Two Virginia media outlets are pushing gubernatorial candidates to lift a ban on uranium mining in Virginia while ignoring the state's particular vulnerability to environmental and health risks from mining.
In a March 21 editorial, The Richmond Times-Dispatch advocated for uranium mining, highlighting a study by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission which found that a radium and uranium refinery had no health or environmental effects on people in the surrounding area.
But the facility at the study's focus does not actually mine uranium at their site, it refines it. And in locations where they do mine, there are environmental differences between Canada and the United States. Cale Jaffe, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Canadian mines are located in areas with different climates and are more isolated from population centers. Indeed, a comprehensive report by the National Academy of Sciences found that storms and erosion from rainfall could pose a risk to uranium mines:
Virginia is subject to relatively frequent storms that produce intense rainfall. It is questionable whether currently-engineered tailings repositories could be expected to prevent erosion and surface and groundwater contamination for as long as 1,000 years. Natural events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, intense rainfall, or drought could lead to the release of contaminants if facilities are not designed and constructed to withstand such events, or if they fail to perform as designed.
A study by the city of Virginia Beach found that a "catastrophic failure" -- due to a natural event for example -- of a uranium containment structure could lead to radioactive substances contaminating drinking water for an extended period of time.
Canadian mines have also faced significant environmental problems in the past, according to a Southern Environmental Law Center report. On three occasions Canadian mines have flooded or contaminated waste water has leaked from these projects.
Virginia Watchdog, the Virginia affiliate of the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity -- a right-wing group which provides free statehouse reporting to local newspapers but receives large amounts of money from anonymous conservative donors -- similarly ignored the risks posed by Virginia's climate, instead quoting a Washington Times editorial in favor of uranium mining and the company who wants to mine the area.
The Casper Star-Tribune published a column that attacked wind energy as costly and ineffective, yet failed to note that wind energy is an expanding market that saves money and creates jobs.
A March 19 column by wealth management and investment advisor Bill Gunderson attacked wind energy technology as a poor investment, claiming that wind turbines are an unreliable source of power generation and warning investors to be wary. From the column:
Maybe wind turbines would be a good investment if the things actually worked. But they don't. Not that well.
Let's talk about what potential investors in wind energy may not know if they rely on the Green Energy Press: Wind turbines don't last as long as promised; don't produce as much energy as hoped; and require more maintenance than anyone imagined.
But wind turbines have proven they can stand the test of time. According to a story in the Financial Times, UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change said Britain's oldest commercial turbines have only had to be replaced after 20 years of operation. Those turbines were built in 1991 and as wind energy technology develops longevity will increase. As Dave Vince of Ecotricity, one of the UK's oldest wind energy companies, explains, "today's turbines have been designed and built to last 25 years."
Gunderson also falsely claims that natural gas is "threatening to make wind power even more economically obsolete." According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, some wind farms already produce power "as economically as coal, gas, and nuclear power." By 2017, new wind energy generation will be cheaper than new coal generation.
In 2012, wind-turbine installations beat natural gas-fueled power plants as the largest form of new energy for the first time. Jacob Susman, CEO of OwnEnergy Inc., a New York wind developer, said that "it shows that wind has firmly planted its foothold as a valuable energy source."
Although Gunderson didn't tell the readers of the Star-Tribune, Wyoming also has strong wind energy potential. The American Council On Renewable Energy said in a September 2012 release that Wyoming has "much room to further develop" wind energy and is exporting its current wind power to Colorado, Utah, and Oregon. In October 2012, a new wind project was approved in Wyoming, which is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs and 114 permanent operations and maintenance jobs over the next three years. This new project will have the potential to power about 1 million homes.
Fox News continues to peddle anti-immigrant myths, such as undocumented immigrants are a drain on the nation's economy, even as Republican leaders recognize the economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform.
On March 18, the Republican National Committee released a report diagnosing the Republican Party's failures during the 2012 election cycle and offered recommendations to ensure future victories. The report argued for passing comprehensive immigration reform as one way to improve its image among Hispanics, saying:
[A]mong the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party's appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) echoed that message, emphasizing in a speech today that immigration reform would help the economy. Paul stated, "somewhere along the line Republicans have failed to understand and articulate that immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability." He went on to stress the point that immigrants are synonymous with hard work, adding: "Whether we are discussing hard work, respect for life or the quest for freedom, immigrants bring with them the same values that previous generations of immigrants did."
But the economic message that Fox News is projecting is one that pits immigrants against American citizens and promotes the myth that immigrants have a detrimental effect on the American economy and society. On the March 19 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum brought on Bob Dane, spokesman for Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform, to criticize Paul and advance these nativist arguments.
First, the myth that immigrants would displace Americans and steal their jobs has been proven time and time again to be false. Second, Dane's assertion that "most illegal aliens are heavily government dependent" is a clear falsehood. Even other anti-immigrant groups such FAIR's sister organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, have said that "preconceived notions about the fiscal impact of illegal households turn out to be inaccurate."
Though Fox News has previously called for a new tone on immigration, the network has continued to allow anti-immigrant voices on its network -- most of whom stoke fears about immigrants -- and let myths and negative images of immigrants dominate its immigration coverage.
Kansas City Star columnist E. Thomas McClanahan continued his attacks on Equal Pay Day -- the day the average woman's salary catches up to the average man's from the previous year -- calling it an exaggeration of the extent of workplace discrimination because "women and men will always make somewhat different choices." However, studies have shown that, even when taking into account a myriad of factors, an unaccounted for gap still exists between women and men's salaries.
Two years ago, McClanahan attacked Equal Pay Day by claiming that "much of the supposed wage gap comes from life choices" and the fact that "men work longer hours than women." He concluded by recommending that "Equal Pay Day should fade quietly into history." In this year's iteration of his attack on Equal Pay Day, which takes place on April 9, McClanahan revived the same attacks as in the previous piece and dismissed the gender wage gap as an inaccurate measure:
What many people don't know is that this [the wage gap] is a cherry-picked number and the idea that it's an accurate measure of discrimination is grossly misleading. While workplace unfairness hasn't been banished, studies that correct for such factors as life choices and family situation show that discrimination today is minimal at best, and in some cases has reversed -- with women making more than men.
Because women generally work fewer hours than men, annual wages is a very poor measure of gender discrimination.
McClanahan's attacks leave out some key details about the wage gap. According to statistics from the Labor Department, in 2012 women made 81 percent as much as male workers, on average. As Meghan Casserly of Forbes explained, comparing men in all jobs with women in all jobs is "easy to laugh off as misleading," but when looking at individual professions, where presumably workers have similar skill sets, the gap is even higher -- especially in the financial and legal professions.
Regression analysis allows us to analyze the effect of multiple factors on earnings at the same time. Controlling for occupation, college major, hours worked per week, and many other factors all at once, we found that college-educated women working full time were paid an unexplained 7 percent less than their male peers were paid one year out of college.
Even 7 percent of lost income could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages for the average female worker. As the Center for American Progress found, over a 40-year period, the average female worker could lose about $434,000 due to this wage gap. With a majority of women becoming the primary breadwinner for their families, entire households are feeling the effects of the persistent wage gap.
It's unfortunate that McClanahan's consistent attacks on the gender wage gap fail to reflect the real issue here -- as women continue to be paid less, men, women, and children all lose.
The Kansas City Star failed to note the significant influence of Koch-funded conservative groups in its coverage of two bills seeking to roll back Kansas' green energy standards.
A recent report by Greenpeace's Connor Gibson outlined several organizations that are influencing the debate surrounding an effort to repeal Kansas' green energy standards. As Gibson notes in his report, groups with significant ties to the fossil fuel industry and funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, including the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, and the Beacon Hill Institute, are trying to influence legislators to roll back green energy standards in Kansas. From Greenpeace:
ALEC and a hoard of other Koch-funded interests operating under the umbrella of the State Policy Network have hit Kansas legislators hard with junk economic studies, junk science and a junk vision of more polluting energy in Kansas' future. Koch Industries lobbyist Jonathan Small has added direct pressure on Kansas lawmakers to rollback support for clean energy.
Unfortunately, clean energy is not palatable to the billionaire Koch brothers or the influence peddlers they finance. All of the following State Policy Network affiliates (except the Kansas Policy Institute) are directly funded by the Koch brothers, while most of the groups get secretive grants through the Koch-affiliated "Dark Money ATM," Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which have distributed over $120,000,000 to 100 groups involved in climate denial since 2002.
Despite the pressure these groups have placed on the repeal legislation -- including the author of a Beacon Hill Institute report attacking green energy testifying before the Kansas legislature -- The Kansas City Star failed to note these groups' influence on either of the two pieces of legislation making their way through the state legislature.
The paper also failed to put Kansas' green energy initiatives in context. Wind energy in Kansas is a booming industry. A fact sheet from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that renewable energy in Kansas has created more than 12,000 jobs and provided $13.7 million in annual lease payments and royalties to Kansas landowners. According to the American Wind Energy Association, after the adoption of the green energy standard, wind turbine manufacturer Siemens announced a $50 million investment in its first American wind energy manufacturing facility in Kansas. Even Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was a supporter of green energy standards. In 2010, while a U.S. senator, he co-sponsored a national version of Kansas' successful renewable portfolio standard with Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), which, if enacted, would have required 15 percent of utilities to be derived from alternative energy by 2021.
The U-T San Diego editorial board hyped a court decision that would benefit a project to expand the San Diego Convention Center but never noted that the paper's owner, Douglas Manchester, has a financial interest in the convention center's development.
A March 11 editorial by the U-T San Diego called for the expansion project to "move forward as quickly as possible," now that the plans to finance it -- including a controversial hotel-room tax -- have been validated by Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Prager's tentative ruling. The editorial concluded that the "worst-case scenario" would be that the center does not expand at all, as "[t]ens of millions in annual tax revenue, and the creation of thousands of jobs, are at stake."
What the editorial does not say, however, is that the owner of the U-T San Diego, Douglas (Papa Doug) Manchester, is one of the driving forces behind the convention center's birth. According to Manchester's own website, "Papa Doug is considered father of the San Diego Convention Center after his generous contribution of the property for its development."
As a Media Matters report noted last year, the U-T San Diego was criticized soon after Manchester's acquisition of the paper when it ran a front page editorial hyping a "new vision" for the San Diego waterfront. The editorial said the waterfront -- where Manchester owned hotels -- should be redeveloped with more hotels, a convention center expansion, and a new NFL stadium. Although Manchester had sold the hotels near the convention center property, he owns stock in the company that purchased the hotels -- solidifying his financial stake in the development of the area.
Although the editorial touts the "thousands of jobs" that will be created as a result of the expansion, it fails to note that they will not be high quality jobs. According to a report issued last year by Murtaza H. Baxamusa, director of Planning and Development at the Family House Corporation, San Diego Building Trades, the city estimated that only 16.8 percent of the new jobs would be above the regional median wage of $18.41 and that 71.2 percent of the jobs would be below the self-sufficiency wage of $13.92. Baxamusa concludes that, "the results of this study indicate that the quality of jobs created by the project may actually depress wages, increase uninsurance and lower the standard of living in the region."
During a report on diminished Republican opposition to granting in-state tuition for undocumented students, Fox News included the view of a spokesperson for the nativist group, Oregonians for Immigration Reform, to argue against the measure and accuse Republicans of "pandering" for Latino votes. Fox News has long engaged in promoting extreme voices to attack in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Discussing proposals in Oregon and Colorado that would grant certain undocumented students in those states in-state tuition, Fox News' America's Newsroom contrasted approving comments from Oregon state Republican Rep. Mark Johnson with comments from Jim Ludwick, a co-founder and former president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.
Host Bill Hemmer introduced Ludwick's comments by saying, "Not everyone, I'd imagine, is happy about this shift." Ludwick was identified on-air simply as being with "Oregonians for Immigration Reform."
Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) has been labeled an active "nativist extremist group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) lists OFIR on its network of "local immigration reform" groups.
Rush Limbaugh slammed the Obama administration for releasing some detained undocumented immigrants, claiming the decision was a "political ploy" and an "illegal order." In fact, undocumented immigrants who pose little threat to public safety have routinely been released into a supervised program as they await deportation since at least 2002, when Congress authorized the use of such programs to facilitate the deportation process.
On February 25, citing budgetary concerns, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it had released some undocumented immigrants from detention facilities and into a supervised release program but that deportation proceedings against them would continue. As The New York Times reported, those slated for release were "non-criminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories" and added:
"Under supervised release, defendants in immigration cases have to adhere to a strict reporting schedule that might include attending appointments at a regional immigration office as well as wearing electronic monitoring bracelets, officials said."
But on his radio show on Thursday, Limbaugh attacked the decision as "strictly a political ploy" by the Obama administration, claiming the administration had released "hardened criminals" into U.S. communities and that whoever had made the decision gave an "illegal order."
In reality, there is nothing unusual or illegal about supervised releases. This policy has been a regular part of Department of Homeland Security enforcement procedures since at least 2002, as this 2011 DHS report notes:
In FY 2002, Congress authorized the use of alternatives to detention programs as a mechanism to facilitate alien compliance with attendance at immigration court hearings and departure from the United States. The program allows certain aliens whose detention is not statutorily mandated to remain in their communities while their removal process is pending. ERO's Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program meets this critical need for community supervision of the non-detained alien population using technology and case specialists to actively engage aliens until a final determination of their immigration status can be made.
The ATD program releases detainees (called "participants" in the ATD program) who are not required by statute to be detained. Prior to enrollment in the program, ERO officers vet the individuals to ensure that they are eligible to participate. Those who are eligible to participate choose whether or not they want to participate in the program. Those who choose to participate sign the rules of participation indicating their willingness to comply and those who do not want to participate are housed in a detention facility.
The Columbus Dispatch is criticizing journalists for not informing readers about a liberal group's vested interests and involvement in the state's political process, even though the paper has spent years obscuring the origins of the American Legislative Exchange Council and downplaying the group's influence in the state.
In a February 27 editorial The Columbus Dispatch wrote:
The ability of various interest groups to have a say in politics is a critical to our democracy. But just as voters should be aware of who is funding political ads, they should be informed of the vested interests of those groups that are cited as sources of commentary.
Policy Matters Ohio, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus, often is quoted in news stories as a "research firm" and as a liberal or "progressive" think tank in news stories concerning tax and budget issues. That description, though, doesn't give a full picture of an organization that has a direct interest in steering public money to labor groups, which in turn are big-money supporters of Democratic politicians.
The Dispatch's argument is disingenuous however, since the paper has failed to cover and conduct the same research for organizations heavily involved in state policy such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
From January to October 2011, the shadowy right-wing organization had its hand in 33 bills in the state, nine of which became law. ALEC's ties in Ohio run deeper than merely crafting bills. According to ALEC's internal talking points, Gov. John Kasich, who was actively involved in ALEC in multiple capacities before becoming governor, "helped mold ALEC in its formative years" and was photographed at an ALEC event in 2010.
In 2012, ALEC was responsible for several pieces of legislation in Ohio, including a bill that weakened protections for victims of asbestos exposure, a bill which attempted to loosen firearms laws, and a bill seeking to prevent disclosure of certain ingredients in fracking fluids to the public.
ALEC also has a role in pushing big business' influence with legislators in Ohio. According to the Center for Media and Democracy's ALEC Exposed project, 41 legislators in Ohio are ALEC members. The money ALEC receives from businesses and conservative organizations goes to bringing these legislators to ALEC conventions where they can "rub elbows with rich, out-of state potential donors ... and to build similar relationships with ALEC's state corporate members."
Despite ALEC's influence and major ties to the state, The Columbus Dispatch only discussed ALEC in 7 news stories since January 1, 2011, according to a Media Matters search. When they did cover ALEC, the organization was either not identified or described as a "conservative" or "a conservative think tank that raises money from corporate and other interests to pay for legislators to meet with businesses" -- monikers that barely scratch the surface of what the organization really does.
While it's important for newspapers to disclose the ties behind organizations that have an influence on policy in the state, The Columbus Dispatch editorial board is picking and choosing which organizations should receive such scrutiny -- apparently aiming to disclose information only about the ones it disagrees with.
The New Hampshire Union Leader downplayed the effects of the impending sequestration cuts despite the devastating impact they would have on necessary programs in New Hampshire.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial on February 25 attacked the premise that sequestration would have devastating effects by claiming that it's "NOT the end of the world as we know it" and that it just means "government must start managing its money":
First, sequester is NOT the end of the world as we know it. Even if those mandated budget cuts occur, it does NOT mean that government, essentially, is shut down. It does not mean the end of services. It does not mean meat or drugs, would go unexamined, and, thus, would disappear from store shelves. It need not mean the air traffic control system must shut down. It does not mean the military would not be able to defend the United States.
It DOES mean government must start managing its money - and end non-essential activities. It does mean there might be far fewer $1,000 hammers purchased by the Pentagon. It probably means there will be far fewer colonels acting as aides to far fewer generals roaming the corridors of the Pentagon. It does mean priorities must be set. It does mean some things will no longer be affordable - and it does, very likely, mean that some people, particularly those employed in government, will lose their jobs.
Despite the Union Leader's assertion, the sequestration cuts would have devastating effects beyond those employed in government. As Politifact points out, the sequestration cuts would be indiscriminate, meaning that almost all non-defense discretionary spending would be cut by 5.3 percent, and would target far more than just "non-essential activities." Using the Union Leader's example, while meat and drugs will eventually be examined, the cuts will lead to furloughs among inspectors and potential delays in processing meat.
New Hampshire specifically would feel the effects of sequestration for essential activities in education and public health funding. According to a White House fact sheet, this year alone New Hampshire could lose of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in necessary programs. The state is set to lose "approximately $1,078,000 in funding for primary and secondary education" which would mean less funding for about 1,000 students and 10 schools. The cuts to public health benefits and childhood vaccinations would also be drastic. From the White House fact sheet:
- Vaccines for Children: In New Hampshire around 680 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $46,000.
- Public Health: New Hampshire will lose approximately $126,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, New Hampshire will lose about $330,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 300 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the New Hampshire State Department of Health Statistics and Data Management will lose about $60,000 resulting in around 1,500 fewer HIV tests.
Though the Union Leader admitted that the cuts might slow economic growth initially, it failed to point out that even low-end estimates of nationwide job losses are around 750,000 with some estimating approximately one million jobs lost due to the cuts.