In today's On the News segment: It's illegal for an employer to intimidate workers trying to form a union, but apparently it's just fine when a lawmaker does it; there is much more methane leaking into our atmosphere than EPA estimates have indicated; the science is in – background checks save lives; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. It's illegal for an employer to intimidate workers trying to form a union, but apparently it's just fine when a lawmaker does it. On Friday, workers at a Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted against joining the United Auto Workers union. However, that vote may have turned out differently if workers weren't pressured by Republican Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker. In the days leading up to that vote, Governor Haslam warned that we would take away Volkswagen's state tax incentives if workers unionized, and Senator Corker claimed that a "no" vote would lead to the production of a new SUV at that plant. Volkswagen flatly denied Corker's claim, and expressed their support for the workers, but that wasn't enough to relieve the fear created by these powerful lawmakers. The UAW issued a statement saying, "We're outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union." And, they may ask the National Labor Relations Board to overturn Friday's vote. For decades, we've seen corporations fight to block workers from organizing, but these extreme anti-worker tactics are a new low for powerful lawmakers. Hopefully, the NLRB will overturn this vote, and give workers a chance to make their decision without intense pressure from those in public office. Either way, it's clear who Governor Haslam and Senator Corker really work for, and every voter should remember that in the next election.
In screwed news... There is much more methane leaking into our atmosphere than EPA estimates have indicated. A new analysis by universities, national laboratories, and government agencies found that methane emissions in our country are consistently much higher than previously reported. Adam Brandt of Stanford University, who was the lead author on this recent study, said, "Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates. And that's a moderate estimate." Considering that methane is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a green house gas, these emissions are having a huge impact on our environment. The natural gas industry claims that methane is clean energy, but Mr. Brandt says, "it is not likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Although running cars and homes on natural gas can improve air quality, pumping all of this methane into our atmosphere has a negative impact on our environment. It's time to stand up to the natural gas industry's lies, and make the switch to real green energy in our country.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The science is in – background checks save lives. A new study from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that murder rates in Missouri have increased 16 percent since that state repealed it's "Permit-to-Purchase" law. That law used to require that all handgun purchasers obtained a "permit-to-purchase," which verified that they had passed a criminal background check. With the help of the National Rifle Association, state legislators eliminated that permit requirement in 2007, and reduced wait times for gun purchasers. According to researchers, there were between 55 and 63 more gun murders every year because that law was repealed. The study even accounted for changes in policing, unemployment, poverty, and other factors that could have contributed to violent crime. The study's lead author, Daniel Webster, said, "This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence." It's that clear, and it's exactly why we must fight for stronger gun regulations.
According to RadCast.org, a radiation leak was detected at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico over the weekend. Department of Energy officials say the leak poses no danger to human health or our environment, but nuclear watch dogs are monitoring the situation closely. In addition, heavy snowfall brought high radiation spikes to some areas. Salisbury, Massachusetts is averaging 52 counts per minute, with spikes of 90, and Aspen, Colorado is reporting 72 counts per minute, with highs of 106. Rapid City, South Dakota is sitting at 44 counts per minute, with spikes of 68, and Chico, California is hovering at 30, with highs of 46 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.
California lawmakers want to put warning labels on sugary drinks. State Assemblyman Bill Monning has introduced legislation to require drinks with high sugar content – like sodas and juices – to warn consumers that, "Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay." Mr. Monning said, "When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers." He argues that just like tobacco and alcohol, consumers need this vital information to make healthier choices. Some may argue that people are aware of the sugar content in soft drinks, however, many juices and drink products that are advertised as healthy actually contain large amounts of sugar. Although the Right-wing will attempt to mock this legislation, Americans should have the right to know that the product they're consuming poses a serious risk to their health.
And finally... We may now know why our lawmakers won't act on climate change. According to a recent report from the National Science Foundation, many Americans don't understand basic science. NSF gave 2200 people in the US a list of basic science questions, and the average score was only 6.5 – only slightly better than a failing grade. Fewer than half of those questioned accepted that humans evolved from earlier species, and only 39 percent agreed that the universe was created with a big bang. About a quarter of those surveyed thought that the sun revolves around the Earth, and only one in three said that science programs should get more government funding. This study explains a lot about why lawmakers keep trying to debate scientific facts, but it does not explain how on Earth people like them manage to get elected.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, February 17, 2014. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.