On the News With Thom Hartmann: Japan Is Recruiting the Homeless to Clean Up Fukushima, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Contractors in Japan are recruiting the homeless to clean up the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant; millions of Americans now have health insurance thanks to Obamacare; marijuana prohibition is finally over in Colorado; and more.


Thom Hartmann here on the news…

You need to know this. In our nation, finance has a hold on almost every single part of our lives – from the day we’re born, until we take our last breath. Capitalism and the quest for larger profits have taken hold of our healthcare, our education, our homes, our communication, and even our government. Today, most babies are born in for-profit hospitals, and their medical claims are paid by for-profit insurance. As children grow, many go to for-profit charter schools or private schools, and our public education system continues to crumble. Young adults are forced to deal with for-profit lenders to go to college at for-profit universities, and everything from their backpack to their first home will generate a profit for someone on Wall Street. Throughout our lives, we are forced into paying huge monopolies for access to phones and internet and communication, and all that data is turned over to for-profit corporations who spy on us for our government. Even the vast majority of our elected leaders answer first to corporate lobbyists, and second to the American people. Corporate power has a strangle hold on the entire American existence, and it has turned our entire lives into a profit-making venture. There is a place for profit in our world, and a reason for corporations, but we must shift the power back to actual people. Without us, corporations would have no production to make their goods, and no customers from which to make a profit. Business should be here to serve American needs, not control us and commercialize everything that we do. We must regain our power by declaring that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Only then can we stop the cycle of putting profit before people.

In screwed news… Contractors in Japan are recruiting the homeless to clean up the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Recruiters are being paid as much as $100 dollars a person to round up homeless men, and convince them to work cleaning up that disaster for less than minimum wage. Because the clean up process is so massive, it’s nearly impossible for regulators to ensure workers are paid fairly or trained properly. That means that many workers are likely being abused, and this dangerous project is being completed by those who may not be qualified. Workers are clearing away rubble, removing the topsoil, and scrubbing homes around the crippled plant, but only a third of the taxpayers dollars meant for wages actually makes it to their paychecks. And, no one knows if the decontamination is being done correctly. There’s nothing wrong with a government stepping up to be the employer of last resort, but, when it comes to Fukushima – the Japanese government must make sure that workers are properly trained and paid fairly.

In the best of the rest of the news…

As of Wednesday, millions of Americans have health insurance thanks to Obamacare. Many of those now covered have gone years without insurance, and they have delayed or gone without much needed medical care. But, that long wait is finally over. Insurance companies can no longer deny someone for a pre-existing condition, they can’t charge women higher rates than men, and they can’t set a so-called lifetime limit on the cost of someone’s medical care. The health care law has finally started to ensure that Americans have access to basic preventative care, and it will protect millions from being overwhelmed by medical debt. There is still much work to be done to improve the Affordable Care Act, but to the millions of Americans who finally have coverage, this is an incredible start.

According to RadCast.org, there have been false rumors floating around about Fukushima’s Building Three melting down, and radiation readings in California over 500 counts per minute. RadCast reports that neither of those rumors are true. Radiation levels are fairly calm throughout our nation, although they are still spiking in some areas. Charleston, West Virginia is reporting levels of 44 counts per minute, with spikes of 65, and Salisbury, Massachusetts is sitting at 44, with peaks of 54 counts per minute. Lakewood, Colorado is averaging 62, with highs of 95 counts per minute, and Spearfish, South Dakota is at 55, with spikes of 76. Portland, Oregon is hovering at 30 counts per minute, with peaks of 46, and Chino Valley, Arizona is sitting at 54, with spikes of 79. RadCast.org’s alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no safe level of radiation.

Marijuana prohibition is finally over in Colorado. As of January 1st, recreational marijuana sales began in that state, for the first time in 70 years. Although there was some heavy snow at times, customers lined up early outside 37 stores throughout Colorado, to participate in the historic first day of sales. The Rocky Mountain state expects to collect millions in tax and tourism revenue because of the new law, and marijuana smokers will have to follow strict regulations. Buyers must be over the age of 21, they may only purchase limited quantities, and they may not smoke in public places. Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project said, “[Colorado] is demonstrating to the rest of the nation and the entire world that regulating marijuana works.” Hopefully, more states will recognize that soon.

And finally… It’s 2014, and it wouldn’t be a new year without a few new conspiracy theories about President Obama. The latest far-fetched prediction comes from Jim Garrow, a contributor to Alex Jones’ InfoWars. According to Mr. Garrow, President Obama is going to use Canadians, the United Nations, and extraterrestrial lifeforms to boost his own poll numbers. Yep. You heard that right. Jim Garrow managed to top his previous ridiculous claim, that President Obama was going to order nuclear attacks against American cities. Some conspiracy theories can be dangerous, as they can lead to fear, distrust, or panic among Americans. But, I think the UN and space aliens working together to change polling numbers is a bit “out-there”, even by Alex Jones standards.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, January 2, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.