In today's On the News segment: Over the last two months, activists and civil leaders have been protesting extreme Right-wing policies in North Carolina; Senate Democrats tried to restore lower student loan interest rates, but couldn't get support for their proposal; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. North Carolina citizens are protesting Republicans that they say are out of control. Over the last two months, activists and civil leaders have been protesting extreme Right-wing policies in weekly "Moral Monday" rallies. This week, more than 2,000 people gathered at the state capitol in Raleigh, to oppose anti-abortion legislation being considered by state lawmakers. The public outcry over that bill's extreme provisions led Republican Governor Pat McCrory to threaten a veto if the bill made it to his desk. So - the measure stalled. However, GOP state lawmakers came up with a sneaky new way to put the abortion restrictions into law. Yesterday, Republicans in the North Carolina House of Representatives attached anti-choice measures to a motorcycle safety bill, without notifying the public or fellow legislators. Democratic State Representative Joe Sam Queen tweeted, "New abortion bill being heard in the committee I am on. The public didn't know. I didn't even know." He then added, "I wish I had more time to look at this new bill before I had to ask questions about it or debate it." Apparently, GOP legislators removed some of the most extreme anti-abortion provisions, in an effort to avoid another veto threat. However, Governor McCrory wasn't fooled by the Republican's ploy. He condemned the deceptive way the legislation was brought forward, and called the bill a "sham." Upon learning of the Republicans' devious tactics, North Carolina residents and activists were outraged. Melissa Reid, of Planned Parenthood, said, "It is a disgrace to North Carolina that legislators have again resorted to sneak attacks to move their anti-women's health agenda forward. This is outrageous and [it's] not how the people's business should be conducted." After this latest Republican attempt to push extreme policies in North Carolina, it's likely that there will be an even larger crowd at the next "Moral Monday" protest.
In screwed news... On Wednesday, Senate Democrats tried to restore lower student loan interest rates, but couldn't get support for their proposal. Republican lawmakers refuse to extend the 3.4 percent borrowing rate for another year, and would rather tie interest rates to financial markets. Both competing plans failed, as senators couldn't reach a bipartisan majority high enough to overcome the 60 vote threshold. Democrats want to keep that rate low for another year, while Congress considers a broad overhaul of student loans. Republicans want to tie borrowing rates to financial markets, which would leave students at the mercy of an unstable and rigged banking system. Unless both parties can agree on a plan, students will be hit with a 6.8 percent interest rate on any new college loans. This will greatly increase the financial strain on students and families. Democratic Senator Tom Udall said, "Today our nation's students once again wait in vain for relief. They expected more of us and I share their disappointment. Today, we failed. And, our nation's students pay the cost of that failure."
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has passed its first hurdle in the Senate. Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension Committee voted 15 to 7 in favor of the bill, which could finally put an end to LGBT discrimination the workplace. Currently, 29 states have no laws protecting gay or lesbian people from being fired, and 33 states offer no protection for transgender people. The bill got support from all of the Democrats on the committee, along with "yes" votes from Republican Senators Mark Kirk, Lisa Murkowski, and Orrin Hatch. The White House released a statement welcoming the bipartisan committee approval, and said, "We look forward to the full Senate's consideration of [the] ENDA, and continue to urge the House to move forward on this bill that upholds American's core values of fairness and equality."
The Washington, D.C. city council is considering a plan to decriminalize marijuana in the district, and the measure stands a good chance of being approved. On Wednesday, Councilmen Tommy Wells and Marion Barry introduced the legislation, in hopes of changing D.C.'s drug policy, which has given the city the highest marijuana arrest rate in our nation. If the measure passes, people found with less than one ounce of pot would received a $100 ticket, instead of being hauled off to jail. Grant Smith, of the Drug Policy Alliance, explained that thousands of District residents have been bogged down with criminal records after being caught with small amounts of marijuana. He said, "That's one of the underlying motivations for the council, to address this as a way to improve people's lives who've been impacted by an arrest record needlessly." The Metropolitan Police Department issued a statement objecting to the proposal. But, considering that 75 percent of D.C. voters support the decriminalization of marijuana, experts say that it's only a matter of time before this change will happen.
And finally... It's not uncommon for parents to let small children play with their smartphones, but it's not every day that your one-year old accidentally buys a car. Portland resident Paul Stoute had recently been checking out "fixer-uppers" on an eBay app, when he let his daughter, Sorella, hold his phone. Much to his surprise, he received an email afterwords thanking him for his purchase of a 1962 Austin-Healy Sprite. The couple have since added password protection on their phones, and deleted any apps that could lead to unexpected purchases. Thankfully, the car only cost him $225, but it wasn't exactly ready for a test drive. The girl's mother, Christina, said that the car came with two engines - and they were both sitting in the back seat! Although he didn't intend to purchase the car, Mr. Stoute decided to keep it, and fix it up as a 16th birthday present for his daughter. Considering the car's shape, it may be a good thing he's got 15 years to complete the project.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, July 11, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.