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.

Thursday, January 3rd 

“Our Cornfields are Too Quiet”: The importance of biodiversity cannot be understated—which is why scientists, researchers, and even artists are traveling around the world to study it. Most of the world’s critters are not eye catching, and perhaps the most important level of biodiversity lies below our knees, at ground level. Everything is built upon the small members in the web of life—even us. David Liitschwager, a portrait photographer, has for years set up one cubic foot metal frames around the world, and captured on film the many different species that go through it. In a public park in South Africa, for example, Liitschwager found over 100 different species of plants and insects in his cube over a 24 hour period, and in Costa Rica, over 150. Taking a leaf out of Liitschwager’s book, NPR’s Craig Childs decided to camp out in an Iowa corn field for 3 days and 2 nights. The results of his experiment pale in comparison to Liitschwager’s South African and Costa Rican cubes…Childs found almost nothing in the 72 hour period. Only 9 organisms were found in that Iowa cornfield…one of them being corn. Read here and here

ObamaCare in 2013: Another new year rings in another phase of implementation of ObamaCare. Some of the highlights of the past three years include: kid are able to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, all insurance plans must include preventive services, seniors receive preventive services for free, and insurance companies are prohibited by law from dropping coverage when customers become sick. The part of ObamaCare that will likely continue to take center stage in Nebraska politics this year is the expansion of Medicaid, which Gov. Heineman is against. But luckily, the decision isn’t 100% his and we will be seeing our legislators introduce a bill to make the expansion happen. Check out the ObamaCare timeline here to see what 2013 and 2014 have in store.

You Heard it Here First: L. Ian MacDonald, who has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the Canadian political scene, wrote quite an article in yesterday’s Montreal Gazette about Canadian energy policy. The main premise is that the forefront issue facing Canada in 2013 is how to get their tar sands oil and gas to Asia. As we know, tar sands oil has been going at a discounted price (recall one of TransCanada’s primary reasons for building the KXL was so tar sands oil could bring a greater profit with removal of glut in the Midwest). We also know that the U.S. has been basically the sole market for tar sands oil. And we have been saying for years now that the Keystone XL will be an export pipeline, while TransCanada’s supporters continue to claim that that’s not the case. Well, there’s nothing quite like seeing what you have been saying all along vindicated in a major news outlet by a big voice in Canadian politics. Says MacDonald: …”a route to energy-hungry Asia could pass through refineries to ships on the Texas Gulf coast. That is, if and when the Obama administration in Washington gets around to approving it…And with the International Energy Agency forecasting the U.S. achieving energy self-sufficiency by 2020, Keystone isn’t really about reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Not in the longer term. It’s about a route to Asia for Canadian oil, and diversifying our markets.” Read more here


Wednesday, January 2nd

2012’s Best and Worst for Women’s Health: In 2012, “women’s issues” were in the spotlight numerous times–sometimes we cringed; sometimes we cheered. “This is Personal,” a campaign started to protect women’s reproductive health rights, published this infographic highlighting the “5 best and worst moments for women’s reproductive health in 2012.” Among the worst: “legitimate rape” became a thing, and other comments by candidates for office this election season made it evident that there needs to be more education about women and rape so real progress can be made on stopping violence against women. Among the best: thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), birth control and women’s preventative health services will now be offered under insurance plans for a $0 co-pay, and no deductible. Check out the rest of the best and worst moments here

Done Deal: Congress finally passed a deal on the fiscal cliff last night. While no one is exactly thrilled by the deal or the astounding feat of meeting a deadline one day after it passed (college students, take notes), it’s pretty much agreed that doing nothing would have been the worst option. After 89 senators voted to approve the bill, it looked as though the House would sabotage the bipartisan agreement by either trying to add on amendments for greater spending cuts, or simply voting down the bill. Luckily, the House pulled through, although 167 members voted against the measure, including our own Lee Terry and Adrian Smith. Because the analysis of the deal by political pundits has taken over the internet, we have linked some of the more interesting and useful stories:
The WaPo’s update and analysis: Read here
Slate’s list of winners and losers: Read here  
The WaPo’s “10 weirdest parts of the fiscal cliff bill” Read here

Trouble in the Arctic: A Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig off the coast of Alaska ran aground earlier this week, and salvaging crews have not yet been able to get to the ship due to fierce weather in the Arctic waters. The Kulluk was being hauled in to Seattle for maintenance when it got separated from the towing ship, then severe storms and high waves prevented the rig from being reconnected to the towing vessel. The official word is that nothing has been spilled from the rig that has over 150,000 gallons of fuel on board. This is not the first problem Shell has ran into in its quest to extract oil from the Arctic, and this latest incident is just more evidence that the Arctic poses challenges that oil companies are just incapable of rising to. Additionally, had this occurred farther north where the actual drilling sites are located, response teams would have taken much longer to get to the scene in order to rescue the crew and guide the rig to a relatively safe location. Read here and here

Always a Similar Story: In less than an hour, a rupture in a pipeline 12 inches in diameter led to the fouling of 70 miles of the Yellowstone River. Exxon Mobil is responsible for that spill that occurred over a year ago, and it was found by investigators that due to Exxon’s delayed response, far more oil spilled out of the pipeline than would have if Exxon had a better spill response plan. Two separate cases filed by landowners are still pending in court against Exxon, who does not want to pay damages to the landowners who are suing because of the harm done to their property, animals, and health. This whole incident is deja vu from the Kalamazoo river spill, and is just another example of business as usual in the oil industry. The KXL will be a pipeline 36 inches in diameter (three times the size of this Exxon pipeline), and will be carrying tar sands. TransCanada still does not have adequate response plans, nor will they tell us what is in their pipeline, which will prevent local responders from ever having the proper knowledge to deal with a spill. Read here, here, and here


Monday, December 31st

Happy New Years Eve! The last Roundup of 2012 includes some hope and some issues that need a lot of work in 2013. We are still fighting the KXL, and could use your help in keeping the pipeline fight strong through 2013—it’s going to be a big year! Here’s your Roundup:

The Hunger Strike Continues: Last week we marked the two-week mark of Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike—her call for Canadian Prime Minister Harper to meet with her so that the First Nations people can have a voice in government actions. PM Harper still hasn’t met with her, on this 20th day of her strike. Solidarity with Chief Spence has only grown, and other members of government have expressed their desire to speak with Chief Spence. However, it is clear that her strike will not end until she has met with Harper, and he has not so much as issued a statement. Her cause is for the better treatment of the First Nations people, as well as for the inclusion of First Nations people in discussions regarding the development of Canada’s natural resources—the First Nations people have been strong opponents of the development of tar sands. Read here

“Year Zero for the Climate Change Battle”: Rebecca Solnit looks forward into 2013, and calls on us to “think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger.” Her article ignites a sense of urgency and hope that we can and will turn the trajectory of climate change back toward sustainability. She rightly notes that “if we care about “children, health, poverty, farmers, food, hunger, or the economy,” we have to care about climate change.” She brings up the incredible actions people are doing across the country and the world, including the recent Idle No More grassroots movement revolving around indigenous rights and the protection of land and water. She discusses getting off of our cheap power source of fossil fuels, and draws a comparison to the last time we said “no” to an unethical and devastating source of power: the abolition of slavery. Read here, check out the Idle No More flashmob in Omaha’s Westroads Mall here

No Agreement Yet: Talks regarding the fiscal cliff continue today, the day that something absolutely has to be done. It appears that some more concessions have been made, and Dems and Republicans are “close to agreement” on many issues, including that taxes won’t rise on incomes over $450,000 per year for married couples, $400,000 for individuals and taxes on inherited estates would rise, while some popular tax breaks will continue for businesses and families. But agreement has not been reached on how to deal with the automatic spending cuts. Oh, and these negotiations are only happening in the Senate, so any sort of agreement that the Senate comes to will have to be passed in the House as well. Read here

New Years Eve Protesting: Tonight, protestors will be trying to block the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay Nebraska from entering the Pine Ridge Reservation—right across the border in South Dakota. What this article dryly mentions is that these Oglala Lakota Women and Deep Green Resistance groups are doing this because “alcoholism and poverty are rampant on the reservation.”  But what the article misses is how extreme the effect of alcohol is on this reservation, where alcohol is supposed to be banned. Alcoholism is nearly 80%, 1 in 4 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and the suicide rate is over twice the national average, with the teen suicide rate being 4 times the national average. While these numbers provide a better picture, they still miss the human element of what is happening on the reservation, and the very, very large role that factors outside of the reservation have on these numbers. Read here and here