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On the News With Thom Hartmann: New Anti-Trust Suit Challenges Exclusion of Third Parties From Presidential Debates, and More

Socialist-led France goes to bat for austerity-embattled Greece, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: Shell files suit against Greenpeace to criminalize protests within 500 feet of Shell property, public distrust of media is at an all-time high according to a new poll, France is calling on Germany to ease austerity demands on Greece, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Mass movements work. Students and activists who’ve participated in Quebec’s yearlong “Maple Spring” demonstrations against college tuition hikes are declaring total victory. On Thursday, Quebec’s incoming premier announced she is cancelling plans for proposed tuition hikes. The incoming government will also repeal Bill 78, a law passed in an attempt to criminalize the protests. The president of Quebec’s largest student union, Martine Desjardins, said after the announcement, “Together we’ve written a chapter in the history of Quebec…It’s a triumph of justice and equity.” Once again, the world teaches us that organized people can still achieve significant victories. Something worth remembering as organized money runs roughshod over our government and economy.

With their radical anti-immigration stance, Republicans have lost the Hispanic vote. So now, they’re trying to make sure Hispanics can’t vote. The Advancement Project is out with a new study showing that Voter Suppression ID laws and voter purge efforts like the on Governor Rick Scott is doing in Florida could kick at least 10 million legal Hispanic voters off the rolls ahead of the November election. Rather than trying to appeal to Hispanics, which Republicans have historically done rather successfully, the far-right has forced the Party to embrace the politics of racism and division. Now, with these voter ID laws – the Republican Party is trying to mitigate the damage of kicking out an entire demographic of voters out of the party.

In the best of the rest of the news…

With the Socialists in charge, France is going to bat for austerity-ravaged Greece. France’s Prime Minister called on Germany to ease new austerity demands against Greece – warning that they could push Greece out of the Eurozone and trigger the “beginning of the end of the European Project.” Rather than embracing austerity spending cuts like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy have all done and are all facing the consequences of now, France is trying to stimulate the economy by raising the minimum wage and making the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes again. And while the economic woes of the Greece and other austerity nations continue to headline the news, there’s little talk of economic trouble in France – suggesting that pro-growth policies and not austerity policies are indeed the best way to solve this crisis.

The courts may soon have a say over whether or not this year’s presidential debates will feature third-party candidates. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson filed a lawsuit last week alleging that both Democrats and Republicans are breaking anti-trust laws and conspiring to keep third candidates out of the debates, and thus out of the U.S. presidency. Currently, debate rules only allow for a candidate polling at 15% to be allowed to participate, but most major polls do not even include third-party candidates. As the suit reads, “In agreeing to these rules to exclude the plaintiff from participating in the debates, the defendants are conspiring and contracting to restrain the plaintiffs from participating in the electoral process.” Johnson is hoping the court will issue a temporary restraining order putting a hold to all presidential debates until all “constitutionally eligible” candidates are included. As Ross Perot taught us in 1992 when he correctly predicted the “giant sucking sound” of NAFTA, third-party voices in America’s political debate are needed and should be welcomed.

The American people have lost faith in the Fourth Estate. According to a new Gallup polls, American distrust of the news media reached an all-time high this year – with 60% of our nation saying they don’t trust the media. Despite the Fox so-called News being the most-watched network on corporate cable news, Republicans led the poll in their distrust of the media with only 26% of self-identified Republicans saying they trust the mass media. Investigative journalism and news in the public interest are dead today – fully hijacked by corporate interests. There’s only one industry specifically mentioned in our Constitution – and that’s the press. Our founders knew that American democracy hinges on a free and vigorous press. Today – we no longer have either.

Shell Oil Corporation is taking the dangerous first step of trying to ban public protests. After a series of protests hindered Shell’s efforts to open up drilling in the Arctic, the corporation filed suit against the environmental group Greenpeace to criminalize any protests within 500 meters of Shell property. Shell is also asking for a $1.3 million fine against Greenpeace activists. Last week, protestors used bicycle locks to shut down oil pumps belonging to Shell in the Netherlands. Greenpeace reacted to the lawsuit, calling it “a legal sledgehammer to stifle public discourse.”

And finally…more than 1,000 religious leaders across the nation have decided to take a wrecking ball to the wall separating church and state. The Conservative group “Alliance Defending Freedom” has scheduled what they are calling “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” for October 7th, when church leaders across America will devote their sermons to the election and campaign on behalf of a political candidate. According to I.R.S. law, churches enjoy tax-exempt status so long as they don’t participate in political campaigns on behalf or against any particular candidate. Those church leaders also plan to send video of their political sermons to the I.R.S., in hopes of triggering a legal case that could strike down laws against their tax-exempt political activity. Let’s face it, today, many churches have been turned into very lucrative businesses. And those businesses haven’t shied away from using their wealth to aid numerous far-right political causes. If churches want to operate like a business, then it’s time they get taxed like a business as well.

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, September 24th, 2012.

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