Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Over the weekend, a massive hostage situation unfolded in a Kenyan shopping mall, and at least 62 people have been killed in the standoff. At least 175 people, including many children, were also injured in the shootout. And, authorities are unsure how many people are still being held captive by the Islamist gunman who stormed the complex on Saturday. The gunman are part of the militant group known as Al Shabaab, who have been pushed out of a region of Somalia by an African Union-backed peacekeeping mission. According to the Associate Press, the rebels said that the attack on the mall is retribution for Kenya's military action against Islamic militants. The nephew of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was killed in the mall attack over the week, but the president vowed to continue the "war on terror" in Somalia. On Sunday, large explosions rocked the area surrounding the mall, which security officials said were caused by Kenyan forces blasting a way into the mall. As of Monday, smoke was still rising from the complex., and Kenyan forces were still working to free the remaining hostages. Officials pleaded with the militants to negotiate, and even offered incentives, but al-Shabaab refused to deal with the Kenyan government. Kenyan Interior Secretary Joseph Lenku said that resolving the situation is "delicate" because the militants still have some hostages. Secretary Lenku said, "The priority is to save as many lives as possible." Hopefully this deadly situation in Kenya will come to an end very soon. Stay tuned.
In screwed news... Congress has only one week to agree on a continuing resolution, or the government will shut down. Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution which funds the government only if Obamacare is delayed by another year. In all the uncertainty about government funding this week, the only sure bet is that the House's plan will not happen. The Senate democrats, and President Obama, will never agree to legislation that defunds the healthcare law. As this week begins, the Senate will strip that provision out of the continuing resolution, and will likely vote on funding the government. While Republican senators may not be able to stop the Obamacare provision from being removed, Senator Ted Cruz has threatened to block any resolution that doesn't contain it. If he does, Congress may have a difficult time meeting the deadline on government funding. There's no winner in this political game if the government shuts down. Republicans in Congress will be blamed for the chaos, and the American people will be hurt by the economic consequences.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Vermont could be the next state to guarantee people can take time off from work when they're sick. On Friday, more than 100 workers, lawmakers, and activists rallied in support of a new bill, which would require employers to give workers up to seven paid days off per year. Although similar legislation has failed in the Vermont House of Representatives earlier this year, lawmakers in that state think it has a good chance of passing this time around. According to the Think Progress Blog, about 60,000 Vermont residents don't have paid sick days at work, which is about 40 percent of private sector workers in that state. Employees who can't stay home with a cold often pass it along to their coworkers, as well as to the customers they serve in businesses and restaurants. Or, workers risk losing their jobs or going without pay if they happen to be under the weather. Paid-sick-day advocates in Vermont are fighting to end this practice, and ensure sick workers can take time off to get better.
Pope Francis did it again. On Sunday, during a meeting with a group of unemployed workers, the Pope abandoned his prepared comments and railed against economic inequality. Pope Francis has previously spoken out against harsh austerity policies that are harming millions around the world, but at this speech on the island of Sardinia, the Pope condemned the "god of money" and today's "economic culture." The pontiff said, "We throw away grandparents, and we throw away young people. We have to say no to this throwaway culture. We want a just system that helps everyone." He explained that the focus on profits over people marginalizes the youth and the elderly, and creates a "hidden euthanasia" that neglects those who need our help. In some of his strongest remarks against economic injustice, Pope Francis called on the world to focus more on helping people, and less on the love of money. Hopefully, world leaders were listening.
And finally... Ever since Colorado legalized the use of recreational marijuana, a group called No on Proposition AA has been fighting to stop pot sales from being taxed. But, in the wake of the horrific flooding in that state, organizers came up with a new plan to help the people of Colorado. On Monday, volunteers will give away free joints to their fellow residents to provide a little relief from the stress of the massive flooding, and try to raise awareness for their no-taxation cause. According to their press release, No on Proposition AA says, "Flood relief doesn't stop at clothes, medical supplies, food and shelter; people lost their pot too!" It may sound like a joke, but after dealing with the deadly flooding, the people of Colorado could certainly use some much-needed stress relief.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, September 23, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.