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, July 20th

Last night marked a tragedy for Aurora, Colorado, and our nation. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those suffering from this heartbreaking shooting. Here’s your Roundup:

Bill McKibben’s Newest Writing: Forget the ideological arguments and the political strategy. All you need to know about climate change and the seriousness of our predicament is a little math—in fact, just three simple numbers. The world agreed some time ago that in order to maintain a habitable planet, we must keep our global temperature from rising 2°C—that’s the first number. If we allow the planet to warm by 2°, we’re in for major destruction. In order to stay below that 2° mark, we cannot pour more than 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere before 2050. Our CO2 budget is 565—that’s the second number. The third number is 2,795—the number of gigatons of carbon dioxide stored in proven fossil fuel reserves around the world—the amount of CO2 we already plan to release. That number is almost 5 times higher than 565. It’s also worth $27 trillion to the fossil fuel companies and shareholders, what they have to lose if we win the fight for a liveable planet. They won’t give that up without a fight—but McKibben has a plan to win that fight: carbon taxes and divestment. Read here

Who Does the Farm Bureau Represent?: The American Farm Bureau (NOT to be confused with the National Farmers Union) has long worked on its image of being completely devoted to the family farmer, paying for advertisement upon advertisement to cultivate this facade. But this view is not completely accurate, in fact, the experiences of many family farmers across the U.S. has demonstrated quite the opposite. In Missouri, for example, a small time cattle farmer sought the Farm Bureau’s help in battling an industrial scale, 80,000 head hog operation, Premium Standard. Within a short while, laws were changed in the state in order to make it easier for Premium Standard—the Farm Bureau had thrown its political weight behind the industrial operation, not the family farmer. Furthermore, the factory farm, othertimes known as Industrial Ag, has been the “death knell” of the family farms that are the true stewards of the land, putting more and more out of business. And the Farm Bureau has led the charge in support of these industrial scale food producers, opposing the labeling of genetically engineered food, animal welfare reform, and environmental regulation. The Farm Bureau has a strong lobby in the name of the family farmer, but the truth is, that’s not who they care about. Read here

50 Years Later: Warnings about exposure to chemicals and the failures of the government and companies to protect people from the dangers these chemicals pose to the human body have been broadcast for over 50 years, but little has been done about it. A HuffPost editorial commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of some of the first writings alarming the public about chemical exposure, Rachel Carson’s essays later collected into The Silent Spring. Half a century after her essays were published, “more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in our country have never been fully tested,” meaning we  have no idea how dangerous they are to our health. When will our health mean enough to adequately research and regulate these chemicals? Read here  


Thursday, July 19th

Less than a week from today will mark the 2 year anniversary of the tar sands spill in the Kalamazoo. We will be holding a press conference to show solidarity with those still affected by the spill and to ask the key questions needing answers to protect our land and water. See how you can help here, it’s as easy as taking a picture. Here’s your Roundup:

No Trust for TransCanada: Nebraska landowners are continuing to stand up against TransCanada. The explosion of facts exposing the true nature of tar sands and TransCanada’s dirty tactics has taken a toll on TransCanada’s popularity—20% fewer landowners have signed easements than had signed along the previous route. Landowners are also making sure the ball is in their court this time around. Whether they agree with the pipeline or not, landowners have joined together with lawyer David Domina to form the Nebraska Easement Action Team, a coalition working to ensure landowners get the best possible easement deal should KXL be built. Support for these landowners is always needed—check out the N.E.A.T. page here

Reality Check: Robert Reich, labor secretary under President Clinton, is tired of President Obama and Mitt Romney’s squabbling over who “the real outsourcer in chief is,” and spells out the real issues affecting American jobs and our economy.  According to Reich, corporations are disconnected from the well-being of most Americans, and frankly, this nation is no longer competitive. He uses the iPhone as an example: over a third of what you would pay for one goes to Japan, 17% goes to Germany, 13% goes to South Korea, 6% goes to the United States, and just over 3% goes to China. There are 43,000 Apple employees in the U.S., and over 700,000 abroad. Why? Except for in the case of China, it’s not because wages are lower or the tax structure is more attractive. Japan has better technology, and Germany has better skilled workers. Reich says solving the problem and getting more jobs and money back on American soil relies on improving our schools, getting more kids through college or a “first class technical education,” and rebuilding our broken and out of date infrastructure. Read here

Weakened Standards: The WaPo has obtained evidence that the White House has watered down the EPA’s proposal (announced last month) to reduce fine-particle soot allowed in the air. Fine particle soot is known to be one of the most deadly air pollutants, but the Office of Management and Budget changed the proposal to allow more leniency in the amount of soot allowed, and watered down a phrase highlighting that the proposal was based off of scientific evidence. A director of the American Petroleum Institute naturally praised the change. This is coming from an Administration that has announced time and again its belief in science and desire to reverse climate change, but this decision seems to have been made to cater to those science deniers whose heads are buried in sand and oil interests that have too much clout in our political system. It is the last thing we need when the negative effects of air pollution are all too apparent.  Public comments are being welcomed on this new rule, and it is important for us to make it clear that this change is unacceptable. Read here and here


Wednesday, July 18th

Today is Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday. To honor the man who spent 67 years fighting for the liberation of all South Africans and African unity, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the U.N. have asked that his legacy of service be celebrated around the world by individuals devoting 67 minutes of their time to selfless acts for their community. Here’s your Roundup:

Get Outta Here: Yesterday, Nebraska federal judge Warren Urbom dismissed a lawsuit brought by AG Jon Bruning and six other states that challenged the part of the Affordable Care Act that requires health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. Bruning and the rest of the plaintiffs argued that “the rule violates the right of employers to object to the use of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.” Aside from the fact that the plaintiffs clearly need to do more homework on what exactly the ACA rule does (it does not by any stretch of the imagination require insurance plans to cover abortions), Judge Urbom essentially ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t belong in the courtroom. Judge Urbom said Bruning & Co. did not have the legal grounds to sue, and even if they did, their claim relied too much on speculation and hypothetical reasoning. Read here

The Times, They are a-Changin’: Omaha meteorologist John Pollack has joined the chorus of many other meteorologists around the country in saying this latest heat wave and string of extreme weather events is “a message from planet earth that global warming is real.” Like many others, Pollack predicts that there will be more heat waves and they will only get more severe. He has been organizing with other Nebraskan members of to urge the public to conserve energy, and for the past 18 months has been urging OPPD to invest in more wind power. Now is also the time to encourage NPPD to invest in more wind as they are developing their plan for future energy generation in our state. The effects of climate change are becoming much more real to people across the nation and across the world—hopefully this widespread acknowledgement of reality can be harnessed to promote policies that will slow the destruction to our planet and our lives.

Most Americans Opposed to Citizens United: A poll conducted in June demonstrates that the vast majority of Americans oppose the unlimited campaign spending that has come to define elections since the 2010 Citizens United Decision. About two-thirds of Americans oppose this spending by corporations and unions, according to the national survey released yesterday by the First Amendment Center. This widespread dissatisfaction with the Citizens United decision is likely caused by the realization that the more the wealthy few spend to decide who will win an election, the less power the public has over who represents us. Read here


Tuesday, July 17th

The York Times offers a concise and honest analysis of what continued denial of the link between the devastating tar sands spill in Michigan and the KXL means for our public officials: “To approve it now [the KXL], in light of the Michigan findings, would be an act of insubordination by neglecting known dangers and known recommendations to improve the safety of our own natural resources and most importantly the safety of our own Nebraskan citizens.” Here’s your Roundup:

Hiding Honesty: Yesterday, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill that would have brought more transparency to campaign spending by independent groups. The bill would have required unions, corporations, and nonprofits to report campaign spending over $10,000 within 24 hours and to name donors who give $10,000 or more for political purposes. It would have also worked to end the use of shell corporations that are currently used to mask donors’ identities. The Republicans who opposed the bill argued that it violated free speech by scaring big donors into silence. But doesn’t the American public have the right to know who is speaking to them? Read here

Mittens’ Problems: Mitt Romney’s been getting hit hard the past couple of weeks for still hiding his tax returns and for his unclear tenure at Bain Capital. Many prominent Republicans have called upon Romney to be completely honest with the American people, one GOP governor saying if he’s got something to hide he’s probably doing things wrong. Because endless reporting on this web of allegations and denials can get a bit tiresome, we’re thankful Jon Stewart’s Daily Show has returned at the perfect time to put a comical spin on Romney’s situation. Watch here

Misrepresentation: Arguing that the Medicaid expansion is an unfunded mandate (even though the federal government will cover 90% of the cost) that will mean taking funding from education, Gov. Heineman continues to resist enacting the law that will provide health coverage to some of the poorest Nebraskans. Gov. Heineman’s refusal to participate in the Medicaid expansion provision “means hospitals and other health care providers will continue to struggle to care for patients who can’t pay for health care and who shift costs to those who can pay,” said the VP of the Nebraska Hospital Association. Gov. Heineman’s blatant politically motivated opposition to insuring thousands of Nebraskans hurts both those who seek healthcare as well as those who provide it. It is time for him to stop putting his political party first, and start figuring out a way to care for the Nebraskans he is supposed to represent. Read here


Monday, July 16th

Opponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline that would send tar sands through British Columbia have developed a tool that tells the story about the people and places that would be affected by the pipeline. Check out the interactive tool here to learn more about those who are facing a similar struggle to ours against TransCanada. Here’s your Roundup:

Finally Reformed: The Beatrice State Developmental Center (BSDC) has finally regained Medicaid certification after having undergone reforms that would have been better placed before the center reached a full-fledged crisis point. Federal Medicaid funding (to the tune of $25 million per year) was taken away in 2009 when the center failed to meet nearly all federal care standards. But federal inspectors had found serious issues for eight years before the federal funding was finally revoked. Responsibility to respond to these early warnings signaling that our state’s most vulnerable people were not being adequately taken care of rested with Governor Heineman. Unfortunately, the problems at BSDC were not taken seriously until it was clear Medicaid funding would be cut. But by then it was too late—Gov. Heineman’s actions (or lack thereof) ultimately led to the state spending over $100 million to make up for the lost Medicaid funding, and unmeasured hardship that everyone involved in the crisis endured while the problems went unresolved. Read here and here

AG Problems: When it comes to his campaign donors, Jon Bruning apparently feels the law does not apply. In 2011, Adams Land and Cattle Company came to an agreement with the AG to pay a penalty for violating the Clean Water Act. The company paid $11,000 for a single 5.6 million gallon discharge of livestock waste into an arm of Mud Creek, but the company faced four other violations that would have totaled over $40,000 in fines. Luckily, two of Adams’ top executives made campaign contributions to Bruning—Wrong Way Jon didn’t pursue those other violations. Last week, the EPA fined Adams $145,000 for 13 different violations of the Clean Water Act—effectively doing Bruning’s job when campaign donations apparently tied his hands. A similar situation faces Wrong Way Jon today, as a lawsuit dealing which TransCanada (also a Bruning campaign donor) currently sits on his desk. Read here

We’re Still Waiting: In light of the U.S. NTSB’s review of Enbridge’s tar sands disaster in Michigan, The British Columbia premier has issued a public warning to the company that plans to extend another tar sands pipeline across the province. B.C. Premier Christy Clark said Enbridge should be “deeply embarrassed” by what happened in Michigan, and said there is no way the company will be allowed to operate like that in British Columbia. We’re still waiting on our federal and state officials to show the same amount of concern and condemnation, and take a more scrutinizing look at TransCanada’s KXL. Read here