In today's On the News segment: It hasn't even been a year since the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, but since then almost 10,000 more people have been killed by guns in our nation; in less than two years, there have been almost 300 oil spills in North Dakota; the state of California legalized medical marijuana 17 years ago, and what they've found out has been very interesting; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. It hasn't even been a year since the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. You wouldn't know it by listening to Congress, but since then almost 10,000 more people have been killed by guns in our nation – and that's only what the media has reported. Since Newtown, Slate Magazine has partnered with a twitter group called @GunDeaths to track gun-related fatalities. By crowdsourcing media reports about shootings, they determined that at least 9,900 people have died because of guns. In case that wasn't alarming enough, by analyzing 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control, Slate estimates that the actual number of deaths is over 28,000 – just since that tragic day in December of 2012. And, a new study presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that hundreds of those deaths were children. That study says that about 7,500 kids are admitted to hospitals every year with gunshot injuries, and at least 500 children don't survive. Yet, even in the face of these powerful statistics, Congress can't even pass a bill to require background checks – let alone stronger legislation that could actually prevent some of these tragedies. Many of our elected leaders would sooner work to shut down the government, obstruct proposed legislation, and fight for the corporate elite, than stand up to the gun lobby to prevent the deaths of more innocent children. There are 64 days left in this year, but Congress only plans to work 18 of them. Perhaps lawmakers should stop naming post offices and court houses, and start getting to work on immigration, a real budget, and passing legislation to prevent the deaths of more innocent children.
In screwed news... In less than two years, there have been almost 300 oil spills in North Dakota, but we haven't heard about any of them. A new investigation by the Associated Press discovered the unreported spills, and exposed the fact that North Dakota regulators aren't even required to notify the public when they happen. The AP launched the investigation after a pipeline spilled 20,000 barrels of oil earlier this month, and regulators kept it from the public for 11 days. The increase in oil and gas production in states like North Dakota has made spills more likely, but the development of toxic fuel pipelines is outpacing the creation of rules to regulate them. To make make matters worse, the oil and gas companies are left to themselves to determine the construction routes of new oil pipelines, and the maintenance of older ones. State and local regulators just aren't prepared to regulate the thousands of miles of pipelines popping up around our nation. If we needed more proof that Keystone XL is a bad idea, this new report provides it. Americans are demanding that we're kept informed about toxic chemicals being spilled in our nation, and that we stop the construction of even more dangerous pipelines.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The state of California legalized medical marijuana 17 years ago, and what they've found out has been very interesting. Not only were ominous warnings about increased crime and drug abuse wrong, but that state has seen the opposite occur. And, legalization brought a rise in tax revenue and a boost to local economies. In fact, research conducted in that state found that legalizing marijuana led to a decrease in alcohol abuse, and found no evidence of higher pot use among teens. For marijuana consumers, the legalization resulted in an expanded market and cheaper prices, and the taxes imposed by many local communities did not push users to buy from drug dealers, as many predicted. A recent Gallop poll found that 58 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, and it appears the state of California has proven that the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to making pot legal.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels around our nation are trending higher. In the South West, Skull Valley, Arizona is seeing levels of 70 counts per minute, and levels in Henderson, Nevada are spiking at 75. On the East Coast, Graham, North Carolina is experiencing spikes of 56 counts per minute, and Robbinsville, New Jersey is averaging 43, with spikes in the mid-60s. RadCast.org reminds us that alert levels are 100 counts per minute, and it appears we're edging closer to those levels in some parts of our nation.
The ACLU may finally have a chance to challenge government surveillance. The New York Times has confirmed that our government will prosecute a suspected-terrorist – and they will use information obtained from spying on the internet. Until now, the Justice Department claimed they had legal justification to keep the source of information a secret. But, a decision from the Solicitor General earlier this month said the DOJ has to tell defendants they are being prosecuted based on a warrantless wiretap. Now the ACLU and other civil rights organization can show how someone can be harmed because of the secret surveillance. This is a rare opportunity to prove that these programs violate the constitutional rights of those being spied on, and weaken their ability to defend themselves in court. Slowly but surely, these programs are being exposed, and now there's a chance they could be declared unconstitutional.
And finally... Three new vertebrate species have been discovered in Australia. A leaf-tailed gecko, a gold-colored skink, and a boulder-dwelling frog were all found in the so-called "lost world" in Northern Queensland. The location is deep in a remote mountain range, where an unexplored rainforest is surrounded by giant, black granite boulders. A team of scientists had to be taken to the forest by helicopter, and they set out to survey the region. They quickly discovered the new creatures, and suspect that they were once common when more of Australia was covered by rainforest. One of the scientists described the gecko as "the strangest new species to come across my desk in 26 years."
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, October 29, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.