In today's On the News segment: States have lost $1.76 billion dollars since Congress allowed long-term unemployment benefits to expire; religious groups are standing up for reproductive rights; ten cities are teaming up to fight climate change; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. The Republican Party really doesn't get women – and they don't understand what's important for our nation either. On the very day they picked a woman to give the State of the Union response, they also passed legislation to limit women's access to healthcare. On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to block private insurance coverage of abortion in any plan purchased through the healthcare exchange. Obviously, this anti-choice measure is not likely to make it through the Senate, and even if it did, it would likely be vetoed by President Obama. This legislation was simply a way for Republicans to pander to their base. It is already against the law for taxpayer money to pay for abortion, it's called the Hyde Amendment, but that's not strong enough for Republicans. They think their time is best spent trying to deny women their legal right to a safe and sometimes-necessary medical procedure, when the majority of Americans want Congress focused on important issues like jobs, immigration, and our economy. Representative Louis Slaughter said, "Yesterday, we saw two visions for America play out on the House Floor – President Obama and Congressional Democrats' vision for economic opportunity and jobs, and the House Republicans' vision for telling American women what they can and can't do with their bodies." Denying women access to abortion is not going to bring back jobs in our nation, it's not going to stimulate our economy, and it's not going to restore benefits for the long-term unemployed. If Republicans want to re-fight the battles of previous decades, that's one thing, but how about they deal with the important fights of our time first.
In screwed news... State economies are suffering because Republicans refuse to extend unemployment. According to the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, states have lost $1.76 billion dollars since Congress allowed long-term unemployment benefits to expire. In the first week alone, states lost $400 million dollars from their economies, and that number grows by the week. In addition, there are now four million people struggling to survive without this meager aid, and there are more than two million children living in a household with at least one parent out of work. The Republicans continue to block efforts to extend unemployment benefits, and their obstruction is hurting our economy, our families, and our fellow Americans.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Religious groups are standing up for reproductive rights. On Wednesday, religious leaders from several different faith traditions held a press conference on what they call "reproductive justice." These church leaders have joined with secular groups to form a new coalition called "It's Time to Talk," which is focused on "a new way forward" on issues like contraception, abortion, and comprehensive sex education. In an interview with the Think Progress Blog, Reverend Harry Knox said, "For too long, the extreme Religious Right has dominated the public conversation about religion and sexuality." He added, "But the truth is that most people of faith, like the majority of Americans overall, support contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and reproductive health care – including abortion." These religious men and women join a long list of faith leaders who have worked to protect reproductive rights, and their brave work will make a difference.
According to RadCast.org, levels are still calm in most areas today, but another wave of radiation is expected to hit our nation in the next couple of days. Charleston, West Virginia is reporting 43 counts per minute, with spikes of 67, and Salisbury, Massachusetts is averaging 45, with highs of 72 counts per minute. Frederick, Wisconsin is sitting at 46 counts per minute, with spikes of 80, and Layton, Utah is hovering at 46, with highs of 78 counts per minute. Chandler, Arizona is reporting 49 counts per minute, with spikes of 77, and Borger, Texas is sitting at 38, with highs of 70 counts per minute. Chico, California is hovering at 32 counts per minute, with spikes of 68, and Seattle, Washington is averaging 31, with highs of 50 counts per minute. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, however they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
Ten cities are teaming up to fight climate change. Salt Lake City, Boston, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Orlando are working together to cut climate pollution, and save up to one billion dollars a year on energy bills. Their effort has been called the City Energy Project, and they're working with environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council to create tailored plans to cut carbon emissions. The City Energy Project will work to improve energy efficiency in city buildings, encourage private investments in "common-sense solutions", reduce energy consumption in public buildings, and promote transparency and competition in energy-related markets. The President of NRDC said, "[These cities] know they must act now to make their cities more sustainable and resilient. They will be paving the way for others to follow."
And finally... In case you ever wondered... Professional exorcists say that you can't expel demons via Skype. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Bob Larson – an Evangelical Christian Reverend – says he performs exorcisms through the web service, but others say it's just an internet scam. Reverend Isaac Kramer of the International Catholic Association of Exorcists said, "They just can't be done that way...It would be like trying to perform a baptism on someone through the telephone." According to the internet-exorcist's website, Skype exorcisms are "your chance to receive ministry...from the quiet and comfort of your own home," and his blog suggests that pop star Katy Perry should consider getting one. In our technological age, it's almost surprising that the internet-exorcism question hasn't popped up before. If you want to avoid someone trying to rid you of your demons, I hear you may want to stay away from user "GovBJindal."
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, January 30, 2014. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.