In today's On the News segment: As many as 40 people may be dead as a result of the fertilizer plant explosion, according to the mayor of West, Texas; the Boy Scouts of America is finally taking a small step towards equality; a new report warns of an over-inflated "carbon bubble" in the stock market; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Overnight developments involving the Boston Marathon suspects including a car-jacking and a gun battle have left an M.I.T. campus police officer dead, and another wounded. One of the bombing suspects was also killed during the shootout. The entire city of Boston was locked down Friday morning, as authorities hunted for the second suspect, and an additional potential accomplice. News is evolving rapidly concerning the events in Boston, and we will update you with the latest information throughout the day. Stay tuned.
As many as 40 people may be dead as a result of the fertilizer plant explosion, according to Tommy Muska, the mayor of West, Texas. Mayor Muska told the L.A. times that officials arrived at that count because all other residents and first-responders have been accounted for. However, authorities are unable to confirm the exact number of people missing. According to NBC News, the facility recently informed a state agency that up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored at the location - the same type of highly-explosive chemical used in the Oklahoma City bombing. Despite the potential danger, the company did not account for this dangerous substance in the risk management plan it submitted to the EPA. Hopefully, the number of fatalities is overstated, and many people are located as rescue and recovery operations continue. This is a stark reminder that regulations are meaningless unless government has the resources, personnel, and will to enforce them. We must learn from this horrible event, and ensure regulations are adequately enforced to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.
In screwed news... As if the economic risks of austerity, derivatives trading, and an under-regulated banking industry weren't enough... A new report from Stern and the think-tank Carbon Tracker warns of an over-inflated "carbon bubble" in the stock market. The Guardian newspaper explains that the fossil fuel investment bubble is a result of oil, coal, and gas reserves being over-valued by speculators, and the impending value correction poses a huge risk to the global financial system. According to the report, to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, about 60% of the world's fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned. As total reserves are listed as assets in the world markets, the fact that more than half of that toxic sludge will never be burned means that 60% of those reserves are worthless. And, allowing these fuels to be burned just for a quick buck is simply out of the question. So, it appears that financial analysts and brokers are starting to account climate change now, and are slowly beginning to adjust the value of fuel reserves. The future of energy will rely on green technology, and the economic impact of ending our fossil fuel addition will be hard to predict.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Boy Scouts of America is finally taking a small step towards equality. After extreme pressure from equality advocates, the Boy Scouts will submit a proposal to lift the ban against gay youth members to the group's 1,400 voting members next month. However, Boy Scouts of America says it will continue to exclude gays as adult leaders. Gay-rights groups have been demanding a complete lift of bans against gays in the organization, and churches and conservative groups have called for the ban to stay in place. The proposal will be considered at a National Council meeting in Texas next month. The Boy Scouts need to stop their discriminatory, anti-gay tactics, and allow everyone to participate in this American institution. It would be great news if gay youth were no longer banned by the organization, but continuing it's policy barring gay adults perpetuates the stigma that there is something wrong with being gay. It's 2013, and the Boy Scouts of America should finally join the rest of us in the 21st century.
Kansas is the latest state to decide poor people should be treated like criminals. This week, Governor Sam Brownback signed into law legislation that will subject welfare and unemployment recipients to mandatory drug tests. Despite a similar law in Florida proving to be highly ineffective, Kansas joins a list of eight states that have recently imposed laws to drug tests recipients of public aid. Since the beginning of the year, 29 states have proposed similar legislation, which is backed by ALEC. This isn't about preventing drug use, it's about discouraging people from collecting welfare or unemployment. It's about treating the poor like they're criminals and perpetuating the myth that people collecting welfare are all sitting around getting high. And, it's about keeping the private prisons filled, so they continue to rake in huge profits. Last February, a federal appeals court blocked Florida's drug-testing law, stating, "the simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive an applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy." It's only a matter of time before the laws in these other states are challenged, and hopefully struck down as well.
And finally... The constantly changing news cycle this week has made it difficult to trust even the most reputable sources. But, Representative Jeff Duncan won't be bothered by the issue of credibility. During a House Committee hearing this week, Congressman Duncan asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to respond to reports that the DHS has stockpiled over a billion rounds ammunition to attack American citizens. He said, "when Forbes magazine or Drudge or some reputable news sources start to repeat the numbers...the numbers cease to become Internet rumors and they start having some credibility." Yes, you heard that right. A United States Congressman cited the conservative message board known as the Drudge Report, which often features conspiracy theories like the claim that Napolitano's leadership at DHS was actually a "same sex takeover" dominated by a "lesbian cabal." Secretary Napolitano responded, saying, "I don't know if I'd put Forbes and Drudge in the same sentence." Which is a much nicer response than many of us could muster. As long as Jeff Duncan continues to cite Drudge as reliable, we'll have trouble putting his name and Congressman in the same sentence.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, April 19, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.