Archive for December, 2014

This Week in Washington…

Posted on December 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

Look ahead: While Republicans intend to return to a regular budget process, the return of sequestration-induced cuts could spur contentious debates over funding in the next Congress.

Look ahead: Lawmakers expect to resume negotiations on a long-term agreement in the new year.

Look ahead: Authorities could issue a formal announcement as early as today.

Look ahead: While the TRIA program is expected to lapse now that the 113th Congress has adjourned, Senate Republican leaders hope to take up legislation early in the 114th Congress.

WHITE HOUSE

CONGRESS

POLITICS

BUDGET, ECONOMY & FINANCE

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that the state will not lift its ban on fracking.
  • Colette Honorable was confirmed as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the Senate.
  • The wind production tax credit was revived retroactively in a package of tax extenders passed by the Senate, but it will be renewed only until the end of the year.
  • The Energy Information Administration predicted that in 2015, annual household spending on gasoline will be at its lowest in 11 years, thanks to lower prices and more-efficient cars.
  • In an interview, former 16-term Rep. Barney Frank says it’s time for Democrats to take up the “environmental issue,” but that they need to change their attitude.
  • A White House task force released today 15 recommendations to limit illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which it says costs between $10 billion and $23 billion a year and upsets marine ecosystems.
  • Brazilian scientists found a drug-resistant “super bacteria” in the polluted waters where the Rio de Janeiro Olympic sailing events will be held.
  • Four energy-friendly Republican freshmen have been named to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS & DEFENSE

  • Rajiv Shah, who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, announced he will step down next year.
  • The Combined Joint Task Force, which oversees U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria, said that the U.S.-led coalition has launched 67 strikes against ISIS over the past three days.
  • The Senate confirmed Tony Blinken to serve as deputy secretary at the State Department.
  • Several countries, including the United States, pledged to help fund the International Atomic Energy Agency’s request for an additional $5.7 million to monitor Iran.
  • The United States declined to hand over Joseph Scott Pemberton, a Marine charged with the murder of a transgender Filipino, instead holding him at a U.S. facility, under a military agreement between the two countries.
  • Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesperson, said the attack in Pakistan that killed scores of schoolchildren, is “not going to change our strategy” as the United States draws down in Afghanistan.

HEALTH CARE

TECHNOLOGY

  • The hacked Sony emails reveal that officials at the State Department saw a rough cut of the movie in late June and gave it the go-ahead.
  • Apple, Amazon, Verizon, AT&T, and other tech giants signed onto legal briefs in support of Microsoft that urge a federal Appeals Court to throw out a Justice Department warrant seeking access to emails stored on servers overseas.
  • A dozen online and communications companies over the past year have tussled with authorities over the right to report “zero” when disclosing the amount of national security orders received seeking customer data.
  • Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile lost a collective $45 billion last month due to increased competition among the carriers and the government’s pricey spectrum auction.
  • After a customer was raped in India, Uber announced it is planning new safety procedures, including biometric screenings of drivers.
  • Google and Verizon reached a cross-licensing deal on patents, which mirrors earlier ones Google has signed with Cisco, Samsung, and LG and aims to reduce the number of potential patents vulnerable to frivolous litigation.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “I disagree that all families are like ours. I don’t know many families that are fighting at Thanksgiving…. And I’m hoping you’ll have some of this out of your system when you come here for Christmas.” — Joy Woodhouse, calling in to C-SPAN, where her sons, left-leaning Brad and conservative Dallas, were bickering on air (Time)
  • “God is not that much of a Democrat for Ted Cruz to get nominated.” — Former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on the 2016 presidential race (Reuters)
  • “It’s the end of America as we know it.” — Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., on leaving the Capitol Hill home he has shared with colleagues since the 1980s (New York Times)
  • “My formulation is this: Politicians make a lot of mistakes, the press drives me crazy, and voters are no bargain, either.” – Barney Frank (Reuters)
  • “A few years ago, I tried to watch the ‘12 Days of Christmas’ on YouTube. But I never got beyond that first partridge in a pear tree.” — Dial-up Internet subscriber Phyllis Brock, whose rural Tennessee home lacks broadband access (Fortune)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

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This Week in Washington…

Posted on December 5, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

WHITE HOUSE

CONGRESS

POLITICS

BUDGET, ECONOMY & FINANCE

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • The German government announced that itwill require an additional carbon-emissions cut of 62 million to 78 million tons—equivalent to the annual output of 7 million homes—in a bid to meet its goal of cutting emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
  • Seas are rising everywhere, but Mid-Atlantic states are seeing water creep in faster than other areas.
  • The World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday that 2014 is on track to be the warmest year, or one of the warmest years, on record.
  • While nations that rely heavily on oil production to boost their national budgets, such as Venezuela and Russia, are hurting from the drop in prices, China stands to benefit in a big way.
  • Big retailers and food companies, including Kellogg’s, Levi-Strauss, Mars, Ikea, Nike, and Starbucks, signed a letter supporting EPA’s carbon-emissions rules for power plants.
  • Former Vice President Al Gore said he sees fossil fuels as today’s equivalent of the subprime mortgages that triggered the global credit crisis, since investors assume that all known reserves will be consumed.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS & DEFENSE

HEALTH CARE

  • The administration is focused on insuring more Hispanics—about one-quarter of whom are uninsured in the U.S.—but legal immigrants are facing new problems signing up for coverage on HealthCare.gov.
  • Thirty-five hospitals around the country—chosen by state health officials and hospital executives and evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—have been designated to treat individuals with Ebola, as part of the administration’s effort to improve domestic preparedness.
  • Hospitals have reported 1.3 million fewer hospital-acquired infections from 2011 to 2013 compared with the rate in 2010, according to a new report from the Health and Human Services Department, which estimates that hospital safety efforts have resulted in about 50,000 fewer avoidable patient deaths in the past three years.
  • The White House released a comprehensive review of how the domestic and international Ebola response has changed since the first case was diagnosed in the U.S. two months ago, ahead of President Obama’s remarks at the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday, during which he praised advances toward developing an Ebola vaccine, and urged continued focus on, and funding for, efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak.
  • The U.S. uninsured rate dropped from 17.7 percent to 12.4 percent between September 2013 and September 2014, largely thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.
  • Just over 303,000 people selected an insurance plan on HealthCare.gov during the second week of the second open-enrollment period, bringing the total to 765,135 for the first two weeks, 48 percent of whom are new customers, according to data from HHS.
  • Health care spending grew by only 3.6 percent in 2013, according to new federal data released Wednesday, making it the fifth consecutive year of historically low growth. The slow rate of growth is thanks to the ACA and the weak economy.
  • An outside advisory panel said Tuesday that improved scientific testing of blood has rendered unnecessary the 31-year ban on blood donations from gay men, which was initially intended to prevent the spread of HIV.

TECHNOLOGY

  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in Elonis v. United States, in which a Pennsylvania man challenges his criminal conviction for posting violent rap lyrics threatening violence against his estranged wife and others.
  • Sony determined that a recent hack of the entertainment company came from North Korea, possibly as retribution for the upcoming film The Interview.
  • A last-ditch push by about 30 Republicans to persuade House Speaker John Boehner to allow lame-duck action on an online sales-tax measure failed, but those attending the closed meeting said he is promising to revisit the issue early next year.
  • Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai accused Netflix of being hypocritical in its support for net neutrality.
  • Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sent a letter to rideshare app Lyft asking the company to clarify how it handles customer data it collects and its policies against potential employee abuses; the missive follows a similar one sent to Uber last month.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced plans to introduce legislation to ensure proper enforcement of safety laws governing drone use.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “Our consular staff are not there to pay for the repairs to your jet ski; they’re not there to pay your hotel bill; they’re not there to lend you a laptop or to provide you with office space in the embassy for you to do your work.” — Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, citing actual requests received by the nation’s embassies (Associated Press)
  • “This sounds like a road map for threatening a spouse and getting away with it. You put it in rhyme and you put some stuff about the Internet on it and you say, ‘I’m an aspiring rap artist.’ And so then you are free from prosecution.” — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, during oral arguments in Elonis v. United States (New York Times)
  • “I think a lot of it really got started in the ’60s with the ‘me’ generation. ‘What’s in it for me?’ I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, ‘I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?’ You know, it really should be about us.” — Dr. Ben Carson, on the roots of violence in African-American communities (Bloomberg)
  • “It’s much more of a celebrity society than it used to be. Supreme Court justices now are on television, they’re in the newspapers, blah, blah, blah.” — Justice Antonin Scalia, who is currently being portrayed in at least three stage productions (Wall Street Journal)
  • “The potential results are catastrophic. So let’s take out an insurance policy.” — Former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, on the risks of climate-change denial (Bloomberg)
  • “I’ve got to figure out what do we do now. Right now I would not want to be a cop, but you never know. Only time will tell.” — Darren Wilson, following his resignation from the Ferguson Police Department (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • “I understand why he has to do this—to prove he’s a man. He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.” — German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s displays of machismo (The New Yorker)
  • “When Obama first got elected, he should have let it all just drop…. Just let the country flatline. Let the auto industry die. Don’t bail anybody out. In sports, that’s what any new GM does. They make sure that the catastrophe is on the old management, and then they clean up. They don’t try to save old management’s mistakes.” — Comedian Chris Rock (New York)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

Future events

  • Friday, Dec. 5 – The Dewey Square Group will hold a discussion, “In the Era of Big Data and the Cloud, Are the Gaps in Digital Privacy Laws Getting Bigger?” at noon at 607 14th St. NW.
  • Monday, Dec. 8 – The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus will hold a discussion, “Should Congress be Caring About Sharing? Regulation and the Future of Uber, Airbnb, and the Sharing Economy,” at noon in 2226 Rayburn.
  • Friday, Dec. 5 – The American Enterprise Institute will hold a discussion, “What Will a Republican Congress Do on Health Care?” at 9:15 a.m. at 1150 17th St. NW.
  • Friday, Dec. 5 – The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a briefing, “Medicare Advantage in a Changing Health System,” at noon in G-50 Dirksen.
  • Monday, Dec. 8 – The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution will hold a book discussion on Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, at noon at 1399 New York Ave. NW.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 9 – The Atlantic will hold a discussion, “Full STEM Ahead,” on the critical need for students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, at 9 a.m. at 805 21st St. NW.
  • Friday, Dec. 5 – The United States Institute of Peace and FP Group will hold a discussion, “Peacemaking in an Era of Violent Extremism,” at 8 a.m. at 2301 Constitution Ave. NW.
  • Thursday, Dec. 4 to Friday, Dec. 5 – The National Research Council holds a workshop, “Real-Time Monitoring of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations,” at 2100 C St. NW.
  • Monday, Dec. 8 – The United States Energy Association will hold a discussion, “Understanding the Social Cost of Carbon: A Technical Assessment,” at 2 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Thursday, Dec. 4 to Friday, Dec. 5 – The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research hold the 2014 Financial Stability Conference, “Measurement Challenges in Macroprudential Policy Implementation: Essential Data Elements for Preserving Financial Stability,” at 525 New Jersey Ave. NW.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 9 – The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing, “Social Security: Is a Key Foundation of Economic Security Working for Women?” at 10 a.m. in 215 Dirksen.
  • Friday, Dec. 5 – The Economic Policy Institute will hold a discussion, “Should Affirmative Action Be Colorblind?” at 10 a.m. at 1333 H St. NW.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 9 – The Library of Congress will hold a symposium, “Conversations on the Enduring Legacy of the Great Charter,” focusing on the political and legal traditions of the Magna Carta, at 2 p.m. at 10 First St. SE. Scheduled participants include Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 9 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “Setting Fiscal Priorities,” at 10:30 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 10 – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “Keeping Families Together: The President’s Executive Action on Immigration and the Need to Pass Comprehensive Reform,” at 2 p.m. in 226 Dirksen.
  • Friday, Dec. 5 – First lady Michelle Obama will deliver remarks at the second College March, as part of her “Reach Higher” initiative, at 1 p.m. at 100 Peabody St. NW.
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