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Protesters target Zuckerberg at Facebook HQ

Protesters will be marching on Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters tomorrow to protest founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s role in a public policy group that seems to be advocating for construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Activists are angry that Zuckerberg’s FWD.us group is running a national TV ad praising and featuring pipeline supporter U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

http://youtu.be/3Iih8K0U27k

“The president says I’m for ‘all of the above’ when it comes to energy,” Graham says in the ad. “Well, those are words coming out of his mouth. They don’t come from his heart. No Keystone pipeline. No drilling in the Gulf. At the end of the day, the economy is not doing well.”

Actually, the ad isn’t from FWD.us directly, but rather from one of its subsidiaries, Americans for a Conservative Direction. Another FWD.us subsidiary, the Council for American Job Growth, is running an ad in support of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, which in part praises Begich’s support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR):

Critics say Zuckerberg is quietly bankrolling media efforts for what they say are environmentally harmful fossil-fuel projects, even as he publicly claims to be concerned about climate change.

Surely the billionaire social-media mogul knew what he was getting into when he announced the formation of his issue-advocacy group about a month ago – this is the Bay Area, after all.

The march and rally is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., starting at 1401 Willow Road in Menlo Park. It’s organized by Next Step Keystone Action – a coalition including 350 Bay Area and 350 Silicon Valley, Rainforest Action Network, Idle No More, CREDO, Friends of the Earth, and others.

1

A gun-policy bill on which both parties agree

Apparently there’s at least one gun-policy bill in Sacramento on which both sides of the aisle can agree.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee today approved SB 644, by Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, which would increase penalties for felons caught in possession of firearms.

It’s already illegal in California for convicted felons to possess firearms, but current law limits the punishment for that crime to three years or less; SB 644 would increase that sentence to as much as six years and would automatically count such a conviction as a new strike under the state’s “Three Strikes” law.

“I think we all can agree enforcing existing gun laws and giving them real teeth is good public policy,” Cannella said in a news release. “Under the current statute, a felon in possession of a gun does not constitute a serious or violent crime, whereas someone entering a private residence while no one is home is considered a serious offense. A felon in possession of a firearm is surely more of a danger to public safety than someone entering a private residence while no one is home.

“Getting these criminals off our streets is real gun control,” he said. “This is a common sense bill that makes a difference and keeps our families safer.”

Cannella spokesman Jeff Macedo said the committee passed the bill just a few minutes ago. A final vote isn’t available yet because committee vice chairman Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, and member Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, were absent and could still add their votes before the committee adjourns today, but there aren’t any “no” votes thus far.

SB 644 now goes to the state Senate Appropriations Committee. It’s supported by the National Rifle Association, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, and the Modesto and Salinas Police Departments.

UPDATE @ 5:06 P.M.: The committee’s final vote was 6-0; contrary to my earlier information, it was actually state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who was absent and didn’t cast a vote today.

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Lynn Woolsey on panel at UFO hearing

Lynn Woolsey, phone home.

The former North Bay House member is one of six former members of Congress who are taking testimony at a public hearing this at the National Press Club on what the U.S. government really knows about extraterrestrial life.

Yes. Really.

“The Citizen Hearing on Disclosure of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race will attempt to accomplish what the Congress has failed to do for forty-five years – seek out the facts surrounding the most important issue of this or any other time,” according to the hearing’s website.

Besides Woolsey, also plumbing the final frontier’s mysteries this week are former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaksa, and former Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.; Merrill Cook, R-Utah; Darlene Hooley, D-Ore.; and Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich.

The multi-day hearing, which started Monday and ends Friday, promises testimony from about 40 researchers and military/agency witnesses and is being live-streamed in English and Spanish – but it’s viewable only after paying a $3.80 subscription.

The event was organized by the Paradigm Research Group – a UFO conspiracy-theory group in Bethesda, Md., founded by activist Stephen Bassett, which invited the former lawmakers to use their House-honed skills in interviewing witnesses.

The White House in November 2011 answered a pair of petitions seeking disclosure of information on extraterrestrial life – including a petition launched by Bassett – by stating “the U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye.”

Woolsey, 75, retired last year after 10 terms in the House; she was succeeded by Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

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>100 cosponsors for House background-check bill

More than 100 House members from both sides of the aisle have signed on to co-sponsor a bill that would require background checks for all commercial gun sales.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, chairman of the House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, and Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 1565 on April 15, two days before the Senate rejected the identical Manchin-Toomey amendment.

“We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to passing commonsense laws that keep guns from criminals, terrorist and the dangerously mentally ill,” Thompson and King said in a news release today. “This debate isn’t over. The American people deserve for this bill to be signed into law.”

The bill would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads; it would not cover private, person-to-person sales, as California’s law does.

This widening of background checks is tempered by several nods to those concerned about Second Amendment rights: The bill bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also lets gun owners use a state concealed-carry permit issued within the last five years in lieu of a background check, and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

And it improves the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by offering incentives to states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grants toward better record-sharing systems; federal funds would be reduced to states that don’t comply.

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

The King-Thompson bill’s original co-authors are Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.; and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

From the greater Bay Area, co-sponsors include Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; and Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton.

The locals who haven’t signed on are Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; and George Miller, D-Martinez. I’ve reached out to their offices to find out where they stand on the bill, and will update this item accordingly.

UPDATE @ 1 P.M. TUESDAY 5/7: McNerney and Miller both have signed on.

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Boxer’s committee to probe Texas fertilizer blast

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the explosion disaster at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, chairwoman Barbara Boxer said today.

Boxer, D-Calif., said the committee’s oversight will include a probe not only of the April 17 blast that killed 15, injured almost 200 and destroyed a swath of the small town near Waco, but also of the chemical-safety laws that apply to similar facilities. She has asked the Chemical Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency how they plan to follow up on the investigation, including enforcement of current law.

“I cannot rest until we get to the bottom of what caused the disaster in West, Texas and the tragic loss of life,” Boxer said in a news release today. “It is critical that we find out how this happened. We must ensure that facilities like the one in West are complying with chemical safety laws. We will look at how the laws on the books are being enforced and whether there is a need to strengthen them. I plan to schedule an oversight hearing in the EPW Committee in the near future.”

Read Boxer’s letters to the CSB and EPA, after the jump…
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Mike Honda touts ‘National Day of Reason’

Following in the footsteps of former colleague Pete Stark, Rep. Mike Honda has spoken out on behalf of a “National Day of Reason” this Thursday, May 2, to counter the government-sponsored National Day of Prayer.

honda.jpg“The National Day of Reason celebrates the application of reason and the positive impact it has had on humanity,” Honda, D-San Jose, declared in the Congressional Record last Thursday. “It is also an opportunity to reaffirm the Constitutional separation of religion and government.”

The American Humanist Association says support from Honda and from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is particularly notable this year in light of the recent controversy over the refusal to include secular representation at the official memorial service honoring the victims of the recent Boston bombings.

The group says the National Day of Prayer Task Force’s state purpose to represent “a Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance” is exclusionary.

“Our elected officials dishonor their office and their constituents when they promote and attend divisive events that tell a growing minority of Americans that they aren’t worthy of full citizenship,” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt said in a news release. “Our secular government has no business endorsing expression of some beliefs while excluding others.”

The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by an act of Congress to be held each year on the first Thursday of May. The AHA created the National Day of Reason “to celebrate reason — a concept all Americans can support — and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.”

Stark – who was Congress’ only avowed atheist, and who was unseated last year by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell – had issued several National Day of Reason proclamations while in office. Honda describes his religious belief as Protestant Christian.