On the News With Thom Hartmann: Unions Are Pressing the Obama Administration to Take a Stand Against the Slave Labor Conditions in Bangladesh, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Unions are pressing the Obama administration to take a stand against the slave labor conditions in Bangladesh; Sen. Bernie Sanders said he’s not giving up the fight for the labeling of genetically modified foods; Google began a campaign to help fight obesity, and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. A week ago, the U.S. Senate voted down an amendment that would have required the labeling of genetically modified foods, but Senator Bernie Sanders said he’s not giving up. In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Senator Sanders said, “I have not the slightest doubt that the momentum is with us. There are about 27 states in this country that are moving forward on the labeling of GMO food.” As if to underscore the importance of Senator Sander’s determination, just one day after that interview, Reuters reported that unapproved GMO wheat was discovered in Oregon. In that report, a Chicago-based commodities broker said the discovery would harm wheat sales from the Pacific Northwest, because the wheat would be denied the non-GMO stickers that buyers in other countries require. Not only did that story illustrate the danger of GMOs contaminating our entire food supply, but it demonstrated that U.S. food producers are perfectly capable of abiding by labeling requirements. Apparently, food producers think consumers in other countries are entitled to know what’s in the food they eat, yet continue to block Senator Bernie Sanders’ efforts to ensure Americans have that same right. Currently, lawmakers in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont are considering legislation to mandate GMO labeling. As more and more states call for the labeling of genetically modified foods, many Americans are pleased to know some Senators are fighting for every person’s right to know what’s in their food.

In screwed news… According to Wisconsin’s 4th District Court of Appeals, that state has the right to disenfranchise low-income voters. Yesterday, that court sided with Republican lawmakers, and upheld Wisconsin’s controversial voter ID law. The GOP lawmakers passed the contentious bill two years ago, under the guise of preventing voter fraud. The League of Women Voters challenged the law, arguing that it violates the Wisconsin Constitution, which explicitly confers the right to vote to every person. The League maintains that the requirement would disenfranchise voters who cannot afford to obtain a photo ID. The ACLU and the League of Latin American Citizens have also challenged the law in separate lawsuits, which are still pending. An immigrants’ rights group and the NAACP filed suit as well, in Dane County Circuit Court, and won a permanent injunction blocking the ID requirement. That injunction still stands, but Wisconsin’s Justice Department plans to appeal that decision. The attorney for The League of Women Voters said he is contemplating an appeal to the state Supreme Court – so the fight to protect Wisconsin’s voting rights continues. Stay tuned.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Unions are pressing the Obama Administration to take a stand against the slave labor conditions in Bangladesh. They are calling on the White House to revoke that nation’s special trade status. According to the New York Times, State Department officials say that the White House will lose its leverage over Bangladesh if their status is revoked. However, union representatives and Labor Department officials contend that the leverage is meaningless if it is never used. Labor officials are also calling on the administration to publicly pressure retailers like WalMart and Gap to sign on to an international inspection and improvement program, which so far they have resisted. The same kinds of abuses being debated today, including safety violations and worker abuse, prompted two prior reviews of Bagladesh’s favored nation trade status in 1990 and in 1999. U.S. labor groups contend that a stronger stance is needed, as the country has shown little to no improvement in over 20 years. Brian Campbell, of the International Labor Rights Forum, said, “U.S. Trade officials have already sent the wrong message to Bangladesh. It’s time to send a strong signal.”

Yesterday, Google began a campaign to help fight obesity. The company modified its search engine service to display “extensive nutrition information” for more than 1,000 common foods. Google announced they wanted to make it easier for consumers to find detailed information on everything from basic meat and vegetables, to specialty foods like chow mein. The company has posted examples of the new service, which already includes a voice command capability. Google’s online announcement says that over time, they will be “adding more features, foods, and languages.” The American Heart Association estimates that nearly 24 million children and 155 million adults are overweight or obese, which costs our nation about $150 billion dollars per year. Obesity is also the leading cause of preventable death. According to the Think Progress Blog, studies indicate that knowing more about foods’ nutritional content corresponds with lower obesity rates. Like they say, knowledge is power.

This week, an Oklahoma state representative, Republican Doug Cox, wrote a scathing editorial about his party’s stance on abortion. As a practicing physician, Representative Cox has been in an ongoing fight with his fellow lawmakers about ensuring access to birth control, and Medicaid coverage for the so-called “Morning After” pill. He wrote, “What happened to the Republican Party that I joined? The party where conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater felt women should have the right to control their own destiny?” He argued that the Republican war on women’s reproductive rights contradicts the GOP’s core principles. “What happened the Republican Party that felt that the government had no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient,” he asked, “Where did the party go that felt some decisions in a woman’s life should be made not by legislators and government, but rather by the woman, her conscience, her doctor and her God?” No word yet on a response from fellow Republicans, or whether Representative Cox will soon be switching parties.

And finally… A former Microsoft executive plans to create our nation’s first official brand of marijuana. Jamen Shively is launching his newest business plan with the purchase of medical pot dispensaries in three states. He said he envisions a Seattle-based business, and he’s hoping to become a leader in both recreational and medical marijuana. “It’s a giant market in search of a brand,” said Shively, who’s soliciting investors for $10 million dollars to fund the start-up. He hasn’t shared any details on when we should expect a brand, or what he may call the product, but “Seattle Sativa” does have a nice ring to it.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, May 31, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.