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Al Jazeera English Reports on Issues at Stake in the Elections

Eye on Arab Media

New America Media, News Analysis, Jalal Ghazi Posted: Sep 04, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- While mainstream American television networks were primarily focused on the theatrics inside the Democratic and Republican conventions, Al Jazeera English provided in-depth reporting on issues at stake in the American elections: the healthcare system, immigration and racial equality.

Health Care

On Aug. 29 at 6 p.m., as I was about to leave my office, I scanned CNN, MSNBC and Fox only to find out that they were preoccupied with a new election hype. This time, it was GOP presidential nominee John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Al Jazeera English, however, was reporting about the dire conditions of the U.S. health care system and how uninsured Americans feel toward the two candidates.

The story appeared on We the People, a series that examines election issues not as wonkish policy debate, but as they concern the American people. In this instance, two ordinary Colorado women, both of whom suffered from pain in their throats, were the subjects of the program on the uninsured.

While 23-year-old Natasha Stringfellow of Denver County is entitled to free health care in Denver Health, Cheryl Brauer, who lives outside the county in Commerce City, is not.

Like millions of uninsured Americans, Brauer ignored the pain and continued working until it became unbearable. By then, the cancer had spread into her voice box.

Brauer showed an Al Jazeera English two photographs, which she took of herself before the surgery.

That was the last time I would ever look like that, she said. I still had a voice, I still had a neck, I still looked like a normal person.

Brauer must now spend the rest of her life communicating through an artificial voice aid she holds close to her throat.

Dr. Patricia Gabow, CEO of Denver Health, told Al Jazeera English Last year alone, 40 percent of our charges were to people who could not pay us. Denver Heath is not the only safety net institution that is overburdened by uninsured Americans.

The Mission of Mercy project (MOM), which provides free dental care is provided to the poor, elderly, disabled and uninsured in rural America, was the focus of "Inside USA", a weekly half-hour program that also focuses on issues at stake in the American elections.


Al Jazeera English, which reaches more than 110 million homes worldwide, has been providing more in-depth reports on immigration than one tends to see on mainstream television programs, including Foxs Bill O'Reilly and CNN's Lou Dobbs.

The Aug. 22 edition of Inside USA shed light on the lives of undocumented farm workers, who comprise more than 50 percent of Americas farm labor.

Antonio Rodriguez from the United Farm Workers of America told Al Jazeera English, growers and farm labor contractors have their workers work at the same pace they always do, even during extremely hot temperature. He continued, We are suffering right now from a major epidemic of farm workers dying because of heat strokes in the fields. In the last three months alone, five immigrant farm workers died in California fields.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. said on Al Jazeera English that a dozen children ranging from 14 and 16 were working double shifts, with the full knowledge of their supervisors. This revelation was made after a recent immigration raid on an agro-processor in Iowa, which led to the arrest of hundreds of undocumented workers.

Al Jazeeras Sebastian Walker traced the source of migrant farm workers on the Mexican side where entire farming towns across the country are now deserted.

Victor Quintana, an official from Chihuahua, Mexico, showed Al Jazeera English camera an abandoned field where Mexican farmers left their homes, tractors and equipment because they couldn't compete with the cheap food that subsidized U.S. agribusiness is shipping into Mexico.

According to Al Jazeera, the U.S. Congress just months ago approved a $300 billion farm bill, a sop to American agricultural corporations that undercuts market prices and drives the small independent farmers in Mexico and the U.S. out of business.

Another Inside U.S.A program examined the rise of hate groups in Arkansas and Alabama. The program reported how the heated immigration debate, fueled by American politicians and mainstream media has sparked interest in the ideology of white supremacy groups, increasing their ranks and coffers.

On one edition of We the People, Al Jazeera English went to Tulsa, Oklahoma where some of the toughest immigration laws in the country were passed in 2007. Around 70,000 Latinos live there. Some told Al Jazeera English that they were are too afraid to leave their homes.

Racial Equality

During the fourth day of the Democratic convention, Avi Lewis talked to Green Party vice presidential nominee Rosa Clemente outside the convention hall.

Clemente, an African American, accused presidential candidate Barack Obama of not addressing issues of racial inequalities. "We have a candidate who happen to look like many people in my community, but to this day he has not expressed that he is a black man running," Clemente said.

"Out of every 100 [prison] inmates, five are African Americans or Latinos, she said. And ...for young woman of color in this country, the AIDS epidemic is worse than that in Africa."

On the same day, Al Jazeeras Mike Kirsch also reported from a crime-infested government housing complex, not far from Obamas home in Chicago. Many of the low income residents there, 50 percent of whom have not finished high school and are unemployed, do not feel Obamas hope for change.

The Other Washington DC" the poor, black and disenfranchised was the focus of a recent episode of Al Jazeera Englishs Witness, a half-hour daily program that features news reports as well as commissioned films.

Al Jazeera English reporter Josh Rushing, a former Marine Corps spokesperson, captures the small details of Kevins Canzales daily life, a homeless African American who struggles to keep his family together.

Canzales' grandmother, Dorothy Washington has been serving members of Congress and their staff for years. She lives only two miles a way from Capitol Hill, but right outside her door, people are buying and selling drugs.

The coverage was not uniformly negative. Al Jazeera English also saw Democratic Party's nomination of an African American as its presidential candidate as evidence of how much the U.S. has changed over recent decades.

On the fourth day of the Democratic convention, the Reverend Walter E. Fauntroy told Al Jazeera English about his work with Martin Luther King, Jr. and how Dr. King's efforts have opened the way for Barack Obama to become a serious candidate for the U.S. presidency.

Al Jazeera English's Kimberly Halkett also reported from Chicago where she visited the Hyde Park barbershop where Obama had his hair cut for 13 years and he learned valuable lessons about what it means to be African American in politics.

Al Jazeera English political analyst Marwan Bishara said that Obamas official nomination, is a historical day. Only four decades ago, America was an apartheid system that separates whites from blacks in their homes, transportation and schools. And now an African American is running for a president. It is incredibly impressive.

He continued, For a lot of Americas democratic partners in Europe this is far off. Im not sure that you are going to see an Indian British become prime minister soon, or an Algerian French running for president. There isnt even a single Algerian French in the National Assembly.

Jalal Ghazi is the associate producer of the Peabody Award-winning show "Mosaic: World News from the Middle East," and writer of the column Eye on Arab Media for New America Media.

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