In today's On the News segment: Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the "Restore Our Privacy Act," which would put strict limits on the NSA and the FBI's controversial powers to spy on innocent Americans; Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on the Obama administration to publicly release documents about the Trans-Pacific Partnership; Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has vetoed legislation that would have required background checks for gun sales between private parties; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Senator Elizabeth Warren is fighting hard for government transparency, and it has nothing to do with the NSA. On Thursday, Senator Warren sent a letter to President Obama's U.S. trade negotiations nominee, calling on the Administration to publicly release documents about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For several years, the Obama Administration has been negotiating the TPP, which could grant corporations the ability to reject various regulations in several countries, which is a power usually reserved only for other sovereign nations. Despite the international impact the TPP could have, only Congress and members of the so-called "Trade Advisory Committee" - which is stacked with corporate officials - have been able to review the deal. In her letter, Senator Warren wrote, "I appreciate the willingness of the [U.S. Trade Office] to make various documents available for review by members of Congress, but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency." And, as if to hint that the public would not approve of the plan if details were released, she said, "If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States." The TPP could have a profound impact on our lives. Trade agreements affect everything from the food we eat, to the price of medicine, to the availability of the jobs. Americans do not want these agreements negotiated in secret, where only corporate interests are represented. Senator Elizabeth Warren has proven once again, she's not only tough when it comes to bank regulation. She will fight to protect consumers wherever and however it matters.
In screwed news... Get ready for another war. Yesterday, the White House released a statement confirming the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. The Central Intelligence Agency has obtained "blood, urine and hair samples from two Syrian rebels" that provide evidence of the Assad regime's use of sarin gas. According to the White House statement, the intelligence community "estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks." Previously, President Obama called the use of chemical weapons a "red line", that would be met with a response from the U.S. Now that the information has been confirmed, the President has decided to provide more support to the Syrian rebels. It's not clear exactly what additional support the Administration will provide, or how they will determine which rebels to assist. This is a story to watch. Stay tuned.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Thousands of municipal workers took to the streets of New York this week, in a huge demonstration protesting years of not receiving pay raises. Teachers, firefighters, off-duty police officers, and sanitation workers shut down three lanes of traffic outside City Hall, carrying signs that read "Fair Contract Now." Labor leaders say that the city's unionized workforce has gone years without new contracts, and that members are owed more than $7 billion dollars in back pay. They are calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to provide relief to struggling workers, however he says that New York City can't afford to meet protester's demands. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, argues that New York City's $2 billion dollar budget surplus shows that the city has the money to give workers a raise. Protesters are asking Mayor Bloomberg to "have a heart," and saying "We need a fair contract. We need respect, and we need dignity."
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has vetoed legislation that would have required background checks for gun sales between private parties. Despite a recent poll showing 86 percent of Nevada residents support background checks, Governor Sandoval said the bill would "constitute an erosion of Nevadans' Second Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, and may subject otherwise law-abiding citizens to criminal prosecution." State Senator Justin Jones, who sponsored the proposal, said he expected the veto, but pledged to try again in the 2015 Nevada Legislature. Brian Fadie, executive director of the group ProgressNow Nevada, said, "Clearly, Gov. Sandoval is going against the will of the people," and he accused the governor of "standing with extremists who are mostly filled with paranoid fears of the government taking away their guns." The veto angered progressive groups, who have been pushing for background check legislation, but they don't appear ready to give up on gun control.
America's Senator – Senator Bernie Sanders wants to reign in government surveillance. Yesterday, Senator Sanders introduced the "Restore Our Privacy Act," which would put strict limits on the NSA and the FBI's controversial powers to spy on innocent Americans. In a press release this morning, Senator Sanders said, "We must give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies all of the tools that they need to combat terrorism, but we must do so in a way that protects our freedom and respects the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches." Since the news broke about the wide-sweeping surveillance of American's phone and email data, many have expressed outrage over our government's violation of privacy rights. There is no justification for spying on the personal emails and phone records of millions of Americans. Thankfully, we have Senator Bernie Sanders to stand up to the intelligence agencies and demand that our right of privacy be fully restored.
And finally... Florida resident Mike Falconer was driving through Myakka River State Park with his son, when they saw something strange roaming around in a field. The 45-year-old pulled over and began filming the creature that he says is the elusive "Skunk Ape" - the alleged large, smelly cousin of Bigfoot. In a cell-phone video on Huffington Post, you can see a blurry dark figure standing upright in the field, as well as other park visitors who also stopped to take pictures of the animal. Mr. Falconer's low-resolution video has sparked a heated debate about the existence of the beast, but he says he'll have a better camera on hand for the next time he crosses paths with the Skunk Ape.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, June 14, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.