In today's On the News segment: Opponents are expressing anger not only about the "Monsanto Protection Act" content, but also about the secretive way the legislation made its way into the final appropriations bill; lawmakers in Kansas are close to passing a law calling for people infected with AIDS or HIV to be quarantined; activists and labor unions won legislation that ensures New York workers get paid time off when they get sick; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. A little-known provision in the most recent budget appropriations, which passed through Congress last week, is a big deal for biotech giant Monsanto – and GMO opponents. The so-called "Monsanto Protection Act" shields the maker of genetically modified seeds from being sued by consumers who claim they've been harmed by their products. On Tuesday, President Obama signed the spending bill into law, which means the controversial GMO provision will remain in place for at least six months until the government needs a new bill to fund it's operations. Since it's passage a week ago, more than 250,000 people have signed a petition opposing the measure, and activists have gathered outside the White House to protest. Opponents are expressing anger not only about the "Monsanto Protection Act" content, but also about the secretive way the legislation made it's way into the final appropriations bill. Reports suggest that many members of Congress were not even aware the provision was slipped into the spending bill. The International Business Times reported on the story, noting, "The message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right." It should be a right to know what is in our food. And it should be a right to hold companies liable when they poison consumers. We must ensure that the "Monsanto Protection Act" is overturned. Call Congress and tell them to repeal this provision now.
In screwed news... Lawmakers in Kansas are close to passing a law calling for people infected with AIDS or HIV to be quarantined. House bill 2183, which has already cleared the Kansas State Senate, reverses a 1988 law, which banned the quarantine of people infected with HIV-AIDS. If this new law passes, HIV and AIDS patients could have their movements in that state restricted, and could be isolated from the general population. State Senator Marci Francisco tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the legislation, so that it would include an exemption for people living with HIV and AIDS. Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the legislation is reminiscent of the 'earliest, darkest days' of the AIDS epidemic. He said, "At best, it is short-sighted of Kansas legislators to reject Senator Francisco's amendment. It either shows how little they understand about HIV and how it is transmitted – or it shows that they want the ability to quarantine people, and/or discriminate against them." This is a prime example of why we need more sex education in states like Kansas. Perhaps then lawmakers would know that HIV and AIDS are not spread through casual contact. This is the worst type of discriminatory law imaginable, and Kansas lawmakers should be ashamed.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Yesterday, organized people defeated organized money in New York. Despite strong opposition from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his corporate allies, activists and labor unions won legislation that ensures New York workers get paid time off when they get sick. As of next year, employers with more than 20 workers must provide full-time employees with at least five compensated sick days, and eventually the law will also apply to companies with 15 employees or more. Some activists expressed disappointment that the sick-leave law didn't go farther to protect workers, but advocates say it represents a symbolic victory. Sherry Leiwant, of A Better Balance, said, "It's not perfect, but it's very important to get this done in New York." Every worker, in every state, should be allowed to take time off when they get sick – without fear of losing their job or part of their income. And consumers who visit stores and restaurants shouldn't have to be exposed to illness because an employee couldn't afford to stay home. This is a great step for workers' rights in New York City. Now, let's fight to make this law a reality for workers around our nation.
When Obamacare became law, restaurant owners were some of the loudest critics of that health-care law. Executives from several national restaurant chains complained the law would increase operating costs, forcing them to reduce hours and lay off employees. But it turns out Obamacare will only cost employers about 20% of their original estimates. Previously, Wendy's CFO Steve Hare predicted that each of the chain's 5,800 U.S. locations would see a yearly cost increase of $25,000. However, earlier this month at an investment conference, Hare reduced the cost estimate by 80%, because some employees will be covered under the Medicaid expansion, and others will choose to decline coverage. With cost-estimates declining, many business owners have stopped criticizing the law. Executives of several major retailers, which already offer employees health coverage, have also said Obamacare will have little to no impact on their operating expenses. It's shameful that business owners whined about providing benefits, at the very same time many were seeing record profits. And since cost estimates have reduced dramatically, business leaders should be just as loud in endorsing Obamacare now, as they were in condemning it before.
And finally... The director of media relations for the New York Mets says his tombstone will read "professional butt-dialer." Jay Horwitz has more than 1,000 phone numbers programmed into his cell phone, and he routinely pocket dials players, friends, and business associates. First baseman, Ike Davis, says he has personally been butt-dialed close to 150 times. Apparently, technology is not a strong suit for the 67-year-old, but Mets players say they can't help but laugh it off. In an interview with the TODAY Show, third baseman, David Wright, said, "There's nobody who cares more about the New York Mets. There's nobody who works as hard. Ultimately, you always walk away with a smile on your face." Many of us have experienced a butt-dial or two, but nobody has explained the phenomenon quite like Jay Horwitz. When asked about the repeated pocket-dials, Mr. Horwitz said, "I have no explanation. I keep [the phone] in my front pocket. I jiggle it and there you go." Enough said.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, March 29, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.