Walmart drops thousands of part-time employees from its health insurance plan in the week after widespread protests against the company's labor practices, the Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case about whether corporations may patent human genes, corporate profits accounted for a record slice of US GDP last quarter, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Walmart employees are once again getting a raw deal from their employer. Just weeks after thousands turned out on Black Friday to protest against the retail giant's labor practices, Walmart is responding by kicking thousands of their employees off their health insurance plan. According to the new Walmart policy obtained by the Huffington Post, Walmart will deny health insurance coverage to all employees currently working fewer than 30 hours a week. Routinely, Walmart forces their workers into part-time schedules, working fewer than 30 hours a week, which means many will lose their health insurance under this new policy. When asked for comment by the Huffington Post on how many workers will be affected, Walmart declined to answer. Walmart is the largest private retailer in the world, but their workforce is also the largest recipient of federal benefits in the nation, as workers don't make nearly enough money to make ends meet and are forced to go on food stamps and Medicaid. With this new policy, even more workers will be forced into welfare programs. The fact that Americans are being paid poverty wages by the biggest corporations in the world is a sign that there are major dysfunctions in our current "free market" economy.
In screwed news... More bad news for planet Earth. Rather than decreasing the amount of carbon pollution in the atmosphere year-to-year, we're all increasing it. A new study released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project consortium finds that carbon emissions around the world increased 3% from last year, rising to 38.2 billion tons of carbon, or roughly 2.4 million pounds of carbon pollution every single second. According to the study's authors, at this rate of pollution, the Earth's temperature could rise anywhere between 7 and 11-degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, bringing with it freak weather, rising oceans, and worldwide famine. Right now, world leaders are meeting in Doha as part of a UN-effort to curb climate change. Let's hope our leaders understand what grave danger our planet is in – and take bold action to say "no" to transnational carbon corporations, and "yes" to future generations.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Corporations are living high off the hog under President Obama. New GDP numbers show that third-quarter corporate profits rose 18.6% from a year ago to a total of $1.75 trillion. In fact, under President Obama right now, corporate profits as a share of GDP are higher than they've ever been in the nation's history. At the same time, workers' wages as a share of GDP are at their lowest level ever recorded. Republicans say President Obama is bad for business, but the facts suggest otherwise. Corporate capitalism is ripping this nation apart, and needs to be regulated and augmented by new cooperative business models that put workers and communities first.
Corporations want to claim ownership of the most basic building blocks of life, and the Supreme Court may just let them. Last Friday, the High Court agreed to hear a case on whether or not corporations can patents human genes. The case centers on the company Myriad Genetics, which has tried to patent two genes related to breast cancer, thus giving that company a monopoly on genetic tests for breast cancer. While a court in 2010 blocked the patents, another decision this year agreed with Myriad Genetics that the genes can indeed be patented. Now it will be up to the Supreme Court to issue the final ruling. The ACLU argues that since genes are "a product of nature" they shouldn't be patentable. And the Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation said, ""The government does not have the right to give a corporation the exclusive power to control what we know about our own genetic makeup." A ruling is expected in June...stay tuned.
Is fracking responsible for killing off an alarming number of livestock around the nation? Authors of a new report looked into 24 different case studies in six different states where hydraulic fracking is taking place, to find out why livestock is getting sick and dying. Their conclusion: it's the fracking chemicals! For example in Louisiana, the study found 17 cows that died after being exposed to spilled fracking chemicals for only one hour. In central Pennsylvania, after 140 cattle were exposed to fracking chemicals, half died. And in western Pennsylvania, after a nearby pond used by pregnant cows was contaminated with fracking chemicals, half the calves born were dead. And if this is what fracking is doing to animals, what might it be doing to people? As the study's author says, "[Exposed livestock] are making their way into the food system, and it's very worrisome...They live in areas that have tested positive for air, water and soil contamination. Some of these chemicals could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals." Several nations in Europe have already banned fracking, including France and Bulgaria, while the UK has suspended the practice. It's time for lawmakers to come to their senses in the U.S. and put an end to toxic fracking.
And finally...we all know it was a tough election for Mitt Romney, but it was an even tougher election for Sheldon Adelson. The casino mogul, who spent more money on this election than any American on any election in history, actually spent more than we all previously thought. According to two Republican fundraisers, Adelson dropped as much as $150 million into this election – and today he has absolutely nothing to show for it. Adelson is currently two federal investigations into his international casino business, where it's alleged he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing Chinese officials. Adelson had previously hinted that he was supporting Romney in hopes of putting an end to President Obama's Justice Department's investigations. While Adelson wasn't successful in buying the election of 2012, he came way too close. We need to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision – not just for the good of our democracy, but also to maintain our ability to prosecute businessmen who commit crimes in foreign countries. Go to MoveToAmend.org.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, December 03, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.