In today's On the News segment: Seventeen executives, including American citizens, working with Chevron and oil rig contractor Transocean have been charged with crimes against the environment in Brazil, next week - the most corrupt US Supreme Court in modern history will begin hearing arguments against Obamacare, he NYPD is keeping tabs on progressives, Republican plan to kill the USPS is working, and more.
You need to know this. Brazil is going to great lengths to protect its commons. Seventeen executives, including American citizens, working with Chevron and oil rig contractor Transocean have been charged with crimes against the environment in Brazil after an oil spill off the coast poured about three thousand barrels of oil into Brazilian waters last November. If found guilty – the corporate executives could face up to 31 years in prison. The lead prosecutor in the case told Reuters he was tired of big oil corporations escaping accountability for ruining the environment saying, "We need to change the parameters. If companies don't listen to millions, we have to ask for billions." After the spill – Brazilian authorities immediately suspended all of Chevron's drilling operations and banned the corporation from further oil explorations off the coast. Transocean is a familiar name – it was the corporation operating the Deepwater Horizon oilrig that exploded in the Gulf back in 2010 – leading to the death of 11 workers and the worst ecological disaster in American history. But that's where the similarities between Brazil and the United States end. Because unlike Brazil - where corporate oil-industry criminals are actually arrested and held to account – not one corporate executive in the U.S. has yet been charged for their role in the death of 11 people in the Gulf and the permanent destruction of coastal ecosystems. And even worse, BP continues to expand its drilling operations in the the deep waters of the United States like nothing ever happened.
Obamacare turns two-years-old today. Because of Obamacare, 2.5 million new young people now have health insurance – 50,000 Americans with pre-existing conditions, who were previously turned down by health insurers, now have health insurance – 5.1 million senior citizens are saving $3.2 billion on prescription drug costs – and 20.4 million women now have better access to mammograms and other forms of preventative care. Unfortunately – all these Americans who are benefiting from Obamacare could be screwed. Next week – the most corrupt US Supreme Court in modern history will begin hearing arguments against Obamacare, and Republican House budget chairman and multi-millionaire Congressman Paul Ryan's new budget calls for a full repeal of Obamacare – taking health insurance coverage away from 48 million Americans. The movement toward making healthcare a basic right in American – like it is in every other developed nation on Earth – still has a lot of hurdles to clear.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The NYPD is keeping tabs on progressives. On the heels of a report showing the NYPD routinely spied on young Muslims all around the Northeast, new documents show that the NYPD was also infiltrating anti-war and anti-death penalty activists back in 2008, as well as spying on high-profile American progressives. For example – as the AP reports – back in April of 2008, an undercover NYPD agent attended the "People's Summit" in New Orleans, a gathering of liberal groups opposed to so-called Free Trade agreements – and kept a detailed police report including names of attendees. There's no evidence, however, that the NYPD had a similar monitoring program to keep an eye on Tea Partiers who strapped guns to their legs and called for a violent revolution. Then again, the Tea Party, with their fancy buses and expensive sound stages, was organized and paid for by billionaires and lobbyists, while progressives were operating on a shoestring.
Following a no-confidence vote by Sanford city commissioners over his handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting death – the city's police chief, Bill Lee, Jr., announced in a press conference Thursday that he is temporarily stepping down from his position. Lee told reporters that he has become a "distraction" and that he hoped his stepping down would "restore calm to the city of Sanford." Lee did, however, defend his department's actions in not investigating George Zimmerman, who chased 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month before gunning him down in the street. Now, nearly a million people have signed an online petition calling for the arrest of Zimmerman. Meanwhile – the American Legislative Exchange Council, the NRA, and Wal Mart – the entities that wrote Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law back in 2005 to maximize their own profits and protect themselves from lawsuits – have yet to even acknowledge the consequences of their reckless legislation.
Mitt Romney is going to have a tough time in a general election defending his call to "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." After a surge of early sales this year, American car manufactures are on pace to sell 14 million cars in 2012 – their best year since 2007. President Obama took a lot of heat for his decision to give a rescue package to Detroit nearly three years ago when the car companies were on the verge of going belly up. Mitt Romney was one of the lead critics of the auto bailout – writing an op-end in the New York Times calling for Detroit to go "bankrupt." Then again, maybe Romney thinks he'll just be able to erase those comments when the general election starts...just like an Etch-A-Sketch.
And finally...the Republican plan to destroy the United States Postal Service – and its half a million unionized employees– and replace it with private mail carriers like UPS and Fed-Ex – is working. Ever since Republicans in Congress and President George W. Bush passed a poison-pill law in 2006 requiring the USPS to prefund an employee health benefits program to the tune of $5 billion a year for future employees who aren't even born yet – an obligation that no other business or government agency has ever had to do – the post office has been hemorrhaging cash and looking into shutting down post offices and laying off workers across the nation. Next week – the Senate is expected to take up legislation that would end 6-day-delivery of mail – leading to even more layoffs. Senator Bernie Sanders is now pushing back against that bill – fighting to preserve 6-day-delivery and end the Republican poison pill. The USPS has been around since the nation was born – having been created by Benjamin Franklin. Let's not let Republicans destroy this critical American institution.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, March 23rd, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.