In today’s On the News segment: Wikileaks published a leaked version of the environmental chapter of the TPP; the NSA says they’re not spying on Congress, but they wouldn’t guarantee that our lawmakers’ metadata isn’t being swept up in data collection; the Washington, DC Water and Sewer Authority is planning to turn sewage into electricity; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. We already knew that the Trans Pacific Partnership is a threat to our jobs, our civil rights, and our national sovereignty, and now we know it’s also a danger to our environment. On Wednesday, Wikileaks published a leaked version of the environmental chapter of the TPP, and it’s just another example of putting corporate power ahead of public interest. In their review of this chapter, Wikileaks said that the section is “a toothless public relations exercise” that lacks “mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures.” Because mega-corporations took part in negotiating the deal, the purpose of environmental chapter is first and foremost to protect trade, not our environment. It relies on so-called corporate accountability, and emphasizes “flexible, voluntary mechanisms, such as voluntary auditing and reporting, market-based incentives, voluntary sharing of information and expertise.” Because – you know – corporate self-regulation has worked out so well for us in the past. This chapter does nothing to mandate that our environment is protected from the destructive nature of corporate greed, and nothing to punish trading partners or corporations who violate environmental standards. Just like the other leaked sections of the TPP, the environmental chapter alone should be enough to make our lawmakers reject this deal. Instead, they’re pushing forward, trying to take away Congress members’ right to debate it, and keeping Americans in the dark about negotiations. For the sake of our jobs, our civil rights, our national sovereignty, and now also our environment, we must demand that our legislators reject the TPP.
In screwed news… The NSA says they’re not spying on Congress, but they wouldn’t guarantee that our lawmakers’ metadata isn’t being swept up in data collection. In response to a letter from Senator Bernie Sanders, NSA Director Keith Alexander responded writing, “Nothing [the] NSA does can fairly be characterized as ‘spying on members of Congress or other American elected officials’.” Although, collecting the phone and internet data of our lawmakers certainly sounds like spying. It’s bad enough that the NSA is collecting this information on millions of Americans, but collecting data from our lawmakers could pose a serious threat. In a statement, Senator Sanders addressed this point, saying, “In my view, the information collected by the NSA has the potential to give an unscrupulous administration enormous power over elected officials.” Someone with access to the NSA data could use this information to influence or threaten our lawmakers, and that is a risk we should not be willing to take.
In the best of the rest of the news…
The Washington, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority is planning to turn sewage into electricity. As part of a plan to protect the treatment plant from climate change, D.C. Water is investing $450 million dollars on an on-site system to turn solid waste into natural gas. They will keep enough natural gas on hand at the plant to keep it running even if power is knocked out due to extreme weather. Senior Program Director Lauren Fillmore said that wastewater used to be just a public health issue, but now it’s all about “water resource recovery.” In addition, the plant has started construction of a 17-foot-high sea wall to protect the plant from storm surge or rising oceans, and they have long-term plans to install 50 acres of solar panels to generate green electricity. D.C. Water is investing in the future, and working to ensure the plant is sustainable and innovative for years to come.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are still fairly calm around our nation. Taylor, South Carolina is averaging 39 counts per minute, with spikes of 70, and Salisbury, Massachusetts is sitting at 43, with highs of 54 counts per minute. Frederick, Wisconsin is hovering at 48 counts per minute, with spikes of 75, and Lakewood, Colorado is averaging 63, with highs of 93 counts per minute. Chino Valley, Arizona is sitting 53 counts per minute, with spikes of 82, and Layton, Utah is averaging 45, with highs of 74 counts per minute. Chico, California is hovering at 31 counts per minute, with spikes of 56, and Bellingham, Washington is averaging 30, with highs of 49 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.
A federal judge in Oklahoma has struck down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Terrance Kern ruled that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment against gay marriage is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Judge Kern wrote, “Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions.” He described Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage as “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a government benefit.” Same-sex couples in Oklahoma are celebrating this ruling, but they can’t run off to exchange vows just yet. Judge Kern put a hold on his own ruling, pending an appeal by state and local officials. Hopefully, future appeals are ruled in favor of equality, and soon everyone in Oklahoma can marry the person who they love.
And finally… According to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, there is no constitutional right to buy liquor where we buy our groceries. A few stores in Kentucky challenged that state’s ban on selling wine and liquor in stores that sell food and other items. They argued that being treated differently than package liquor stores was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. To the disappointment of shoppers who want to put their liquor with their lettuce, the appeals court disagreed with the plaintiffs. Judge Deborah L. Cook said that Kentucky has a “legitimate interest” in regulating alcohol, and residents will no longer be able to buy wine and liquor at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers. I’m sure that many Americans may disagree with Judge Cook’s ruling, but for now, she says equal access to booze is not protected by our Constitution.
And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, January 16, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.