Republican Border Bill Passes, Court Deals Blow to Unions, Ebola Comes to the U.S. and the U.S. Fails Internationally

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Late Friday, House Republicans passed a bill to address the U.S. Mexico border crisis by sending migrant youths back home without hearings meaning that more than half a million immigrants could be deported even though the Obama administration granted temporary work permits, according to Erica Werner, House OKs bill to address border crisis. President Barack Obama condemned the Republican action saying he would act unilaterally as best he could. The new bill, which tea party lawmakers enthusiastically support, provides $694 million and carries a companion measure to shut off a program created by Obama granting work permits to immigrants brought here illegally as kids. The second bill prevents the more than 700,00 people who’ve already gotten work permits under the program from renewing them making them subject to deportation. The sending bill passed Friday 223-189 with four Republicans voting no and one Democrat voting yes. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. explained, “It’s dealing with the issue that the American people care about more than any other, and that is stopping the invasion of illegal foreign nationals into our country. And we got to yes.” While Obama said no adding, “They’re not even trying to solve the problem. I’m going to have to act alone, because we do not have enough resources.” The move in the House came as the first day of lawmakers’ five week summer recess happened and Senators had already left Washington after killing their own legislation on the crisis. Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said, “It would be irresponsible and unstatesmanlike to head home for the month without passing a bill to address this serious, present crisis on the border.” According to Werner: “In the end Republicans only lost four of the most conservative members on the vote: Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Paul Broun of Georgia, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee and Walter Jones of North Carolina. The only Democrat to support the bill was moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas.”The GOP plans met with protest from immigration advocates and Democrats with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., saying, “If you tell people that you think they’re criminals, that you think they’re simply bringing diseases, that they’re bringing drugs, then you treat them as invaders, they kind of think you don’t like them. They’re going to believe you don’t like them, and they’re not going to vote for you.” The bill adds $35 million more for the National Guard as well as increase spending for overwhelmed border agencies, add more immigration judges and detention spaces, and alter a 2008 anti-trafficking law to permit Central American kids to be sent back home without deportation hearings.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court upheld the 2011 law that ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election and rise to national prominence, Scott Walker reports, Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Collective Bargaining Law. Thursday’s 5-2 ruling is a victory for Walker who is considering a 2016 run for president and re-election this year and marks the end of a three year legal fight over union laws prohibiting public worker unions from collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation. A federal appeal court twice upheld the law as constitutional and the high court ruled in a lawsuit, filed by Madison teachers union and a union representing Milwaukee public workers, that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection. Walker introduced the proposal shortly after taking office in 2011 causing teachers, public workers and their supporters to flood the Capitol for weeks in order to block the passage. In addition, Democratic state senators fled the state for two weeks in a failed attempt to block the bill’s passage. The law bars automatic withdrawal from members’ checks, require annual elections to see if members want their unions to represent them and requires public employees to contribute to their health insurance and pension costs, which help local governments and schools save money to deal with cuts to balance the state’s shortfall, according to Walker. Walker faced a recall in 2012, but became the first governor ever in U.S. history to defeat a recall. The union law has been challenged on several fronts since it was introduced, but withstood them all. The state Supreme Court decided to take the case on Thursday after a Dane County judge sided with the unions and ruled in September 2012 that major portion were unconstitutional.

Internationally, on Thursday and Saturday, hospital officials said a U.S. humanitarian aid worker and two American doctors who contracted Ebola in West Africa will be transferred to the United States and treated in a special high security ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Reuters reports, US aid worker infected with Ebola to be moved to Atlanta hospital: official. The aid worker will be moved in the next several days to a special isolation unit set up in collaboration with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is one of only four in the United States. An American doctor infected with Ebola arrived in Atlanta on Saturday landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base then took to the isolation unit at Emory, Ray Henry reports, US doctor with Ebola arrives in Atlanta for treatment. it marks the first time a patient with Ebola has entered the country for treatment with a second American aid workers expected to arrive at Emory in days. U.S. based Samaritan’s Purse paid for the transport and confirmed to the Associated Press the patient was Dr. Kent Brantly. The ambulance took him to the hospital among a wide open Interstate with no traffic flanked by SUVs and police cars then the patient was taken into the building at Emory by people in white protective clothing. The hospital is down the hill from the CDC. Dr. Jay Varney, an infectious disease specialist at Emory charged with Brantley’s care, said the hospital’s isolation unit is well equipped to handle patients with the disease. He added, “Ebola is only transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. Unlike the flu, like influenza, which we deal with every winter, Ebola cannot be spread through the air.” Ebola has no cure. Dr. Philip Brachman, an Emory University public health specialist who for many years headed the CDC’s disease detectives program, said Friday: “That’s all we can do for such a patient. We can make them feel comfortable” and let the body try to beat back the virus.”

While treatment for the infected begins, the U.S. has issued a travel warning for Americans going to the three West African countries hit by the Ebola outbreak and the World Health Organization deals with the spread in West Africa. On Thursday, U.S. health officials warned Americans not to travel to the area, Mike Stobbe reports, US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries. The advisory applies to nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the deadly disease has killed more than 700 people this year. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the warning, said “The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa” adding that Ebola is “a tragic, dreadful and merciless virus.” The purpose of the warning is to limit U.S. travelers use of overburdened hospitals and clinics for injuries or other illnesses. Stobbe reports that the outbreak has a 60 percent fatality rate so far with no vaccines or specific treatment available. The CDC has 20 staffers at U.S. airports and border crossing to evaluate any traveler showing signs of dangerous infectious diseases, and isolate them when necessary. The agency is prepared to increase that staffing if needed, he said. Back in West Africa, World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan said Friday that the outbreak is out of control but can be stopped, Tom Miles reports, Ebola Out Of Control But Can Be Stopped: WHO Chief. Chan told the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast at a meeting in Guinea’s capital Conakry: “This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries. This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response.” The death toll so far is at 729 including 60 healthcare workers and 1,323 cases overall. Chan added that “Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes. We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises. Moreover, public attitudes can create a security threat to response teams when fear and misunderstanding turn to anger, hostility, or violence.” The reason for the quick spread is due to cultural practices such as traditional burials and deep seated beliefs.

In Washington, while the CDC tackles a potential international debacle, President Barack Obama acknowledged on Friday that the United States conducted torture in the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks, the AOL article reports, Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’ After 9/11 And We Have To Take Responsibility For It. Obama said, “I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. We crossed the line and that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so we don’t do it in the future.” In addition, Obama told reporters at the White House that a Senate investigation into interrogation techniques used by thew CIA would be declassified in August. According to the new CIA Inspector General’s Office report, agency employees in 2009 hacked Senate computers used to compile the investigation leading many lawmakers on the Hill to call for CIA Director John Brennan’s resignations over the matter.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton confessed he could of killed Osama bin Laden, but decided against it due to the number of civilians who also would be killed just hours before the 9/11 attacks, Mollie Reilly reports, Bill Clinton, Hours Before 9/11 Attack, Said He ‘Could Have Killed’ Bin Laden. On Wednesday, Sky News host Paul Murray released a previously unreleased audio recording of Clinton talking to Australian businessmen on September 10, 2001: “Osama bin Laden — he’s a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him, and I nearly got him once,” Clinton says in the tape, answering a question about terrorism. “I nearly got him. And I could have gotten, I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children. And then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.” The 9/11 Commission Report in 2004 identifies several operations targeting bin Laden in the 90s which prompted critics to accuse Clinton of not doing enough. During a 2006 interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Clinton defended his administration’s efforts saying: “I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we’d have more than 20,000 troops [in Afghanistan] trying to kill him.”

The Catastrophic Effects of Man-made Pollution

beaches

According to the 24th annual report released by Natural Resources Defense Council, one in 10 U.S. beaches are dangerously polluted making them unsafe for swimmers. The environmental advocacy nonprofit collected 3,500 water samples from American beaches and evaluated the specimens using the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water safety standard known as Beach Action Value. The BAV sets the threshold for water quality at American beaches to protect swimmers from pollution mostly from sewage overflow and contaminated storm water runoff, the HuffPost’s Sara Gates reports in her article 1  In 10 U.S. Beaches Are So Polluted They’re Not Safe For Swimming. NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine explained to USA Today that: “Results in this year show uptick in failure rate at 10 percent nationwide, but this reflects a newer, more health-protected (standard of safety test). If we were to compare to the old defunct standard, it would have been about 7 percent of samples; which tells us we’re stagnating in terms of progress of water protection.” Gates reports, according to the finding, the NRDC found 17 repeat offenders or beaches that failed the public heath standard in more than 25 percent of its water quality samples in the past 5 years e.g. several polluted beaches in Indiana, New York and Ohio. Ranking the highest in polluted beaches was the Great Lakes followed by the Gulf Coast and New England. As for the least polluted, the NRDC labeled 35 U.S. beaches as all stars as they all met the national benchmark for water quality 98 percent of the time over the last five years including waterfronts in 14 states such as California and Virginia.

While water pollution is a major concern all over the world especially the United States, fracking has become increasingly worrisome as the frequency of earthquake increases in areas where earthquakes rarely happened, if at all, e.g vast stretches of prairie across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. In recent years, Oklahoma has recorded nearly 150 earthquakes between January and the start of May with most being too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives. However, these temblors have rattled nerves and raised suspicions enough to start to question their connection with the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater, according to Emily Schmalland Kristi Eaton’s article States Confront Worries About Fracking And Earthquakes. Due to the increasing complaints from residents over the years, governments in three states are confronting the issue by reviewing scientific data, holding public discussion and possibly implementing new regulations. The states with few earthquakes historically are trying to reconcile scientific data with the interests of their citizens and the oil and gas companies. Regulators from each state met in March in Oklahoma City to exchange earthquake information and discuss toughening standards for the lightly regulated business of fracking water disposal. In Azle, Texas where hundreds of small quakes have happened, the residents went to the state Capitol earlier in the year to demand action by the Railroad Commission who are the chief oil and gas regulators. In response, the commission hired the first ever state seismologist and lawmakers formed the House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity, reports Schmalland and Eaton. After Kansas had 56 earthquakes between last October and April, the governor appointed a three member task force to address the issue.

While the frequency of earthquakes is troubling, fracking also generates large quantities of wastewater even more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into injection wells sending it thousands of feet underground. Scientists wonder whether this process could trigger quakes due to increasing underground pressure or act as lubricant for faults. In addition, injection well operators could be pumping either too much water into the ground or pumping it at exceedingly high pressures e.g data published by the Railroad Commission earlier this month found ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy has pumped 281,000 gallons or 94 tanker truckloads of wastwater into Azle wells every day for two years. In recent weeks, Oklahoma has experienced 145 quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater from January to May 2,2014, the Oklahoma Geological Survey reports. Fortunately, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has approved new testing and monitoring regulation for injections wells that take effect in September requiring well operators to collect daily information on well volume and pressure. Nationwide, the United States has more than 150,000 injections wells and only a handful have been proven to induce quakes according to the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Moving from active drilling and pumping to derelict oil wells and gas wells, a study of the latter in Pennsylvania found that hundreds of thousands in the states may leak methane suggesting that wells across the country may be a bigger source of climate changing greenhouse gases than previously thought. According to Mary Kang’s study, a Princeton University scientist, 19 abandoned wells were found leaking various amounts of methane with hundreds of thousands of such oil and gas wells, abandoned and plugged, in Pennsylvania and many more across the country. The problem Bobby Magill reports, Derelict Oil Wells May Be Major Methane Emitters, is that these wells go unmonitored and are rarely checked for leaks. Over the past three years, numerous studies suggest that crude oil and natural gas development especially in shale formations are significant sources of methane leaks. Scientists believe that there is inadequate data available for them to know where all the leaks are and how much methane is leaking due to the fact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas inventory does not fully include these derelict sites as they are not monitored. Over a 100 year span, methane is 34 times more potent as a climate change greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Even more troublesome is its potency over 20 years which is 86 times. Of all the greenhouse gases emitted by humans worldwide, methane is more than 40 percent of all radiative forcing, a measure of trapped heat in the atmosphere and a measuring stick of changing climate. Kang found that the wells leak so much methane that if the leaks from all the abandoned wells in Pennsylvania are added up that the percentage would be between 4 and 13 percent of human caused methane emissions in the state, according to Magill. However, more studies need to be done to fully understand how common the leaking wells are in the state and how much methane they emit. According to the historical record and the study conducted, there are between 280,000 and 970,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. Kang found that state regulations are inadequate at controlling methane emissions from abandoned wells due to the rules focusing on containing fluids, not gases and the plugged wells are not required to be monitored closely over time.

Amish Beard Cutters Sentenced Friday

Amish Beard Cutters Sentenced Friday.

I guess no one escapes judgement not even the Amish. On Friday, the ring leader in the hair and beard cutting attacks on fellow Amish was sentences to 15 years in prison and 15 family members were sentenced to one to seven years in prison. The U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster said in sentencing Sam Mullet Sr. 67 that the victims were terrorized and traumatized. He continued is saying that each of the defendants had benefited from the First Amendment and had violated their fellow Amish constitutional rights protecting religious practices such as jury service exemption and allowing Amish children to leave school at 14.  The judge concluded by informing the defendants that they had two weeks to file an appeal which the defense has already indicated such action. Mullet, the ring leader of the group in question, said before his sentencing that if his community is seen as a cult he would take the punishment for everyone and conveyed to the courtroom, victims and his family alike, that he has only tried to help people. The government had asked for a life sentence, while the defense asked for two years or less, so 15 years seems pretty fair. The 10 men and women were involved in five attacks last year in Amish communities in 2011. The attacks according to the government were retaliations against Amish who defied or denounced Mullet’s authoritarian style. The Amish believe the Bible instructs women to grow long hair and men to grow beards once married as a result cutting it would be offensive to the Amish. The Federal prosecutor Bridget Brennan urged the judge to punish Mullet adequately as he is a danger to this community and can control these 15 defendants. U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, said he believes the law would withstand constitutional challenge by the defendants and that the sentence for Mullet was appropriately harsh and his conduct in court shows his lack of remorse and respect for the law. The defendants were charged with a hate crime because prosecutors believe religious differences brought on the attacks. Nine of the ten men are locked up waiting sentencing, while the six women who have children were freed on bond. Mullet’s family doesn’t believe that is was a hate crime and that all of the victims had their hair grow back. Arlene Miller sees it differently as her husband an Amish bishop was attacked. She believes that Mullet deserved a tough sentence and the others should get cult-deprogramming counseling. In the end, there were no winners and no happy endings in the case.