You need to know this. While the media was focused on Chris Christie and “Bridge-gate”, Congress moved closer to accepting a massive, international trade agreement. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators proposed legislation to give the Obama Administration the power to fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership and other controversial trade deals. The White House welcomed the fast-track proposal, and issued a statement saying, “We need to use every tool we have to knock down trade barriers.” If this legislation passes, the President could push through the TPP and other deals, and Congress would only get an up or down vote on whether or not to approve them. The TPP is the largest of these proposed deals, as it includes the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations, and nearly all of its provisions have been negotiated in secret. The few sections of the TPP that have been leaked have exposed the danger of this trade deal – to our jobs, our environment, our civil rights, and even our national sovereignty. This massive trade agreement would even allow mega-corporations to challenge U.S. regulations that stand in the way of their unfettered greed. We don't need free trade, which drives down wages and sends more American jobs over seas, we need fair trade. And, we certainly don't need to give corporations any more power to put profit over people. Congress must never give up their power to debate and amend trade agreements, and they must stop the Trans Pacific Partnership from destroying our jobs, our civil rights, and our national sovereignty.
In screwed news... Republicans in Missouri began the new legislative year with a bang. Rather than starting the year off focusing on new jobs or boosting their economy, Right-wing lawmakers in that state are fighting to pass “right-to-work-for-LESS” legislation. Despite the fact that Governor Jay Nixon has promised to veto that bill if it should pass, Republican House Speaker Tim Jones is pushing forward with the anti-labor legislation. For years, the Missouri Republican Party has been advocating so-called “right-to-work” bills, like those recently passed in Indiana and Michigan. Workers in states that have enacted “right-to-work-for-LESS” have seen their yearly wages decline by an average of $1500, and their health benefits and pensions get slashed. These bills do nothing but benefit big business and destroy unions, and the voters of Missouri need to make it clear that they will not accept any “right-to-work-for-LESS” laws from their legislators.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The governor of New York has made a big commitment to renewable energy. On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his NY-Sun Initiative will invest $1 billion dollars in new funding for solar energy projects over the next decade. That program has already installed about 300 megawatts of solar capacity since it started in 2012, and Governor Cuomo hopes to install another 3,000 megawatts with this new investment. He explained, “That's enough solar to power 465,000 New York homes, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 million tons annually – the equivalent of taking almost 435,000 cars off the road – and create more than 13,000 new solar jobs.” In addition to the ten-year program, Gov. Cuomo unveiled a $40 million competition to boost the development of community micogrids, and another public-private program to come up with a renewable heating source for New York. These programs will go a long way towards helping the people of New York with energy prices, and towards putting their state on the path to a cleaner future.
According to RadCast.org, waves of radiation have moved into other parts of the country, causing levels to spike in many regions. Charleston, West Virginia is averaging 43 counts per minute, with spikes of 73, and Salisbury, Massachusetts is sitting at 45, with highs of 76. Spearfish, South Dakota is reporting levels of 60, with spikes of 88 counts per minute, and Lakewood, Colorado is hovering at 65, with highs of 101. Fresno, California is sitting at 42, with spikes of 70 counts per minute, and Tucson, Arizona is averaging 50, with peaks up to 154 counts per minute. Seaside, Oregon is seeing an average of 33 counts per minute, with highs of 61, and Seattle, Washington is sitting at 30 counts per minute, with spikes of 59. RadCast.org's alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
The Environmental Protection Agency is making fracking companies disclose their use of toxic chemicals. But, only for fracking companies that are drilling in federal waters. The EPA established a new rule requiring gas and oil companies to publicly report the dangerous chemicals used during the fracking process, which are typically dumped into the open ocean. Environmental groups would prefer that the EPA require all fracking wells to report their pollution, or ban them from drilling in the ocean entirely, but at least some of these companies will finally have to reveal the toxic make-up of their fracking sludge.
And finally... Australia's national science agency has apologized to a seven-year-old girl named Sophie for failing to make her a fire-breathing dragon. Sophie asked her parents for a pet dragon for Christmas, and was told that such a gift isn't possible. So, she wrote a letter to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization asking the scientists if they could make her a flying dragon. She wrote that she would name the dragon Toothless if it was a girl, after the friendly dragon in a famous book series, or Stuart, if it was a boy, after her father. The scientists issued her a formal apology, saying, “we've missed something...over the past 87 odd years we have not been able to create a dragon or dragon eggs.” The story didn't end there, however, as the scientists sent Sophie her very own dragon, made from titanium on a 3D printer. It may not fly or breath fire, but they said, “We couldn't sit here and do nothing. After all, we promised Sophie we would look into it.”