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 31st

Check out this awesome info graphic that puts the effort that goes into getting plastic spoons to your table into a useful perspective. Here’s your Roundup:

Heineman Asked for Welfare Waivers: On July 12, implementation of a new policy by President Obama began. It gives states more authority and flexibility over welfare work requirements—states’ rights are something that the GOP would ordinarily support. But prominent Republicans and the Republican National Committee have attacked Obama for the policy, saying that he has “gutted welfare by dropping work requirements”. The Nebraska GOP has also joined in the chorus of attacks, saying if “Barack Obama had his way with welfare,” there would be “fewer paychecks and more welfare checks.” But they shouldn’t be so fast in their assault, after all, our own Gov. Dave Heineman asked for such welfare waivers. In 2005 twenty-nine governors, including Mitt Romney and Gov. Heineman, signed onto a letter urging Congress to give states more flexibility and authority over their welfare programs. They requested “increased waiver authority,” and flexibility over “allowable work activities,” among other things. President Obama gave these Republican governors what they asked for, and the claim that he has “dropped work requirements” is blatantly false. Read here

Legal Problems: A week ago, Florida’s restrictions on early voting were struck down by a federal judge on the grounds that it could disproportionately affect minority voters. Yesterday, a federal court ruled that Texas’ voter id law would “impose “strict, unforgiving burdens” on poor minority voters. Earlier in the summer, a federal court struck down a different portion of Florida’s new voting law that would restrict registering new voters—something that would again negatively affect minority and young voters. Seeing a trend here? Even the Pennsylvania GOP House majority leader admitted that the new voter id laws sweeping the nation will help Mittens win the election.

“The Faces of Poverty”: The Center for People in Need has released its “2012 Face of Poverty Today in Lincoln, Nebraska” report, which details the “hardships and challenges facing low-income people in Lincoln and Lancaster County. The Center surveyed over 2,000 of its clients to create the report that shows what daily life is like for 16% of Lincoln’s population—the proportion that lives in poverty. Three out of ten of those in poverty are children, and the Food Bank of Lincoln estimates that about 13% of Lincolnites are “food insecure.” Read the report here


Thursday, August 30th

President Obama is releasing an executive order today that will promote industrial energy efficiency. Not only will this policy reduce carbon pollution which will improve both “our health and the health of the planet,” it will make U.S. manufacturers more competitive by helping to reduce their energy costs. Sounds like a good deal to us. Here’s your Roundup:

Contaminated Water: On July 17th, a pipeline near Jackson, Wisconsin spilled 54,000 gallons of gasoline into the land. The Department of Natural Resources issued a drinking water advisory that covered 230 properties. According to a DNR official, an advisory covering such a large area is uncommon, but necessary in this case because the pipeline sat upon a type of fractured bedrock that is allowing gasoline from the spill to “move through factures in the [bedrock], so groundwater is susceptible to contamination….the top of the aquifer is only 120 feet beneath the surface.” Twelve wells were initially found to have contamination in the form of gasoline and benzene, but as of yesterday the number of private wells contaminated rose to 24, and water testing is not over. The KXL still goes through porous soil, and instead of being 120 feet away from groundwater, it will go right through it. And the KXL will not be carrying light gasoline. It will be carrying heavy tar sands. Read here and here

Another Nebraska Wildfire: A wildfire in western Nebraska has led authorities to evacuate residents, and Chadron State College and the Chadron school district to cancel classes. The fires started Tuesday when lightning struck drought parched land. Between 350 and 400 acres have been burned so far, destroying timber, pastures, and haystacks. We hope the fire is controlled as soon as possible and that Nebraskans will be notified as to ways to help those affected by the fire. Read here

GOP on Climate Change: Grist has used information from the Washington Post and OpenSecrets to show a correlation between how the GOP’s climate position has changed over the years and changes in donations from the oil and gas industry. Believe it or not, the GOP as a whole used to recognize climate change and take pride in directing federal dollars toward combating it. In fact, the GOP’s history shows they have accepted it and leaned toward addressing it proactively than they have running away from it. Times, like what is happening now, when the GOP has moved backward on the issue correlates closely to increases in contributions from the oil and gas industry. Could it just be a coincidence, or something more? …. Read here  


Wednesday, August 29th

Ted Genoways has done a great piece about Bob Kerrey for Mother Jones, entitled “Bob Kerrey Will Call Your Bullshit”. Check it out here. Here’s your Roundup:

 Another Spill: Another pipeline has ruptured in Alberta. The 300,000 liter spill was discovered in a Canola field, and the substance leaked is a product of tar sands extraction tailings ponds. The liquid spilled contains toxic salts, methane, propane, and other chemicals used to exploit tar sands. This puts the pipeline spill tally up to 5 over the last couple of months. Is there really any wonder why we are advocating for strong pipeline safety measures and strict rules and regulations to govern pipelines transporting toxic substances?  Read here

A Model for Everyone: Countries all over the world are asking for advice from Denmark. Like many countries, Denmark was hit hard during the 1970’s oil crisis. Recognizing the country’s vulnerability to an oil addiction set Danes on a quest for energy security—this has made it the world leader in wind energy innovation and production. Fifty percent of the world’s wind turbines come out of Denmark, and Denmark itself receives 24% of its electricity from wind. The nation’s goal is to get 50% of its energy from wind by 2050.  Part of what has made Denmark so successful on this front is an efficient, non-corrupt government and the absence of strong ideologies determining where politicians stand on renewable energy development (or really, in general). It is pretty much universally accepted that dependence upon fossil fuels is bad because it creates vulnerability. Read here

Odd Platform Inclusions: The Republican National Convention continues, as does scrutiny of the Republican Party’s platform.  Mother Jones calls out “The 5 Weirdest Bits of the GOP Platform.” One of these is the product of the GOP conspiracy theory that the U.S. will somehow start subscribing to Shariah law—it is explicitly stated that no sort of foreign law should be used in courts. The GOP also opposes the UN, specifically a UN policy that declares international commitment to sustainable development.  Other “weird” inclusions are opposition to “race-based” governments and bringing back the gold standard. Read here


Tuesday, August 28th

Today is the 49th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On August 28th, 1963, a quarter of a million people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial to demonstrate for freedom and change. Here’s your Roundup:

Tar Sands Blockaders Risking Arrest: Less than an hour ago four Tar Sands Blockaders locked themselves to a pipe-carrying truck in Texas. With these peaceful demonstrators attached to the truck, construction has been made impossible. In total, there are seven blockaders risking arrest at the pipeyard. This action comes after the southern portion of KXL has been approved and a Texas judge ignored precedent when ruling that TransCanada could seize Julia Trigg-Crawford’s (and other landowners’) land without proving that their pipeline would be used for the public good. Check out the breaking news and video testimonials from the blockaders here  

Tar Sands Pipelines Sneaking Through: TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is a national issue, largely thanks to BOLD Nebraskans like you. But the focus on KXL has made it possible for other pipelines with the potential for carrying tar sands to slip under the radar and avoid most scrutiny. Landowners across the country have been facing the same adversary as landowners along the KXL route, just an adversary with a different name. Enbridge Inc. has been moving forward with $8.8 billion worth of plans to expand its pipeline network, threatening landowners with eminent domain and worrying those concerned with the environment. Unfortunately, Enbridge’s piecemeal work plans don’t have the same high-profile as the KXL. Read here

The Two Sides of Nebraska Solar: An Omaha based solar energy company has been given deals in several states to build solar projects. Tenaska Inc. was just granted a project near El Centro, California, and already has a solar power facility in the state.  We wish Nebraska’s solar energy could be explored by this Nebraska based company—after all, Nebraska ranks 13th in the U.S. in solar energy potential, but only 0.5% of our electricity comes from the natural resource. Read here and here


Monday, August 27th

Tropical storm Isaac is nearing the shores of the Gulf, forcing changes to the Republican National Convention and prompting calls for evacuation from FEMA. Here’s your Roundup: 

In Grand Island, Bob Kerrey and Deb Fischer debated over immigration, Medicare and Social Security reform, the economy, and the Keystone XL. They accused one another of being beholden to partisan politics, and disagreed on most issues. When asked if they would support pulling troops out of Afghanistan by 2014, Kerrey said yes; Fischer said no. Fischer believes tax cuts and only tax cuts will solve our economic problems, while Kerrey sees the way to solvency as a combination of cutting spending and increasing revenue. Both said they support the Keystone XL. Kerrey hit Fischer on supporting the original route as well as the current route, but we wish he would have been stronger in calling out Fischer on her eminent domain bill that has allowed TransCanada to seize landowners’ land. We also wish he would have been more clearly opposed to a route that cuts through the Ogallala Aquifer–a stance that 65% of Nebraskans agree with. Read here and here

Zoos and aquariums have long been a favorite pick for a family outing or a couple’s day date. Trusted sources of information and a fun-filled, curiosity piquing experience, zoos and aquariums across the U.S. are moving toward educating their patrons about climate change. Many are fearful about alienating visitors, and have opted for watered down messaging that doesn’t directly tie the melting of ice in the Arctic or depletion of coral reefs to human activity. Others are more upfront, hoping to motivate young visitors to be more aware of their own carbon footprint. Educating visitors about the impact humans have on the creatures that we see in the zoo can only be a good thing, as it is unlikely that any of us would truly want to see them vanish. Read here

Rep. Todd Akin made headlines for his comments on “legitimate rape,” and even brought on public shaming and calls by the Republican party to step out of his race for the U.S. Senate. But what has been missed is the fact that this isn’t a fringe concept in the Republican party. In fact, the VP pick, Paul Ryan, has called rape “just another method of conception,” and Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith equated rape to having a baby out of wedlock. Read here and here