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Sunday, September 21, 2014

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The PoliTicker

Legislators, environmental advocates divided over Keystone XL pipeline proposal

By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 10/09/13 10:39pm         

You’ll find no shortage of heated debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project from Canadian company TransCanada.

Legislators, business and labor leaders recently called on President Obama to green-light construction. The 1,179-mile crude oil pipeline won’t snake through Michigan on its way from Canada to the Gulf Coast, but supporters say it would lead to “ancillary” jobs in the state, according to an article from MLive.com.

Proponents of the project say the state could play a role in the constructing spare parts and other equipment, according to the article, perhaps boosting profits for local businesses.

“The president needs to approve the Keystone Pipeline,” Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, said in a statement. Nesbitt said it would use resources “in our own backyard,” while laying the groundwork for “common-sense energy policy that focuses on safe, affordable and reliable energy.”

But opponents such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club worry it would lead to environmental degradation, increases in greenhouse gas emissions and could push the country away from the environmental goals Obama campaigned for.

Twenty-five national environmental groups recently signed off on a letter urging the president to shut the plan down.

“While the tar sands industry makes claims of reducing the intensity of their emissions profile, in fact the absolute carbon pollution from the tar sands is rapidly increasing,” the letter said. “Simple arithmetic shows that the only way to reduce emissions from the tar sands is to cap expansion where it is now and reduce production over the coming years.”

Building the pipeline “is not compatible with serious efforts to battle climate change,” the letter said.

Ultimately, it could be up to Obama to determine the pipeline’s fate. He said he doesn’t want construction unless the State Department determines it won’t have a substantial impact on greenhouse gas emissions, according to NPR.

This could be a pivotal moment for Obama, journalist Ryan Lizza told NPR. He campaigned with a liberal environmental platform, and he could take unilateral action to halt the project. But it’s still unclear what exactly he’ll do, potentially alienating part of his political base if he approves construction.

Media depiction of government shutdown questioned

By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 10/03/13 10:47pm         

The government shutdown has been getting a lot of press, naturally. But has it been the right kind?

Several prominent media analysts argue it hasn’t been, and it’s not that most media coverage has simply missed the mark. They say improper coverage of the matter has been counter to core journalistic standards at best, and an affront to democracy at worst.

A slew of media outlets referred to the shutdown as political gridlock, an impasse, stalemate, standoff or similar synonyms.

This is the surface-level appearance, but sometimes, impartiality in the face of illogical actions is just as bad as directly taking a side. Sometimes it is the journalists’ duty to point out when something unprecedented is happening. That was the case with the shutdown.

Republicans refused to sign off on the budget late Monday night because Democrats and President Obama wouldn’t accept the proposal, but attaching a non-appropriations mandate to an appropriations bill is not the norm. As James Fallows of The Atlantic pointed out, the battle here isn’t between parties, it’s within a single party — the GOP.

Moreover, Fallows said that this time, the fight “is over whether compromise itself is legitimate.”

Several media analysts, including Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute and Greg Mitchell of The Nation wrote similar pieces criticizing the coverage.

Dan Froomkin of Al Jazeera wrote in an article on the subject that it’s not simply an inability for two parties to agree with one another. This implies a false equivalency, he said, part of an almost compulsive tendency for the media to appear unbiased at all costs.

“And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act,” he said in the article. “It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it.

“The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations,” Froomkin said. “But the political media’s aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.”

MSU alums, politicians respond to shots fired report on Capitol Hill

By Darcie Moran          Last updated: 10/03/13 5:30pm         

MSU alumni and area politicians were in Washington, D.C. today when reports emerged that shots were fired on Capitol Hill.

After assuring their safety and the safety of others, several took to social media to comment on the incident.

Following are tweets from Congressman Mike Rogers, State News alumna Emily Wilkins and MSU alumnus Mitchell Rivard following Thursday’s events.

Congressman Mike Rogers:

State News alumna Emily Wilkins:

MSU alumnus Mitchell Rivard:

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is a Breaking Bad fanatic, Gov. Rick Snyder not so much

By Ian Kullgren          Last updated: 09/29/13 10:55pm         

When he’s not helping the big nerd in charge reinvent Michigan, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley likes to get in touch with his bad side — sort of.

Calley, an MSU alumnus, joined thousands of others Sunday in live tweeting the Breaking Bad series finale. Apparently it’s his favorite show:

But he told The State News he has never watched it with Gov. Rick Snyder:

No new Tim Hortons in Capitol building

By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 09/11/13 9:18pm         

Despite what you may have read, a Tim Hortons isn’t opening in Lansing’s downtown state Capitol building.

Early reports from WLNS Channel 6 News and MLive Media Group that a preliminary agreements had been reached, potentially allowing the Canadian-based restaurant to set up shop in an unused room in the statehouse.

There is no Tim Hortons restaurant opening in the Capitol,” said Ari Adler, press secretary for the House Republican Caucus. “An early news report that stated such was inaccurate.
“The focus is on replacing the restaurant in the House Office Building that has been closed for two years,” Adler said. “I understand the state bureau that oversees these facilities is considering different options, but I’ve been told there are no decisions yet and no preliminary contracts of any kind in place.”
So if you were hoping for a few donuts the next time you watch a session downtown, you might need to stop elsewhere.

At least two lawmakers were concerned in the wake of the reports.

State Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing said he didn’t want to offer the space to Tim Hortons without offering the chance to other interested restaurants.

Company spokespeople declined comment.

MLive reported that Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, “appeared opposed to the idea.”

“What’s next?” she told MLive. “Are we going to be called the Chick-fil-A Capitol?”

Detroit officals looking for positives from bankrupcty

By RJ Wolcott          Last updated: 07/28/13 10:11pm         

The words “bankruptcy” and “positive” are scarcely found within the same sentence without the word “isn’t” between them. However, despite all the negative news following the July 18 bankruptcy filing by the city of Detroit, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said there is an upside to the city’s financial dilemmas: improvements to public services.

In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, Orr said new Police Chief James Craig requested new vehicles and equipment, an order which Orr is prepared to sign.

In one of the most violent major cities in the nation, the addition of 50 new squad cars, additional bulletproof vests, and new tools to fight crime including stun guns will likely be a welcome addition to the force.

These changes are being made because Detroit’s debts are on hold ever since the filing, meaning that instead of working on longstanding debts, the city finally has money to put into the police and fire departments. Additionally, Orr vowed to streamline existing governmental departments in an effort to be more financially responsible.

The emergency manager also plans to appoint new management to the Detroit Department of Transportation, meaning the city could also see more buses and fixes to streetlights.

All of these proposed changes are expected to bring relief to Detroit’s populace, who’ve become used to bad news concerning public safety.

In 2012, the city of Detroit had the highest rate of violent crime of any city with a population over 200,000, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports database.

The city also has battled with increasing response time for both violent and nonviolent crimes. In 2013, the average response time for the Detroit Police Department to a Priority 1 call was 58 minutes, 28 minutes longer than only one year prior and 47 minutes longer than the national average. The department also has a case clearance rate of 8.7 percent, as police manpower has been reduced by 40 percent during the last decade, according to a report the city released to its creditors on June 14.

While the next few months and years might be difficult for the city, Orr and his comrades have said they believe these changes could bring about a fresh start for a city in dire straits.

Rand Paul aide resigned amid pro-confederacy scandal

By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 07/24/13 7:59pm         

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “Confederate flag belt buckle?”

A) Buck-toothed, oblivious racist wearing a “Skynyrd” shirt.

B) Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s aide, Jack Hunter.

While the first one is the obvious choice, you wouldn’t be wrong if you chose “B.”

Hunter probably didn’t have a matching belt buckle, but he probably did have the right attitude for one.

Hunter recently resigned after his pro-Confederacy/pro-John Wilkes Booth views came under fire, Democracy Now reports, adding that “He headed a group that advocated Southern secession from the United States and wrote about toasting Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.”

Hunter was at one time a radio pundit for “Southern Avenger,” where he often “donned a mask bearing the Confederate flag.” Evidently appearance is vital on the radio, especially if you’re shifting into that “South will rise again,” gear.

Paul is viewed as a top Republican contender for the 2016 presidential election.

Key Republican considers civil rights law revamp

By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 06/19/13 10:22pm         

Republicans might finally be trying to change their public image, and thousands of gay Michiganians might receive something they’ve wanted for a long time: some measure of equality.

Just last Thursday, a key GOP leader said he might consider adding sexual orientation to the list of those protected by civil rights law.

Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger said in an interview on the public TV show, “Off the Record,” that he’s tired of debates pitting one side against the other, resulting in a polemic that leaves those who are gay “dehumanized” and the religious “demonized.”

Bolger said, “We shouldn’t discriminate against people. At the same point, we ought to respect people who have deeply held religious beliefs, and we shouldn’t discriminate against them, and we shouldn’t force them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.

“That’s the push-pull,” Bolger continued. “I’m interested in exploring, how can we respect both?”
The move would outlaw discrimination in workplaces or housing, extending the same protections already seen on the basis of race and gender and a proverbial olive branch to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

That’s a big turnaround for Republicans, that are seen by many as a party comprised of aging, white Christian fundies.

But is that all this is? A chance to chip away at that long-held public perception? My initial inclination is yes. But if there’s a follow-through, perhaps it doesn’t quite matter what Bolger’s motives are. At least not for those who would be protected against discrimination.

Lansing City Pulse: Jackson National Life Insurance Co. is official tenant of former Barnes & Noble building

By Derek Kim          Last updated: 06/14/13 6:16pm         

Jackson National Life Insurance Co. will use the former Barnes & Noble building on 333 E. Grand River Ave. to train information technology employees, according to the Lansing City Pulse.

Brown paper was put up on the windows this week to conceal interior renovations. Construction on the building began three weeks ago and a look through the front doors last week revealed that the escalators had been removed. An onside construction worker told the City Pulse that the building will be ready by Aug. 1.

City Pulse also reported that it is uncertain whether Jackson National Life will be a permanent resident of the building.

“We haven’t released any information on anything to do with that project,” a spokesperson from Jackson National Life said.

A representative from Christman Company, the owner of the space, also declined to comment on the status of the building.

In a previous interview, East Lansing Planning & Community Development Director Tim Dempsey said it has been difficult to find a user for the 35,000 square-foot building.

Barnes & Noble went out of business on New Years Eve 2012. Prior to the bookstore, the space was home to Jacobsen’s department store.

CNN Turk failing to report on riots gaining negative attention

By Katie Abdilla          Last updated: 06/03/13 6:00pm         

With protests across Turkey reaching day four, Turkish residents have begun to turn their anger away from the country’s prime minister and lash out against local media.

The situation began as a small sit-in protest in Istanbul over the expected demolition of Gezi Park, the only remaining green space in the city. Feelings escalated into violence Saturday, when police began using force against protesters in the form of tear gas and Agent Orange.

Despite the detainment of nearly 1,000 protesters and countless injuries, local news sources have reached a media blackout in the heat of the riots. Readers and viewers have become particularly upset with CNN Turk, a local branch of the franchise. Although CNN International has reported on the events, CNN Turk has remained noticeably silent. One newspaper even included an article praising the prime minister on its front page the day the riots began.

As a result, residents have lashed out against the chain, calling for a petition for CNN International to remove the outlet from its official brand. So far, the petition has reached more than 63,000 signatures as of press time, with a goal of 100,000 total signatures. Below the petition are thousands of comments from outraged viewers.

With no local news reports to turn to, the Turkish people have turned to social media to report stories of their own. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have filled with firsthand accounts, videos and photos.

More than anything, this shows the importance social media has in the event of a crisis. Nowadays, Facebook and Twitter have made getting the daily news more accessible, and it can be a great resource for those with no access to breaking stories. In the wake of the digital age, both have become more relatable to my generation, as well. And, in the event that news organizations have been rendered silent, it can give citizens a voice of their own in the wake of such turmoil and conflict.