Zimbabwe s Top Court Orders Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai Freed After Spending Two Weeks in Prison. The Zimbabwean ambassador to the U.S. debates critic Patrick Bond on Mugabe s rule, free speech and land reform; Senate Commerce Committee Votes to Prevent Nation s Largest Media Conglomerates from Growing Even Larger. The Senate has begun to reverse the FCC s vote to relax media concentration rules, but the legislation faces an uphill battle in the House; White House orders EPA to remove global warming conclusions from state of the environment report Intro: Original draft concluded that global warming is caused in part by rising concentrations of smokestack and automobile emissions. The final study does not.
8:00-8:01 Billboard 8:01-8:06 Headlines 8:06-8:07 One Minute Music Break 8:07-8:20: The Senate Commerce Committee yesterday voted to prevent the nation s largest media conglomerates from growing even larger. The Senate legislation would reverse a vote the Federal Communication Commission took just two and a half weeks ago, to relax or scrap the government s media ownership rules. Specifically, under the Senate legislation, media conglomerates would not be allowed to own television stations that reach nearly half the nation's viewers, after all. Nor would corporations be allowed to own a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city. In addition, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, Republican John McCain, narrowly won a vote to require companies that are over the new FCC radio radio ownership limits, including Clear Channel Communications, to sell stations after one year. And, the bill would require the FCC to hold at least five public hearings on future ownership rule changes before voting. The quick Senate action was a clear a rebuke to FCC Chair Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State General Colin Powell. Michael Powell pushed hard to relax the media ownership rules, and refused to make any serious attempt to involve the public on the issue. But he thoroughly consulted industry lobbyists. The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity found that FCC officials met with top broadcasters behind closed doors more than 70 times to discuss the rule changes. The public was not to be silenced. Activists organized hearings and press conferences all over the country. Members of the National Rifle Association sent in three hundred thousand postcards. The Washington Post reported the FCC received more than 9,000 email comments through its website, and of those, only 11 were in favor of the changes. The activist group Moveon.org collected 170,000 signatures on a petition. Common Cause launched a $250,000 ad campaign, and placed ads in the Washington Post and The New York Times. And Senators began to speak out. The legislation will now go to a full senate vote. It faces an uphill battle in the House. * Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy Contact: www.democraticmedia.org 8:20-8:21 One Minute Music Break 8:21-8:40: Zimbabwe s top court has ordered opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to be released on bail. The leading critic of President Robert Mugabe s government had been in jail for two weeks. He faced separate charges of both plotting to overthrow Mugabe, and plotting to murder Mugabe. Tsvangirai heads the opposition group the Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC staged five days of mass protests and a national strike in an attempt to force Mugabe either to step down or to negotiate a settlement. Tsvangirai's lawyers say he was simply advocating peaceful protest. The MDC blames President Mugabe for creating the country s worst economic and political crisis since Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. Seven out of every ten people are unemployed. The country now suffers from 300 percent inflation, one of the highest rates in the world. Tsvangirai s group blames the economic crisis in part on Mugabe s policy of seizing white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks. Last year, Mugabe set off a storm of controversy when he allowed his supporters to forcibly, and in some cases violently, evict white farmers from their land. President Mugabe says he is determined to redraw the colonial map. Up until last year, a tiny white minority controlled more than half of Zimbabwe s fertile soil. But critics say Mugabe is handing away the best land to his friends. Last week, Mugabe told a crowd of supporters the government will never allow MDC to hold a mass action again and accused them of being in league with the British. Mugabe also said whites had never accepted Zimbabwe as an independent country and told them to go live in Rhodesia. Rhodesia was the name for Zimbabwe when it was a British colony. It was named after Cecil Rhodes. Meanwhile, the United Nations yesterday issued a report stating that large-scale commercial farming has dropped by 90 percent in recent years. The report said 400,000 farm workers have lost their jobs. And half of the country s 11 million people are now in need of food aid. * Simbi Mubako, Ambassador of Zimbabwe to the United States. He is participating in a forum called Up Close Zimbabwe in Atlanta on Saturday. * Patrick Bond, professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and author of the book, Zimbabwe s Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism, Neoliberalism and the Search for Social Justice 8:40-8:41 One Minute Music Break 8:41-8:58 :"Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment.'' That was one of the conclusions originally included in a forthcoming report by the Environmental Protection Agency of the state of the environment. But that conclusion appears nowhere in the final report. The final wording read: The complexity of the Earth system an the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. The New York Times yesterday exposed that the White House ordered officials at the EPA to delete several sections that concern global warming and climate change. The EPA also removed all references to a 2001 report on climate change that was conducted by the National Research Council -- the research arm of the National Academy of Science. * Jeremy Symons, Manager of the Climate Change and Wildlife Program at the National Wildlife Foundation 8:58-8:59 Outro and Credits Democracy Now! is produced by Kris Abrams, Mike Burke, Angie Karran, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Ana Nogueira, Elizabeth Press, Noah Reibel and Vilka Tzouras. Mike Di Filippo is our music maestro and engineer. Thanks also to Uri Galed, Angela Alston, Emily Kunstler, Orlando Richards, Simba Rousseau, Rafael delaUz, Gabriel Weiss, Johnny Sender, Rich Kim, Karen Ranucci, Denis Moynihan and Jenny Filipazzo.