In today's On the News segment: Denton, Texas is taking on the fracking industry; the Federal Communications Commission won't stand up for internet freedom; nearly 100,000 people are about to lose their healthcare in Arkansas; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. The Federal Communications Commission won't stand up for internet freedom. On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he will not appeal the recent court ruling that struck down net neutrality. Instead, the commission will attempt to regulate internet providers on a "case-by-case basis." In addition, the Obama Administration announced Tuesday that the president cannot order the FCC to reclassify internet providers as so-called "common carriers." Overall, it appears that the President and the FCC are siding with giant corporations, rather than the millions of Americans who demand a free and open internet. Since net neutrality was struck down last month, there have already been numerous reports of internet traffic being slowed down by carriers, in a blatant attempt to extort more money from content providers like Netflix. To make matters worse, Comcast also announced a merger with Time Warner, which would give that carrier even more extreme power to create a pay-for-play internet. Instead of protecting our right to freely exchange ideas and information on the web, our government appears ready to allow corporate control of the internet, and the creation of an another monopoly. Apparently, more than a million people speaking out against the recent net neutrality ruling wasn't enough to wake up government officials. We must keep this movement growing, and keep demanding that our internet freedom is protected.
In screwed news... Almost 100,000 people are about to lose their healthcare in Arkansas. On Tuesday, 70 members of that state's House of Representatives voted to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, but that wasn't enough votes to make it happen. Under Arkansas's outdated 1934 state constitution, lawmakers must have a three-quarters supermajority to appropriate or spend more than 2.5 million dollars. So, even though a strong majority of legislators approved the funding, 100,000 people will lose their healthcare on the 1st of July because five state lawmakers decided that hating our president is more important than people's lives. The Red-state doughnut-hole has already left five million Americans without healthcare, but Arkansas Republicans must think even more people should have to suffer. It's time for people in Arkansas to speak out and demand better from their politicians.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Denton, Texas is taking on the fracking industry. On Tuesday, the Denton Drilling Awareness Group announced that they are collecting signatures to put a fracking ban before voters in the next election. The group needs to collect 571 signatures in 180 days to get this measure on the ballot, but organizers expect to far-exceed that mark. Sharon Wilson of Earthworks Texas has been working with the group since 2009 to get the city of Denton to enact regulations to protect residents, but so far, their efforts have all been blocked. Ms. Wilson said, "Enough is Enough. When this ban passes, the fracking industry will have its own bad behavior, and [the] city's stonewalling, to blame." Regardless of which state you live in, it's incredibly difficult to stand up to the oil and gas industry, but that task is especially daunting in Texas. If voters approve this ban, and kick the frackers out, they would set and example that every city in America could follow.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are still calm in most areas of our nation, but a few places are reporting some high spikes. Durham, North Carolina is reporting 30 counts per minute, with spikes of 44, and Salisbury, Massachusetts is averaging 68, with highs of 110 counts per minute. Farmington, Minnesota is sitting at 40 counts per minute, with spikes of 62, and Rapid City, South Dakota is hovering at 39, with highs of 55 counts per minute. North Portland, Oregon is reporting 32 counts per minute, and Petaluma, California is averaging 44 counts per minute, but neither area is reporting any spiking levels. RadCast's alert level is 100 counts per minute, however they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
St. Mary's College is setting an example that every business in America should follow. Students and faculty at that Maryland university are trying to tie their president's paycheck to the salaries of their lowest-paid workers. Currently, the president of St. Mary's University, Ian Newbould, makes $325,000 dollars a year, while the school's janitors earn less than $25,000. Students and teachers say that the president's salary should not exceed 10 times what janitors earn. The faculty is supposed to vote on the issue today, and if it passes, it will then advance to the school's board of trustees. President Newbould's salary is not as high as many university presidents, who often bring home more than one million dollars a year. However, students are attempting to highlight the fact that executive pay at universities has been growing, while resources for students have been cut, and compensation for lower level staff has been shrinking. Unlike a hard-line pay cap, a ratio cap helps to reign in the cost of executive salaries while lifting pay for low-level staff. St. Mary's has an opportunity to do right by students and faculty, and to show other universities and businesses that a janitor's work is just as important as an executive's.
And finally... Last week, Gary James, the owner of a restaurant in Enid, Oklahoma made headlines for his hateful anti-gay and racist comments. Since then, social media users have taken to the internet to give the Chicaro Club some interesting reviews. Rather than complain about the restaurant's service, food, or hateful owner, people have posted some fabulous feedback on sites like Yelp and Google. One user wrote, "Love this place, it's so gay the 'r' in Gary is silent." Another wrote, "THIS PLACE IS GOP GAY HEAVEN!!! My advice for any closet case? Stand your ground and check out Chicaro Club!" It looks like Mr. James can expect lots of new business thanks to all this positive feedback. However, his new clientele may be a lot more interesting than his hateful regulars.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, February 20, 2014. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.