Friday, March 23, 2012

The Stumbling and Bumbling Senate

On Wednesday March 23, the Senate held a Finance committee hearing regarding the economic effects of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, instead of the hearing being remembered for an intellectual conversation between well-informed Senators and expert witnesses, the hearing was instead marred by blunders of a wide variety.

Senator Olympia Snowe, in one of the more heated moments of the hearing, seemed to suggest that the United States had gone to war for oil, a claim which many opponents of the Iraq War have levied many times.  Ms. Snowe seemed to realize her mistake and rushed through her controversial statement.

"I did not intend to imply that the United States engage in foreign wars for oil, but simply that other countries around the world are willing to fight for that resource.  I was merely trying to imply that the United States should fight with its economic policies to compete in the growing world oil market," said Senator Olympia Snowe.

Senator Orrin Hatch was next to make a mistake, as he, in an attempt to quote Mr. Carney, instead quoted the fox news story he had taken the quote from instead.

"I unintentionally read a portion of a fox news story, instead of Mr. Carney's direct quote.  Although, I misspoke on the statement, my point remains; cleaner tomorrows was unqualified for the job," said Senator Orrin Hatch.

The final and probably worst of all of the errors came when the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Max Baucus, stated the unemployment rate was 9.6%.  The unemployment rate is in fact 8.3%. How can the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee not know the rate of unemployment in the United States? Either this misstatement exposes an intentional attempt by Senator Baucus to sway voters against President Obama or it exposes a lack on preparation on the part of Senator Baucus in the field of the committee he chairs.  Either way, something deeply disturbing is happening in the Baucus camp.

Opinion: Supreme Court out of control?

What is happening to the Supreme Court?

Normally, I'm a huge fan of the court, but today I'm wondering if some of the justices are taking the label "highest court in the land" a little too seriously.

Last thursday, Justice Anthony, in a totally unfounded move, appeared on a CNN television show.  While I do work for CNN and the interview was admittedly an important interview, it was totally irresponsible and idiotic for Mr. Kennedy to appear on the show.

Mr. Kennedy is not just an individual; when he makes public appearances he represents the Supreme Court  and by appearing on a television talk show degrades the respect of the court and the standing of their decisions in the eyes of the American people.

The most shocking part of the interview came when Mr. Kennedy fairly clearly implied he would vote in the same manner in which he voted in the case Grutter v. Bollinger.  A justice's vote is of the most sacred quality; the power of that vote to shape life in the United States is such that it takes hours of serious argument and deliberation to decide.  The idea that a justice can just look at two cases, decide they're similar enough, and then have his vote decided is troubling to say the least.

To make the matter worse, most experts agree that Justice Kennedy's vote is the swing vote in this case, almost rendering the upcoming supreme court case pointless.  Now, in the minds of American citizens around the country, Justice Kennedy's interviews has sullied the credibility of the supreme courts eventual decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts appears to have taken notice of Mr. Kennedy's blunder in an internal email sent to all of the Justices.  This reporter received the email as a result of an anonymous source.  Below is an exact copy of the email

Hello fellow Justices,
I have been receiving many questions and lots of bombardment from the media lately. I have also heard that other Justices are being questioned.
As we all agreed, we are not responding to the media before the trial. If we all feel it is necessary to release a statement, I will release a statement that everyone approves.

Below is one of the emails I sent in response to a reporter. I think it is a good template that you can use if you want.

Thank you so much for complying,
Chief Justice Roberts

We have decided not to speak to the media before the hearing of Fisher v UT Austin this Thursday.

Thank you,
Justice _________

Chief Justice Roberts Refused to take part in this story.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Supreme Court hearing today over Fisher v. UT case

Chief Justice Roberts, Drawn by Jessica Sohn
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States met to hear arguments for the affirmative action case Fisher v. UT Austin. With the exception of Justice Kagan, who recused herself, the eight justices sat to question Lisa Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity, who argued against affirmative action, and Greg Abbott, the Attorney General of the Texas State government, who argued for it. 

The justices on both sides of the case were able to get their points across through the questioning on constitutionality, precedent, and the principles of affirmative action in general. 
Witnesses Lisa Chavez and Greg Abbott, drawn by Jessica Sohn

Justice Kennedy, the apparent swing voter in the case, was careful not to make his position too clear through his questions, and his vote is still ambiguous to the public.

The Supreme Court will release its decision on the case soon, determining the fate of affirmative action for the entire country. #

Memorable quotes from the SIM

For those who have been following the keystone pipeline, here are a few memorable quotes from the process. 

"N.J.!" -Ryan page
"this water tastes good. I hope there's no oil in it" -Ike
"actions speak louder than words" -nick li
"the river was on fire" -Simon zeidner

Senator Harry Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell offer two perspectives on the Keystone Pipeline controversy

Reid and McConnell are civilized towards each other at todays Supreme Court Hearing
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

As many have commented that the Keystone Pipeline controversy has disintegrated into a political game, CNN offers two political perspectives from Republican Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, and Democratic Senator Harry Reid from Nevada.

Senator Harry Ried

"I was very displeased with the conduction of the Senatorial Meeting this afternoon.  While Senator Baucus is a close friend and I value his opinions on all matters, he conducted the hearing with disdain and disrespect towards not only the panelists, but also his fellow Senators.  I know he supports the Obama administration and it is just a shame that such beliefs were not displayed before the people today.  I still value his opinions, trust him with my life, and cherish our relationship, I just feel as though Senator Sanders and Senator Nelson should have been treated with greater respect.  In regards to the Keystone Pipeline XL, many valued points were made for both sides, but after seeing all the information before me I stand by my stance.  The dangers of this Pipeline far outweigh the benefits.  The necessary safety precautions must be met in order for this permit to pass through the Senate and White House.  It is our duty to keep the American people safe.  The American people have begun to ween themselves from fossil fuels, and the building of this pipeline is a step in the wrong direction.  There are many alternatives, and our focus should turn to these.  In conclusion, my view is clear, and was proven today at the hearing, necessary safety measures and modifications must be made to this permit in order for the Keystone Pipeline to be built and inhabit the people's states." 

Senator Mitch McConnell
"I believe the Senate hearing went very well on all accounts. I believe Senator Baucus did an exceptional job of giving time to not only his fellow democratic senators but also the republican senators on the finance committee. I am in favor of the building of the pipeline and during the hearing today all those in favor of building the pipeline did an exceptional job in questioning the witnesses that came before the Senate in order to advance our shared bi-partisan goal of creating this pipeline. My fellow Senators and I are going to continue our efforts to create the pipeline and strive to present President Obama with a bill to either veto or sign." #

Butting Heads at the Senate hearing on the Keystone XL Pipeline

March 21, 2012- Yesterday at the Senate hearing for the Keystone XL Pipeline, tensions were high between Democratic Senator Max Baucus from Montana and Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

Senator Baucus is Chairman of the Finance Committee and Senator Sanders is a majority member on the committee.

Even though these two Senators are a part of the same party they did not seem to get along at the hearing yesterday. There even seemed to be a strong dislike between the two.

Senator Baucus started the hearing by inviting Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu up for questioning. He first gave Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota the floor to question the two Secretaries.

Senator Bill Nelson from Florida took the floor afterwards. All the while, Senator Sanders tried to get a word in but Senator Baucus kept telling the Senator it was not his turn.

Towards the end of the interviewing session, Senator Sanders tried to ask a question about renewable energy. Chairman Baucus shut the question down by telling Senator Sanders, "We are done here" and hit the gavel so hard that he broke it.

This action was concerning to the crowd and the other Senators. Senator Bill Nelson commented that "Senator Baucus spent more time controling the hearing than focusing on the situation at hand".

Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN, "Yesterday at the hearing, I felt that my fellow Sentor Max Baucus treated me very disrespectfully...The Keystone Pipeline is dangerous for not only our nation, but also for the rest of the planet. His cutting me off because I have a different opinion was uncalled for. I hope that in future hearings he will give me adequate time to speak and will respect what I have to say. "

Baucus took his control of the Finance Committee more seriously than the situation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and ended up disrespecting other members on the committee that are also in his same party.

Morning Update: Carney Clarifies Goals of the Obama Administration

Today in a press briefing, Jay Carney attempted to clear up a misquote from Senator Oran Hatch given in yesterday's hearing. "This administration fully supports cleaner tomorrows," said Carney. After some research by the Obama Administration, Carney stated that the Keystone XL expansion would have no effect on gas prices "at the pump."

"We have found no statistical correlation to the amount of oil drilled out of the ground in the U.S. to the price of gasoline." According to Carney, the study utilized thirty-six years of historical data.

"The main priority of this administration is creating jobs in a time when many Americans are trying to get back to work." Carney declined to comment on a question regarding the changing of the Jones Act, which would prevent the transport of the Keystone oil, refined in Texas, to ports on the east coast.

By Max Clark and Matthew Brincko

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Governor Rick Perry's questioned motives

March 16, 2012- Last Friday the Attorney General of Texas sued the Obama Administration for cutting a women's health care program because the White House had an issue with a part of the wording of the legislation. 

The Texas Texas legislation inserted a statement which mandated that no money would go to facilities that gave abortion procedures even though the state money would not directly fund abortions.

At a Senate hearing on March 21, 2012, Governor Rick Perry asked to speak about this event during a hearing about the Keystone XL Pipeline. 

Senator Bernie Sanders questioned Governor Perry's "motives" for being at the hearing. Implying that the Governor was only there to promote himself as a candidate for Vice President for the Republican presidential candidate.

The Governor insisted that he was there because the XL Pipeline and the cutting of the women's health care program both have something in common. He claimed they both represent "the federal government fighting the states".

Could Rick Perry really only be out to fight for states rights or is he out to promote himself?

CNNopinion - Natalie Sellers of the Natural Resources Defense Council goes toe-to-toe with members of Congress

By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein
Protesters line the entrance to the senate hearing
There was visible and aggressive hostility present today at the first Senate Finance Committee Hearing.  One of the witnesses, Natalie Sellers of the Natural Resources Defense Council, was determined to be heard and understood today by the senators administering the hearing (Baucus, Hatch, Conrad, Sanders, Nelson, and Snowe).  With a significant increase in her composition, assertiveness, and understanding of the issues, Ms. Sellers put up a fight, mainly with Chairman Baucus and Senator Snowe, over the facts of the pipeline and real environmental concerns that are not only possible, but highly probable, due to the construction of the pipeline.

Protesters determined to get their voices heard at todays Senate Hearing
Sellers was ruthlesly questions over issues involving the immediate need for job creation. Sellers combated this line of questioning by arguing that "there are many job creation opportunities in the field of green energy.  Opti Home, a green business corporation, has already created 2 million jobs, and this project was created very recently.  Green jobs not only pay just as well as jobs that would be created due to the pipeline, but they would move our counry in the direction we need to go, towards greener and substainable living."

Sellers went so far as to organize a protest against the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.  Protesters lined the enterance of the committee meeting, and were so passionate about their cause they were asked to leave the meeting due to the attention they were drawing. 

Ms. Sellers and the Natural Resources Defense Council definetly made huge strides forward today in the fight for clean, green, and substanible fuel for America's future. #

Cummings issues a response to false reporting by FOX news

Sent to CNN by Representative Cummings

"Shepard Smith’s recent article about the hearing last week was simply false and unprofessional. The knowledge of how a hearing is run held by Congressman Kucinich and myself should not be ridiculed nor mocked. We did not think the rules “didn’t apply,” but rather had to enforce the rules ourselves due to a lack of knowledge possessed by the leaders of the hearing. I also would not consider my informing Majority Leader Cantor of the 7 ½ minutes Chairman Issa and I had agreed upon snapping. Also, while Representative Walberg continued to question Mr. Henderson on what college admissions will do, Representative Walberg failed to understand the Mr. Henderson was not actually involved in college admissions and, therefore, could not answer. Smith may say as he pleases about our disrespect, but it comes to the fact that both Representative Kucinich and I were trying to have fact-based discussion instead of a political rhetorical conversation." #  

CNNOpinion: Tim Walberg’s Stumble

Tim Walberg representative from Illinois 
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

In the House Oversight Committee Hearing on Tuesday, as Tim Walberg questioned the Leadership Conference on its stance on affirmative action, confusion swept over the witness, the representative, and the members of the audience.

The question seemed to be asking what The Leadership Conference’s Mr. Henderson would do to ensure that Affirmative Action was handled justly if it were to stay legal. After the Conference’s response that that would be up to the universities, Walberg pushed by saying, “What would you do personally?”, and the misunderstanding set in.

When Henderson tried to clarify, Walberg seemed more focused on staying dominant in the interaction than clarifying what it was he wanted to ask, and by the end, the representative had everyone wondering if even he knew what he was trying to ask.

He blurted out statements like, “Whatever,” in response to Henderson’s repeated requests for clarification.

After the past two House Hearings of the Republicans unusually unprofessional behavior, a new low for the Republicans. #

CNNOpinion: Boehner the “Puppet Master” of the House

By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

Over the past weeks, two House Hearings have been held in order for the House Oversight Committee to question witnesses on the recent Keystone XL Pipeline scandal. Throughout these hearings, one person has stood out in terms of influence, but he was neither in a witness seat nor behind the questioners’ desk.

Speaker John Boehner seemed to control his fellow Republicans in the hearing. They looked to him for hand signals and nods and seemingly hesitated to act on their own. This is true of Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the majority members of the House Oversight Committee.

Boehner used these tactics to communicate when the Republicans were accomplishing what he wanted and when they were not. It was clear that Boehner controlled when Chairman Darryl Issa and Majority Leader Cantor cut off their Democratic colleagues or allowed them to finish.

Although this tactic worked to the advantage of the Republicans in the hearing, I was disappointed to see the Republicans inability to act without their command of what members of the audience later called “the puppet master." #

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings and Representative Dennis Kucinich sit down for an exclusive interview with CNN post House Hearing

By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

Immediately following today’s second House Oversight Committee Hearing CNN sat down in an exclusive interview with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings and Representative from Ohio ,Dennis Kucinich.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings
Representative Kucinich
The hostility between the democrats and republicans at today’s hearing was noticeable to all, and the first thing both Cummings and Kucinich wanted to address.  Ms. Cummings explained “the stepping in of Mr. Cantor [for Chairman Issa] made it difficult because he wasn’t familiar with the rules…the democrats [once again] were cut off and not given the full amount of time we should have been allotted to speak.  All in all, I think the democrats did a great job making sure Mr. Henderson and Ms. Chavez had enough time to speak.”  Kucinich added that “Cantor choosing to not cut off members of the Republican Party helped [the democrats] because Mr. Walberg began asking questions of Mr. Henderson that didn’t make sense.  He kept pushing a question that wasn’t getting him anywhere.”

Both Cummings and Kucinich appeared powerful and confident as they rightfully, and respectfully, informed Mr. Cantor of the rules of the hearing, insuring they get their fair amount of allotted time.
As far as the democrat’s strategy moving forward, Cummings stated that he “hopes everyone can come to an understanding regarding affirmative actions.  We want all decisions to come through either the Supreme Court or the state court, but we want the American people to know we support equal opportunity and believe the best way to [ensure equal opportunity] is through affirmative action programs.”  Kucinich added that “republicans need to understand that these programs do not disregard the other aspects of one’s application, but those aspects are viewed in addition to viewing one’s ethnicity in the college process.”

Mr. Cummings and Mr. Kucinich agree that “education is the most important thing” and they assure the American people they will fight so everyone can have an equal opportunity in experiencing that education. #

Interview with Wade Henderson after second House Oversight Hearing

Wade Henderson is questioned at todays second House Oversight Committee Hearing
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

CNN sat down with Wade Henderson, the President of the Leadership Conference, after he was exhaustively questioned by Republicans and Democrats alike.  Mr. Henderson sat as a witness in a House Hearing devoted exclusively to discussing issues of affirmative action in the college admissions process.

Mr. Henderson sat composed and professional despite being interrupted and not given a chance to respond by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who sat in for Chairman Issa as he was absent due to personal reasons. 

Mr. Henderson explains to CNN after the hearing that he “did not expect [the hearing] to be quite so chaotic.  It seemed as though the republicans were more interested in making us look bad rather than discussing the facts…and specific issues at hand.”

Mr. Henderson elaborates on what he initially stated during the hearing, which was the lack of a presence for a “minority voice right now, and affirmative action programs are the best, and frankly the only way to achieve this equality.  Right now affirmative action is necessary, maybe one day these programs won’t be needed, but that day had not yet come.”

Henderson elaborates on his and the Leadership Conference’s plans moving forward saying that as of now, the interest group is trying to “get in the media as much as possible.”  He continued saying that his group “has been writing some easy to understand pieces regarding affirmative action issues that have been spread via the media.” (see Henderson’s quick guide to DBE’s published on the CNN blog for more information)

As of now Mr. Henderson remains cool, collective, and confident that the Supreme Court will see the need for affirmative action programs, and vote on Fisher v. UT in accordance to precedent, public opinion, and the Constitution. #

Piers Morgan Interview with Secretary of the Interior

By: Matthew Brinko

Piers Morgan:  Hello Mr. Salazar, how are you today.

Mr. Salazar:  I’m doing great.

Piers Morgan:  So obviously the Keystone Pipeline has been a hot topic in the media lately, however no one has really heard your point of view yet.  What are your opinions on the pipeline?

Mr. Salazar:  I believe that the keystone pipeline could be a great investment for America.  However, this project needs more research before being fully executed.  I worked for 11 years as a water and environmental lawyer and so I know the time that needs to be put into a project like this and I do not feel like it has sufficed. 

Piers Morgan:  So you’re a proponent of extending the deadline?

Mr. Salazar:  Exactly.  This is a national issue, and due to the length for which the pipeline extends, securing that the pipeline will not leak is very important.  And in order to secure that, we must extend the deadline. 

Piers Morgan:  Are there specific technological advances that could make delaying the deadline even more worthwhile?

Mr. Salazar:  Yes.  Once the Department of the Interior releases the new requirements for hydraulic fracturing, then TransCanada can reassess the pipeline and ensure it complies with regulations.  Until hydraulic fracturing is perfected, the American people’s skepticism of this method will cause it to be the Achilles heel of the energy promise of America.

Piers Morgan.  Thank you so much for your time.  #

Canada Seeks to Build Oil Exporting Capacity

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at the APEC Forum in Honolulu

Recent decisions made by the Obama Administration may have an unforeseen impact on our economic relations with Canada and lead to increased competition in Asian markets.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty plans to implement new measures that will speed the regulatory review process for energy related projects, including pipelines. The country aims to lighten its dependence on U.S. energy and tap into Asia's growing demand for oil.

According to an anonymous source inside Flaherty's office, the upcoming announcement is in direct response to President Barack Obama's denial of TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline permit. This underscores the message Minister Flaherty gave last November from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Honolulu. "We've got to go where the trade is," Flaherty said. "The sooner we can increasingly access markets in Asia, the better."

TransCanada Corp., based in Calgary, Alberta, lost 0.73 percent at 12:51 New York Time.

Monday, March 19, 2012

President Obama appeared on CNN last Thursday, March 15th

President Obama appeared on CNN in an exclusive interview with Wolf Blitzer
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

Last Thursday, President Obama appeared on CNN Nightly News in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.

The interview mainly focused on the recent scandal over the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The President made clear that he is not against the pipeline as a whole, but rather he is against a pipeline that is not as safe as it possibly could be. He claimed that the 60-day time limit that Congress set on his decision about the pipeline made the creation of an accurate environmental and economic impact report impossible.

The President also responded to Republicans for the first time directly about their accusations that he does not care about creating American jobs. He stated that not only has his administration seen a net gain of 2.4 million jobs, but also he is focusing on creating jobs through “green” projects, rather than through ones that increase our dependence on fossil fuels.

This interview provided a live gateway into the President’s thoughts and courses of action regarding Keystone.

A Senate Hearing will take place on Wednesday to discuss the next step with the pipeline. #

Breaking News -- White House's Secretary of Interior Energy issues statement regarding Keystone Pipeline

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar

By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued the following statement earlier today in regards to the Keystone Pipeline:

"As Secretary of the Interior my job is to help protect America’s natural resources, our cultures and tribal communities, and supply energy for the long term. My concerns about the Keystone Pipeline are in line with the Obama Administration's position on the issue. I feel that the President acted responsibly in rejecting the initial proposal on the grounds of environmental issues. The rushed decision to give the President a 60 day
period to review the Keystone pipeline, which goes through six states,
hindered any probability of it being passed. If the reformed version of the proposal poses no threats to our nation’s resources and does not endanger communities along the pipeline, then I am in support of it’s approval. Until the guidelines for this project are significantly altered, the pipeline should not be constructed because of the potential risks it poses to the well being of US citizens. Of course the main concern is the possibility that the pipeline could rupture near the Ogallala aquifer, the main
source of drinking water in the Midwest. We trust that the Administration and the EPA will exercise prudent judgement and will not approve a proposal that poses such threats. While the southernmost portion is being built, we will wait for an acceptable and detailed plan before constructing the rest of the pipeline. We strongly urge TransCanada to present a more pragmatic and nonpartisan approach that
will serve the best interests of the American people." #

Senate Committee Hearing to take place Wednesday, March 21st

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

The first Senate Committee hearing will take place this Wednesday, March 21st.  Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, issued a statement regarding the upcoming hearing saying that "Senator Max Baucus will lead a hearing regarding the Keystone Pipeline XL."  Reid remains against the pipeline, believing it "won't lower the price of oil. Construction won't be complete for a long, long time, And under the way it's constructed now, all the oil would be sold elsewhere."  Reid further explains that "a majority of the Senate remains against the building of this pipeline and without serious modifications to proposal, these Senators and I will remain against it.  In regards to the upcoming hearing, Senator Baucus has invited Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar [to speak]."  Reid is confident that "the questioning will be civil and informative."

Tune into CNN Wednesday to see a full coverage report of the hearing. #

Breaking News -- Supreme Court Justice Kennedy appeared on CNN in an unprecedented interview

Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared on CNN Thursday, March, 15th
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy appeared on the CNN nightly news in an unprecedented interview, which has received questioning and backlash from the public.

The Supreme Court is designed to be as removed as possible from public opinion, and the details of a particular case should remain classified until the decisions are released. By appearing on national television, Justice Kennedy jeopardized these two vital aspects of the Supreme Court. 

Justices do act independently, and lately, Kennedy, who may be nearing his retirement, has been appearing in more public situations. However, with the Supreme Court hearing and decision on Fisher v. University of Texas, an affirmative action case, less than a week away, this appearance was a risk.

During the interview, Kennedy commented on the precedent for FisherGrutter v. Bollinger.

In that case, the University of Michigan Law School did not admit Barbara Grutter, and it admitted to using race as a factor in its decisions as a “compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body”. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Courtruled that the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the Law School's use of race in admissions decisions to create a diverse community that yields academic benefits.

“The two cases are essentially the same,” Kennedy said, referring to Grutter and Fisher. Justice Kennedy voted against the majority in the previous case.

Kennedy has been called “the swing voter” in this case, a moderate-conservative judge whose vote could go either way and determine the outcome of the case. His statement on the similarity between Grutter and Fisher suggests that he may vote in the same direction, which would make affirmative action in college admissions illegal.

Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as the other six justices hearing the case, have declined to comment on the interview.  CNN will report if any justice decides to comment on Justice Kennedy's appearance. #

Second House Oversight Committee Hearing Tomorrow, March 20th

Wade Henderson, Lisa Jackson, and Linda Chavez at the House Oversight Hearing Wednesday, March14th
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

A second House Oversight Committee Hearing will take place tomorrow Wednesday, March 20th.  Chairman Issa announced that the "topic discussed at the house meeting will be affirmative action in college admissions," specifically in light of the Fisher v. UT case.  Issa told CNN that those testifying tomorrow will be Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference and Linda Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity.  Much controversy is expected to arise tomorrow, as members of the House on all sides of the spectrum regarding affirmative action will speak.

Tune in tomorrow for a full report of the House Oversight Hearing. #

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson releases statement regarding Keystone Pipeline on CNN segment last week

By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein
CNN sat down with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to clarify her position regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline.  As Jackson didn't have any opportunity to speak out regarding her decision to hire Cleaner Tomorrows, CNN gave her a chance to clarify her statement for the american people.
    "Yesterday [Wednesday, March 14th], Chairman Issa asked if I thought Mendax was lying, and my answer to that would be that Mendax posted her opinion in her blog, so there is nothing really she could lie about. Cleaner Tomorrows may not be in the top 5 biggest contracting companies, granted, but it is certainly in the top 25, making it more than qualified for hiring. This company did a perfectly credible job, as there have been no specific errors in the EPA report. In fact, it is apparent how meticulous the most recent report is based on how much Cleaners Tomorrow found wrong with the original EIS done by Cardno Entrix, a company that is definitely not one of the most prominent firms.
     As for the allegations that the EPA did not honor the merit system because Cleaner Tomorrows was hired as a WBE, all I can say is that Cleaner Tomorrows’ being a part of the WBE program is of no concern at all. The EPA decided on Cleaner Tomorrows because we knew they would do a credible job. I would have supported hiring this company even if it weren’t a WBE. There are inherent flaws in society that put women and minorities at a disadvantage, as on average women get paid about 75% as much as men for the same work. Our WBE program is simply trying to make up for these flaws, but in no way do we support hiring companies that aren't qualified.
     Also, as stated in the general statement for the hearing, I reiterate that the opinion of one disgruntled employee is by no means a reason for investigation." #

CNN Exclusive -- An explanation of DBE's with The Leadership Conference's Wade Henderson

By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

CNN sat down with Wade Henderson, the President and CEO of The Leadership Conference, a group devoted to protecting civil and human rights for all people. Mr. Henderson broke down the fundemental information one should know about Disadvantage Buisness Enterprise (DBE) programs.

  • DBES are Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. These are businesses that are majority owned by socially or economically disadvantaged individuals, such as MBEs (Minority Owned Businesses) or WBEs (Women Owned Businesses). However, these can also include small businesses, businesses in rural areas, and historically underutilized businesses. All of these businesses must be certified and proven to have a definite disadvantage.
  • The EPA, as do all federal agencies, gives a certain amount of federal money to states each year. Part of this money is to fulfill procurement actions that carry out agency programs (through construction, equipment purchasing, services, and supplies). In order to receive this money, states must comply with the DBE program, and ensure that 10% of this money goes to DBEs. This money can be granted to DBEs in 2 ways. The first is through outreach programs, which help DBEs with training. The second is through contracting. When states contract out, they must give a percentage of those contracts to DBEs, require a contractor to use DBEs as a percentage of their subcontractors, or make sure DBEs are involved in a group bid.
  • EPA grantees must follow fair share objectives, or “goals based on the capacity and availability of qualified, certified MBEs and WBEs in the relevant geographic market.”* However, these are not quotas and “a recipient cannot be penalized for not meeting its fair share objectives.”
  • DBE programs do not make the applicant pool less capable. DBE programs most often break down contracting bids or divide the requirements of a job so that more businesses can participate. All of the businesses are equally talented. The ways in which DBEs are disadvantaged is that they lack the money, resources, and connections to make the most compelling and cheap contracting bid.
  • DBE programs work to make minority owned businesses more competitive in a way in which they never otherwise would have had the opportunity.
  • Racism and sexism unfortunately still permeate our culture. DBEs allow our government to ensure we are a racially progressive society.
  • Women and minorities face barriers such as*:
    • Lack of financial capital: lower incomes, fewer assets, and less access to loans.
    • Lack of social capital: limited network of resources, one of the known benefits of higher education.
    • Less access to education and professional training, based on our country’s history of discrimination.
  • DBEs are necessary to even out the playing field.

* EPA Office of Small Business Programs Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program Computer-Based Learning Series (

** Urban Institute Analysis – Funded by the Department Of Justice (


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Breaking News -- Justice Roberts has leaked crucial information to Speaker Boehner

Supreme Court Justice Roberts and Speaker Boehner
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein
CNN – Washington

It has just been reported that “Chief Justice Roberts has recently leaked crucial information regarding Supreme Court oral arguments to Speaker Boehner,” an inside source from Washington reports.  As of now there is no hard proof that these allegations are true, but one can only imagine the political turmoil that would result if these allegations were confirmed.

The eight Supreme Court justices that will soon be hearing oral arguments on the Fisher v. UT case seem to have forgotten the purpose of the judicial branch, and how they are suppose to stay removed from the political agenda of Congress.  (See article re: Justice Kennedy’s appearance on CNN for more information)

These allegations are currently being investigated further. #

Friday, March 16, 2012

CNN Exclusive interview with Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu

By: Matthew Brinko

Piers Morgan:   I’m here today with Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu.  Hello Mr. Chu, how are you today? 

Steven Chu:  I’m well, its been a busy couple of days. 

Piers Morgan:  As I can imagine.  Lets get into the basics, what is your stance on the Keystone Pipeline?

Steven Chu:  I believe that the Keystone Pipeline will reduce the U.S.’s reliance on overseas oil.  However I do not feel that the Keystone Pipeline can sustain the U.S. for a long period of time.

Piers Morgan:  So what would be your main course of action for the future?

 Steven Chu: The more important action that should be taken is to invest in alternative energy and find a renewable energy source that can sustain our energy consumption long term.

Piers Morgan:  Renewable energy sources such as?

Steven Chu: Investing in new technologies such as solar energy and natural gases will be better for the economy long term.

Piers Morgan:  And what steps have the Obama administration taken towards investing in new technologies?

Steven Chu: The Obama administration has taken major steps to advance alternative energy sources such as wind resources. This includes creating the first offshore wind farm which is expected to produce enough clean electricity to power more than 200,000 homes. The administration has also approved construction on 16commercial-scale solar facilities, five wind facilities, and geothermal projects. These projects are expected to power more then 1.3 million homes and support 12,500 jobs.

Piers Morgan:  Well thank you Steven for your time, you have been really informative and I hope that I have another opportunity to talk to you again soon.

Interview conducted at CNN headquarters by Piers Morgan.  (Matthew Brincko)

The Environmental Impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline

NRDC Spokesman Frances Beinecke had a tough time in Washington today. Beinecke was given little time–if any–to respond to questions during the hearing. She was first asked what, in terms of natural resources, would be destroyed by the XL expansion of the keystone pipeline.

Beinecke, citing an EPA study, began to outline the various effects the project would have on the environment. According to the report, the project would destroy parts of the Boreal Forest, a natural carbon reservoir and animal habitat. In addition, the pipeline expansion would cause irreparable damage to the area's clean air. However, much of the information in the report was not shared, as Congressman Issa limited Beinecke's response.

As the hearing went on, the Oversight Committee became more concerned with the legitimacy of Beinecke's statements than with the statements themselves. The message he was trying to get across was simple, but Washington was unwilling to listen.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings issues statement during CNN broadcast earlier today

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings

By: Emily Chassman

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings issued the following statement earlier today in response to the House Oversight Committee Hearing yesterday:

"First of all, I would like to thank everyone in attendance at the hearing today. Unfortunately, as the Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee, I felt a lot of hostility from Chairman Issa. His not sending any democrats the statements he received prior to the Hearing completely discounts proper hearing etiquette in addition to making it much more difficult for me, Congresswoman Speier, and Congressman Kucinich. Also, Chairman Issa failed to give proper time to the Democrats to speak, making it very difficult to get our point across. Whether the lack of time was a result of his fear that, if we were to get our point across, the American people would agree with us, or simply disrespect, it was completely unacceptable and unappreciated by the democrats. Also, the fact that Chairman Issa did not allot us time to speak about relatable topics, yet somehow found it acceptable for Congressman Rose to bring up points about jobs to a Leadership Conference representative is shocking. We hope that, in the future, we are able to have a fair hearing in order to ensure a fact-based decision instead of simply playing politics." #