In todays On the News segment: The Supreme Court today heard arguments about whether human DNA can be patented, and more.
You need to know this. Marco Rubio broke a record yesterday, as he appeared on seven different Sunday morning talk shows. He made the rounds to announce that the so-called "Gang of Eight" may have reached a deal on immigration. According to the multiple interviews, Rubio said the group will unveil its new proposal on Tuesday, and will offer more details about the deal later this week. The bill will likely include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a new guest-worker program, increased border patrol, and additional workplace security measures. However, the path to citizenship is contingent on stopping 90% of all illegal border crossings, and monitoring nearly every inch of the entire Southern border. Including these hard-to-obtain benchmarks will mean that citizenship will remain out of reach for years, if not decades, to come for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our nation. And many will continue to be treated like indentured servants until then – having to register with the federal government and pay fines just to be eligible for citizenship if the border-security benchmarks are ever actually obtained. Once this plan is unveiled tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to review it, and senators will be able to offer amendments during debate. Hopefully, some of those amendments focus on treating undocumented immigrants with dignity, and making goals in the plan more realistic. At least the "Gang of Eight's" plan is a starting point, but we still have a long way to go to enact meaningful immigration reform in our nation.
In screwed news... Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether human DNA can be patented, and be considered intellectual property. Currently, companies, universities, and other scientific group hold patents on at least 4,000 human genes. The ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation challenged gene patents held by Myriad Genetics, arguing that human DNA is a product of nature, and no one should have the right to consider genes intellectual property. The specific genes which Myraid holds patents on are BRCA1 and BRCA2, which account for a substantial portion of inherited types of breast and ovarian cancers. Lori Andrews, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College, wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the American Medical Association, which reads, "Myriad's exclusive control has led to the misdiagnosis of patients and has precluded the deployment of improved genetic tests." These patents inhibit researchers' ability to discover medical tests and cures, and they limit doctors' ability to determine the best treatment for patients. In addition to making care less effective, it's simply unacceptable for one company to have intellectual property rights on our genes. Hopefully, the Supreme Court agrees that no one should own our DNA.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Proponents of green energy are looking to Portugal to demonstrate what real energy independence looks like. During the first part of this year, 70% of that nation's energy was generated by renewable sources. The vast majority was supplied by hydroelectric power, which saw a 312 percent increase in production from the previous year, and generated almost 40% of that nation's energy. Wind turbines and solar energy production accounted for nearly another 30% of Portugal's electricity. In fact, so much of Portugal's energy was supplied by renewable sources, that nation exported electricity to other nations, and sold off a share of it's carbon credits allotted by the EU's carbon trading system. So, not only was Portugal able to protect the environment by switching to green energy, but that nation was able to generate revenue doing so. This is more evidence that renewable energy is not just good science, it's good business. If our nation really wants to achieve energy independence, we should be following Portugal's example and making the switch to green energy.
Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, dealt a staggering blow to workers last year, with the signing of right-to-work-for-LESS legislation. But Democratic lawmakers in that state have introduced a bill, which would increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour, to help combat Snyder's anti-worker law. Michigan's minimum wage is currently $7.40 an hour, and it hasn't been raised since 2008. Dave Woodward, who started the online petition at RaiseMichigan.com, said, "It's long overdue that Michigan families get a raise, and raising the minimum wage helps do that." As expected, Republican law makers in Michigan say the increase would hurt business, but more than 70% of residents support raising the minimum wage. According to the Think Progress Blog, a minimum wage worker in Michigan would have to work 80 hours a week just to afford the rent of a two-bedroom apartment. This bill would go a long way towards helping Michigan families make ends meet. Now we'll have to wait and see whether Rick Snyder will block the effort to lift families out of poverty in his state. Stay tuned.
And finally... As more people switch to organic diets, many have found joy in urban farming. In addition to growing their own healthy produce, some people have also started raising small livestock, like chickens, to generate more of their own food supply. As the trend has caught on, more people have been left wondering... what do they do with their feathered friends when they need to leave town? Well, Bill Bezuk of Oregon now has an answer. Chicken owners can book a room at Bill's luxury chicken hotel. Yes, you heard that right. Mr. Bezuk used to offer a basic chicken sitting service, but realized the potential for more, and built the very first luxury hotel for the birds in the U.S. He calls it The Nest, and for $3 a day, guests receive deluxe accommodations, which include organic food, fresh vegetables, and a turn-down service. Apparently, there are already a handful of chicken-boarding businesses in the U.K., including Fowlty Towers in Cowden, which offers spa treatments and chicken pedicures. Seriously... they really do.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, April 15, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.