion as a positive social good and saying this out loud."
Texas abortion clinics shuttered by a recent court ruling have been allowed to reopen after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked part of an anti-choice law that would have required abortion clinics to meet the standards of hospital-style surgery centers. Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the rule to take immediate effect, essentially gutting access to abortion overnight. Thirteen clinics were forced to close, leaving just eight in all of Texas. The latest Supreme Court ruling will allow the clinics to continue providing care while the appeals court considers the law. At least eight have reportedly already opened their doors again. Texas previously had more than 40 clinics, but many remain closed under another of the law’s provisions which requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In its decision Tuesday, the Supreme Court also blocked that requirement as it applies to two clinics in the isolated communities of El Paso and McAllen. We are joined by Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen, the only abortion clinic open south of San Antonio. It will begin seeing patients again on Friday.
We look at the political and economic circumstances of the spread of Ebola with science writer Leigh Phillips, who calls for a socialization of pharmaceutical research and production. Phillips says that using revenues from profitable drugs to subsidize research for unprofitable drugs would reduce the costs of vaccines and their development. He also argues the decimation of the healthcare infrastructure is linked to the same free market policies and austerity measures pushed by Western countries and the International Monetary Fund that impoverished the West African countries where the Ebola outbreak has occurred. "We need to begin to ask whether capitalism itself is not pathogenic," says Phillips, whose recent article for Jacobin magazine is "The Political Economy of Ebola."
As the infections of two Dallas nurses fuel concerns about Ebola in the United States, the death toll in West Africa is approaching 5,000. The World Health Organization has warned there could be up to 10,000 new Ebola cases per week in the coming months, up from the current 1,000. We are joined by Michelle Dynes, a nurse and epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who has returned from Sierra Leone. Dynes spent the past several weeks responding to the Ebola epidemic in the country’s Kenema district. "It’s a strange situation to see that much pain and suffering and not be able to provide a hug, or comfort," Dynes says.
Protests continue in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero over the disappearance of 43 teachers’ college students missing for more than two weeks following a police ambush. More than 20 police have been detained and accused of collaborating with a drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, that has ties to the city’s mayor, who has fled. Fears over the students’ fate have escalated following the discovery of 10 mass graves. But on Tuesday, Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo said DNA tests showed none of the 28 bodies tested so far belong to the missing students. "This particular attack reflects … decades of criminalization of these schools, and a situation where in the current Mexican government it is really hard to tell where the state begins, and where drug cartels end," says Tanalís Padilla, associate professor of Latin American history at Dartmouth College, who is writing a book on the history of rural normal schools in Mexico. Padilla says the schools offer education to low-income students unserved by the public school system, and have a legacy of political radicalism that has prompted political crackdowns in the past. We are also joined by Valeria Hamel, an activist and law student at Mexico City, where students have launched a 48-hour strike, calling for the students to be returned alive. "These students were politically involved in their communities, so that makes us think this is political," Hamel says.
Although the rate of new Ebola infections has slowed in some areas, the World Health Organization says it would be premature to read that as a success. New WHO projections suggest there could be between 5,000 and 10,000 new cases a week by December. The head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response told the U.N. Security Council that the steps implemented by the international community are not enough to halt the advance of the fatal disease. "This is an international humanitarian and health crisis," says Lawrence Gostin, university professor and faculty director at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Gostin says privatized healthcare has undermined the U.S. response to Ebola, with a lack of available vaccines and access to proper care. "Much of our innovation is driven by the private sector, and from their point of view, Ebola was not a predictable disease and those who got Ebola were too poor to pay for it." We are also joined by Karen Higgins, co-president of National Nurses United.
As a second healthcare worker at Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital tests positive for Ebola after caring for patient Thomas Eric Duncan, the Centers for Disease Control has identified what it calls a "large group" of other workers who may still be at risk. Ebola patients are also being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, but so far no workers there have contracted the virus. This comes as the country’s largest nurses union, National Nurses United, says hospitals across the country are largely unready to take in Ebola patients and have failed to adequately train healthcare workers and provide necessary protective gear. In a conference call Tuesday, the union’s co-president Deborah Burger said nurses at the Dallas hospital described having to use medical tape to secure openings in their flimsy garments, and were worried that their necks and heads were exposed as they cared for a patient with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting. We are joined by the co-president of National Nurses United, Karen Higgins, who works as an intensive care unit nurse in Boston, and hear from Democracy Now! co-host Juan González, who reports on the nurses’ concerns in his latest column for the New York Daily News.
New York Times investigative reporter James Risen faces jail time if he refuses to name a whistleblowing source, but he insists the actual whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden, are “much more courageous that we reporters are." Risen won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting about warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the National Security Agency. "We revealed the framework for … how the Bush administration turned the NSA on the American people," Risen says. He argues Snowden revealed that "under Obama and in the years since we had first written about it, the American people had become much more of an online citizenry … as a result, the NSA had grown dramatically in their ability to watch the online presence of Americans."
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