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, August 17th

“A Whole New Monster”: NPR did a story on Texan pipeline fighter, David Daniel. Like many Nebraskans, Daniel first heard about KXL four years ago, from surveying posts already placed on his land without his knowledge—alerted to the trespassing by a concerned neighbor. Like many Nebraskans, Daniel had a lot of questions for TransCanada—54 of them, to be exact. Some of these questions got answered when he went on a trip to the Kalamazoo River, and talked with landowners up there. What he heard did not comfort him one bit. Tar sands are still in the river 2 years after the Enbridge pipeline ruptured, and two weeks after the state and EPA re-opened the river for recreational use. Oil sank in the Kalamazoo. Daniel has streams weaving through his land, and in fact KXL will have to go through over 1,900 water ways, and “the nation’s largest freshwater aquifer,” the Ogallala. Water is a precious commodity. Drought covers over 60% of the United States. It is not, nor will it ever be, the time to put that water at risk in the name of oil. Water is more precious than oil, period. Read here

Re-thinking Water: The drought has people across the country under water use restrictions as rivers and streams dry up and rainfall has yet to come. But why do we only conserve water when we can actually see that it is possible to walk across the Platte River and not even get our feet wet? One has to only type “water scarcity” into Google to get a slew of information about how difficult it is for people all over the world to get access to safe drinking water. The U.S. happens to be home to a comparative abundance of freshwater, but there is no need to waste it just because it is there. Author Charles Fishman points out that “our nation’s water system is a mess,” and there are many ways to use our water more efficiently that can even be fun. Fishman sees this drought as a way to reinvent the way we look at water all the time, not just in times of drought. In addition to being more efficient with water use, it would be wise to limit the risks put on our water systems—the KXL risking the Ogallala Aquifer and over 1,900 waterways is a perfect example. Read here

Cutting Women’s Health: Not long after the provision of the Affordable Care Act that expands women’s health services to include more preventive services came into effect, Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate. The stark differences between what the Obama’s ACA’s provision does and Romney and Ryan’s vision for women’s health cannot be clearer. Ryan has already supported a bill to limit Title X, which was established to provide birth control and preventive health services to men and women regardless of income or insurance status. His budget plan cuts $810 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, and women’s health clinics have already seen their services as being at the top of the list of things to cut when budgets get tight. Read here   


Thursday, August 16th

The 2010 mid-term elections ushered in a wave of Tea-Partiers and enabled Republicans to re-take the House and nearly re-take the Senate. These elections also brought in the next “do-nothing Congress.” The 112th Congress has only passed 151 bills into law so far, making it the least productive Congress since 1948. The good news is that elections are coming up soon, meaning there is a chance for us to fire this “do-nothing Congress.” Here’s your Roundup:

Tar Sands Mining In Utah: Tar sands have so often been equated with Canada that it is easy to forget the dirty fuel exists elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, there is also bitumen in the United States, and hungry eyes are looking to exploit that resource. In Utah, a Calgary based tar sands mining company already has a permit to dig on state land, and is only being stopped by an appeal brought by environmental groups that that permit did not take water into proper consideration. As the nation’s second driest state, Utah is already concerned by water availability, and tar sands extraction would use up about 168,000 gallons of water per day. Furthermore, 4,000 pounds of earth would need to be dug up to make just 20 gallons of gasoline from Utah’s bitumen—that’s not even enough to fill up two vehicles. Of course the support for desecrating the land for tar sands development is backed by supposed economic benefits—after all, Utah has enough bitumen to supply the U.S.’s energy needs for three whole years! Yes, Bush was right. We are addicted to oil, and this is how deep that addiction runs. Read here

Demanding Studies on Tar Sands: As tar sands development is poised to begin on U.S. soil unless the appellants win, doctors with the Canadian Medical Association are calling for more research to be done on the impact of tar sands extraction on people’s health. Finally pushed into actions by their patients’ concerns (recall in Leslie Iwerks’ Dirty Oil, the heightened rates of very rare cancer in people living near the tar sands), these doctors passed motions for “a comprehensive, peer-reviewed study into the long-term effects of development on the environment and health….and for the government to make that kind of data public.” If this study is in fact done, it will shed light on what TransCanada wants to put through our land and water. Read here

Finally Moving Forward–a Little: Gov. Heineman announced yesterday that a series of meetings will be taking place to discuss how to set up Nebraska’s statewide health insurance exchange, a task he has been putting off ever since the Affordable Care Act became law two years ago. The public is invited to attend to weigh in, as has the insurance industry and various advocacy groups. Meetings will be taking place in various locations across Nebraska from now until September 12. Although we are pleased that action is finally being taken on helping Nebraskans choose an insurance plan that best suits them, and see if they qualify for federal tax credits, we are disappointed that Gov. Heineman also reiterated his opposition to extending Medicaid coverage to more Nebraskans. Read here

Wednesday, August 15th

More wildfires have spread across the western United States, a fire started yesterday in Washington state has already destroyed dozens of homes, while hundreds have been forced to evacuate in Washington as well as California. We still have our thoughts with those who have suffered from the fires along the Niobrara and hope that Nebraska doesn’t become the burning ground for more fires as this drought wears on. Here’s your Roundup: 

Not in the Aquifer or Sandhills: A new poll conducted by the UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources shows that a majority of rural Nebraskans want the KXL pipeline, but only if it is built away from the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer. Young people were more likely than older people to have the position of not wanting the pipeline built at all, and women were more likely than men to have that position. In the panhandle, nearly a quarter of respondents said they would prefer it if the pipeline wasn’t built at all. The response of Nebraskans to this poll shows the value we Nebraskans place on the land and natural resources. Although the pipeline has been rerouted, it still does not avoid porous soil and high water tables—our water is still at risk. It is also important to note that we have found the more people know about tarsands, the more likely they are to oppose the pipeline altogether. Read here

Going in the Right Direction: Today President Obama’s program to provide undocumented children and young adults with temporary legal status launches. Illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children can file for two-year deferral of deportation in order to work in the U.S. by filing a $465 fee and providing proof that they “are enrolled in school, graduated from high school or served in the U.S. armed forces, and have no criminal background, among other criteria.” This step by the Obama administration to reform the immigration system will hopefully push Congress to initiate a full-on reform of a problematic system, while helping those whom have already benefited from the United States, and often know no other home, the chance to give back. Read here

Success of the Stimulus:  Stimulus packages have gotten a pretty bad rep in the last couple of years, mostly due to the GOP’s total opposition to any of Obama’s stimulus ideas and the media’s portrayal of the stimulus mostly going along with the GOP’s viewpoint. It didn’t help that Dems didn’t really push on the positives of the stimulus either. This opposition, according to Michael Grunwald, who has just published his book about Obama’s stimulus, misses the many good things about the stimulus. In fact, Grunwald argues that the stimulus was “successful, well-administered, and basically scandal free.” Furthermore, he says it was basically a “ginormous clean energy bill” that did more for the industry than any other President’s actions have. Obama promised that he would double renewable power generation in his first term, and indeed, he did. This created many, many jobs. For example, most of the 8,000 parts needed to create a wind turbine used to be imported, now, most of those parts are made right here in the U.S. in new factories. It advanced biofuels, geothermal, and solar. Read here


Tuesday, August 14th

Just about a year after over 1,200 of us got arrested in front of the White House; TransCanada is planning to break ground on the southern portion of KXL within weeks. Check out this video of those who have joined the Tar Sands Blockade to stand together and stand up to TransCanada yet again. Here’s your Roundup:

There Is No Excuse for Congress to be MIA Right Now: As the drought wears on farmers and ranchers continue to suffer the dire consequences–crops wither and livestock are dying–they need Congress to give them a Farm Bill. But Congress left Washington. For five weeks. They didn’t even pass limited emergency relief before going home. There is only so much the Obama Administration has been able to do to help out farmers and ranchers without a long term, comprehensive Farm Bill. The Administration has opened up access to low interest emergency loans, opened up more federal land for grazing, and put forth $30 million to get more water to livestock and land affected by the drought. See Obama call on Congress to pass a Farm Bill in his weekly address here.

“Meet Paul Ryan”: Wondering what all the hulabaloo over Paul Ryan is about? You’re in luck, because American Bridge has been spending a lot of time finding out exactly who Ryan is. Check out the extensive report showing how Ryan’s budget “ends Medicare as we know it,” would eliminate millions of jobs, and would continue giving tax breaks to oil companies while decimating funding for clean energy alternatives. Find out Ryan’s voting history, including his vote against raising fuel efficiency standards, for bailing out the banking industry, and against numerous Farm Bills and his amendments to reduce farming subsidies. Read here for more details about Paul Ryan.

Meet Some Fellow Pipeline Fighters: A group of fly fishers from Fremont have been following the Keystone XL closely, and having done a lot of homework, are very much in the “stop the pipeline” crowd. These “stewards of the water” have been fishing together for over 40 years, and are on a mission to stop KXL from risking the Verdigre Creek, Ashfall fossil beds, Ogallala Aquifer, and “sovereignty of American productive farmland.” We’re glad to have folks like the Deaddrifters on our side. Read here


Monday, August 13th

The Olympics are over, and the U.S. finished the games with the highest medal count–USA! USA!–check out photos from the closing ceremony here. Here’s your Roundup:

Empty Promises: One of TransCanada’s main “selling points” is that Keystone XL will help expand the United States’ oil production by taking on some of the oil being harvested in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields. Like all other things TransCanada promises, the reality may not measure up to the words. In fact, if precedent has anything to do with it, oil from the Bakken shale will be very lucky indeed to make it into KXL. Enbridge promised the exact same thing when it built its 1,900 mile long Lakehead system, and like TransCanada, Enbridge filed for “common carrier” status, meaning the pipeline could be used by the public, a key factor in determining national interest. But now it’s a battle between smaller, American pipeline companies and Canadian tar sands giant Enbridge. Not one, but two American pipeline companies have filed complaints with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because Enbridge is not honoring its “common carrier” status, nor its promises to bring North Dakota’s Bakken oil through its pipeline. If FERC sides with Enbridge, there is no reason to think oil from North Dakota will flow through Keystone XL. Read here 

VP Pick Pleases Both Left and Right: Mitt Romney announced his Vice President pick this weekend, and it was tea party favorite Paul Ryan that Romney added to his ticket. Ryan has been a lightning rod for controversy due to his budget that dramatically slashes spending on programs that benefit the lower and middle classes while also delivering tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthiest in American society. Now Romney is hinged to Ryan proposals to transform Medicare into a voucher program and privatize Social Security, as well as proposals to dramatically cut spending on education, energy, and infrastructure…among many other programs. While this pick has energized the tea party base, Obama has been attacking the Ryan budget since its inception–he is now allowed to connect those to what a Romney Presidency would bring. Read here

A wildfire burned 7,000 acres of pasture near Ogallala yesterday, breaking out around 1 pm. It was contained by 8 pm. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and there are as of yet few details surrounding the blaze. Read here