In today's On the News segment: President Obama addressed the United Nations about Syria and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East Tuesday morning; House Republicans want to keep Americans from getting health insurance, but they have no problem providing legal cover for Monsanto; banksters charged two million customers for services that they never received; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. On Tuesday, President Obama addressed the United Nations about Syria and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. The President challenged the UN and member nations to stand together against the chemical weapon use in Syria, and approve the controversial agreement under which President Assad would hand control of the deadly weapons to the international community. But, he called the resolution the "bare minimum" of what must be done to address the violence in Syria, and the instability of the entire region. President Obama said, "If we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century." On one hand, President Obama vowed to push for peace in the region, and even pledged to work on the Israeli-Palestine conflict for the remainder of his presidency. On the other, he continued to wield the American military over nations that refuse to comply. He said that the United States "will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction" by Iran, and that our nation "is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region." And, President Obama vowed that the U.S. "will ensure the free flow of energy from that region to the world." Some experts believe that President Obama's threat of force against Syria opened the door to a peaceful solution, and they support his strong stance on the Middle East. However, many Americans are tired of our nation policing the world, and they're tired of going to war over oil.
In screwed news... House Republicans want to keep Americans from getting health insurance, but they have no problem providing legal cover for the GMO-giant Monsanto. Not only did their continuing resolution bill defund Obamacare, but it also extended the controversial Monsanto Protection Act by three months. That provision was slipped secretly into a Senate appropriations bill last March, during an all-night vote-a-thon to prevent the previous potential government shut down. The Monsanto Protection Act shields GMO seed producers from being sued if their products cause adverse health effects. And, it bars our courts from blocking GMO seed planting or production, even if people are getting sick from those products. Americans were outraged when the provision was originally passed, and they won't be happy if it's extended. People around are nation are calling their lawmakers and demanding that they prevent the government from shutting down, and that they block any extension of the Monsanto Protection Act.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The United Nations is celebrating the "dramatic progress" our world has made in the fight against AIDS. According to the UN's annual report, the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped dramatically, and the number of people getting treatment for HIV infections has increased. In 2005, 2.3 million people died from AIDS-related illness. By 2012, the number of deaths dropped to 1.6 million. And, the number of new cases is dropping around the world as well. Thanks to the work of AIDS-awareness organizations around the world, fewer people are getting sick, and more of those who do are getting the proper treatment. The UN AIDS report stated that by the end of 2012, about 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income nations were receiving treatment. Just two years ago, the United Nations set a goal of treating 15 million people who were infected with HIV, but they now want to exceed that goal, and they are on track to do so. At the same time, they are working to educate millions about safe sex and virus prevention. In more than one way, UN AIDS is working to eradicate this global problem, and they won't give up until they succeed.
It will come as no surprise, but the banksters charged two million customers for services that they never received. What is surprising is that federal regulators are making them pay up. Last week, Chase Bank and JP Morgan Chase were ordered to refund more than $300 million dollars to customers, pay another $80 million in fines, and submit to an independent audit. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, customers were charged between $8 and $12 bucks a month for credit -monitoring services that were never performed, and those small fees caused some card holders to exceed their credit limit and get hit with additional fees. CFPB director Richard Cordray said, "This enforcement action guarantees an end to these unfair billing practices, and requires Chase to completely repay those consumers who were wrongly charged." And, this outcome shows exactly why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is so important. As individuals, it's nearly impossible to fight back against massive companies like Chase, but agencies like the CFPB have the power to take on the banksters.
And finally... Over the weekend, one of America's favorite celebrities, Star Trek icon George Takei, served as grand marshal of Cincinnati's Oktoberfest celebration. In an interview with the local television station, WPTV, Mr. Takei admitted he wasn't sure why they wanted him to lead the event. He said, "What I did ask them was, 'isn't Oktoberfest a German festival?' I'm an Angelino from Los Angeles of Japanese-American heritage. And they said 'Well, we love you and we want you' and I said 'alright, for love I'll do it.'" However, when he agreed to be grand marshal, he had no idea he would also be leading the city in the world's largest chicken dance. Despite not even knowing what it was before the festival, George Takei led the crowd of 600,000 people, and together they broke the record for the world's largest chicken dance. No word on whether George Takei would have accepted if he knew about the chicken dance beforehand, or whether Cincinnati used Obama's "Jedi-mind-meld" to get him to agree.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, September 24, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.