In today's On the News segment: Foreclosure fraud victims re-victimized by mishap with long awaited settlement checks, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Yesterday, the majority of Senators voted to pass a background check bill, meant to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. But that majority wasn't enough to reach the 60 vote threshold needed to turn that bill into law. The final vote was 54 to 46. Four Republicans voted to support the background check measure, and four Democrats voted against it. Yesterday, 46 members of the upper chamber said doing absolutely nothing is an adequate response to the Newtown massacre, and the thousands of gun deaths that have taken place since. Forty-six Senators voted against a measure that the vast majority of Americans support. President Obama spoke from the Rose Garden shortly after the vote, and directly addressed those who prevented the measure from passing. He said, "I've heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what?... It begs the question, who are we here to represent?" It's certainly clear that there are 46 senators, who choose not to represent the will of the people, would prefer to guarantee a victory for the gun lobby instead. As President Obama said yesterday, "this isn't over." As a nation, we will not accept that doing nothing is the appropriate response to a tragedy. We are better than that. Poll after Poll shows that over 90 percent of our nation supports background checks, and the majority of Americans support stronger gun control laws in general. We cannot allow this country to be governed by those who refuse to represent us. Come next election, we must remind our elected leaders that they work for us. And if they refuse to carry out the will of the people, than the people will find leaders who will.
In screwed news... This week, many victims of foreclosure fraud finally started to receive their small portions of a $3.6 billion settlement with the nation's largest banks. But, when many of them rushed to bank to cash in on their modest payout from the settlement, they were told that the checks could not be cashed due to insufficient funds. Some individuals have waited up to three years for the money, and many of their homes have long-been sold after illegal foreclosures. This just adds insult to injury for foreclosure victims. According to the New York Times, the "mishap" occurred because Rust Consulting, the firm selected to dole out the settlement checks, failed to move the $3.6 billion into the central account at Huntington National Bank in Ohio, from where the checks were issued. The Federal Reserve issued a statement to assure the public that "Rust [has] subsequently corrected [the] problems," and that the Fed will, "continue to monitor payments closely." So, not only did the banksters buy their way out foreclosure fraud charges, but it looks like they'll also get away with numerous counts of passing bad checks. If too-big-to-fail means too-big-to-jail, than banks are too big to exist. Let's break up these financial Goliaths and start prosecuting the criminals that run them.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Illinois may soon become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana. Yesterday, the State House voted 61 to 57 in favor of legalization, but only as a four-year pilot program, which will be the most restrictive medical marijuana program in the country. The bill's chief sponsor, Democratic State Representative Lou Land, said, "this is about providing a product at no expense to the taxpayers to provide better health care to people who desperately need this product." Under the new plan, patients could be prescribed up to 2.5 ounces of pot every two weeks, but the prescribing doctor must be able to demonstrate a prior and ongoing relationship with the patient. The bill will now move to the Illinois State Senate, where it is expected to pass. Governor Pat Quinn said Wednesday that he is "open-minded" about the medical marijuana bill. It appears that slowly, but surely, we're unwinding the failed drug war, and allowing people to access this natural form of medication. Great work Illinois!
Conflicting reports swirled yesterday about a supposed arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing. As of this morning, no official reports of an arrest have been released, however Reuters is reporting that authorities have identified potential suspects from security videos taken before the explosions. Despite the confusion over the Boston case, authorities say they have suspects in custody in two other high-profile cases. In Texas, police have arrested and charged Kim Lene Williams with the murders of two district attorneys, and reports suggest her husband will soon be charged in those deaths as well. The FBI is also reporting that they have made an arrest in connection with a suspicious letter sent to President Obama. Late yesterday, an FBI spokesperson announced they had arrested Paul Kevin Curtis of Mississippi, and that they found no indication of a connection between the letters and the Boston Marathon attack. Our law enforcement agencies certainly have their hands full, and we applaud their fine work identifying possible suspects in all of these cases so quickly. We will bring you more information as it becomes available. Stay tuned.
And finally... How does an entire island disappear from Google Earth? Well, that's what happened when scientists officially "undiscover" an island in the South Pacific, which was supposedly the size of Manhattan. The mysterious land mass called Sandy Island first appeared on maps in 1908, but future expeditions failed to locate it, and it was removed from oceanic charts in the 1970s. Somehow, the island crept into digital databases, and hence was able to "seen" on Google Earth. A group of Australia researchers sailed to the location of the would-be island, only to discover nothing but open ocean. Upon returning, the researchers published an official obituary for the island, and sent the information to "relevant authorities" so that the world map can be changed. Many of us have made the mistake of relying on online directions, but these scientists may think twice before they trust Google maps again.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, April 18, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.