Bold Roundup June 25th – 29th

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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 29th

A reminder that tonight folks are coming together to honor Senator Ken Haar, who has done so much to protect the Sandhills, Aquifer, and landowners. Check out the details for the event here. Here’s your Roundup:  

Lacking Leadership: Governor Heineman continues to believe in pipe dreams. Following the ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act, he has declared his resistance to taking the steps necessary to ensure Nebraskans can take full advantage of the ACA. Insisting that all yesterday’s ruling proves is the necessity to replace President Obama, he is apparently content to allow the federal government to take over our state’s responsibilities in implementing the law. It’s unfortunate that our governor is actively working to deny Nebraskans the benefits of a law that many of us worked so hard to get passed and that all of us deserve the right to take advantage of. Read here

What a Mess: Yesterday House Republicans made a politically symbolic move by holding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. But their storyline for prosecuting Holder has had some major holes punched in it by an investigation published by Fortune magazine this week. The conflict that led to the vote centered on “Fast and Furious,” an operation designed to stop the flow of illegal guns to the Mexican drug cartel. For months, House Republicans have been on Holder’s heels, alleging that he oversaw a botched operation that deliberately “walked guns” to the cartels, which ultimately led to the death of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Ironically, these House Republicans seem to be advocating for greater gun control when their policies left those in charge of “Fast and Furious” unable to arrest those they long suspected of being gun smugglers. It is unclear yet as to what will happen to Holder, but 109 Democrats walked out of the vote, declaring it a witch hunt designed to make the White House look bad. Read here

Unacceptable: A startling new statistic released by the Department of Education shows that there are over 1 million homeless students in the U.S. And that number doesn’t represent the total number of homeless children. This is the first time the number of homeless students has reached so high, with 44 states reporting an increase in homeless students. At the same time education reform has been aimed more toward closing the gap between low-income students and their peers, this increase in homelessness naturally stymies that effort. Only 52% of homeless children were deemed proficient in reading by this new report, and only 51% passed math standardized tests.  Read here

More Benefits of Fuel Efficiency Standards: Remember those clips advertising the advantages of Obama’s fuel efficiency standards the Sierra Club and NRDC released last week? Well a new study shows that the standards will not only keep you fueled longer, they will also fuel the economy. Over 570,000 jobs will be created by the standards by 2030, and it is estimated that they will contribute to a $75 billion increase in national GDP by 2030. Here’s how, according to the NRDC: 1) improving automobile efficiency requires the addition of new technologies, which are designed and manufactured by adding workers in the auto industry and (2) money saved on gasoline by drivers will be spent on other goods and services, increasing jobs across the economy. Read here

 

Thursday, June 28th

Who would you rather have in the White House if aliens attacked? A new poll shows most Americans would prefer Obama have our backs. Given the recent zombie attacks in the states (including a zombie pipeline); it’s not so surprising that many Americans also see an alien invasion as a plausible scenario. Breaking news in today’s Roundup:

Upheld: The Supreme Court’s much anticipated decision on the Affordable Care Act came today, resulting in a 5-4 decision upholding the law. The individual mandate was upheld as a tax, and the expansion of Medicaid was upheld with the caveat that the federal government cannot punish states for not expanding their Medicaid services. Nebraska, unfortunately, has held out so far on implementing the law, including setting up insurance exchanges. Now that the law is upheld, it is more than ever time for our state to act for the health of Nebraskans. Read here and here

KXL Doesn’t Make the Cut: Congress seems to be on a roll. Just one day after coming to an agreement on extending the current federal student loan interest rate, they have reached a deal on the two-year transportation bill. Then again, their alternative was to put 2 million people out of work and prevent the creation of 1 million new jobs. And they left coming to these agreements down to the wire—the measures both need to be passed by this weekend. Notably, KXL doesn’t find itself attached to this bill. Congressional Republicans were forced to compromise on the issue, and have left the zombie pipeline to undoubtedly make its return in GOP legislation at a later date. Republicans also abandoned their quest to weaken proposed restrictions on coal ash produced by power plants. Read here

Gifts Galore?: The JournalStar reports that special interests poured $14 million into our state’s legislature. It’s no surprise that TransCanada spent the greatest share of that money in an effort to try to force their pipeline through Nebraskans land and water via the legislature. Most of that money was spent on lobbying, but a large amount could have also been spent on gifts and special privileges that are apparently hard to fully disclose. Read here

Don’t forget to check out the final section of “The Dilbit Disaster,” released today by InsideClimateNews.org. 

 

Wednesday, June 27th

Don’t miss Part Two of the “Dilbit Disaster,” a continuation of InsideClimateNews.org’s report of what happened when tar sands spilled into a Michigan river. Our own Jane Kleeb reflects on what would happen if a tar sands spill happened in Nebraska today. Both of these reads reaffirm that we do not want tar sands running through our land and water.  Here’s your Roundup:

“Dark Money”: Ever since the Supreme Court ruled to allow unprecedented spending in elections, MotherJones has been working to shine a light on this “dark money”—the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by outside groups, a lot of it without full disclosure.  To make tracking the flow and impact of “dark money” easier, they have made an interactive map that is updated every week. With bigger dots for heftier wallets, the map demonstrates the big players in this new political world, as well as shows who the major donors are (or if the donation sources are mostly anonymous). Some of the “dark money” featured by MotherJones even made an impact in Nebraska, when the tea party “Ending Spending Action Fund” helped buy Deb Fischer her nomination. Check out the trail of “dark money” here

Public Safety: The D.C. U.S. Court of Appeals handed down a major victory for Americans yesterday, when it ruled that carbon dioxide is indeed a danger to the public, and thus the EPA is able to regulate emissions of CO2 under the Clean Air Act. Several big polluters and their friends had sued the EPA over their rules governing greenhouse gas emissions, citing that the EPA hasn’t done enough of its own work to prove climate change is a real threat. Fortunately, the judges of the case do not deny science, and wrote in their 82 page opinion that the “EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.” Read here

Close to an Agreement: Congress is finally stepping up to the plate on reauthorizing low student loan interest rates, but they have not yet swung the bat. Up until now, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have agreed that the interest rate must remain where it is in order to keep millions of Americans from having to pay at least $1000 more for their education, but they have been unable to come up with a plan on how to pay for the freeze. Now, that issue is resolved, with the plan being that the money will come from raising the premiums for federal pension insurance. No bill is yet signed, however, and it would be worthwhile to send our Nebraska Congressmen a call to urge them to seal the deal. Read here

Meow: Summer is here, which means “kitten season” for animal shelters across the U.S. Animal welfare workers comment that people are more likely to get their dog fixed than a cat, more likely to microchip a dog than a cat, and more likely to claim a dog than a cat. Nebraska shelters are no different; the Kearney Animal Shelter is currently featuring kitten season on their homepage.  If you are looking for a new pet, right now is the perfect time to adopt, and as Bob Barker would say, make sure to spay and neuter your pets. Here’s some cute kitten pictures to start your day (and possible trip to the animal shelter). Read here

 

Tuesday, June 26th

This summer the Obama Administration is poised to finalize strong fuel efficiency and pollution standards for new vehicles, raising gas mileage to 54.5 mpg by 2025. That means fewer stops at gas stations, and less money spent just to burn. Check out these cool clips by the NRDC and Sierra Club advertising the new standards, which Obama also said would save more oil than KXL could pump in 45 years. Here’s your Roundup:

A Must Read: InsideClimateNews.org has released its first section of a three part series cataloguing the 2010 tar sands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan—a spill that is still being cleaned up. The report can also be purchased as an e-book that will allow you to read the entire, horrific tale at once. “The Dilbit Disaster” chronicles what has happened to a community affected by a tar sands spill, and what the company in charge of the pipeline did in response. Every word on the page brings images of what the future could hold for Nebraska if the KXL pipeline is approved, bringing sinking, stinking oil through the Ogallala aquifer and uncertainty as to how to clean it up—a vivid picture of what we are fighting as we continue to fight KXL. Read here

Did Anybody Win?: The Supreme Court has finally issued its ruling on Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070, and has prompted both sides in the battle to claim “mixed results.” The court upheld the part of the law that brought on the most controversy, the “papers please” section, which requires law enforcement officers to see the immigration papers of anyone stopped, detained, or arrested that the officers “reasonably suspect” is in the country illegally. This section is the part of the law that invites racial profiling, and creates a grey area as to how police officers are to carry out the law. While the Court upheld this part of the law, the Court also struck down the rest of the sections that the Obama Administration was challenging: two of the provisions made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to be present and seek employment in Arizona, while a third authorized police officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they had “probable cause” to believe had committed a deportable offense.  Read here

Corporations Are Still Legally People: Ruling on Arizona wasn’t the only announcement the Supremes made yesterday. They also struck down the Montana law that went against Citizens United, reaffirming the decision they made in 2010. Rather than choosing to hear arguments that may have made the Court re-think its decision that many people from both sides of the aisle have deemed a mistake, the Court simply issued a summary opinion striking down the state’s law. Montana was fighting to hold on to a law it has had since 1912 to battle out of control spending and corruption in elections, consequences of Citizens United that have taken hold in the rest of the country. Read here

Not a Total Failure: Rio +20 is over, and while many consider the conference a failure with a weak resolution and lack of concrete calls for action, one delegate argues that some important things did come out of the sidelines of  Rio +20. He says that businesses in attendance acknowledged the risk climate change poses to their business models, and that these businesses are taking their own steps to fight environmental degradation. He also said the #EndFossilfuelSubsidiesNow twitter campaign (that many of you may have participated in) has gotten world leaders to put exactly that as a top priority. Read three more of this delegate’s key takeaways from the Rio +20 summit here

 

Monday, June 25th

Real-Life Superheroes taking are up the mantles of  beloved comicbook heroes like Superman and The Avengers, but they do not fly or shy away from kryptonite. These heartening Real-Life Superheroes do things like shoo drug dealers from children’s playgrounds and deliver food to homeless shelters. There is no doubt that real-life superheroes have always existed, but now these change-making individuals are making a movement that we can all join.  Here’s your Roundup: 

Climate Change: High temperature records were set in 16 states on Memorial Day weekend. More than 15,000 warm weather records were broken across the country in March. The records for the number of tornadoes in one month were smashed. These events cost billions of dollars and spell greater trouble for the future if we don’t get our act together. These events are why scientists across the world and insurance companies have been fighting to get U.S. Senators and Representatives to do something to address climate change. The scientists who cite these numbers and call for action list some things that can be done to help us adapt to and mitigate the climate change we are seeing: invest in renewable energy, be more efficient with all of our energy use, and improve public transportation. They do not recommend approving KXL. That’s probably because another renowned scientist, James Hansen, has already spelled out that development of the tarsands is “game over” for the climate. Read here

Climate Change Denial: Despite the agreement amongst 99% of scientists that climate change is real and that we are already experiencing it, there are climate change deniers out there (led by the Koch brothers and others tight with the fossil fuel industries). Unfortunately for us, a large chunk of climate change deniers sit in the House of Representatives, and those members have now earned the House the title of “Most Anti-Environment House in History,” after having passed hundreds of pieces of legislation that cause detriment to the environment and the public. 44% of these votes were to directly put money into the oil and gas industries pockets. The House Republicans behind these bills have themselves pocketed 80% of the oil industry’s campaign contributions and 85% of the coal industry’s campaign contributions over the course of their careers. Read here

Coincidence?: The Washington Post reports that 34 members of Congress changed the composition of their financial portfolios a total of 166 times during the financial crisis within 2 hours after they had discussions with key figures such as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; his successor, Timothy Geithner; or Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The actions are technically permitted under Congressional ethics rules, but the Post’s investigation raises questions as to whether these members of Congress had an investing advantage over members of the public. Read here  

Books that Shaped America: The Library of Congress has a new exhibit on display, presenting the 88 “Books that Shaped America.” The titles were chosen by LOC staff, and include a wide variety, from Margaret Brown’s “Goodnight, Moon” to Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” to Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” The books in the collection caused controversy and forced readers to evaluate themselves and the society they lived in. The Washington Post lists the other books chosen for the collection, and is asking readers what books shaped them—my list would have included Daniel Quinn’s “Ishmael.” Check out the LOC’s list here

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