In today's On the News segment: In many states around our nation, you don't need a background check to buy a gun; growing up poor actually changes a child's brain; on Tuesday, the anti-Obamacare crowd had another disappointment; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. In many states around our nation, you don't need a background check to buy a gun. But, if you have travel plans, be prepared for the authorities to do a little digging. The TSA has expanding passenger screenings, and they're checking a wide array of government databases before you even arrive at the airport. In addition to checking for your name on the "No-Fly" list, the Transportation Security Administration may be checking your car registration, past travel itineraries, property records, police records, or even your employment information. And, just to add insult to injury, the TSA may share what they find with "a debt collection agency for the purpose of debt collection." Similar programs have been used for some time to evaluate travelers coming in to the United States, but now they'll be used for domestic travel under the guise of identifying "low-risk" travelers for faster screening at the airport. If the TSA determines you fit into that category, you can sail through security with your shoes on, and laptops still in your carry-on. However, if the agency decides you pose any risk, you could be subjected to repeated searches. And, if you feel you've been incorrectly profiled for the enhanced screenings, you're forced to appeal to the Department of Homeland Security. As of last March, 13,000 people had asked for a review, but civil liberty groups and travelers say that their requests simply disappear into a "black hole." Somehow, despite Americans protesting government spying, we're being subjected to more of it – not less. Our government is committing an outright assault on our privacy, and Americans are fed up. Our forefathers wrote the Forth Amendment to protect us, and it's about time that our government start respecting it.
In screwed news... Growing up poor actually changes a child's brain. Previous studies have documented many long-term effects of growing up in poverty, but scientists at the University of Denver have discovered the actual neurological impact. The study's author, Pilyoung Kim said, "Living in poverty at a young age can cause long-lasting changes in brain development." After testing the emotional response of adults who grew up in poverty, scientists found that about half were "less able than other participants to minimize their emotional reaction to negative images." The changes in brain development also contribute to "future devastating health outcomes, including mental illness and high morality and morbidity in adulthood." Essentially, growing up in the constant-stress of poverty makes the brain less able to deal with emotional reaction. This, in turn, causes higher stress rates, which lead to shorter lifespans, as adults. Rather than addressing these problems, the Republicans are determined to slash the social safety net that protects these families. Now, more than ever, Americans say it's vital to protect it.
In the best of the rest of the news...
On Tuesday, the anti-Obamacare crowd had another disappointment. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman refused to block the federal subsidies that Americans will use to buy healthcare. A group of individuals and businesses who oppose Obamacare filed a lawsuit claiming that the subsidies are "unlawful." The plaintiffs say that the subsidies impose a burden on them by forcing them to buy insurance or pay a penalty. They argue that subsidies were supposed be provided "through an exchange established by the state," not by the federal government, thus the group says, they are illegal. Essentially, they're trying to use the fact that states refused to set up exchanges as a way to deny health coverage to millions of Americans. Judge Friedmand did give the group permission to proceed with their lawsuit, but he said that there is no need for an emergency injunction of the subsidies since people have until March of next year to sign up. This case is just another attempt to fight the healthcare law, despite countless failed attempts by Republicans. It looks like the Right won't give up their fight against Obamacare, no matter how many times they fail to destroy it.
The majority of people in our nation support legalizing marijuana, but our Justice Department hasn't caught up. A new Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans support full legalization, yet marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Back in August, the Department of Justice directed prosecutors to scale back their targeting of marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized pot. However, some U.S. Attorneys have remained aggressive, and continued to prosecute those who sell medical marijuana. Since these prosecutors can essentially decide when and how to file charges, out nation's marijuana policy has become unjust and incoherent. In two states, Colorado and Washington, marijuana is legal even for recreational use, and 20 states allow the substance to be used for medical purposes. Yet, in some areas of our nation, someone can still be thrown in jail for smoking a joint. It's clear that the American people want this policy changed throughout our nation, and they want to see Nixon's failed drug war finally come to an end. Hopefully, our Justice Department will listen to Americans, and create a common-sense, national policy by legalizing pot.
And finally...Florida state lawmakers want to enact term limits. No, not for themselves, or their fellow lawmakers... they're worried that the state's poet laureate could hold that position too long. So, State Senator Dorothy Hukill has introduced a bill to limit the poet laureate's term to four years. Apparently, Senator Hukill isn't concerned with the fact that the position is unpaid, and consists only of reading poetry at state functions. She's just doing her part to ensure that these poets don't get too cozy in their positions, and start acting complacent and entitled. After all, Floridians don't want to hear their poet laureates read poorly-written poetry, or silly, meaningless limericks. I bet Florida taxpayers are thrilled to see their dollars being used to draft this important bill, and boot the long-standing poet laureate out of office. There's just one problem... that position is currently unfilled. Oh Florida, I'm sure you're proud.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, October 23, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.