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US Supreme Court opens, likely to wade into health care debate

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• Whether Arizona’s tough immigration law, SB 1070, is preempted by federal statutes and the more gentle policy positions embraced by the Obama administration.

• Whether large crosses erected on public roadsides in Utah and a Ten Commandments display in an elected judge’s courtroom in Ohio violate the separation of church and state.

Bleeping dirty words on TV

In addition to that unprecedented cluster of potential mega-cases, the high court is already set to hear a dispute involving the power of the Federal Communications Commission to punish broadcast television stations for showing brief nudity or failing to bleep dirty words during prime time programming.

The case, FCC v. Fox Television, will examine whether the FCC’s indecency enforcement procedures violate the First and Fifth Amendments. At issue is the government’s attempt to police the public air waves to prevent not only obscene material, but also indecent communications offensive to a family-oriented audience.

The current indecency enforcement effort stems from a 1978 high court decision that upheld sanctions against stations that broadcast comedian George Carlin’s famous routine on the seven dirty words you can’t say on the public air waves.

For years, the FCC enforced a policy against the systematic and repeated use of offensive words, most of which had been identified – effectively and repeatedly – by Mr. Carlin.

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