Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. As of Thursday, Syrian officials said their country had become a full member of the Chemical Weapons Convention, however U.N. officials reacted with caution. One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, "I think there are a few more steps they have to take [before Syria is signatory of the convention]." As of now, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is suggesting a 30-day delay before submitting chemicals weapons data, but the U.S. and other nations say that the turnover of these weapons must be timely, verifiable, and complete. After meeting with his Russian counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry said diplomatic efforts to prevent a military strike were "constructive," but warned "this is not a game," and "there ought to be consequences if [the handover of chemical weapons] doesn't take place." Secretary Kerry kept the threat of military action alive, and said, "the words of the Syrian regime, in our judgment, are simply not enough." At this time, it's unclear whether President Assad will agree to a shorter time frame, or whether Russia and other nations will continue to cooperate while the threat of military action remains on the table. A spokesman for the U.N. said they received an "accession document" from Syria, which expressed their commitment to the international chemical weapons ban, and currently, it is being studied. In the meantime, Secretary Kerry set up further diplomatic discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and the United Nations envoy to Syria. Those discussion will take place in New York later this month, and they will move on to setting up a peace conference, if Syria has began following through with their commitments. No one said that these diplomatic efforts would be easy, but many are hopeful that efforts will be successful, and keep our nation from starting another war.
In screwed news... On Thursday, Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the District's "living wage" bill. The legislation would have forced large employers to pay a higher hourly rate than small businesses in the area, and may have kept Wal-Mart from building new stores within the district. Mayor Gray announced the veto in a letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, in which Gray called the bill a "job killer," and said that instead he will support increasing the minimum wage for all employees. However, he failed to mention the amount of the wage increase he will support, or when such legislation might come forward. Mayor Gray wrote, "If I were to sign this bill into law, it would do nothing but hinder our ability to create jobs, drive away retailers, and set us back on the path to prosperity for all." Proponents of the living wage bill argue that the only jobs it would kill are those that don't pay a living wage, and that the bill would have saved taxpayers on the cost of subsidizing companies like Wal-Mart.
In the best of the rest of the news...
On the very day that D.C.'s living wage bill was vetoed, the California legislature approved a substantial increase to that state's minimum wage. On Thursday, democratic lawmakers in the Golden State agreed on a measure to bring the minimum wage up to $10 an hour by 2016. Many Republican legislators opposed the bill, saying it would hurt small business, but it passed in both the State Senate and the Assembly, and Governor Jerry Brown has promised to sign it. Governor Brown said, "The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs. This legislation is overdue and [it] will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy." It may sound like a lot, but $10 an hour has less buying power than the minimum wage in 1968. However, it's a great improvement for those trying to survive on California's $8 an hour minimum. Many Americans commend California lawmakers for taking a step toward better pay, but, they say our nation still has a long way to go to get to wages people can actually survive on.
More than forty percent of Americans can't afford to go to the dentist. On Thursday, during a hearing by the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Senator Bernie Sanders announced plans to change that statistic. Senator Sanders aims to introduce new legislation, which will expand dental insurance coverage to millions of Americans through Obamacare, Medicaid, Medicare, and the V.A. Dental insurance would help millions of people gain access to preventative care, and save taxpayers money. Senator Sanders said, "When people cannot get to a dentist when they need one, they often end up in emergency rooms. It just doesn't make sense for us to spend so much money on those who wind up in hospitals, but refuse to help people get the care they need before it's too late." Thanks to Obamacare, people now have access to preventative care, which can identify and treat problems before they become more dangerous, and more expensive. Senator Sanders clearly sees that it only makes sense to ensure that preventative dental care is included.
And finally...Robert Vicino thinks there's no reason to be uncomfortable after the apocalypse. So, the California man is building a 2-million square foot doomsday bunker, complete with a wine bar, a golf course, a spa, and a dance floor. And, he's selling space in his "underground resort" at $20,000 per family. Mr. Vicino is building the bunker in Atchinson, Kansas, and says he hopes it will be completed before doomsday. Of course, he doesn't plan to wait until end times to rake in a profit, and he wants to "turn it into a 24/7 resort where our members can go until the moment of truth." Apparently, the wealthy must have the finer things in life, even in a post-apocalyptic world. After all, we couldn't expect the rich to wait for rapture without a wine bar and a golf course.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, September 13, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.