You need to know this. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, Monsanto has the right to control our food supply. In a unanimous ruling released this morning, the nine Justices sided with the agricultural giant, and held that an Indiana farmer violated Monsanto's patent by planting seeds produced from genetically modified soybeans. Although the farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, acquired the seeds from a grain elevator, they contained Monsanto's patented genes, and thus the court found that planting them was a patent violation. In Justice Elena Kagan's 10-page opinion, the Court deemed the soybean seeds to be copies of Monsanto's technology. Kagan wrote, "If simple copying were a protected use, a patent would plummet in value after the first sale of the first item containing the invention." And further, the Court reasoned that allowing patented seeds to be used this way, "would result in less incentive for innovation than Congress wanted." Apparently, the Court believes this "incentive for innovation" is important enough to allow one company to control our food supply. Currently, Monsato's seeds account for 93 percent of soybeans and 86 percent of corn grown in our nation. Less than a week ago, the Think Progress Blog reported on a study that found this Supreme Court to be the most pro-business court in at least 65 years, and this ruling exemplifies that study. By upholding Monsanto's right to have a monopoly on our food supply, the Court has, once again, ruled that profit is more important than people. If the Courts won't stand up to corporate power, then we must push our elected representatives to start standing up for the people. Call Congress and the White House and tell them that no company has the right to control our food supply.
In screwed news... West, Texas residents are still recovering after a massive fertilizer plant explosion decimated their town. And now, they're being told they must still pay property taxes on the homes that were destroyed by the deadly blast. To make matters worse, the taxes owed are based on the value of their homes before they were leveled, rather than on the current state of their demolished property. Tax law allows local governments to reassess the value of homes after a natural disaster, but doesn't grant that same power in cases of man-made destruction. But, asking the West Fertilizer Company for assistance is out of the question, as the plant was only insured for $1 million dollars, which doesn't even begin to cover the estimated $100 million in damages. So, residents are now filing protests to their outstanding tax bills, asking for the amount to reflect the fact that many of their homes are completely demolished. If the town grants the reassessment, West, Texas stands to lose millions in tax revenue, and if they don't, residents will be on-the-hook for taxes on homes they may never live in again. The loss of life and property are clear reasons why plants like this should be better regulated, and these outstanding tax bills add insult to injury.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Warren Buffet is making a huge investment in our future. Buffet's company, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, is about to spend $1.9 billion on new wind farms in Iowa. That investment could fund the construction of more than 650 new wind turbines by 2015, which means more green energy and more green jobs for that state. And, our government is helping to encourage more of these investments through green energy tax credits. Considering that we recently passed the 400 parts per million threshold of carbon in the atmosphere, we need green energy sources like this now more than ever. These wind farms will be a major stepping stone for breaking our addiction to toxic fossil fuels, and the additional jobs will be a much-needed boost to our economy. It's great news that Warren Buffet is leading the way in wind energy production. Hopefully, more companies will see the economic and environmental benefits of green energy, and follow in Warren Buffet's footsteps.
Republicans have one mantra when it comes to elections: if you can't win, cheat. In a blatant attempt to steal power, Indiana Governor Mike Pence has eliminated four Marion County Council seats held by Democrats, to give Republicans a controlling majority. According to the measure signed by Gov. Pence, all four at-large council seats held by democrats will be eliminated after the 2015 municipal elections. According to IndyStar News, the measure also "grants the mayor-appointed controller more authority over county officeholder budgets, and grants the mayor the right to appoint five of nine members to the Metropolitan Development Commission." Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath responded to the move via Twitter. He wrote, "I'm disappointed Gov. Pence accepted the Republicans' Third World-style power moves in Marion County. The party hacks won." We've seen plenty of gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement, and other means of stealing elections, but this is by far the most blatant theft of power. Apparently, Governor Pence and the Indiana Republicans have no shame.
And finally... The cicada invasion is about to begin all along the East Coast of the U.S., and entomologists say it's an opportunity for a feast. That's right, Isa Betancourt of Drexel Universisty calls cicadas "the shrimp of the land," and Mike Raupp of the University of Maryland says, "they've got a delicate nutty flavor and a buttery texture." There's even a cookbook, called Cicada-Licious, that has a variety of cooking ideas like Cicada-Portobello Quiche or German Chocolate Cicada Cake. According to Professor Betancourt, because these cicadas only come out once every 17 years, they are "a rare delicacy," and she plans to substitute the insects into a shrimp skewer dish, her grandmother has made for ages. So, if these giant bugs show up in your backyard, feel free to throw them into your favorite recipe. Just don't invite me to dinner.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, May 13, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.