In today’s On the News segment: Many Americans oppose NAFTA and other trade deals, but they haven't even heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; the Virginia election still isn't over, and it's now down to provisional ballots in that state's Attorney General's race; the Senate Intelligence Committee just approved a bill requiring public disclosure of civilian drone-strike fatalities; and more.
Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Many Americans oppose NAFTA and other trade deals, but they haven't even heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison describes the TPP as the "largest corporate power grab you've never heard of." Despite 19 rounds of negotiations that started all the way back in 2005, many of the details of the TPP still remain secret, even to members of Congress. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a massive trade agreement among 12 nations, including the US. And it's being negotiated by government trade officials and corporate lobbyists. Representative Alan Grayson said that the TPP is "a punch in the face to the middle class of America," and added, "but I'm not even allowed to tell you why." The deal would give multinational corporations the right to challenge our laws and regulations if firms believe those laws limit their "expected future profits." Not only would this trade agreement threaten American jobs, but it could seriously harm our national sovereignty. Regulations that protect workers, set environmental standards, or limit risk for consumers could be challenged if corporate greed isn't allowed to reign supreme. Despite all of these dangerous possibilities, Americans are being kept in the dark about the TPP, and trade negotiators don't even want Congress weighing in. They're demanding so-called "fast track" authority, which would block any changes to the law, and only allow our elected leaders an "up or down" vote. Unions, consumer protection groups, environmental activists, and even members of Congress are calling for changes to the law, or a flat-out rejection of the entire deal. For the sake of our nation, these groups are working to inform more Americans, and fighting to stop the TPP while we still have a chance.
In screwed news... The Virginia election still isn't over, and it's now down to provisional ballots in that state's Attorney General's race. And, to make matters worse, Republican officials changed the rules mid-vote-count, to make it even harder for those provisional ballots to be counted. Before this election, if a race was down to provisional ballots, the Virginia Board of Elections would hear arguments from an attorney, who stood in for the voter in question, and argued why their vote should be counted. However, the Republican-dominated Election Board changed the rules on Friday, to require that the voter must also be present to defend their vote. People who work hourly jobs may not be able to afford more time off from work, and people who are unaware of the recent rule change may not even know that they have to show up. This is how Republican operate – they know that they can't win fair and square, so they purge voters, change voting laws, and rewrite the rules after the election has already happened. Right now, Democratic candidate Mark Herring is leading by a little more than 100 votes, but under these new rules, anything could happen.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Senate Intelligence Committee just approved a bill requiring public disclosure of civilian drone-strike fatalities. In addition, the measure demands that our government takes steps to reduce civilian casualties, and provides legal protections for intelligence-community whistleblowers. Now, those protections do not apply to military contractors, so they wouldn't protect the next Edward Snowden. But, the bill would provide incentive for government employees to report waste, fraud, abuse, or illegal activity to an inspector general, or a member of a congressional intelligence committee. It's unclear whether the measure would be approved by the full Congress, but it was passed 13 to 2 by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Just the fact the this bill is even being considered shows why whistleblower protections are so important. Without people like Snowden and Chelsea Manning, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels calmed down a bit in our nation since yesterday. In Huntsville, Alabama, levels are sitting at 42 counts per minute, with spokes of 47, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is hovering at 45. Charleston, West Virginia is slightly higher, with levels of 63 counts per minute. In the Midwest, Frederic, Wisconsin is seeing levels of 61 counts per minute, and South Dakota is hitting 52. Closer to the West Coast, levels in Chino Valley, Arizona are being reported at 51 counts per minute, and Fresno, California is hitting 56. RadCast.org reminds us that the alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they're working hard to keep us informed.
And finally... Recently, a parody-news site called The Daily Currant wrote up a spoof report about Sarah Palin and the so-called war on Easter. Well, it didn't take long for Palin to say something even more ridiculous than the satirical piece. Over the weekend, at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition fundraiser, Sarah Palin delivered a speech to promote her new book: "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas." During her speech, she railed against "zealot-like" atheists who belong to the "church of big government," and warned about our national debt causing the return of slavery. After talking about plastic baby dolls and "Orwellian double-speak," Palin concluded with the phrase, "God don't make no junk." We have no idea what all that means, but somewhere the comedy gods are rejoicing.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, November 12, 2013. I'm Jim Javinsky, sitting in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.