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, December 14th: 

Our hearts are saddened by today’s tragedy. There really are very few words that can express what people all over the country are feeling today, but heartbroken is one of them. See President Obama’s response here, in which he says it is time to take meaningful action, regardless of politics. Here’s your RoundUp:

Helping at Home: I know many of us have probably met the threshold of how many sad/bad things we can hear about in one day, but I want to bring your attention to an article that was in the OWH today about the need for food at area food banks. In the article is an anecdote about a mother who utilized an Omaha pantry: ‘”This mother said things had been so bad recently that often she only had popcorn to give her two kids for dinner…her little daughter looked up one night and asked, ‘Mommy, why are you starving us?’ That’s when she decided to seek help at our food pantry.” While there are many terrible things that happen that we have no way of influencing, we do have the power to make little differences all the time. Poverty and hunger is very present in Lincoln and all over our state, and helping to ease that in some way is something that we can do as individuals to help others who are suffering from lack of food and poor nutrition. Read here, see a list of food pantries in Nebraska here and here

New EPA Standards: The EPA has instituted new rules on fine particle pollution that will have the effect of saving over 15,000 lives per year. The refined standards are in response to finally complying with a 2009 court ruling that said the agency was not complying with scientific evidence that said the limit for soot in the air should be much lower than the EPA’s actual rules at the time. While some, including the American Petroleum Institute (no surprise there), are already complaining that these standards are burdensome to business, we think that is a ridiculous argument to bring up in light of the thousands of lives that will be saved–the significance of which should be acutely felt on this day. Read here

Yesterday Jane and landowners Julia Trigg-Crawford and Gabe Cordova were featured on Huffington Post’s live hangout to discuss the Keystone XL. Check out the recording of “Not on My Land” here


Thursday, December 13th: 

A True Public Servant: Yesterday, Senator Ben Nelson delivered his farewell speech to the Senate floor. Nelson consistently served as the moderate on the Nebraska delegation in Washington, and his voice and votes will be sorely missed by Nebraskans. His farewell address didn’t mention the votes he made that are going to make a real, positive change in the lives of Nebraskans (like his vote on health care reform), instead he asked Congress to “change its math,” and work together. We hope that his successor, Deb Fischer, will take this message to heart, and defy our predictions that she will be a simple puppet for the far right. When you get a chance, send a message to Senator Nelson, who has spent many years serving Nebraskans, not only in his Senate seat, but also as Governor of Nebraska . Read here

Fighting the Pipeline: The Globe & Mail has published an excellent analysis of the protests against the Keystone XL pipeline, coming to one conclusion–they have only just begun. And they will take place against other pipeline projects, too. In the context of Texas being an oil state, the author asks the reader to consider what will happen in Nebraska, an ag state where thousands have turned out just for public hearings and meetings–considering protesters in Texas have been chaining themselves to equipement, getting arrested, and facing police brutality.  And to get to the Pacific, tar sands have to move through British Columbia, where Greenpeace was born and there are strong people of the First Nations. The piece brings up a lot of valid observations about the movement to bring about a change in energy development. Read here  

How Automatic is Automatic?: TransCanada likes to tout their compliance with “57 safety rules” and the sophistication of their “automatic shut off valves” that would stop the flow of oil out of a ruptured pipeline “immediately”. They also like to say that they can detect leaks almost instantaneously as well (that is, unless it is a slow, “minor” leak). But that’s something that is promised a lot in the biz, and is also a promise that is broken all the time. Take the natural gas explosion that happened yesterday, for example. It blew a 20 foot, 7 inch hole into the pipeline a mere 15 miles from the pipeline company’s control room–but no leak detection alarms went off, and the company didn’t get the leak stopped until an hour after the explosion occurred. The relatively fortunate thing about natural gas pipeline ruptures is that gas floats upward, into the air. When it comes to tar sands pipelines like the Keystone XL, a leak would mean toxins and chemicals flowing down, down, down into the water of the Ogallala Aquifer. One has to only look at the Kalamazoo River to see the effects of a tar sands pipeline rupture.  


Wednesday, December 12th:

Call OPPD, Ask Them to Support Wind: Tomorrow (Thursday), OPPD is set to vote on whether or not to take on power from the 118 turbine Prairie Breeze Wind Farm. The utility would be taking on 200 MW of power, and the purchase would help OPPD meet its goal of 10% renewable energy by 2020. This would be a great step for OPPD, and hopefully would lead to OPPD taking on even more wind in the future to lower dependence on coal. We encourage you to contact your representative on the OPPD Board here (use the contact form that is linked at the bottom of the page).

Conflict Over Water: A leaked document shows that a 600 mile water pipeline is being planned to run from the Missouri River to Denver due to the anticipation of severe water shortage in the Colorado River, which provides water to 25 million people in 7 states and has been facing water shortage issues for over two decades. Though the project would likely face major opposition, the seriousness of the projected water shortage reiterates the importance of treating all water supplies with respect and care. Here in Nebraska, we have a very valuable resource in the Ogallala Aquifer—it is insane to risk that by putting through a toxic tar sands pipeline and there is nothing in TransCanada’s easement agreement that prohibits them from pumping Ogallala water through the KXL. Read here

Check out this Activist’s Blog Post: Last week after the NDEQ hearing, activist and pipeline fighter Nancy Meyer wrote up an excellent blog post that was published on the Daily Kos website. In it, she outlines some of the arguments that pro-pipeline testifiers brought up, calls out their arguments weaknesses and falsities, and notes the flawed DEQ process. We recommend you check out her blog post here, and then recommend it to others. When people click “recommend,” it drives up readership, and more readership means greater awareness for our cause! 


Monday, December 10th: 

Between driving to Albion and studying for the end of the semester, last week was a tough one in terms of finding time for the daily RoundUp–I’m sorry about that! So today I have compiled a few big-news stories that I missed last week. Here’s your Roundup:

Big Decisions to Come: On Friday, it was announced that the Supreme Court will be hearing two cases dealing with gay marriage–with their decisions likely to come out next June. One of the challenges the Supreme Court decided to hear is the constitutional amendment that was passed in California by a very slim majority that banned previously legalized gay marriage in the state. Hearing this case could mean the Court will take on the larger question of whether or not it is constitutional for states to ban gay marriage, period. The other case the Court has decided to hear deals with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and if it is constitutional for the federal government to deny federal benefits to gay couples. We are looking forward to the Supremes taking up these cases, and hope that the rulings go in favor of equality. Read here

Expanding Medicaid: At the start of the next legislative session, state senator Jeremy Nordquist is planning on introducing legislation to expand our state’s Medicaid coverage to the same threshold written into the Affordable Care Act. Doing so will ensure that our state will get full funding for the expansion through the federal government–just today the Obama Administration determined that full funding will not be given for only partial expansions. Though many Republican governors are in opposition to the Medicaid expansion, it is not necessarily their decision whether or not their state will take part in the expansion. In light of Governor Heineman’s refusal to implement the expansion of Nebraska’s Medicaid program, Nordquist and fellow senator Kathy Campbell are determined to bring the plan to provide insurance to 216,000 uninsured Nebraskans to the Unicameral floor. And they are anticipating the ability to override the governor’s veto by appealing to Republican senators through the economic benefits the Medicaid expansion will bring. Read here

Failing to Educate: Last week the Nebraska State Board of Education came to a conclusion on two major topics that have ignited controversy on the Board over the curriculum our kids will be learning from now on. The decision that is most disconcerting is the decision to only include climate change in geography curriculumas a theory, not as a fact. This decision is completely irresponsible, and will not serve to educate our youth about something 99% of the world’s scientists agree upon as fact, nor will it prepare them for the world they will inherit. “The debate is over;” it is time for our youth to learn about climate change and what causes it so that they can grow into responsible, knowledgeable citizens. Read here