Oct 26 2012

Weekly Digest – 10/26/12

Our weekly edition is a nationally syndicated one-hour digest of the best of our daily coverage.

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This week on Uprising:

* Who Will Control the Houses of Congress After November 6th?
* Final Presidential Debate Shows Differences Between Candidates Mainly on “Tone” Rather than Substance
* Innovative Prison Education Program Exposes Solitary Confined Inmates to Shakespeare

* * *

Who Will Control the Houses of Congress After November 6th?

Overshadowed by the Presidential race, which appears to be a dead heat, the partisan makeup of Congress is also at stake on November 6th. A President is often as effective as his ability to rally members of Congress to back his legislative agenda. This year, 33 Senate seats are up for election, and 81 House of Representatives seats in play.

A number of high profile Senate races are capturing some attention – most notably, in Massachusetts between Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Scott Brown, and in Virginia between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen.

Republican candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock have garnered much media attention for controversial comments made about rape and reproductive women’s rights. Their races, in Missouri and Indiana respectively, could be affected by the controversies. Overall, the Democratic Party appears to be in a good position to potentially win a majority of 51 seats in the Senate, but Republicans remain optimistic.

In the House, Republicans hold an advantage of being likely to win 228 seats that are either solidly Republican or lean Republican, compared to 183 such “safe” seats for Democrats. In order for a party to win a majority in the house, it needs to have at least 218 seats. While it is possible that Democrats could win that number, it is likelier that Republicans will retain their control past November 6th.

GUEST: John Nichols, associate editor of the Capitol Times in Madison, Wisconsin and a correspondent for The Nation magazine, contributing writer for The Progressive, co-founder of Free Press, author of many books including his latest called Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street

Final Presidential Debate Shows Differences Between Candidates Mainly on “Tone” Rather than Substance

With the third and final Presidential debate of the election season now complete, pollsters around the country are scrambling to determine how the American public will vote in the upcoming election less than two weeks away. While most mainstream analysts felt that Obama won Monday night’s debate, others were left trying to distinguish between the two major party candidates who have come to sound more and more alike as election day nears. The last debate, centering around foreign policy, was especially indicative of how far to the right the discussion has swung in this election year.

Both Obama and Romney agreed to continue sanctions on Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear capability, despite the devastating effects the sanctions are having on the Iranian people.

On the issue of drone strikes in Pakistan which are causing large numbers of civilian casualties, Romney lauded the Obama Administration by saying, “I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.”

At one point in the debate there was a brief mention of the Arab Spring revolts with Obama mentioning Egyptians needing to “make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities…(and) recogniz[ing] the rights of women.”

GUEST: Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Connecticut. His most recent books are Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today

Innovative Prison Education Program Exposes Solitary Confined Inmates to Shakespeare

Shane Bauer was one of three American backpackers imprisoned in Iran after being detained in 2009 on the Iraq-Iran border. Bauer penned a recent article for Mother Jones magazine comparing his conditions in the Iranian prison with that of prisoners in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. Shockingly, he concluded that conditions in California prisons are worse than Iranian prisons.

California is one of thirty-three states employing “Supermax” prisons or super-maximum prisons which segregate criminals who pose a security risk from the general prison population. Secure Housing Units or SHUs currently hold up to 4,000 people in extended isolation in California alone.

As a rule, inmates in SHUs throughout the country are locked up for twenty-three hours a day with one hour outside their concrete windowless cells for exercise in a sixteen by twenty-five foot “dog run.” Prisoners endure cramped quarters, overcrowding and social interaction limited to slots in their doors. They have thin pieces of foam instead of proper mattresses, no access to phone calls and endure constantly demoralizing treatment from prison guards. Inmates who endure years in solitary confinement are often written off by authorities, and lack programs for education and/or rehabilitation.

But one academic, over a decade ago, tried an audacious experiment of teaching Shakespeare to solitary confined prisoners.

GUEST: Dr. Laura Bates, an English Professor at Indiana State University launched her Shakespeare in Shackles program – the first of its kind – in Indiana’s Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, and has expanded the highly successful program to other facilities. Her forthcoming book about the program is entitled “Shakespeare Saved My Life”: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard.

Sonali’s Subversive Thought for the Day

“Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo – obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.” — Angela Davis

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