IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Up all night for climate in the U.S. Senate; Alaska's iconic Iditarod race struggles without snow; California breaks solar power records; PLUS: 3rd anniversary of the meltdown at Fukushima, and the legacy of nuclear disaster ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climatologist who predicted California drought 10 years ago says it may soon be ‘even more dire’; Daylight Savings Time could be costing billions yearly in electricity; Canadian tar sands oil gets new route across US; IEA: wind and solar can carry bulk of energy transformation; New ozone-depleting gases found in atmosphere; Get ready for El Nino...maybe; What slowdown? NASA says long-term warming likely to be significant; Duke CEO: All customers to pay for coal ash cleanup ... PLUS: 'Pollution burden' much higher for California's minority populations ... and much, MUCH more! ...
WASHINGTON (AP) --- With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama's health care law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months --- or calendar quarter--- of 2013.
That translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million people [who previously did not have health insurance, now] getting coverage.
Gallup said the share of Americans who lack coverage is on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level it measured since 2008, before Obama took office.
The survey found that almost every major demographic group made progress getting health insurance, although Hispanics lagged.
The Gallup poll is considered authoritative because it combines the scope and depth found in government surveys with the timeliness of media sampling. Pollsters interview 500 people a day, 350 days a year. The latest health care results were based on more than 28,000 interviews, or about 28 times as many as in a standard national poll.
The survey can be an early indicator of broad shifts in society. Gallup saw a modest decline in the uninsured rate in January, and now two full months of data indicate a trend is taking shape.
Gallup said the drop coincides with the start of coverage under the health care law on Jan. 1.
While The BRAD BLOG has been no particular fan of ObamaCare, and has long advocated for a "Medicare for All" type single-payer system, (we've long been loud supporters of a much better and more moral system than that offered by "ObamaCare", and still are) the facts about ACA are the facts.
In addition to the continuing fall in the number of uninsured Americans, we also noted last November that the rise in the cost of health care has been the flattest in U.S. history during the three years since the passage of the law. And, on a personal note, last December I detailed the ObamaCare "nightmare" I suffered by spending less than an hour on the CA state exchange website to sign up for a new plan with the same health care provider I had previously, and saved $300/month ($3,600/year) in the process.
Yes, if I was a Republican I'd want to pretend "ObamaCare" was a disaster and do everything possible to repeal it as well.
Some encouraging news to begin your week, along with apologies to Ian Millhiser for running his short and sweet piece in full, but I'm off the grid for much of today and would like to flag his main point here...
The poll is the second blow in just one week to Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), who campaigned in 2010 on his support for voter ID, a common voter suppression law. Last Wednesday, an Iowa judge permanently struck down Schultz's attempt to purge voters from the voter rolls on suspicion that they could be non-citizens.
Millhiser may be more bullish on the American people "getting it" than I am. The Rightwing "voter fraud" propaganda has run long and deep, and (unlike The BRAD BLOG) both Democrats and progressives in general took way too long to begin responding to the insidious and very well organized voter suppression strategy by Republicans. Still, I hope he's right and I'm wrong, and that, like so many other issues, the American people will get it right once they truly understand the facts of the long-running and effective GOP scam.
The data points Millhiser cites are encouraging, however, and are in line with a general anecdotal assessment I offered in January, as based on responses from Reddit commenters to the Pennsylvania court that nixed the Keystone State's disenfranchising and unconstitutional polling place Photo ID restriction law passed into law by Republicans there last year.
And, one more point, since the piece above discusses Iowa: A reminder that when the GOP in the Hawkeye State were able to run any type of election they wanted (without having to worry about running afoul of state or federal law or Constitutional issues) in their own 2012 GOP Iowa Caucuses, they chose to not require their own voters present Photo ID before participating, despite working very hard in the year prior to require such restrictions for all voters in the general election.
(In a related point, the Iowa GOP also chose to use hand-counted paper ballots, rather than optical-scan or touch-screen computers in their Presidential caucuses that year as well. Thanks only to that public oversight of the balloting the real winner of the 2012 Iowa GOP Caucus was eventually determined. Without those publicly-counted paper ballots, the man who didn't win, Mitt Romney, who was unofficially declared to be the "winner" on election night in Iowa, would have almost certainly have gone on to become the official "winner" as well, despite receiving fewer votes than Rick Santorum.)
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The pioneering blogger and indefatigable, uncompromising and unapologetic critic of all things Rightwing, Terry Coppage, better known to the world as "BartCop", has passed away.
He will be sorely missed --- at least by many of us. "BartCop" has been raising hell, taking names and using the Internet to call out the bad guys longer than the word "blog" even existed, much less became known to the world. He also helped established the concept of political "snark" --- of the most viciously biting kind --- before that word existed either.
Fellow pseudonymous blogger "Digby" of Hullabaloo emails today to say: "Many of us early bloggers 'met' at Bartcop, including Atrios, Avedon and me. He's one of the creators of the liberal blogosphere."
Occasionally --- almost as frequently, if not more so, than actual corporate mainstream news outlets --- The Daily Show produces real journalism.
One such example (among many) was Aasif Mandvi's stinging 2010 report on Nevada's United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union paying temporary non-union workers minimum wage and no benefits to protest Walmart's low wages, lack of benefits and blocking of unions.
Last night on The Daily Show, Mandvi did it again, this time offering a scathing, must-see report on "third-world" health care conditions in...Knoxville, Tennessee...and some stunning Rightwing hypocrisy about it...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Record fine for Big Coal company for 6,000 violations over 7 years; Opportunistic rightwingers push nonsense on Keystone XL; Colorado's Republican US Senate candidates pass climate denier litmus test; PLUS: Keystone XL loses another key supporter ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): China declares war - on pollution; Innovation: Transparent colorful solar cells have arrived; Federal Reserve sees severe weather impact throughout US economy; Americans have no idea how much water they waste; US infrastructure, landmarks threatened by rising sea levels; Britain's cars could run on rubbish... PLUS: Drought: California will learn what Texas did: by the time politicians and residents wake up to their wasteful ways, it’s too late ... and much, MUCH more! ...
On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council voted to join cities like New York and Chicago by banning e-cigarette use in the same public spaces where tobacco use is banned, such as "farmers' markets, parks, recreational areas, beaches, indoor workplaces such as bars and nightclubs, outdoor dining areas and other places where lighting up is banned."
On this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio I spoke with L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) about why they voted to impose the ban, despite the dearth of evidence that e-cig 'vaping' is harmful to either the user or anyone else, and the evidence (include my own personal story) that vaping is, hands down, the most effective way for smokers to stop smoking. In fact, as I describe during the show, I view it as a "miracle" that will save countless lives and that banning it --- or making it harder to vape in any way, without good reason --- will, quite frankly, result in countless unnecessary deaths.
Even Koretz admitted during my interview that there's a "99% possibility" that vaping is "much safer than smoking".
But he was low-balling it, frankly. As you'll hearing during the show, this is a very personal issue for me. But you can decide for yourself if Koretz makes the case for the L.A. City Council's ban. Either way, the ban will only go into effect if Mayor Eric Garcetti approves it. Garcetti can be contacted here.
My great thanks to Koretz for joining us at the last minute, and for sticking around for tough questioning from both me and callers.
UPDATE 3/7/2014: PandoDaily's David Holmes pulls together a lot of the known (and unknown) information about e-cigs and describes the L.A. City Council's ordinance "to treat e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes" as "irrational and bad policy."
[T]his proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke.
As a former president of the American Lung Association, I have seen how e-cigarettes have become the subject of much confusion and misinformation, which has led to a classic case of guilt by association.
E-cigarettes may deliver nicotine and look like cigarettes. But there the similarities end.
Including e-cigarettes in the city's smoking ban would be a step in the wrong direction. It would send the unintended message to smokers that electronic cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional cigarettes, locking many smokers into traditional cigarette use. This is a public health outcome we do not want.
E-cigarettes are a fundamentally different product from combustible tobacco cigarettes and should not fall under the same rules and restrictions. Rather, we should encourage current smokers to move down the ladder of risk by implementing regulations that recognize these differences.
As a society, we should continue our laser focus on eliminating tobacco use. But a premature "regulate first, ask questions later" approach that equates e-cigarettes to combustible tobacco cigarettes only serves as an obstacle to that goal. The Los Angeles City Council should pause its campaign against electronic cigarettes until the FDA experts offer guidance on how the product should be regulated. To do otherwise is to ignore an opportunity to save millions of smokers from a lot of harm.
One of the nation's largest coal producers will pay a $27.5 million fine and is set to spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into waterways across five Appalachian states.
The proposed settlement is the largest ever of its kind.
The Associated Press obtained details before the settlement involving Alpha Natural Resources Inc. was filed in court in West Virginia.
The government says the company and its subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times between 2006 and 2013.
The government says they discharged heavy metals harmful to fish and other wildlife directly into rivers and streams.
The companies agreed to take measures to reduce discharges from 79 active coal mines and 25 processing plants in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
In January of 2011, Alpha Natural Resources, then the third largest coal producer in the U.S., purchased Massey Energy Co. for $7.1 billion to become what Bloomberg News described as "the world’s third-largest metallurgical coal producer" and "the second-largest U.S. coal company by sales, with almost 14,000 employees."
The acquisition happened just months after the horrific April 5th, 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine near Montcoal, West Virginia. 29 people were killed in the explosion, described as "the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years."
As coal and oil families mourned in WV and elsewhere, and as the country watched the unprecedented and unstoppable toxic discharge in the Gulf, it seems that Alpha was quietly poisoning rivers and streams in at least five states and fighting, along with fellow supporters of Big Fossil Fuel, to block the nation's transition to clean, renewable energy.
The question I hear time and time again from audiences who see my documentary film, Broadcast Blues is, "Why did you leave your lucrative career in broadcasting to become a media reform activist?"
The truth is that, once upon a time, I worked in a newsroom where a corporate owner ordered me, a reporter, to skew my reporting to purposely make a man on trial for murder --- look guilty.
In an instant, my entire life changed. The trust I'd had in my news organization vanished. And the deeper I looked into the way corporate owners manage the message they want the public to hear, the more disillusioned I became.
There is more to that story --- so much more --- but you'll have to wait for me to finish my book to get all the chilling details on it.
But this is the kind of story that many reporters could tell, if only they dared. But when they dare, as Jane Akre and Steve Wilson did, they can get fired for telling the truth. (Who can forget the story of these Fox affiliate investigative reporters who tried to report on Monsanto Bovine Growth Hormone being injected into cattle, only for it to then be found in the milk supply, which experts said could cause cancer? WTVT fired them after Monsanto complained to Fox "News" chief Roger Ailes.) The reporters filed a whistleblower suit, and Akre won. But Fox won in the end, by getting a court order that, legally, news does not have to be true. Akre and Wilson lost not only their jobs, but ended up having to pay Fox' attorney fees. (See my story from Broadcast Blues on this case, including courtroom footage here.)
This is the kind of information I suspect the FCC was hoping to tease out in their planned "Multi-market Study of Critical Information Needs" [PDF] which, as I wrote last week at The BRAD BLOG, sparked a right wing firestorm in recent weeks when Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai went public with a Wall Street Journal op-ed accusing his colleagues of "meddling with the news" by simply asking voluntary questions of newsrooms. The study was part of the FCC's statutory requirement to report to Congress every three years, as they have for decades, on identifying "barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses."
The question for reporters from the CIN study that was most disturbing to Pai: "Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?"...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Hundreds arrested at White House --- again --- protesting Keystone XL pipeline; EPA moves to block controversial Alaska mine; New smog standards reduce pollution from tailpipes (and save lives, too); Ancient virus resurrected in the Arctic; PLUS: Unrest in Ukraine exposes energy security vulnerability for Europe... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Energy CEO: Climate change is real, driven by humans; Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada's resource agenda: documents; Flood damage to rise fivefold in Europe; Climate change is preventing ocean heat from escaping in Antarctica; Feds shocked at NC oversight of Duke Energy coal ash ponds; US organic farmers see increasing GMO contamination of their crops; BPA-free plastics may not be any safer for children ... PLUS: Apple CEO's renewable energy 'controversy' underscores need for government mandates ... and much, MUCH more! ...
Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have been uncharacteristically angered recently by an organized movement of Rightwing shareholders demanding that the company stop its investments in green initiatives. Apple has announced its intention of obtaining 100% of its power for administrative operations from clean, renewable energy sources in the not-too-distant future.
"Since taking the helm at Apple in 2011," the UK Independent reports, "Cook has made notable improvements to the company’s use of renewable energy, increasing the use of solar, wind and geothermal resources used to power Apple’s offices from around a quarter of its total energy use to more than 75 per cent."
The company's sustainability initiative reportedly led the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a self-proclaimed "conservative think tank" to demand that Apple "refrain from putting money in green energy projects that were not profitable," the paper reports.
Apple does "a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive," Cook reportedly told the shareholders. "We want to leave the world better than we found it."
"Not everything that Apple does is motivated by money," he said. "If you want me to do things only for ROI [Return on Investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock."
He is said to have added: "When we work on making our devices accessible to the blind, I don't consider bloody ROI."
Good for him. But the episode underscores an important issue and one that is not generally appreciated by well-meaning progressives who would like to see similar actions by more corporate heads. In fact, our particular system of capitalism in this country --- and even the law --- might very well favor the rightwingers from the NCPPR in this argument, rather than Cook and Apple...
The Green Party's candidate for California Secretary of State this year is a strong proponent of Internet Voting. David Curtis, who was also the Green's 2010 candidate for Governor in Nevada, is now running to replace CA's term-limited Democratic Sec. of State Debra Bowen and he's staking out a position that contradicts computer scientists and security experts who warn that online voting cannot be done securely.
Recently, I had a "conversation" with Curtis on Twitter about his advocacy for Internet Voting, after Steven Dorst, an election integrity advocate who follows The BRAD BLOG on Twitter, responded to a tweet of Curtis' declaring his support for an optional "online method of voting".
My enlightening conversation with Curtis follows in full below.
As with electronic touch-screen voting, which is 100% unverifiable in any form, even when done securely --- if there is even a way to measure such things (and virtually all computer security experts have told us for years that there isn't) --- Internet Voting can never been done in such a way that the citizenry can know that its been done securely. Thus, no matter how "secure", Internet Voting is ultimately a threat to confidence in elections and, along with it, representative democracy in the U.S.
Nonetheless, Curtis, like at least one other candidate in this year's SoS race in California, disagrees. He strongly advocates in favor of Internet Voting...
As we discussed during Tuesday's Green News Report, Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of civilization, doesn't mind fracking --- nor the health concerns and property devaluation that come with it --- near your house.
But now he's suing to stop it near his house...or, rather, suing to stop the construction of a 15-story water tower, to be used for fracking, near his $5 million, 83-acre mansion and ranch in Bartonville, Texas.
It will "create a constant and unbearable nuisance to those that live next to it," the lawsuit contends, charging that water used for fracking will lead to "traffic with heavy trucks" that, Tillerson's attorney says, "devalues his property."
After more than 30 years at Mobil (and six months at ExxonMobil under Tillerson, after the two companies merged), Allstadt went on to become a foe of fracking and a vocal proponent of climate change action.
"No one should have to live near well pads, compression stations, incessant heavy truck traffic, or fracking water towers, nor should they have their water or air contaminated," Alstadt writes in his letter to Tillerson, who is otherwise a champion of fracking when its not in his own backyard. "You and I love the places where we live, but in the end, if they are ruined by fracking or frack water tanks, we can afford to pack up and go someplace else. However, many people can't afford to move away when they can no longer drink the water or breathe the air because they are too close to one of your well pads or compressor stations."
Read Alstadt's full letter to Tillerson below. Oh, and thank you for speaking up, Mr. Alstadt...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Cancer clusters found downwind of Canada's tar sands; Nebraska judge rejects Keystone XL tar sand pipeline route; Inspector General finds no conflicts of interest in Keystone XL environmental report; Tesla wants to free you from your electric utility!; PLUS: Can wind turbines really slow down hurricanes?... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Drought & Dystopia in Syria: Vision of Mankind’s Future?; Save the butterflies: limits sought on Monsanto weedkiller; Climate change is coming for your coffee; Acidic waters kill 10m scallops in PacNW; Oil train rail cars unsafe, 'unacceptable'; NY utilities ordered to prepare for climate change ... PLUS: That fresh pine forest scent can also limit climate change ... and much, MUCH more! ...