Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Yesterday, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings released the full transcript of a five-hour hearing on the IRS's alleged targeting of Tea Party Groups. And – it proves everything Congressman Cummings has been saying all along – the White House was not involved in deciding which groups were required to provide additional information to the IRS before getting tax-exempt status. Congressman Cummings released the 200-page document after charging that House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa has misrepresented the Committee's findings by saying they found evidence of “Washington involvement.” According to the transcript, the only Washington-based IRS officials who reviewed the applications were part of a technical specialty group that was handling the case because it was “high-profile”, and working to ensure the all similar applications were processed in a uniform manner. Chairman Issa released a statement saying he was “deeply disappointed that Ranking Member Cummings has decided to broadly disseminate” the transcript, and says it will “serve as a roadmap for IRS officials to navigate investigative interviews with Congress.” However, his concern did not prevent his office from releasing portions of the transcript that deceptively imply White House involvement. Congressman Darrell Issa has purposely blurred the line between a tech-support group located in Washington, D.C. and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Congressman Elijah Cummings has made a bold attempt to shed light on the situation, but it's doubtful that anything – even the blatant truth – will stop Darrell Issa from pursuing this political witch hunt.
In screwed news... Drilling for toxic tar sands oil has resulted in one of the largest environmental disasters in North American history. A massive leak of poisonous waste-water in Alberta, Canada has killed every plant and tree in a 1,000 acre area. During the drilling process, water is heated, and laced with strong chemicals to break down the tar sands sludge. That toxic water is then pumped into the ground, so that oil can be pumped back up to the surface. Although the leak was discovered on June 1st, the Texas-based Apache Corporation did not reveal the extent of the damage for 12 days. The Apache corporation estimates that 2.5 million gallons of radioactive, heavy-metal-laced waste-water have been spilled, and there is no way to repair the damage or completely remove the chemicals from the environment. The news of this leak comes as President Obama is considering the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump toxic sludge right through our communities. Tar-sands opponents are hoping that this disaster in Alberta is enough to convince our President to finally say “no” to Keystone XL.
In the best of the rest of the news...
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a lot of heat over his attempt to ban large, sugary sodas. But, Bloomberg and the mayors of 15 other U.S. cities are trying another approach to limit these drinks in an effort to fight obesity. The mayors are reviving an attempt to prohibit the purchase of soda and sugary drinks with food stamps. Mayor Bloomberg released a statement about the proposal, saying, “Why should we continue supporting unhealthy purchases in the false name of nutrition assistance?” Mayor Bloomberg and then-governor David Paterson attempted such a ban back in 2010, but the USDA denied their request to add sugary drinks to the list of items that cannot be purchased with food stamps. In this latest effort, Mayor Bloomberg also expressed concerns to the USDA about proposed cuts to food stamp funding, and suggested the agency provides recipients with more incentives to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. This effort may not get Mayor Bloomberg any more support than his proposed soda ban, but he is not giving up on his fight to prevent obesity.
California lawmakers want to regulate the fracking industry. On Tuesday, state legislators told oil industry lobbyists and regulators that they want more information on the use of acid in the fracking process. Oil companies use hydrofluoric or hydrochloric acid to clean out well bores and fracture the rock to release natural gas. According to Reuters, the use of this acid appears to be more extensive in California, and there are currently no state regulations on the dangerous chemicals. State Senator Fran Pavley has expressed concerns that hydraulic fracturing could contaminate California's water tables, and she is working on legislation to regulate fracking. Senator Pavley is now also considering broadening her legislation to include acid. Environmentalists have been focused on the danger of using these acids, and have been calling for additional research. It appears California lawmakers have been listening, and that they may finally put some common-sense regulations on the fracking industry.
Florida voters are not happy with Senator Marco Rubio's handling of immigration and gun issues. A new poll from Quinnipiac University revealed that 41 percent of Florida voters disapprove of Rubio's stance on immigration, and 49 percent of Floridians viewed him less favorably after his vote against background checks. Overall, 58 percent of those questioned say they approve of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and the overwhelming majority support background checks on gun sales. Somehow, Senator Rubio still has support from a slim majority of voters in his state, as 51 percent say they approve of the job he is doing as Florida's junior senator. It will be interesting to watch this trend as the Senate considers future proposals, and see how Florida voters react to Marco Rubio's refusal to support the legislation they demand.
And finally… A Freedom of Information request has revealed some interesting police reports in the U.K. According to the record, police in the county of Nottinghamshire have received 97 calls about aliens, monsters, werewolves, zombies, and witches in the past three years. Police actually responded to 13 of the 49 calls they received last year, but none of the sightings were confirmed. Some say Nottinghamshire is one spooky place, and others highlight the fact that alcohol was involved in many of the other-worldly sightings.
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, June 19, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.