In today's On the News segment: Republicans are refusing to negotiate at all on the Senate's recently passed spending plan; fertilizer industry groups have been lobbying Congress for even weaker safety regulations; a 19-year-old has just created a machine that may clean up the oceans' plastic garbage patches, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. After years of complaining that Democrats haven't passed a budget, now Republicans are refusing to negotiate at all on the Senate's recently passed spending plan. Under regular order, the two chambers should come together to find a compromise between the Democratic budget in the Senate and the Republican austerity plan in the House. However, in typical GOP fashion, Republicans won't come to the negotiating table unless they get a so-called "framework," that they say would make a compromise more likely. But, that "framework" is just a demand that all new tax revenues are off the table. That is not compromise, it's is not negotiation, and it's not how Congress is supposed to operate. That is just more Republican obstructionism. In an attempt to secure a budget, President Obama and Democratic leaders offered cuts to some of our most sacred social programs – angering many on the left. And a total $2.5 trillion in spending cuts have already been imposed on our nation. But that's not enough for Republicans. Their idea of compromise is getting everything they want... and they'll continue to act like petulant children until they do. We can't let President Obama and the Democrats be held hostage any more. This is our nation. If anyone gets to have a list of demands – we do. We can demand that President Obama takes Medicare and Social Security off the table. We can demand that Republicans stop their on-going obstruction. And we must demand that this broken Congress starts serving the people who put them in office.
In screwed news... Out-dated and under-enforced regulations allowed a Texas fertilizer plant to continue operating despite dangerous conditions. And, that lack of regulation may have played a role in the massive explosion that killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds, and nearly demolished a Texas city. Yet, despite some plants going up to 20 years without a safety inspection, fertilizer industry groups have been lobbying Congress for even weaker safety regulations. According to the Think Progress Blog, the Fertilizer Institute has spent over $14 million dollars on lobbying since 1998, and the Agricultural Retailers Association has spent about $3 million. The majority of their efforts to buy off Congress have been geared toward loosening safety regulations for the exact same type of plants as the one that just exploded in West, Texas. If they had their way, these dangerous plants wouldn't face any regulation at all. This is a perfect example of why we need to get money out of politics. Industry should not be able to dictate their own regulatory policy. Let's stand together to prevent corporate cash from controlling our democracy. Join the fight at GetMoneyOut.com.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Giant patches of plastic waste in our oceans pose a world-wide environmental threat. In 2009, the United Nations estimated that there are more than 6 million metric tons of plastic debris floating in our oceans. But, a 19-year-old has just unveiled plans to change that. Boyan Slat has created a device called an Ocean Cleanup Array, which could be dispatched to clean up plastic garbage patches around the world. Mr. Slat's creation is made up of an anchored network of processing platforms and floating booms that can collect plastic from the water, separate it from plankton, and store it for recycling. Potentially, his device could save hundreds of thousands of aquatic animals each year, and would increase awareness of the world's plastic garbage patches. Slat says that many people don't grasp the magnitude of the garbage patches because waste is dispersed over huge areas, and it's hard to capture the extent of the problem in a photograph. But, he said, "By placing our arrays however, [plastic waste] will accumulate along the booms, making it suddenly possible to actually visualize the oceanic garbage patches." This is amazing work, and it should be applauded. Hopefully, Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup Arrays are put to use right away, and our great garbage patches become ancient history.
With all the news this year about marriage equality, it may come as a surprise to many people that someone can still be fired for being gay in many states. However, some lawmakers in Congress are working to change that. Tomorrow, Representative Jared Polis will introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House, and Senator Jeff Merkley will introduced the bill in the Senate. Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, believes the timing of this bill is perfect, saying, "After the Supreme Court rules in the Windsor marriage case, many right-wingers are going to denounce marriage equality for same-sex couples, but claim that they don't believe in discrimination against LGBT Americas." This legislation presents a perfect opportunity for law makers to prove that. In this day and age, it's unacceptable that someone can be fired from their job simply because of who they love. Congress will soon have an opportunity to change that, and we must make sure they do.
And finally... Pennsylvania has a bridge to sell you. That's right, they really do. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is looking for a buyer for Hummel's Bridge - a 117-year-old structure that has been deemed unsafe for traffic. Although it's no longer safe, the bridge was labeled "historically and technologically significant" by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, so it can't be torn down. Kris Thompson, the architectural historian for PennDOT, said the department has sold other historical bridges, and they have found new life as walkways on college campuses and other locations. Hummel's Bridge connects Greenwhich and Richmond townships, and was state-of-the-art at the time of it's construction. Greenwich Township Supervisor Harry Hoppes said, "In 1896, the design of it was way ahead of its time, but we're now in 2013 and it's like we have to do something different." No word on the amount PennDOT hopes to get for the bridge, but hopefully, this piece of our American history will be preserved.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, April 24, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.