In today’s On the News segment: NSA director, General Keith Alexander, and James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence were called before the House Intelligence Committee to answer questions about government spying; it’s been more than three years since the 2010 Gulf oil spill disaster, and people are still suffering from its effects; this week in Indonesia, millions of workers are joining a national strike to demand higher wages and universal health coverage; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. While Fox so-called News kept the focus on yesterday’s congressional hearing on Healthcare.gov, there was another round of question-and-answer that is a much bigger cause for concern. NSA director, General Keith Alexander, and James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence were called before the House Intelligence Committee to answer questions about government spying. Both men defended the National Security Agency’s practice of spying on world leaders, and denied claims of gathering intelligence on Europeans. General Alexander said that information collected on French and Spanish citizens was not “information we collected,” it was handed over by intelligence services in those countries. Mr. Clapper argued that spying on world leaders – even our allies – was “a fundamental given,” because those countries spied on our nation too. And, both men said that intelligence collected was “invaluable” because it provides American leaders with an idea of how those countries will act towards the United States. Essentially, their entire defense amounted to “the ends justify the means.” The only apology was from Mr. Clapper, who said, “to be sure, on occasion we made mistakes.” We must put an end to our government spying within the United States without a warrant, and our national security agencies should be more transparent with out allies about U.S. surveillance in their countries.
In screwed news… It’s been more than three years since the 2010 Gulf oil spill disaster, and people are still suffering from its effects. A new study from doctors at Houston’s University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers revealed serious health risks for the more than 170,000 people who worked in clean up efforts. And, many of those workers didn’t need a study to understand those concerns. Hundreds of people who came into close contact with oil and dispersants are suffering from skin lesions, kidney problems, and even respiratory infections that leave their lungs full of blood. This new study found that in addition to those problems, people who lived or worked near the spill have an increased risk of developing liver cancer, leukemia, and other deadly disorders. But for most of those suffering, financial assistance from BP may still be a long way off. The third stage of the trial against BP – the penalty phase – has finally begun, but it could take months to complete. After that, the company will likely still try to delay individual claims as long as possible. So, the next time you see a BP commercial talking about how they cleaned up the Gulf, you may want to remember that there are hundreds of people living there that would disagree.
In the best of the rest of the news…
This week in Indonesia, millions of workers are joining a national strike to demand higher wages and universal health coverage. You may not have heard about it in the corporate media, but the strike is actually a big deal for many Americans. Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world, and transnational corporations have been treating it like one giant sweatshop. Workers in that nation often toil through long hours every day to bring home less than $200 dollars a month. The low wages and long hours keep a huge portion of Indonesia’s workforce in poverty, but their middle class is starting to grow. As more workers in that nation have started to be paid a living wage, US exports to Indonesia have quadrupled. And, as wages rise in nations like Indonesia, it lowers the corporate benefit of shipping American jobs over seas. Labor unions are gaining strength in Indonesia and other nations, and they have the power to change the global workforce. When they succeed in their fight for better wages and benefits, it turns out that we all win.
According to RadCast.org, radiation on the West Coast are now in “the fallout zone” – with readings spiking to 60 counts per minute in North Portland, Oregon, and 51 in Fresno, California. On the East Coast, Graham, North Carolina is averaging 38 counts per minute, with spikes in the high 50s, and readings in Upper St. Claire, Pennsylvania are about 40, with spikes of 54. Remember, RadCast.org reminds us that the alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they’re monitoring daily to keep us informed.
Astroturf groups have invaded Washington state. The pro-corporate organizations have launched a 17 million dollar campaign to fight a GMO labeling proposition in that state. The real grassroots groups have raised over $6 million dollars in support of proposition 522, but they are being out-spent and out-gunned by corporate donors. The “No on 522” groups have spent millions on misleading ads calling the GMO labeling bill “costly” and “unfair,” and most of the money used to buy those ads came from companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical. The phony opposition continues to fear monger about how a GMO labeling requirement would increase grocery bills, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. The “Yes on 522” groups say, “the 522 fight shows how easily a handful of wealthy corporations can trample on democracy,” but they’re not able to let that happen. There’s less than a week left before the November 5th vote, and the real grassroots groups are doing everything in their power to make sure that Washington residents have the right to know what’s in their food.
And finally… About a week ago, Pope Francis suspended Germany’s so-called Bishop of Bling. The religious leader was chastised by the Vatican for spending millions to renovate his official residence. Because of the controversy, it doesn’t look like that bishop will get to enjoy the lavish residence, but the poor and the needy may soon appreciate his fancy upgrades. According to U.K. Newspaper, The Independent, Catholic officials want to use the renovated grounds to feed and house Germany’s poor. The bishop spent more than 30 million euros sprucing up the property, but the fact that the only people moving in will be those in need is…well…simply priceless.
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, October 30, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.