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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Scientists Test Dead Seals in Alaska for Radiation From Fukushima, and More

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. There’s trouble brewing in the Middle East. As President Obama prepares to sign into law new economic sanctions on Iran – Iran is preparing to cut off the world’s oil supply. According to Iranian Vice President – Mohammad-Reza Rahimi – Iran is prepared to use its military to block the Strait of Hormuz and cut off any oil shipments that come out of it – which is roughly a fifth of the world’s oil supply. Iran is currently conducting a ten-day naval exercise in the area. If Iran follows through – then an oil blockade could not only do extensive damage to ours and the rest of the word’s economy – but it could also be taken as an act of war and trigger a very dangerous series of events in the Middle East. It looks like Reagan's decision to veto Jimmy Carter's national policy to adopt alternative energy – and thus increase our addiction to dirty fossil fuels – is once again haunting us. Stay tuned.

Democratic Senator from Nebraska Ben Nelson announced yesterday he plans to retire at the end of his term next year. Nelson, a Democrat in name only, was the main obstruction in everything from energy reform legislation to unemployment benefits to health care reform. And ultimately he saw the writing on the wall – he was facing a tough re-election because so many Democrats are disgusted with him, and Republican's won't vote for a Democrat, even one who votes like a Republican. Let's hope the Nebraska Democratic Party learns from Elizabeth Warren's popularity and nominates a replacement who's a strong progressive, instead of another warmed-over party-machine get-along-go-along name from the past like Bob Kerry, who will generate little enthusiasm among the voters. This is an opportunity for the Nebraska Dems, but odds are the Party will blow it.

In the best of the rest of the news…

With the Iowa Caucus less than a week away – and unprecedented threats against it from groups like Anonymous that have threatened to distort the voting results – and the Occupy Iowa Caucus, which plans to show up and vote for “uncommitted” – Republican Party officials in the Hawkeye State are taking extreme measures to “protect” the vote. Politico is reporting that officials have moved the vote tabulation center to an undisclosed location – and they’re not informing any of the campaigns where exactly that location is or what the extra security measures are. So either this is a legitimate effort to secure the vote in Iowa – or this is ploy be the Republican Party to steal the vote and make sure that Ron Paul – who is atop the polls right now in Iowa – doesn’t walk away the winner. I'm betting on the latter.

One week after the Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s new restrictive Voter ID law – voting rights groups are calling on the Justice Department to keep at it and block other racist voter laws passed by Republican state legislatures across the nation. Attorney General Eric Holder argued that the South Carolina law would disproportionately affect minority voters – and thus violates the Voting Rights Act. But the same criteria can be applied to all the new voter ID laws – which according to the Brennan Center for Justice will disenfranchise 5 million people ahead of the 2012 election – including mostly poor, minority, elderly, and college voters who tend to vote for Democrats. The Republican fix on the 2012 election is already in – and the Department of Justice needs to step up and take it out.

TV analysts working as paid shills for the Pentagon have been cleared of any wrongdoing after a two-year investigation. The New York Times discovered that between 2002 and 2008 – former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld created a team of high-profile military analysts to go on television and radio and gin up support for the Bush administration’s illegal wars while pretending to just be objective retired generals or military experts. Some of these analysts were also paid by private military contractors and used their TV appearances to squeeze more lucrative contracts for the defense industry out of the Pentagon. As the New York Times reports, “Mr. Rumsfeld’s staff frequently provided military analysts with talking points before their network appearances…the program’s intent ‘was to move everyone’s mouth on TV as a sock puppet.’” Unfortunately since no “smoking gun” document was discovered that clearly laid out the objective of the program – the investigation was unable to prove criminial wrongdoing on the part of Rumsfeld and the Pentagon. But considering most television news corporations share board members with – or, like NBC, were just outright owned by defense contractors – Rummy probably didn’t even need this outreach program.

Scientists are trying to figure why scores of seals have washed ashore in Alaska this year either dead or suffering from a mysterious disease. The seals have lesions, irritated skin, and hair loss – often symptoms of radiation poisoning – and scientists worry it might have come from the Fukushima plant in Japan. So far – there’s been no sign of elevated radiation in the waters in the Pacific Northwest – although the US government moved monitoring from daily to quarterly – but scientists are conducting tests to determine if indeed the seals have been poisoned by nuclear fallout making its way to US waters from Japan. Test results aren’t expected for a few more weeks. A study conducted earlier this month suggested that as many as 14,000 premature deaths in the United States – mostly among infants – might be attributed to nuclear fallout from Fukushima. The world is clearly different now, post-Fukushima. No nukes.

Crazy Alert! The goat that ruined Christmas. A 3-year-old goat is on the lam in Minnesota after it escaped from its role in a nativity scene last weekend. The goat acted alongside a llama and two dogs for the nativity scene at Bethlehem Church in Fergus Falls – but eventually wiggled from from its collar and made a run for it. Despite multiple sighting of the renegade goat throughout the week – local police have been unable to collar it and bring it back home. There's speculation that the goat realizes that if he’s found – his next stop is the couch at Fox and Friends for a thorough tongue lashing about his role in this year’s war on Christmas.

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, December 28th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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