tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC December 4, 2013 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
that is all in for this evening. the rachel maddow show starts right now. >> good evening, chris, thank you for joining us. we begin with breaking news about a fascinating and potentially scary detective story that kept us all glued to the news wires all day long today as this story evolved. this story starts here in the city of tijuana in mexico, right across the border from san diego. last thursday on thanksgiving day, a big truck left the hospital in tijuana, ultimately heading across the country, almost a thousand miles to mexico city. that is how far they were supposed to go on the route. it was a very long trip and a very important trip, because that truck was carrying this. it is an old piece of equipment from that hospital in tijuana. this particular equipment was used in radiation therapy, which
means that the equipment itself was radioactive. the hospital was ready to replace the old equipment with new stuff. but first it had to send the old, now radioactive equipment to a facility for storing nuclear waste. the piece of old equipment from the hospital in tijuana was loaded with little pellets with something called cobalt 60. it is a radioactive isotope, that used in the right way, could save you from cancer, but in the wrong way, it could kill you. one of the worst nuclear accidents of all time happened in 1987 when people searching for scrap metal in brazil slipped into an abandoned building that had never been properly cleaned out. the scrap metal thieves made off
with the equipment, messed around with it, pried on it for a while and tried to take the pieces apart. they ended up selling the pieces to a junk yard. a report said the junk yard owner noticed that some of the scrap pieces they bought that day glowed blue in the dark. junk yard owner's friends and relatives came by to check out the strange new thing that glowed in the dark, they passed around bits of it in the shop, the little pellets, and a lot of people got very, very sick, 28 people ended up in the hospital with radiation poisoning, and four people died. so you can see it was very important that the truck driver who started off in tijuana on thanksgiving day, you see how it is very important that the truck
driver needed to make it to the nuclear waste disposal facility with this piece of radioactive material, you can see why it was so important he didn't make his journey. the truck driver said he was woken up by a pair of thieves. he stopped to sleep by a gas station, sleeping in the truck. the thieves who woke him up were armed. they ordered him out of the vehicle, then they drove away in his truck carrying the radioactive material. and then the desperate hunt began for this truck with the highly radioactive cobalt 60 as its cargo. the mexican authorities alerted the atomic energy authorities, and the u.s. alerted others that it may try to make its way into the united states. part of the warning was if anybody came in contact with it. but of course, another part of the worry is that maybe somebody did it on purpose.
maybe somebody might realize what they have. or they stole it knowing what they were looking for because they wanted to get their hands on something highly radioactive. american officials told msnbc news that the thieves were not specifically looking for materials with which they could build a dirty bomb. now the authorities said the materials in the case may not just make an effective bomb because it would just blow up in the explosion, instead of dispersing anywhere. they his told msnbc that anybody handling this would probably make themselves very sick or hurt in the process of doing so and maybe they wouldn't be fit in making a bomb. the mexican officials said they believed the thieves were just after the cargo truck itself and the neat mounted crane on the back of the truck in the cab. thieves find these irresistible, and they get stolen all the
time. they said the radioactive material was properly shielded when it was put on the back of the truck. the issue was, if anybody opened up the back of the container not knowing what they would get themselves into it. well, the hunt started as soon as it went missing, dragging on all day today with no sign of it. until finally, later today, the authorities found it. they said it was abandoned in a small farming town about an hour outside of mexico city. half an hour when they found the truck, they found the cargo box. the authorities found at least some of the radioactive material still inside the box, but the shielded container had been opened. there are conflicting reports
about whether or not some of the radioactive material is still at large tonight. what the authorities have not found are the people who stole the truck or the people who personally handled the cobalt 60 when they pried open the container. mexican authorities told msnbc news if and when the thieves opened the box, they are likely to have burned themselves in the process. he said wherever they are right now, if they handled the stuff, they are either likely dead or in the process of dying. joining us to help us understand what happened is edward lyman, thank you for joining us. >> good to be here. >> so in terms of cobalt 60 and other radioactive isotopes used in medical procedures and other areas, more or less routinely used in hospital settings, is cobalt 60 something that is deadly? would you expect the mexican authorities are right that anybody who touched this stuff today would likely be ill or dying? >> well, absolutely, if the cobalt 60 source was removed from the shielding, in a midst -- these are rays that can penetrate the human body very easily. so simply being in close proximity to these sources can deliver a very high dose in a short period of time. that is why they're used in
radiotherapy. so i would be very concerned if anybody actually did remove the source from its shielding. >> in terms of the way these things are shielded and the way they're marked, nobody expects that truck thieves, if they're common truck thieves, have no special knowledge about these materialings and the way they're packaged. are these things marked in such a way and packaged in such a way that they're hard to get to. and b, clearly something that could hurt you if you opened the container? >> there are international standards for marks and packaging highly radioactive sources. but one problem is there is no binding requirements. so countries are really free to do as they choose. i don't know about the mexican arrangements, but i do know there were many incidents around the world for decades where the providence and the identity of these materials is certainly not
known to the people who discovered them to very catastrophic effects. >> in terms of the motivation here, nobody seems to be putting forth the hypothesis that there were people looking to make a dirty bomb, who were looking to steal this stuff in order to turn it into a kind of weapon. but if for whatever reason it was trafficked or people realized what they had, or that hypothesis, that seems unlikely the case, would this be the material that would be the explosive device that could disperse the radioactive material over a very large area? >> this has been a concern of people especially since 9/11. and if you were able to effectively disperse the source, because these are very highly concentrated materials, you could spread the low level concentrations over a large area. now at fukushima, you could see
what a relatively small amount of material actually created the radioactive mess that went out 20 miles from the site. now this amount of material would probably be less effective. but you could certainly contaminate an area in several city blocks to the extent that it might deny people access to that area for weeks, months or years, depending on how fast you could clean it up. >> well, to that point we understand that authorities are preparing to send a special team to the area where the cargo box was found where the radioactive material was detected. what do you expect will happen at that site. and what will they have to do to sort of protect any bystanders or people who may come in contact with the materials? >> well, hopefully it is shielded and close to where it was lost. but they will have to survey the area very carefully. and the incident you referred to
in brazil and other incidents, when materials like this gets dispersed to other areas, people carry it around. you can have traces of it in places where you don't expect. so people are going to have to look very carefully to make sure they have located all the material and make sure that people are -- that avoid exposure at all costs. and let's hope that there has not been an opportunity for the material to get in close contact to people. >> edward lyman of concerned scientists, thank you for helping us understand this story, appreciate you being here. >> thank you. >> if we learn more about this crazy story about stolen radioactive material in mexico tonight we'll let you know. again, the most interesting detail at this point until we know about the people who stole this, who may or may not come in contact with it, the most interesting outstanding detail at this point is that there are conflicting reports as to
whether or not the total amount of the radioactive material that started out in that truck has been located or whether some of that material has been found and whether some of it is at large. we'll keep you updated on this as news comes in. meanwhile, more news, including the stand your ground laws, and a republican lawmaker with a cloudy suggestion for our country, please stay tuned. there is lots to come tonight. [ male announcer ] this is george.
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earlier this fall, a group funded by the koch brothers used these ads to urge young people not to sign up for health insurance. saying it was creepy. don't get health insurance, young people, it is gross. the koch brothers' idea here was that young people should opt out of the health insurance, and if you wrote to their opt out of insurance website, they would send you materials to give them to your friends to let them know that getting health insurance is just not cool. around the same time, another conservative group linked to the conservative billionaire brothers launched this website in alaska to convince people in that state that they actually should not get health insurance. they actually launched two
websites at once, one of which just flat out told the people there they should pledge to not get insurance. another ended up giving the same advice, don't do it under any circumstance. yesterday, the l.a. times reported on the same kind of trick being reported in california. in california it is not the same type of random group, in california it is the state republican party. california republicans are a bit of an endangered species right now, but when they learned that the health insurance website for people to sign up was going to be coveringca.com, as in covering california, the republican party came up with a dummy website that looked just like the real one, instead of covering california, their rip-off was covering health care.com. if you ended up there it kind of
looked like you were in the right place to sign up for health insurance. but you were not there, you were at the republican party's website that was designed to make you think that it was terrible to sign up for health insurance. the conversation about washington health reform is sort of an esoteric run. republican house speaker john boehner was asked whether or not the republican party would have its own health care policy, its own policy ideas on the subject. his answer was, we'll see. no rush, we'll see. today in the republican-controlled house, there were four, count them, four separate hearings on how terrible health reform is, but with no more votes to repeal it. no more plans to shut down the government to stop it, and with no more plans to stop the health care, the republicans' plans
have gotten a little more esoteric, you can see much more clearly than in washington what the real fight is right now between the parties over this issue. and the real fight now between the parties is that one party really wants you to get health insurance. they're saying it at every turn, the president is going to do an event every day between now and christmas to say hey, go get health insurance. one party wants you to really get health insurance, and another party is doing everything possible to stop you from getting more health insurance. texas has more uninsured people than anywhere else in the entire country. today in texas, they unveiled 64 pages of new state rules and regulations that restrict people who want to help other people in texas sign up for health insurance. so if you want to be a health care navigator in texas to help
people sign up for insurance, as of today, texas says you must be fingerprinted and pass a detailed background check. you have to display evidence of financial responsibility. they will put you through 40 hours of training and after that, after all that you will still be banned by law in texas from actually offering people advice about how to get health insurance. the new texas rules they up -- unveiled today in texas may recommend to anybody else that they sign up for health insurance. that is illegal. you can't tell anybody in texas the difference between the various plans offered to them. you can't explain the differences between the plans. so if you want to help people sign up for health insurance in texas, effectively, that is now illegal. and in missouri, it is outright illegal.
missouri is being taken to federal court right now over their efforts to make it basically impossible to people to figure out how to get health insurance in that state. because the law that missouri passed flat out makes it illegal for anybody to offer anyone any advice concerning benefits, terms or features of any health insurance plan. you can't talk about that in missouri. so sure, millions of people across the country who could not get health insurance before now should be able to get it because of health reform. but republican-controlled state governments are making it illegal, or at least hopefully impossible for you to find out that there are health insurance options out there that you might like. and conservative groups across the country are trying to convince you that health insurance itself is just a terrible, terrible idea. and you don't want it anyway.
it is clear that republicans did not want the health reform to pass in the first place. they didn't want president obama and the democrats to have a legislative win. they didn't like the policy itself. but now the policy itself is in effect. and it means that millions of americans now can get health insurance who could not get it in the past. and millions of americans who did have health insurance in the past should have better and more affordable choices for their coverage. and all the talking about it in washington, if you put it aside, really, the real question is whether this much more under the radar political effort in the states can effectively stop americans from getting insurance that they might really like if only they knew how to do it. joining us, radio host on msn, michael spent eight weeks trying to find insurance options for himself through healthcare.gov before it finally worked this week. michael, great to see you, thank you for joining us. >> thank you, rachel for having me. >> so you had a miserable eight weeks, early experience trying to get through the federal exchange.
but now it has worked for you, is that right? >> it is. i had a ureka moment yesterday. and what broke the log jam for me was a new feature on the website that allowed me to withdraw my prior applications. this time i used a brand-new e-mail, frankly an e-mail address that i obtained just for this purpose. because the system wouldn't allow me. i made so many efforts i think the system thought i was somehow a fraud, to which i responded if a crook spent that much time trying to peninsula me, he -- to impersonate me, he deserves health insurance. >> you and i talked about policy issues over the years. what is your take on republican state governments and these conservative groups that are telling people don't get health insurance that are trying to make it impossible for people to find out about their options? what do you make about that? >> now that i'm in, i have 24 different plans that are competing for my business. so i have tremendous choice. and they range in price from a thousand dollars a month to $2,000 a month. and the deductible is what fluctuates in the balance. i get the idea that this came
out of the situation. it is either independence blue cross or aetna, these are private insurers competing for my business, so that i can still go into the marketplace and still select my physician. i completely understand how this is in sync with free market capitalism. so the republicans now, abandoning an idea that was originally their own is purely for political purposes. and i think that what illustrates this so clearly is what you just described. these advocacy efforts, what we really need to ask ourselves is who will pay for those who don't get insurance or who are allowed to maintain an under-insured policy. well, society is going to pay. that was part of the premise at the outset, right, we wanted to cover people but also wanted to make sure that those who had coverage were not caring for those who used the er as a primary care facility. so what they're doing now is so
out of whack, dare i say with basic conservatism, that i think it exposes their true hand. >> well, if republicans stopped trying to repeal obama care, their plan seems to be to try to make it not work. for people trying to get insurance, as the whole idea of getting insurance, what that means in terms of their principles is one thing. what that means in terms of strategy, if they're going to tell people not to get insurance, where does that strategy end? where does it lead to, for republicans? >> well, i mean, people are signing up. kentucky is a great example of the success with regard to the medicaid expansion. but if the republican efforts like you just described are geared toward turning away the young invincibles, then what i think is really going on, they're trying to subvert this model of this. if people who are of means are buying in so we can provide that safety net for people who have not yet had insurance. so if the young invincibles are
convinced economic-wise, and everybody has to pay more for now expanding the tent for medicaid recipients, i think that is what it is all about so they can put numbers on the board and say see, we told you this is a drain on our economy. >> if they thought they could control that much of the economy and that much of the policy board, i would see them aiming at that. i think they short term hope that happens. but with 1.5 million people being told they qualify for medicaid, with thousands signing up. with more people signing up for obama care in the last two days than the first whole month of the program, i think the train is out of the station, i think it will be politically influx -- >> rachel, the debate has just changed. you know, when the conversation was only about the inability to get on line, and there was confusion out there, 85% of americans don't need to be concerned with going on line.
i will say you have insurance through your employer, nothing is going to change for you. so i think the confusion has really been a detriment. i am from pennsylvania, we don't have our exchange, i probably would have more than two dozen choices. if our governor had cooperated, i think in addition to aetna and in addition to blue cross i would be looking for more solutions. in the end, people say what does
it mean to me, i can spend x, y or z? >> really nice to see you, michael, it has been too long. >> appreciate it. lots more ahead, including the 911 tapes out of newtown. and one of the most powerful and mysterious groups on the american political right. that is all ahead. stay with us. >> i have acknowledged more than once that we didn't roll out parts of this law as well as we
should have. but the law is already working in major ways that benefit millions of americans right now, even as we have begun to slow the rise in health care costs which is good for family budgets, good for federal and state budgets and good for the budgets of businesses, small and large. so this law is going to work. and for the sake of our economic security it needs to work. and as people in states as different as california and kentucky sign up every single day for health insurance, signing up in droves, they're proving they want that economic security. you know, if the senate republican leader still thinks he is going to be able to repeal this some day, he might want to check with the more than 60,000 people in his home state who are already happy that finally has coverage that frees them from the fear of financial ruin and lets them afford to see a doctor.
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energy. according to the statement, it is safer and more reliable than the energy we use now. >> that was june of 1979. the americans were used to waiting in long lines at gas stations, when president carter warmed his hands on the panels and promised tax credits to people who put them on their homes and businesses. let's get energy independence, go solar, well, seven years later, a republican president named ronald reagan had the panels taken down, supposedly for repairs. this summer, new and improved panels got put back up, once again as part of a green overhaul on pennsylvania avenue. the new panels are expected to pay for themselves in energy savings over the course of president obama's tenure. but just down the street at the grand hyatt hotel in washington, the white house's solar panels are the object of scorn and strategy. it is the meeting of the
exchange council, alec, the consortium, where mostly republicans fought for the passage in their states. the initiative is to punish american homeowners who choose to go solar, the idea is to make the solar-powered homeowners pay a penalty for using fewer fossil fuels, disincentivize the use. alec's stated objective is blocking the renewable energy at the state and federal level. touting their laws that reform, freeze or repeal state or renewable energy mandates. these internal documents obtained by "the guardian" boasts that 15 states used this kind of legislation. they try to get their bills copied and passed as law in as many states as possible. that is what they do. the american legislative exchange council.
they write or take legislation and then shop it to other states. sometimes they already became law, like in the bill stripping union rights or in florida, the "stand your ground law." the nationwide proliferation of that idea from florida was once a shining achievement for alec, creating a whole new legal determination for justifiable homicide. the stand your ground doctrine was a shining achievement for them, until the case of trayvon martin who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman named george zimmerman, who was found not guilty of second degree murder in that case. the case, of course, got a ton
of national attention, and the stand your ground laws got a ton of national attention, and since then, many powerful companies with interests in alec have stopped their association with the organization. our parent company, comcast, has not ceased its association with alec, but lots of companies like coca-cola and craft and pepsi even ceased paying dues to alec, even though alec announced they were getting out of the gun rights business, and even though they wrote the task force on the bill. it has had an effect on this very influential conservative organization.
the documents show that a third of alec's revenue is gone, year over year, owing to big corporate members leaving the organization. alec has also lost 400 state legislators from their ranks, the group is so worried about this attrition that they started a movement to get the corporate leaders back, trying to woo their well healed members back to the organization. also, a promise to keep member's names anonymous with the new organization designed in the 501 c 4-category, which means that donors could remain anonymous, they could keep supporting the group, but remain unembarrassed. something with the legislative agenda that alec promotes. other documents posted by the guardian reveal that alec is not only trying to recover its
corporate revenue, but they're also asking for a stronger commitment from lawmakers that stayed true to the organization, asking that legislators pledge to act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first. put the interests of the organization first. how about the constituents that voted you into office. joining us now is the chief reporter for the guardian newspaper which broke the story about alec. thank you for joining us. >> great to be here. >> a long story, you recovered a lot of information about this group about which people have been very curious but know very little. i should ask if i misstated any of that information? >> no, it represents it well. >> what have we learned about this group that we didn't know before?
>> well, the thing that caught our attention, you mentioned it was the prodigal son document, they misspelled it. nevertheless, the 41 companies, coke, pepsi, walmart, ge, all the big companies in america they lost in the last couple of years and now are desperate to get back, that is an affirmation that we learned bit by bit is that alec is in trouble. and i think the reason they're in trouble goes to the heart of one of the great strengths of alec, they were a very secret organization. and that suits the companies who back them. most of their money comes from corporations, and they meet the legislators who are introduced to them. and they together vote on legislation which then gets passed around the state. if that is done in secret, that is fine, that really suits them. they get what they want, lower regulation or stopping climate change regulation, or stopping people from putting up panels on the roof. if that becomes public, the work that alec is doing, and other groups have done tirelessly over the last couple of years to open the door on the activities.
there is one thing that corporations like less than taxes and regulations and that is bad publicity. and that is the trayvon martin fallout, in the core of the stand your ground laws, 26 states have them still, partly due to alec's influence. when alec got caught in that, that in turn caused a problem. >> this is a key part in how they're intending to win corporations back, do you think the sort of restructuring they're describing could allow them to be anonymous. >> it is partly the anonymity. now, if you get two people in the room, one is the state legislator, the other, the big corporation and they agree on legislation, vote together, that legislation gets taken up by state assembly and becomes law. now, is that lobbying?
>> it appears to be a beautiful relationship -- >> it is a bit of fun or maybe a bit of lobbying going on there. there is a huge gray area in america about lobbying. and i think it will become more and more important, obama flagged it up, they said they wouldn't allow groups like karl rove's group, regarding elections, now alec doesn't do that, get involved in campaigns, it is actively involved in what happens to people after they get elected. you know, what happens to a state assemblyman and what laws are passed. and that is when alec gets involved. there will be more debate about it, alec is a tax-exempt charity. what it does is cook up legislation. >> if i had the choice of choosing who could be elected in a particular election or writing
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found their next big issue that they're going to hit president obama with. they did sort of need something new, right, for the holiday? s and turns out president obama didn't close the vatican embassy, they thought they had a live one there, but that ended up not being true. and they thought they had a huge story when they thought president obama didn't cover babies with the health insurance. but that wasn't true. that one guy that thought his baby was not covered on his health insurance is because that one activist guy forget to list that baby. he forget one of his kids, simple mistake, apparently. the irs scandal turned out not really being a scandal. trying to turn the benghazi scandal into a tragedy other than a tragedy. and they keep trying to pull stunts to repeal obama care, now
that hundreds of thousands of people are getting health insurance that they didn't have before. they really need a new thing. they think they would like to hit him now on iran. according to the hill, quote, house republicans are considering various legislative options that would either rip the obama administration's nuclear deal with iran. quote, a handful of house gop lawmakers tell the hill that the party is debating how best to show disapproval for the iran agreement struck shortly after congress left for the thanksgiving recess. this is the new plan. republicans are going to try to make president obama look terrible for negotiating that new agreement over iran's nuclear program and in the process of making him look terrible they, of course, will show the country that they, themselves, republicans are much better on the issue.
they are much more trustworthy, much more sober, much more sane when it comes to dealing with complicated and sensitive issues like iran and nuclear weapons in the middle east. republicans want to show off how much americans should prefer their republican approach when it comes to iran. as part of that new political offensive, behold duncan hunter on c-span. >> i think a ground war in iran with american boots on the ground would be a horrible thing and i think people like to toss around the fact that we have to stop them from getting this nuclear capability. i don't think it's inevitable but if you have to hit iran, you do it with tactical nuclear devices. >> oh, just tactical nuclear devices. the little kind. what could possibly go wrong? republicans have got the big thinkers who know that little, tiny nuclear wars in the middle
east are a much better alternative to the kinds of dangerous talking that this president is so recklessly undertaking right now. a small, tactical nuclear device. why not? i mean, if you start small, you can always build on your success. humans. even when we cross our t's and dot our i's, we still run into problems. namely, other humans. which is why, at liberty mutual insurance, auto policies come with new car replacement and accident forgiveness if you qualify. see what else comes standard at libertymutual.com. liberty mutual insurance. responsibility. what's your policy?
>> that's a new ad released today by mom's demand action for gun sense in america which was a group formed spontaneously in reaction to the shootings at sandy hook elementary last year. we will hit one year since those shootings next saturday. and the town of newtown, connecticut, is making it known that they do not want you to be there for the anniversary. the new first selectman asked that well wishers not visit the community on december 14th. please do not visit that day. at that same press conference, the chief of police said that the department would be
of kindness and speak out in a way that you want to. but if you ask newtown the president has found a new line of attack and it's actually a very simple question. what's your plan? and i'm going it tell you about this little desk later. >> the government can't just stand on the sidelines in our efforts because the government is us. >> he has promoted the obama care act on obama care. >> i know people call this law obama care. >> obama care. >> and that's okay, because i do care. >> back on the hill, republicans are not backing down.