In today's On the News segment: More states are considering ditching the death penalty; 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded; war profiteer giant KBR is being held responsible for the poisoning of a dozen soldiers with a chemical known as sodium dichromate; and more.
Justin Duckham - in for Thom Hartmann on the News ...
You need to know this. It's official – 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded. That makes sense, considering most of the nation was scorched by a drought – and then the Northeast was leveled by superstorm Sandy. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature in 2012 was a shy over 55-degrees – which is more than 3-degrees above the 20th century average temperature – and one-degree above the previous record for hottest year back in 1998. Researchers are stunned by the jump in temperature. Weather Underground's Jeff Masters, said it was "astonishing", and that, "It is extremely rare for an area the size of the U.S. to break an annual average temperature record by such a large margin." Global warming is real – and it's happening faster than anyone previously thought. Environmentalists say it's up to President Obama to take some leadership on this issue – and it's up to us to get even louder about global climate change. They're message is clear - we're running out of time.
In screwed news...Florida Governor Rick Scott is using the poor people in his state as pawns in his political games. Scott is one of a number of Republican Governors trying to deny millions of low-income Americans health insurance coverage as part of their grudge against President Obama. As part of Obamacare, states are given federal funds to expand their Medicaid coverage to cover more low-income Americans. And for the first few years – the federal government will pay for all the costs of this expansion – and after that will continue to pay for the vast majority of the coverage indefinitely. All the states have to do is say, "Yes." But Governor Scott, whose state has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, is saying, "No." Not only is he saying, "No," but he's lying, too, claiming that Medicaid expansion will cost his state $26 billion over the next ten years. In reality – it will cost his state one billion – so he's exaggerated the cost by 2,500%, a baldfaced lie he's using to justify his decision to screw poor, sick people in Florida. Republicans have a personal grudge against President Obama, and are doing everything in their power to see that he fails. Many people would say it's downright appalling that Rick Scott is condemning poor people in their states to an untimely death by cutting off their health insurance.
In the best of the rest of the news...
War profiteer giant KBR was found guilty last year of negligence, and is being held responsible for the poisoning of a dozen soldiers with a chemical known as sodium dichromate, which is used to prevent pipe corrosion. The Huffington Post reports that one exposed soldier, who was told by KBR that the chemical was just a mild-irritant, ended up dying from sodium-dichromate-caused-cancer at age 52. KBR was ordered by a court to pay $85 million in damages, but KBR is saying that the government – and "you and me, the taxpayers" – should pay for the damages. Thanks to a contract with the Bush/Cheney administration, KBR argues that is has full legal immunity – meaning taxpayers should pay for all of KBR's legal costs and pay their victims. So far, this contract is classified, and is not available to the public. A KBR spokesman said, "To date, the U.S. government has failed to comply with its...obligations... KBR is confident that it will prevail in enforcing the U.S. government's legal obligations." One of the lawyers, who originally filed suit against KBR, calls the contract KBR has with the government, "a pretty good bailout." So here we have another story of a corporation doing a lot of harm to Americans – in this case, American soldiers – and yet, not facing any consequences as a result. This is exactly why, as President Grover Cleveland said, corporations should be the "carefully restrained creatures of the law."
More states are considering ditching the death penalty. A Republicans state lawmaker in New Hampshire plans to introduce legislation to repeal the death penalty in his state. Both chambers of the state legislature in New Hampshire have repeatedly passed bills to repeal the death penalty – only to have those bills vetoed by the Governor. But this time the new Governor, Maggie Hassan, opposes the death penalty – meaning it's likely New Hampshire could ditch capital punishment in the near future. Also, the Washington Post reports that Governor Martin O'Malley in Maryland is close to gaining enough support in his state senate to repeal the death penalty. According to whip counts, the Governor has 23 out of the 24 votes he needs – and there are four state senators who are open to supporting the legislation. Just like we're seeing with marriage equality and marijuana legalization, the states are leading the way in making this a more progressive nation. Keep an eye on this.
And finally...the NRA and the nation's largest gun seller, Wal-Mart, are expected at the White House today to meet with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss gun control options. But don't expect much input from the gun lobby – as they've already said, their solution to gun violence is more guns. Meanwhile – the gun nuts are taking crazy to another level – filing a petition with the White House to charge Senator Dianne Feinstein will treason. That petition now has over 27,000 signatures. Feinstein introduced a new assault weapons ban, which would prohibit the future sale of the military-style weapons and large ammunition magazines that have been used in several recent mass shootings. According to the petition, Feinstein is, "actively working to destroy the 2nd amendment" with her new assault weapons ban. Someone needs to tell the gun advocates that the assault weapons ban was already in place for ten years from 1994 and 2004. And it was even supported by Ronald Reagan. So are Republicans willing to say he is treasonous as well? We'll have to wait to find out.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, January 09, 2013. I'm Justin Duckham in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.