In today’s On the News segment: Internet companies are fighting to restore public trust; the state of California just announced its most severe water restrictions ever; more than a million people are calling on the FCC to protect internet freedom; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
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You need to know this. Internet companies are fighting to restore public trust. In the wake of the NSA spying scandal, corporations like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook wanted to release details on internet surveillance. Finally, after a six-month delay and a lengthy legal argument, these corporations have been permitted to release some information. According to Google, government officials requested information on more than 9,000 users in the first six months of 2013, and more than 12,000 users in the six months before that. Facebook was forced to hand over information on more than 5,000 users in the first half of last year, and more than 4,000 in the last part of 2012. Microsoft received more than 15,000 requests for information in the first half of 2013, and Yahoo revealed that government officials requested information on more than 30,000 users during that same time period. While these numbers prove that government officials were not requesting detailed information on every user, they also prove that thousands of people are, in fact, being spied on. We haven’t heard about 30,000 foiled terrorism attempts, or 9,000 links to terrorist cells. Many of the accounts being spied on were likely innocent Americans that simply have a friend or family member overseas. National Security officials will attempt to point to these numbers as proof of the limits placed on government surveillance, but there is no good reason why thousands of internet users should be spied on.
In screwed news… The state of California just announced its most severe water restrictions ever. The Western United States should have seen relief from intense drought last month, as January is usually that region’s wettest month, but rivers and reservoirs are drying up. That region has seen virtually no rain, and its left states struggling to preserve water supplies. And, if the problem continues to get worse, this type of drought could become the norm. The director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University, Dr. Wallace Covington, said, “What we’re seeing across this region is an intensification of long-established aspects of climate change.” He explained that dry spells and warmer air increase the presence of tree-destroying pests, and lack of trees can lead to desertification. These ecosystems can’t adapt to rapidly changing weather, and it could mean dangerous changes in the environments in which we live. This risk isn’t unique to California, and it’s yet another reason why we must do more to fight climate change.
In the best of the rest of the news…
More than a million people are calling on the FCC to protect internet freedom. Last week, FreePress.net and other organizations delivered more than a million petitions to the Federal Communications Commission calling on that agency to restore net neutrality. Josh Levy of Free Press said, “It’s time for the agency to correct its past mistakes, reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, and restore Net Neutrality for good.” These organizations also delivered a letter signed by over 80 organizations that support the effort to protect internet freedom. It has only been about two weeks since a Federal Appeals court struck down Net Neutrality, and already more than a million people have spoken out against that ruling. Today, people everywhere understand the importance of internet freedom, and they won’t stand for broadband providers making the web pay-for-play.
According to RadCast.org, while a good deal of the recent round of Fukushima radiation has moved through the U.S., upstate New York and Massachusetts are still experiencing high levels in snowfalls. Ithaca, New York is reporting 40 counts per minute, with spikes of 61, and Salisbury, Massachusetts is averaging 76, with highs all the way up to 128 counts per minute. Frederick, Wisconsin is sitting at 46 counts per minute, with spikes of 69, and Hellertown, Pennsylvania is hovering at 51, with highs of 76 counts per minute. Lakewood, Colorado is reporting 61 counts per minute, with spikes of 92, and Oxford, Michigan is sitting at 29, with highs of 71 counts per minute. Paso Robles, California is hovering at 41 counts per minute, with spikes of 98, and Colorado Springs, Colorado is averaging 61, with highs of 85 counts per minute. RadCast.org’s alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save the post office, and help stop predatory lenders in the process. Over the weekend, Senator Warren endorsed a plan to let USPS partner with banks to offer check cashing and payday loan services to Americans in so-called “banking deserts.” In an op-ed in the Huffington Post, Senator Warren wrote, “USPS could partner with banks to make a critical difference for millions of Americans who don’t have basic banking services because there are almost no banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods.” The plan would also provide about $9 billion dollars for the struggling federal mail agency. Every year, millions of Americans spend a fortune on fees and interest because they’re forced to use predatory check cashing and lending services, but this idea could save them a ton of money, and it could help save the Post Office.
And finally… Finally, someone came up with an excellent use for drones… beer. Jack Supple, president of Lakemaid Beer, thought delivering beer was a perfect job for small, unmanned aircraft. Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration did not agree. Mr. Supple came up with the idea to deliver 12 packs of beer to ice fishing houses, and he even created a YouTube video of his test run. His idea immediately went viral, and his company’s Facebook page became an instant hit. However, the FAA sent him an email explaining that the commercial use of drones is not yet permitted, and he had to ground his flying-beer delivery service. An FAA Spokesperson said, “Our concern is the safety of people on the ground and the safety of people in the air.” The agency’s concern is understandable, but you’d think that the government would jump at the opportunity to improve the public’s opinion about drones.
And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, February 4, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.