News in Brief: Free Speech Radio Faces Closure, and More

Free Speech Radio Faces Closure

Free Speech Radio News (FSRN) is on the verge of shutting down due to a financial crisis, Democracy Now! reports. An independent media outlet since it launched ten years ago, FSRN has to raise $30,000 by Friday, December 17, or will be forced to close its operation. The company’s primary financier, the Pacifica Foundation, faces its own financial difficulties and has had to stop granting funds to the outlet. “FSRN is an incredible news organization that produces more quality per dollar spent than any news medium I know of in the world,” said board member and Free Press co-founder Robert McChesney.

Defense Department Extending Iraq Contracts Under Appeal

The Washington Post reports that the Department of Defense has had to extend multimillion dollar contracts with private firms for services in Iraq, including one company under criminal indictment, as losing bidders legally challenge the firms selected as replacements. Kuwaiti company Agility was charged in November 2009 with overbilling food contracts, but received a $26 million extension because of another bidder’s challenge against Agility’s replacement, Anham. The Defense Logistics Agency extended the Agility contract as the challenge against Anham goes to adjudication by the Government Accountability Office.

House Democrats Will Introduce Measure to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pennsylvania) will introduce a stand-alone measure in the House to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s ban on allowing openly gay members to serve, according to The Hill. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) announced the plan at his daily briefing and told reporters that he would co-sponsor the bill, although the specific timeline for introducing the measure has not yet been decided. In the Senate, plans for a stand-alone bill to repeal the policy are also underway, as Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) promised to do after an initial vote to repeal the policy failed last week.

Medicaid Cuts Force Some States to End Crucial Services

Cuts to Medicaid have forced several states to end or significantly trim crucial services for beneficiaries, including organ transplants, insulin pumps and hospice care, said The Huffington Post. As federal stimulus money for the program is set to end and enrollment continues to climb along with unemployment rates, the outlook continues to worsen for Medicaid recipients, a majority of whom are the elderly and disabled. In California, Medicaid cuts affect dental services, leaving many patients to forgo expensive surgeries like root canals and instead opt for the cheap and still-covered tooth extractions; in Arizona, patients with hepatitis C no longer have their liver transplants covered.

Attorney General Fighting Health Care Law Is Openly GOP

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, who brought the first successful lawsuit against President Obama’s health care overhaul, acknowledges that his motivations to fight the law are politically motivated, The New York Times said. Previously a state senator, Cuccinelli is a conservative Republican who pursued smaller government and promoted state rights in the legislature. After US District Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that the individual mandate portion of the law was unconstitutional, Cuccinelli said on his web site, “It’s the 21st century version of the ‘shot heard ’round the world.’ Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ve won the war. And the liberal left will be on the attack. Will you help me fight their offensive today?”