In today's On the News segment: Republicans want to protect tax havens for billionaires; Freedom Industries finally admitted that a second chemical may have contaminated the water supply in West Virginia; the Presidential Commission on Election Administration has suggested a list of changes to reduce long-lines and chaos at the polls; and more.
Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Republicans want to protect tax havens for billionaires. They don't want the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act to go into effect later this year. The FATCA is an agreement with banking officials in Switzerland, the U.S., and the Cayman Islands aimed at fighting international tax evasion. While the vast majority of Americans support making it more difficult for billionaires to stash money overseas, the Republican National Committee actually wants to "complicate or delay implementation" of the FATCA. In a recent interview with Reuters, RNC member Solomon Yue said he is proposing a repeal of the FATCA as a new plank for the 2014 Republican Party Platform – and it clearly shows who that party really represents: billionaires. These overseas tax havens cost our nation about $300 billion dollars every year – enough to cover the cost of the entire food stamps budget, long-term unemployment insurance, reversing all of the sequester cuts to date, and still have about $100 billion dollars left over. Republicans think that pleasing the billionaires who fund their campaigns is way more important than making sure that Americans aren't going hungry or ending up on the street. Their blatant efforts to protect tax havens should eliminate any doubt that Americans had about who the Republicans really work for. Now it's time to elect lawmakers who work for the rest of us.
In screwed news... Twelve days after West Virginia residents learned about a massive chemical spill, Freedom Industries finally admitted that a second chemical may have contaminated the water supply. In addition to 7,500 gallons of the coal-cleaning chemical MCHM, the Elk River may have also been contaminated with 300 gallons of PPH – which is also a skin and eye irritant. Gary Southern, the president of Freedom Industries, did not disclose the second chemical to state officials until almost two weeks after the original leak was reported. However, Mr. Southern managed to find the time to file for bankruptcy before reporting the additional leak. Because of these chemicals, almost half a million people had to struggle to find safe drinking water, yet Freedom Industries' executives were only worried about skipping out on financial responsiblity. Almost two weeks later, residents still are being told to drink the water at their own risk. It's time that someone be held accountable.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration has suggested a list of changes to reduce long-lines and chaos at the polls. The bipartisan commission released their recommendations on Wednesday, and their list strikes at the heart of many voting restrictions put in place by Republicans. The Commission suggested common-sense reforms like online registration, mail-in ballots, and expanded early voting. This report shows what it takes to increase access to the polls, and why Republicans have fought so hard to close precincts, eliminate registration drives, and reduce early voting hours throughout our country. They don't want more people showing up to vote. It's that simple. And – that's exactly the reason why we must do everything in our power to protect our right to vote.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are starting to come down from the high levels we've seen in recent days, but many areas are still quite high. Salisbury, Massachusetts is averaging 45 counts per minute, with spikes of 88, and Taylor, South Carolina is sitting at 39, with highs of 76 counts per minute. Lakewood, Colorado is hovering at 65 counts per minute, with spikes of 107, and Layton, Utah is averaging 45, with highs of 74 counts per minute. Fresno Bay, California is reporting 41 counts per minute, with spikes of 72, and Olympia, Washington is averaging 27 counts per minute. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
Get ready for another economic standoff, because the next debt limit fight is right around the corner. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that our nation will reach the debt ceiling "by late February", and he called on lawmakers to act soon. In a letter to congressional leaders, Secretary Lew wrote, "I respectfully urge Congress to provide certainty and stability to the economy and financial markets by acting to raise the debt limit before February 7, 2014, and certainly before late February." Unfortunately, it's practically a guarantee that Republicans will hinge any increase to a long list of demands. The only thing left to wonder is what we will have to sacrifice to protect our nation's credit rating.
And finally... One company is taking a major stand to protect internet freedom. The online movie company Netflix is threatening to mobilize their 44 million customer if internet providers slow down Netflix streams. In response to the recent net neutrality ruling, Reed Hastings, Netflix' CEO, said, "In principle, a domestic ISP now can legally impede the video streams that members request from Netflix, degrading the experience we jointly provide." He added, "Were this draconian scenario to unfold with some ISP, we would vigorously protest and encourage our members to demand the open Internet they are paying their ISP to deliver." When the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down net neutrality, they opened the door to a pay-for-play internet. Because of that ruling, internet providers could charge companies like Netflix more for their content, or charge users more to access it. This poses a huge threat to free speech and the free exchange of ideas, and it's great to see Netflix joining the fight to protect a free and open internet.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, January 23, 2014. I'm Jim Javinsky, in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.