Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. When 50 Tea Party members show up in Washington, the national media falls all over themselves to cover the so-called rally. But, when thousands gather to protest NSA spying, there's not a peep in the corporate news. That's exactly what happened over the weekend, when thousands converged on our nation's capital to be part of a “Stop Watching Us” protest. The event was sponsored by a large coalition of organizations from every part of the political spectrum – the ACLU to the Libertarian Party. Protesters gathered at Union Station, and marched to the reflecting pool at the Capital, carrying signs and chanting against mass surveillance. The event included ex-politicians, activists, whistle blowers, and even a punk band... yet it was virtually ignored by the mainstream media. Almost every day more news breaks about another invasive program, or another world leader who was targeted by the NSA – so, a rally like this should draw broad national coverage. Thousands of people stood together to demonstrate that Americans are furious about their privacy rights being violated. And, the bipartisan makeup of the group shows that anger over the NSA is not limited to one political party. Throughout history, nonviolent protest has been one of the most effective ways to push our elected leaders to listen to the will of the American people. But first, we have to push the mainstream media to start paying attention.
In screwed news... Some of our nation's largest retailers see genetically engineered salmon as a bad idea, but the state of South Dakota only sees dollar signs. Huge chains like Target and Traders Joe's have refused to sell the biotech fish in their stores because of consumer concerns, but South Dakota State University is helping to cover up health and environmental risks. The fish was developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies, which has partnered with the University to conduct field trials of the genetically engineered salmon. The United State Fish and Wildlife Service has blocked those trials until the fish is determined to be safe, but the Food and Drug Administration is already considering approval. And, they're using research conducted by the company that engineered the fish to make their final decision. The public advocacy group, Food and Water Watch, has tried to get their hands on the controversial scientific research, but so far they've been blocked from informing the public. Food and Water Watch has filed a legal complaint to gain access to this important research, and they are urging the FDA to keep genetically modified fish off our tables and out of our food supply.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Dark money groups illegally funneled $15 million dollars into California to fight ballot proposals in that state. The two groups, Americans for Responsible Leadership and the Center to Protect Patient Rights, have direct ties to the Koch brothers. They spent millions in California to fight a tax increase ballot measure, and to support a proposition that weakened unions' political power. And, they got busted. In order to avoid more serious charges, the groups agreed to a settlement earlier this month, which fined each of them a half a million dollars. The state of California is also going after the political groups that received the funds, demanding that they return the illegally-obtained $15 million dollars. They have until the end of next month to hand over the money, which will be added to California's general fund. Of course, the parties involved claim that the illegal contributions were simply an error, and the groups say they had no intention of violating campaign funding rules. But, that's quite a convenient error. Since the Citizens United ruling, so-called social welfare groups have spent more than $350 million dollars in federal elections. We can only imagine how much more was funneled into campaigns illegally.
Our government won't tell us about radiation, but the RadCast, brought to you by No Nukes NW, is keeping us informed. On the East coast, the daily radiation levels are 38 counts per minute in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 43 in Salisbury, Massachusetts, and 26 in Durham, North Carolina. But, near the West coast, counts per minute are much higher. The readings in Raleigh Hills, Oregon and Fresno, California were both 50 counts per minute, and radiation spikes were even higher. RadCast explains that the nuclear site alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they're monitoring daily to keep us safe.
Groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others have documented numerous civilian casualties from US drone strikes. Many of these groups have called for compensation for the families of these innocent victims, to help rebuild homes, replace belongings, and pay restitution for so-called collateral deaths. And it turns out that a relief fund already exists, but none of the $40 million dollars that's been allocated has reached the victims. For the past four years, our government has set aside $10 million dollars a year to assist Pakistani drone strike victims. But, most of that money is being handed over to NGO groups like the International Relief in Development, which does not assist drone victims. If we're already setting aside this money to help the victims of drone strikes, someone in our government needs to start seeing it actually reaches them.
And finally… There's an enormous floating barge in San Francisco, and it has some techies pretty suspicious. The barge holds a giant building, crafted out of modern shipping containers, and the tech-savy crowd says it belongs to Google. Anonymous sources told CNET news that the barge is part of Google's new plan to sell their “Google Glass” technology. Apparently, Google plans to bring the barge to various cities as a unique way to sell their new products. It's always great marketing to create a buzz about a new technology, but considering that the company has already been linked to government spying – perhaps creating suspicious floating buildings isn't the best way to go about it.
And that’s the way it is today – Monday, October 28, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.