In today's On the News segment: On Monday, 12 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Navy Yard complex in our nation's capital, and at least 8 others were injured; the National Security Agency has been spying on credit card transactions under the guise of catching terrorists; British mining company Anglo American is abandoning Alaska's Pebble Mine; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. On Monday, 12 people were killed in a mass shooting in our nation's capital, and at least 8 others were injured. Within minutes of the first shots, hundreds of police and naval officers surrounded the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters, and police shot and killed the lone gunman. Law enforcement officials said that the shooter, Aaron Alexis, was a former Navy reservist, and had been working for a military subcontractor. Officials believe he entered the Navy Yard complex using his access as a contractor, and immediately began firing on civilian employees. As of Tuesday morning, no apparent motive has been announced, and officials were still investigating the shooting. The tragedy was the deadliest day in Washington, DC in more than 30 years, and it was a somber reminder of other recent mass shootings, like Sandy Hook. During and after Monday's horrific events, the chief medical officer of nearby Medstar Hospital, Dr. Janis Orlowski, provided updates on the status of many shooting victims. In one of yesterday's news conferences, Dr. Orlowski shared an emotional plea with the nation, and said we must address the ongoing gun violence in our country. Dr. Orlowski said, "There's something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate. I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really world. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots. Let's get rid of this." In a perfect summary of how many feel about countless gun deaths, Dr. Orlowski said, "This is not America. This is not Washington, D.C. This is not good." There are no answers that can explain this type of senseless violence, but perhaps we will finally learn from this tragedy, and start asking the right questions. How many lives must be lost before we're willing to stop these shootings?
In screwed news... The NSA is monitoring your spending habits. According to a new report from CNET News, the National Security Agency has been spying on credit card transactions under the guise of catching terrorists. NSA officials claim that the spy agency is only collecting information from international transactions, but even members of the intelligence community have expressed doubts. Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that the "Follow the Money" division of the NSA has been collecting data from companies like Visa, and storing it in yet another massive database. Just like the phone and computer data snooping, it is quite possible that our personal data has been swept up in the NSA's collection. Of course, NSA officials defended the program, and a Visa spokesperson said the company only responds to subpoenas or valid, legal requests. But, considering that those requests could have been issued by the secret FISA Court, the NSA's so-called denial does little to assure the public that our purchase habits aren't being spied on.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The NSA may not be happy with Edward Snowden, but they're not the only ones with an opinion. On Monday, the European Parliment announced that Snowden is one of seven nominees for the top human rights award in the EU – the 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Members of the EU's Green Party nominated the whistleblower for the award, which has previously been given to human rights icons like Nelson Mandela. And, the European Parliament isn't alone in singing Snowden's praises. Here in the US, a FISA judge just praised Snowden's disclosure, saying that the documents he released started an important debate about government spying. Last Friday, FISA Judge Dennis Saylor ruled that the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations have a right to hear how the FISA Court justifies the authorization of government surveillance. Judge Saylor wrote that publishing the Court's opinion "would contribute to an informed debate," and "publication would also assure citizens of the integrity of this court's proceedings."
British mining company Anglo American is abandoning Alaska's Pebble Mine. The EPA recently announced their desire to block the mine entirely, so, Anglo American said the financial risk is no longer worth the reward. CEO Mark Cutifani said, "Despite our belief that Pebble [beach] is a deposit of rare magnitude and quality, we have taken the decision to withdraw." Opponents of the Pebble Beach Mine say that extracting rare copper deposits will destroy the pristine environment, and have a disastrous impact on one the world's strongest run of wild salmon. And, this announcement could be a victory for the environment. Anglo American's departure means that the remaining company, Northern Dynasty, may be unable to move forward with mining alone. Sean McGee, a spokesman for Northern Dynasty, said, "In my view, it is unlikely this project will go forward to construction and operations with Northern Dynasty as the sole owner." And, it's unlikely that a company will purchase Anglo American's share of the project with the EPA threatening to block the mine. For now, it appears Pebble Beach may be saved.
And finally... Recently, Sonia Cadman and Andrew Mattle were standing at the alter to exchange vows on their special day. However, their ring bearer had other plans. As a present to her husband -to-be, Sonia arranged for a beautiful barn owl named Darcy to swoop down from the rafters, and deliver their wedding bands to the best man. But, when the owl's handlers released her, Darcy flew to the top of the church, wedding bands and all, and settled in for an hour-long snooze. Thankfully, the Reverend in charge of the ceremony prepared for such an event, and pulled out a pair of back up rings to continue the service. Darcy's owners, who train birds to perform such tasks, said she probably felt a little too comfortable in the old chapel. Her handler said, "[She] presumably said 'I'm a barn owl, [and] this is like a barn'."
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, September 17, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.