Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.
Friday, April 5th:
Push Nebraska Senators to Support Marriage Equality: Today Senator Bill Nelson of Florida became the 51st U.S. Senator to speak out in support of marriage equality. “If we are endowed by our Creator with rights, then why shouldn’t those be attainable by gays and lesbians?” said Nelson, “Simply put, if The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn’t, and I won’t.” In light of the now-majority of the Senate in support of marriage equality, former BOLD intern Jack Anderson has created two online petitions with change.org to request Senator Johanns and Senator Fischer support marriage equality, as well. Jack has contacted both of their offices earlier in the week to inquire about their stances, but is still waiting to hear back. Let’s help Jack get as many signatures as possible. Read here; sign the petition to Sen. Johanns here and the petition to Sen. Fischer here
“Non-Oil Spill”: A couple of great satire pieces have come out on the “non-oil” spill in Mayflower, Arkansas. You see, it’s not technically an oil spill, because what is gushing all over the lives of Mayflower residents is diluted bitumen. This classification has led to many benefits for companies in the tar sands business–for example, Exxon hasn’t had to pay taxes into the Oil Spill Liability Fund because the IRS doesn’t classify dilbit as oil. Stephen Colbert described the beauty of the special classification of diluted bitumen is that allows diluted bitumen to go “out of sight, out of mind, and into the water supply.” To Adam Weinstein of Gawker, “that’s freedom from economic tyranny.” Check out these photos to see what a “non-oil spill” looks like
First Lawsuit in Pegasus Spill: Two women affected by the Exxon Pegasus “non-oil” spill have filed a federal lawsuit against the company. In this class-action lawsuit, Kathryn Jane Roachell Chunn and Kimla Greene are “seeking money to make up for ‘a permanent diminishment in property value’.” According to ABC “their complaint says the women are bringing their lawsuit on their own behalf and for other people who live near the pipeline in Arkansas.” The complaint also brings up that “the part of the pipeline that ruptured was inspected in 2010 and again in February, according to a corrective action order that federal pipeline safety officials issued Tuesday.” Read here
Thursday, April 4th:
Today’s Roundup is brought to you by Carolyn Nolte and Chelsea Johnson
India’s Poor Leap-Frogging the Rich in Solar Energy: Pollinate Energy, a social enterprise NGO, sells private solar systems to impoverished Indians who own a cellular phone but have no in-home electricity. “Pollinate is one of a growing number of companies betting on “leapfrog” technology designed to help the urban poor in developing nations to skip right over fossil fuels for electricity” states Mark Bergen of Grist.org in “Selling solar power in India’s slums.” It is estimated that 20,000 slum residents in Bangladesh do not have electricity, a low number that co-founder of Pollinate Energy, co-founder Jamie Chivers, says is “clearly wrong.” Their work in 100 city slums revealed “3,400 families without power in a six-mile radius.” Although the $7.44 installment plan for solar (slum residents make only $3 to $4 a day), 400 private solar systems have been sold. Last week India’s Slum Census of 2011 showed 64 million people living in un-hygienic slums and estimated that India’s slum population will be around 104 million in 2017. Access to electricity means seeking alternative energy solutions, and the Indian government is “pushing for alternatives”, according to Bergen. “It’s a nice idea — the poor leap-frogging the rich,” says Chivers. “They’re much more resource-efficient than the rest of us,” he says. “That’s where solar works really well.” Initiatives like these are popping up all over the world, demonstrating that if our world leaders won’t take serious action to stop climate change and invest in renewables, the people will. Read here
A BOLD move: Yesterday, 59 groups from 20 countries submitted a letter to Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of The World Blank, requesting the end of “support for all fossil fuel projects” unless the project 1) increases benefits to the poor or 2) if not funding damages human or environmental welfare. Citing the World Bank’s statements to address climate change and aid developing communities, the letter requests that The World Bank act. The letter supports its call for action with evidence that contrasts The World Bank’s reasoning for some loans. “If President Kim is serious about taking the World Bank in a new direction on climate change and real clean energy access, he needs to put the Bank’s money where his mouth is,” said Sunita Dubey of Vasudha Foundation (India). “The World Bank’s current support for fossil fuel projects does little to promote energy access while doing a lot to exacerbate climate change. That needs to be flipped on its head” (quoted in Oil Change International’s “59 Groups Pressure World Bank to Clean Up Energy Lending”). This letter joins other campaigns like 350.org, working for fossil fuel divestment.
All Risk No Reward: Almost a week ago, tar sands oil began to seep into the backyards of the people living in Mayflower, Arkansas. Pictures of the oil running over driveways and under playsets proliferate across the internet—pictures that we never want to see taken in Nebraska. A pipeline called “Pegasus,” owned by Exxon Mobil, ruptured, and “no one knows why,” although, it’s pretty clearly because pipelines leak. More than 20 homes have been evacuated, and according to Exxon 3,500 – 5,000 gallons have been spilled (we’ll wait for the EPA to give us the numbers). This is the type of spill TransCanada would call “localized.” This most recent tar sands spill is causing the media to revisit the KXL, and “re-evaluate the risks.” We can tell you that the KXL is all risk and no reward. Read here
Violation of Worker Rights: The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether databases holding employee information about retail theft violate federal law. According to “Retailers track worker theft in databases,” information on employees accused of theft is stored and used to make hiring decisions. Retail theft cases are usually in-house accusations without criminal charges. Yet, applicants to retail jobs are discovering that those in-house cases can lead to their inability to get hired elsewhere. Companies that hold such legal databases are facing lawsuits, and the FTC has been receiving complaints regarding whether or not such databases comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Citing the case of one employee fired for $34 in stolen goods and who claimed innocence, the article showed how the use of such databases affects future employment. The employee “received a letter from Dollar General alerting her that she had been turned down for a job partly because of her listing in Esteem [one such database].” Databases like this violate worker rights to fair employment hiring practices when not regulated and when not accurate. Read here
Wednesday, April 3nd:
Pew: Keystone XL Has Majority Support: It’s not necessarily an encouraging note for BOLD Nebraskans like yourselves, but it’s a strong reminder of the opposition we face in the coming year. The Pew Research Center polls show that 66 percent of folks surveyed support the pipeline. A fifth claimed strong opposition to it. Though, it’s worth keeping in mind that this data was collected in the days before the Mayflower spill in Arkansas. On the up side, 68 believe there’s strong evidence climate change is real, up two points from 2012. While these numbers aren’t pleasant, it’s important to keep in mind that as our experience has shown, once folks learn more about the pipeline and tar sands, they are likely to oppose it. These numbers reflect a strong PR campaign run by TransCanada that has twisted the facts (or in many cases, made up their own). These numbers should also serve as strong motivation for us BOLD Nebraskans to make a strong presence at the State Department Hearing two weeks from now, and show the State Dept that the KXL is all risk and no reward. Read the Huffington Post’s peice on the matter here.
French Oil Company Divests from Oil Sands: Citing weakening demand for crude and rising U.S. oil production, France’s total will take a loss of parting with the Alberta tar sands Voyageur Upgrade rather than continuing with what they feel is a futile investment. Sure sounds like another case of wasteful spending, doesn’t it? Read more about the divestment here.
Read About Enbridge’s Attempts to Silence Whistleblower: John Bolenbaugh was working with Enbridge Inc. in their attempt to clean up the 2010 oil spill that dumped more than a million gallons on to land around Battle Creek, Michigan until he was fired for trying to make sure they did it well. The magazine One Earth did an extended feature on Bolenbaugh and the trails he endured as one of the lone voices who would stand up against the Canadian giant citing them for their half attempts to clean up their mess. The story is a stark reminder of what Nebraskans face in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. Have a few minutes to spare? Educate yourself here.
Tuesday, April 2nd:
MOJO: Arkansas Spill Requires Top Talent from Craigslist: Yep, ExxonMobil Corp is looking for hazard cleanup workers to address its massive oilspill in Mayflower, Arkansas from Craigslist, Mother Jones Reports. On top of that, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health – an entity criticized in the past for doing their job rather poorly – is developing the information that the oil giant is providing to the public. What big, sloppy, oily mess. Oh, by the way, the pipeline carried tarsands like the one TransCanada hopes to bring through our backyards via the Keystone XL. Read here.
Wildlife Reacting Poorly to Oil Spill: Folks in Mayflower, Arkansas would probably like to scoop up the birds from the oil-choked waters, but officials have warned that the toxic chemicals introduced to the city by an ExxonMobil Corp. pipeline rupture aren’t anything they’re going to want to get on their skin or anywhere else. About 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered since the leak introduced murky black liquid into the streets and a nearby pond forcing many residents out of their homes. Read here.
Under Pressure for Bee-Busting Pesticides, Bayer Saving Face with Tour: Bayer CropScience’s Bee Care Tour was in Ithaca Monday to generate some good old fashioned positive spin to news that their pesticides may be decimating bee populations around the world. The company’s neonicotinoids – a seed coating agent – are seen as a primary suspect in the decline of the bee population. While the company has admitted no fault, there is a tacit admission of some involvement in their choosing to promote higher pollination efforts and building something called a “Bee Health Center” in Raleigh, N.C. At the very least, it signals a waning confidence in what could be one of the biggest risks to the eco system of our time. Read the Lincoln Journal Star’s coverage here with additional coverage from the Huffington Post found here.
Tea Party Takes Stand Against GMOs (No, really): In a rare moment of clarity and pure awesomeness, the Tea Party of all groups is joining the fight against the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” a controversial rider on the Ag Appropriations Bill passed by the House and signed into law last month. This clause effectively prevents the federal courts from halting the sale or production of genetically-modified foods, a blanket protection the Tea Party says puts Monsanto and others above the law. What’s more, they’re citing a study concluding that many of the legislators who signed it didn’t know those protections were in there (which, c’mon, should these guys be reading the laws they’re enacting? Whatever.) Yes: the detrimental effects of GMO foods are inconclusive, but as Jezebel aptly notes, “do you really want the adjective ‘inconclusive’ to apply to your food?” Read more here and here.