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, June 22nd
Ever wonder why that Big Mac you just orderered always looks better on T.V.? Ponder no more! A newly released video details exactly what goes into making your burger look like a supermodel. Here’s your Roundup:
Too Many Errors Here: Lee Terry co-sponsored yet another amendment to force approval of the KXL pipeline. But, alas, he botched what has apparently become his main goal as a Nebraska Congressman. Key language was omitted from the legislation, forcing Terry to withdraw the amendment due to “human error.” The House has already voted to approve the pipeline five times; three of those times were on Terry’s bill. So you may ask what exactly this Congressman is doing in Washington other than bringing up multiple votes on the same issue that has yet to make it past the House—wasting time the House could be spending on other important issues. To be honest, we’re not really sure what else he does. But it is clear that the only thing flip-flop Lee Terry hasn’t changed his mind on is support without question of KXL—support of risking Nebraskans livelihoods so a foreign company can profit. Read here
I Wish I Was Kidding: One of those previously mentioned important issues that have yet to be solved by Congress is passage of the surface transportation bill. This bill has been a topic of many debates and as per usual in Congress these days, the deadline for reauthorization is on the horizon but no agreement has been made. The Senate passed their version with a bipartisan vote, but the House is determined to not let this bill pass without a KXL rider attached. No, I am not joking. It is estimated that about three million jobs hinge upon reauthorizing the transportation bill, and if it is not reauthorized, almost two million jobs will be at least temporarily lost. Millions of jobs are at stake for a political stunt for a risky export pipeline that will only create a few hundred jobs. Read here
“Collapse”: A new monument dots the national mall this week, a monument highlighting a major negative of the U.S. education system. The College Board set up 857 empty desks on Tuesday, one for every student that drops out of high school every hour of every school day in this country. The display is part of the “Don’t Forget Ed” campaign, which is meant to hold today’s campaigners accountable for their promises on education. Read here
Eureka!: Despite the gains of women in many different areas such as college attendance and entry into past male-dominated fields like accounting, women still lag far behind men in science and math fields. A new program in Omaha, called Eureka! hopes to change that for some young Nebraska girls. Chosen middle school girls get to study sciences for one month from now until they graduate for free at U.N.O., an experience that will hopefully generate interest in the sciences and push girls to pursue careers in that field. Read here
Thursday, June 21st
For all of you Game of Thrones fans out there (I know I am), here are some funny clips to start your day: MotherJones imagines what the seven kingdoms would be like if Super-PACs existed alongside the dragons, battles, and political intrigues of the hit-series. Here’s your Roundup:
Voting Rights: Omaha voters won a victory yesterday, when Douglas County Commissioner Dave Phipps announced that for the general election in November, he would adjust voting precincts and re-open 27 of the polling places he had closed “to save money” back in February. Phipps decision to close down 50% of polling places left many voters confused in the primary and pointedly made voting more difficult for voters with certain characteristics, such as being an ethnic minority or in a lower income bracket. After a great deal of pushback from voting rights activists and those whom possess common sense, Phipps has announced that the polling places for the general election will be more centrally located, easier to find, and more accessible by public transportation. Hopefully, these measures will make it easier for all Omahans to vote. Read here
What Regulations?: The EPA has become a target this year, with Republicans in Congress leading the criticisms and the media picking up the steam. You don’t have to look far to find the claim that EPA regulations kills jobs and are too harsh, too overbearing. But in Pennsylvania, where natural gas wells dot the landscape, landowners are wondering if regulations even exist. Much like some politicians in the U.S. and in Nebraska are catering to the needs of TransCanada, putting the foreign company’s profits over the land and people of this state, natural gas drillers and pipeline builders in Pennsylvania “ask for what they want, and get it.” They get it at the expense of landowners in the area, whom are now the proud owners of streams that catch on fire and have faced accusations of trespassing on their own land. At least one landowner has been prohibited from coming within 50 feet of where the natural gas pipeline runs, even though it runs through his property. Read here
The Power of Prevention: Workers at Creighton University are benefitting from a preventative care health program that a small but growing number of employers are using to not only improve the livelihoods of their employees, but save themselves from high bills down the road. The goals of the Creighton program are to help sick workers get better and identify workers who are at high risk for greater health problems in the future, specifically workers whom have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. The program has been a success so far. The program’s director says that they have seen a return on investment in just one year—people’s quality of life has significantly improved since belonging to the program, and the number of self-reported “unhealthy days” has been cut in half. Emphasis on preventative care also happens to be a main part of the Affordable Care Act. Read here
Irresponsible Votes from Our Senators: Yesterday, the Senate voted down legislation that would have prevented the EPA from implementing its standards to protect Americans from power plant emissions of the neurotoxin mercury, and other toxins including arsenic, acid gas, lead, and cancer-causing dioxins. Power plants affected by the rules have several years to comply, and these regulations are an important step in improving the health of ourselves, our family and friends, and our environment. Fifty-three Senators stood up for us and for future generations by voting “no” on the measure, but neither Senator from Nebraska voted in that majority—in fact, Senator Johanns co-sponsored the resolution. Read here
Wrapping up today’s Roundup are 10 Tips for Quickly Relieving Stress as well as 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity. Enjoy your day!
Wednesday, June 20th
Believe it or not, today is the first official day of summer—although it has felt like summer began a couple of months ago. Nebraska is in its 9th consecutive month of warmer than normal temperatures, and climatologists doubt whether July will be the break of that streak. Check out the UNL Extension office’s tips for keeping the house cool during these dog days of summer; here’s your Roundup:
No Suprise Here: Another tar sands pipeline had to be closed down yesterday following the second tar sands spill in two weeks, the third in one month. Enbridge, the same company still cleaning up the million gallons of tar sands it spilled into the Kalamazoo River two years ago, is responsible for a spill occurring at one of its pipeline’s pumping stations. The company restarted the pipeline after the spill occurred, but was forced by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board to shut it down again less than a day later. The pipeline was carrying tar sands to the pipeline hub Hardisty, the starting point of TransCanada’s proposed KXL. This wave of spills is no surprise as tar sands’ corrosive characteristic continues to take a toll on all pipelines it is forced through—and reinforces the fact that tar sands pipelines are risky pipelines. Read here
We’re Not the Only Ones Asking Questions: The plethora of spilled tar sands has been recognized by our northern neighbors, whom also face the risks associated with tar sands pipelines. The Northern Gateway pipeline being proposed by Enbridge, which would run from Alberta through British Columbia to the Pacific Coast, has also run into safety concerns. Most recently, it has been flagged for not including appropriate spill response plans. It is considerations such as this which we BOLD Nebraskans have been stressing must be taken into account in reviews of the KXL—how will TransCanada clean up a tar sands spill in the Ogallala Aquifer? Read here
Labor Shortages and Surpluses: According to the McKinsey Global Institute, tens of millions of people worldwide will face long-term unemployment or permanent joblessness as low-skilled workers become less and less needed. The group predicts this will happen as soon as 2020, when between 90 and 95 million workers will not have the training needed for the jobs needed. Meanwhile, employers around the world will face a shortage of medium and high skilled workers. Strategies the study prescribed developed countries use to prepare for this impending problem is increasing those who obtain college and postgraduate education as well as guiding more college students to job-relevant training. Unfortunately, achieving a college education is becoming less and less possible as the costs of attendance rise, and Congress is currently heading towards making that education even more expensive. Read here
Women’s Success: This week marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, a law that requires gender equity in every educational program that receives federal funding. According to economists, this law has directly affected education and income levels for women. One of the most widely recognized consequences of the law is the ability girls gained to play sports in school. Former athletes’ wages have been shown to be approximately 7% higher than non-athletes. Title IX’s opening of the doors to athletics for women have in turn boosted the income women receive in their lifetimes. The post-Title IX generation of women has also been more likely to enter previously male-dominated professions such as law, accounting, and professional sports. Read here
Tonight, the first informational N.E.A.T. meeting will be taking place in the Dining Hall of the Boone County Fairgrounds, (2616 Fairgrounds Road, Albion) from 6-8 pm. N.E.A.T. is a non-profit group dedicated to ensuring landowners’ rights are protected when dealing with TransCanada. If you are interested in attending, please contact N.E.A.T.
Tuesday, June 19th
Thank you to all those who attended the PSC meeting yesterday as well as those who contributed to the #endfossilfuelsubsidies twitterstorm, which trended at #1 in the U.S. and #2 globally. Every action, big or seemingly small, contributes to creating change we’d like to see in the world. Here’s your Roundup:
Tackling Energy Poverty: Thousands are gathered in Rio for tomorrow’s commencement of the UN Earth Summit, where they will discuss how the world can live better, and do it sustainably. A key point that will be discussed at this conference that was missing from the same conference 20 years ago is how to get more people access to electricity—clean electricity. Millions of people in the world suffer from “energy poverty,” which negatively affects aspects of life such as health and education. Inextricably linked to the need to provide more people with access to electricity is the fact that climate change and pollution stemming from burning fossil fuels disproportionately affects poor people, again negatively impacting aspects of life such as health and education. The U.N. Secretary General’s idea to solve this problem is “Sustainable Energy For All,” a plan to make sure everyone has power, to cut in half the amount of energy that is wasted, and to double the share of renewable energy worldwide. There is much skepticism as to what will actually be accomplished this time at Rio, but there is no room for failure. In the words of Grist writer David Roberts: “Climate change is simple, we do something or we’re screwed.”
An Unwelcome Guest: There is no love for Wal-Mart in southwest Lincoln, where the mega-store is planning on building a fourth Lincoln location. Hundreds of people gathered to protest this aspiring neighbor, calling on the company to build its store at the site where it had planned to build on back in 2006…when the city and developer spent millions into preparing the site only to have the company walk away. Residents near the proposed site are worried about the traffic, crime, and pollution a Wal-Mart could bring to their community, and aren’t too impressed by Wal-Mart’s promise of the new “neutral” look that the 120,000 sq. ft. box store will somehow possess. Read here
Healthcare is a Right: With less than a week left until the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding the Affordable Care Act are made public, there is still a lot of speculation as to the outcome. The decision will affect what has become a bigger and bigger problem for hospitals around the country—uninsured hospital patients. Emergency care became a right in the United States in 1986, when a bipartisan Congress passed a mandate requiring hospitals to care for all in need, regardless of ability to pay. Nationwide, uninsured patients now account for nearly one-fifth of emergency room visits, and billions of dollars worth of care is not reimbursed to the hospitals. For the last quarter-century, these costs have been passed on to taxpayers, hospitals, and privately insured patients whose premiums have been forced to rise. If the individual mandate provision in the ACA is upheld by the Supreme Court, millions of these patients would become insured, and their providers would cover the cost that is burdening hospitals today. Read here
Funding Our Future: Lincoln Public Schools is facing a loss in $2.4 million in federal funds for special education. Part of this loss will be made up with state funds, but the school district must still cut over $1 million from a budget that served more than 5,700 students last year. LPS already made serious cuts to materials and supplies last year, and this year is forced to focus on cutting personnel. Teachers as well as para-educators will be cut, and programs that help teach the students important life skills will face changes. Students will no longer be bused to local businesses to get practical work experience, meaning that in order for students to have this valuable experience, alternatives must be found. In this election year, the importance of education for our youth will be heralded again and again. But under the auspices of continued recession and calls for drastic spending cuts, these words may prove empty. It is important that we remind our elected officials of the importance of children’s education for the future of our country. Read here
Monday, June 18th
This morning, the PSC will be holding a hearing at the Commission Hearing Room (located at 1200 N Street in Lincoln at 10:00 am). Attending the hearing and participating in the process that will establish the rules around oil pipeline route certification is a great way to ensure Nebraska’s land, water, and citizens are protected now and in the future, and we encourage you to attend. Here’s your Roundup:
TransCanada’s Newest Tactic: In an effort to bribe landowners into giving TransCanada rights to their land, the tar sands company is now offering bonuses for signing right-of-way contracts and increasing estimated payments for right-of-way by up to 400% over what the company paid along the original route. This latest attempt to persuade landowners to value a once-off payment from a foreign corporation over their livelihoods demonstrates how desperate TransCanada is becoming in its efforts to get tar sands to the world market. Our primary concern is the protection of landowners, and we are working to make sure their rights are protected and that all are well informed and prepared for the calls from TransCanada. Read here
Harsh Consequences for Harsh Laws: The Supreme Court will issue important decisions within the next two weeks—one of those decisions will decide whether Arizona’s controversial immigration law (S.B. 1070) is constitutional or not. Thankfully, Nebraska’s legislature declined to take up the Arizona copy-cat law that Sen. Charlie Janssen offered last year, but another state in the Union did not make the same wise decision. Alabama’s tough immigration law mirrors Arizona’s in many ways, and Alabamans are now facing some of the consequences of their legislature’s action. The law is doing what it was supposed to do; thousands of illegal immigrants have left the state. An Alabama mayor does report that there has been a drop in illegal activity as a result, but the economy has also taken a hit. Many mainstay businesses of Alabama towns are struggling to find quality replacements for those whom left—in fact the hurt has gone so deep that the same senator who introduced the immigration bill sponsored a revised version of the law to ease penalties for businesses that employ illegal immigrants. Read here
Taking Advantage of the Elderly: Newly released reports have been showing that the nation’s seniors are being swindled out of more and more money every year, and the amount of money counts up into the billions. Most of the fraud is being committed by complete strangers, many of whom operate through sweepstakes scams or fraudulent lotteries. Thirty-four percent of the scams, however, are being committed by the family, friends, and neighbors of the elderly. In many cases, fraudsters stole seniors’ Medicare or Medicaid benefits. The newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has launched an inquiry into the issue, and is seeking comments from the public about whether seniors are getting effective financial education or counseling and whether there are adequate resources available for seniors to determine the legitimacy of a financial planner or advisor. The agency is also asking for examples of any abusive and deceptive practices currently targeting seniors, and veterans and military retirees in particular. Read here
Don’t forget to join the twitterstorm today, in which people all over the world are demanding that world leaders end the fossil fuel subsidies that are worth over $1 trillion worldwide.