In today's On the News segment: Supreme Court will hear case on Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Over the weekend, government officials and news agencies were playing a game of "Where's Snowden." The NSA whistle-blower made a sudden departure from Hong Kong, reportedly traveling to Moscow, Russia. Snowden was then not in his seat for the next flight, which would have brought him from Russia to Cuba. Officials are now unclear if Snowden ever actually made his way to Russia, or if the flight was simply a diversion. U.S. intelligence officials have warned Western nations that Snowden "should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States." It appears that warning is meant specifically for the nation of Ecuador, which has granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said, "We will consider the position of the U.S. Government and we will make a decision in due course in line with the [Ecuadorean] constitution, the laws, international politics, and sovereignty." As of now, there are no confirmed reports on Snowden's actual location, but Reuters is reporting he has received refugee documentation to ensure safe passage to Ecuador. Already tense relations between these countries are being further strained by this new development. The world is watching to see how these events unfold, but it's anyone's guess as to where Edward Snowden may turn up.
In screwed news... Nuclear waste is leaking into the ground at a decommissioned nuclear weapons site in Washington state, but officials say there's no need to worry. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation has become the final resting place for about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, and has long-been considered the most contaminated nuclear site in our nation. New reports indicate that many of the double-walled underground storage containers holding the toxic sludge have been leaking for some time. State and federal officials say that only 6 of 177 tanks are leaking, and they pose no threat to public safety. However, Tom Carpenter, executive director of the environmental group Hanford Challenge, said, "A third of these tanks have failed already. One third! They've leaked a million gallons, there's more to come." Many of the tanks were designed for a maximum use of 20 years, however some have been in place since the 1940s. According to CBS News contributor Michio Kaku, who is also a physics professor at the City University of New York, the Hanford site is a "ticking time bomb." He said, "When it hits the ground table, it will go right into the Columbia River, and remember that's one of the major rivers in the entire Pacific Northwest."
In the best of the rest of the news...
President Obama will deliver his long-awaited climate speech tomorrow at Georgetown University, according to a White House video tweet. Among the proposals he is expected to announce, is a new cap on our nation's greenhouse-gas emissions. In the video tweet President Obama said, "There's no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change. But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can." The video was met with excitement and support by climate activists. Even Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, responded saying, "The world desperately needs climate leadership, and today Barack Obama showed he might turn out to be the guy who provided it." Hopefully, Mr. McKibben is correct, and our President will lead the fight against the fossil fuels that are destroying our planet.
Today, the United States Senate will vote on an amendment that could determine the future of comprehensive immigration reform. The Corker – Hoeven amendment, dubbed the "border security surge", introduces many extreme – and expensive – border security provisions, such as doubling the number of agents on the border, doubling the size of the border fence, and increasing spending on border surveillance. Despite all those extreme provisions, Senators Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz say the bill doesn't go far enough. And, Tea Party Senator Rand Paul says he won't vote for the final bill unless it includes so-called border security triggers, which are essentially unattainable benchmarks that block any future path to citizenship. Even if immigration reform survives the objections of hard-Right Senators, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will have its turn to push the reform even further Right. Stay tuned.
Today, most Americans will focus on the opinions released by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the remaining decisions to be handed down. However, case decisions aren't the only big news out of our nation's highest court. Today, the Court announced that they will hear National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning. At issue in that case is whether President Obama's recess-appointments to the NLRB were valid, and how strictly the Constitution defines recess appointments. The Supreme Court will hear the case next term, and determine whether the Senate is actually in recess when they simply gavel-in and gavel-out during so-called "pro forma sessions" designed to block Presidential recess appointments. The outcome could determine whether the President can use recess appointments to combat Senate obstructionism. Considering the number of judicial vacancies, and the number of empty posts at crucial agencies such as the NLRB board, this ruling could have a huge impact on our nation.
And finally... We've all heard the jokes about someone having a bridge to sell, but one Russian man just turned those jokes into reality. According to a Russian news agency, the man didn't want to wait until a local bridge was on the market, so he hooked it up to his tractor and hauled it away to sell for scraps. However, police had no problem identifying the suspect, because they followed the drag marks directly to his home. Apparently, metal thefts in Russia are a huge problem, because this wasn't even the strangest. Russian news agencies say that previous thefts have included several locomotives, and even a special bike ridden by a circus bear.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, June 24, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.