In today's On the News segment: Julian Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa; a growing number of Republicans are coming out in opposition to the 17th Amendment, the one that allows voters to directly elect United States senators; the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the right to own a machine gun is not protected under the Second Amendment; Democratic lawmakers are lobbing serious charges at retail giant Walmart; and more.
Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. After being holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost two months, Julian Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Now the hard part begins. In an explosive announcement this morning, Ecuador's foreign minister announced the asylum decision and blasted the U.K. over its threats on Wednesday to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy and arrest Assange. Foreign Minister Patino said about his nation's diplomatic ties to the U.K.: "clouds are looming on the horizon." He also said granting Assange asylum is based on fears that Assange could be extradited to the United States where he will, - Quote "not get a fair trial and his rights won't be respected. Most probably he will face a military court in the U.S." - end quote. Throughout this whole ordeal – Assange has been willing to speak with Swedish authorities in London and even go to Sweden as long as there was a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the United States. That guarantee could not be offered – and now Ecuador is willing to give Assange protection. However – the U.K. has announced it will not allow Assange to leave the country – and it will arrest him as soon as he steps foot outside of the embassy. It's important to remember that Assange has still never been charged with a crime. Keep an eye on this story; it has major implications beyond the fate of Assange himself.
In screwed news...a growing number of Republicans are coming out in opposition to the seventeenth amendment – the one that allows voters to directly elect United States Senators – rather than state legislatures appointing Senators. The amendment was ratified in 1913, but Republican Members of Congress like Representatives Jeff Flake, Todd Akin, and Pete Hoekstra – as well as Senators like Mike Lee – are now saying that it was a mistake to leave it up to the people to vote for their Senators. Clearly – these guys haven't learned the lessons of history and the total corruption of the Senate when it was appointed by powerful special interests in state legislatures – rather than elected by the people. Or maybe they have learned the lessons – and are just trying to whittle down our democracy like they're doing with Voter ID laws too.
In the best of the rest of the news...
A Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a right to own a machine gun is not protected under the Second Amendment. Bush-appointed judge Milan Smith issued the ruling this week – joining the third, the sixth, and the eighth circuits in rejecting the claim that machine guns are protected under the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court – doesn't concur. And Justice Scalia has even suggested in a recent interview that Americans may have a right to shoulder-fired rocket launchers under the Second Amendment.
And Wall Street skates again. A ten-month investigation into the collapse of brokerage firm MF Global and one billion dollars in customer money that disappeared is unlikely to lead to any criminal charges according to those involved with the case. Former New Jersey Governor John Corzine is the former chief of MF Global and has been at the center of this investigation – yet it looks unlikely that he'll be held criminally responsible, as investigators believe too much risk taking and not fraud was behind the disappearance of a billion dollars in customer money. Corzine now joins the long list of other banksters in America who get off scot-free after screwing over their customers.
Here's breaking news...the Bush Tax Cuts worked!...if you're one of the top CEOs in America that is. According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies, 57 of the top 100 CEOs in America – all of whom are very, very wealthy already – saved more than a million bucks each in 2011 thanks to the Bush tax cuts. CEO of ConocoPhillips, James Mulva, alone saved $6.7 million thanks to the Bush tax cuts last year. So now we can get a read on the new Romney/Ryan campaign slogan: "Vote Romney/Ryan – helping the rich get richer since 20-01."
Democratic lawmakers are lobbing serious charges at retail giant Walmart. Representatives Henry Waxman and Elijah Cummings claim they have documents proving that Walmart not only violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing foreign officials in Mexico, but also is guilty of tax evasion and money laundering. In a letter sent to Walmart CEO Michael Duke, the lawmakers are demanding documents and information regarding these allegations. Walmart has until August 28th to respond. Keep an eye on this story.
And finally...what happens if you're a Republican and you vote to raise taxes? You lose your job. That's what happened to Republican California Assemblyman Brian Nestande after he sided with Democrats in his state and voted to increase taxes on Monday to address his state's current fiscal crisis. The very next day, Nestande announced he's stepping down as the state's Republican Caucus Chairman. He refused to comment on whether he's stepping down by choice or whether he was forced out, but Nestande did say he, "understood the ramifications when [he] took the vote." My guess is he was asked to step down.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, August 16, 20-12. I'm Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.