On the News With Thom Hartmann: New York City Is Poised to Become the Surveillance Capital of America, and More

In today’s On the News segment: New York City is poised to become the surveillance capital of America; Chevron is responsible for nearly poisoning an entire American city; Google was slapped with a $22.5 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission for ignoring the security setting of millions of online users; and more.


I’m Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan today – after a man wearing an Afghan military uniform detonated a vest full of explosives outside a military compound. This is the latest attack on coalition forces by Afghans dressed as soldiers or police officers. Under the current strategy, the U.S. military is training an Afghan security force to take over when coalition forces leave the country in 2014. But on days like this, when members of that Afghan security force end up killing U.S. soldiers, we’re reminded of just what a mess this war is. Time to bring home the troops – and close the book on our nation’s longest war ever.

In screwed news…Chevron is responsible for nearly poisoning an entire American city. More than 900 residents of Richmond, California have now been treated in local hospitals after inhaling toxic smoke from a nearby oil refinery fire. The fire started on Monday, but a delayed response by the oil corporation, allowed it to burn for more than four hours with enormous flames reaching dozens of feet into the sky. Now, Chevron is getting ready to lawyer up – as more than 1,000 people stopped by a local law office to file legal claims against the oil giant. Richmond’s mayor Gayle McLaughlin called the fire unacceptable. In the old days, Chevron’s business charter in the state would immediately be revoked for this sort of negligence, and it would have received the corporate death penalty. Unfortunately now – it’ll likely just be a slap on the wrist and back to business as usual.

In the best of the rest of the news…

New York City is poised to become the surveillance capital of America. On Wednesday, city officials unveiled a massive new surveillance system that they say will “revolutionize law enforcement.” Its called The Domain Awareness System and it gathers information from thousands of video cameras mounted around the city – using maps, city records, arrest records, license plate readers, and 9-1-1 calls – bringing everything together in a centralized source to be reviewed by Police. The city is already monitoring live feeds from more than 3-thousand cameras – mostly in the financial district – but more cameras are expected to be added soon. This technology was developed for the city by Microsoft – and will be packaged and sold to other cities around our nation – with New York getting a cut of the profits. So, not only has domestic surveillance become a tool for the wealthy elite to suppress an American population that is growing more and more restless – but it’s also a tool to make a lot of money. Welcome to America – The corporate police state.

Speaking of privacy, Google doesn’t respect it. The online search giant was slapped with $22.5 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday for ignoring the security setting of millions of online users. Google now has a long rap sheet of privacy violations, and this latest fine will likely do little to stop the web giant’s surveillance. The $22.5 million fine by the FTC will cost Google – just five hours worth of revenue.

Is the age of bailouts over? Reuters is reporting that regulators on Wall Street have instructed the nation’s five biggest banks to begin making plans for how each would deal with another financial crisis, and prevent an all-out collapse, hinting that government bail-out may not be an option in the future. These instructions are part of an ongoing two-year program, largely kept secret, to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis. Banks have also been forced to create “living wills” so that regulators know exactly how to unwind them should they fail in the future. Of course, the best way to prevent another financial crisis isn’t to make Wall Street’s giants write living wills, it’s to break up Wall Street’s giants – and put in place regulation like Glass-Steagall to stop the banks form gambling with your money. It’s the least our lawmakers can do to turn banking back into the safe, useful, and boring industry is used to be in America.

A new study by “Health Affairs” reveals a college education isn’t just about getting a high-paying job or not, it’s also about living longer. According to the study, white men who drop out of high school live nearly 13 years less than white men who graduate from college. Among women, college graduates on average live ten years longer than high school dropouts. The same gaps are seen in minorities as well. One factor in the disparity is that jobs with college degrees often provide healthcare as well – whereas low-skill jobs increasingly don’t. This study illustrates two problems in America: One, not enough Americans can afford a college education. And two, not enough Americans can afford healthcare. If we truly are the wealthiest nation on the planet – and not just the nation with the most billionaires – then we should be providing our citizens with basic essential like higher education and healthcare. It really is a matter of life or death.

And finally…next time you fly, fly Viet-Jet-Air. The Vietnamese airline celebrated its maiden flight to the beach town of Nha Trang, by giving passengers a three-minute, in-flight bikini show. That’s right, Hawaiian-themed dancers waltzed up and down the aisles of the plane wearing red and yellow bikinis much to the delight of passengers. However, the airliner was hit with a $1,000 fine by Vietnamese aviation officials for not getting pre-approval for the production. Meanwhile in America, airline aisles are reserved strictly for elbow-smashing drink carts instead of bikini dancers.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, August 10, 2012. I’m Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.