Featured Story

Federal Advisory Panel on Pain has 6 Members with Links to Drugmakers

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Two panelists work for the Center for Practical Bioethics, which receives funding from multiple drugmakers, including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, which donated $100,000 in 2013. One panelist holds a chair at the center created by a $1.5-million donation from Purdue. The other received more than $8,660 in speaking fees, meals, travel and other payments from pain drugmakers. The legislation creating the panel was championed for years by drugmakers.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • It’s Not Just Flint: Water Supplies in many U.S. Cities are Contaminated by Lead

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    In Flint, Michigan, as many as 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead. But it is hardly the only such occurrence. Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city — in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi — as well as in scores of other places in recent years. Such episodes are unsettling reminders of what experts say are holes in the safety net of rules and procedures intended to keep water not just lead-free, but free of all poisons.   read more
  • U.S. Housing Agency Considers Booting Out Public Housing Residents with Improved Income

    Monday, February 08, 2016
    A HUD I.G. report has found that more than 25,000 of the 1.1 million U.S. families in public housing - about 2.5% - earn too much money to qualify for housing subsidies. "The families identified by HUD ... met the income limits at the time of admission...but their income now exceeds such income limits," HUD said. The agency added that rising income is good because it is a sign that a family is on its way to self-sufficiency, but when it's temporary it shouldn't be used to end assistance.   read more
  • Twitter Pulls Plug on 125,000 Extremists’ Accounts

    Sunday, February 07, 2016
    Twitter’s disclosure of the number of terrorist account suspensions sets it apart from its social media peers. Facebook regularly discloses the number of government requests it has received for content takedowns on its service, but the company does not break out the removal of terror-related content. YouTube has given more than 200 outside organizations the ability to “flag” potentially harmful content, which YouTube can then review and remove.   read more

Unusual News

  • With 400,000 Items in Storage, Overwhelmed Park Service Seeks to Limit Mementos Left at Vietnam Memorial Wall

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016
    Among the items left behind since the memorial was dedicated in 1982 are a custom-built Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a general's stars, eyeglasses, military ribbons and medals, money and flags. The proposed changes call for keeping only personal artifacts of personnel whose names appear on the memorial, Vietnam War military service items, and protest and advocacy materials related to the war. Most of the items left at the site now have no direct connection to Vietnam veterans or the war.   read more
  • Registered Drone Operators Outnumber Registered Planes in U.S.

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a legal forum on Monday that the agency passed the milestone last week when it topped 325,000 registered drone owners. There are 320,000 registered manned aircraft. Huerta said the number of small unmanned aircraft is even larger because drone operators often own more than one drone. FAA officials launched a drone registration program just before Christmas, saying it would help them track down operators who violate regulations.   read more
  • 8 States See Big Drop in Number of People without Health Insurance

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    Independent experts say the coverage gains are due to the Obama health care law, boosted by economic recovery. That poses a dilemma for GOP presidential candidates, who are vowing to repeal "Obamacare," while offering hardly any detail on how they'd replace it without millions losing coverage. Indeed, a group of conservative policy experts said Republicans will need some kind of "grandfathering exemption" to avoid disrupting the lives of people who have gained coverage.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Millions of Dollars in Shadowy Campaign Money Fuel Presidential Campaigns

    Sunday, February 07, 2016
    At least $4 million in dark money is flowing to outside groups helping White House hopefuls. Both parties benefit from money routed through obscure corporations, or from nonprofits that don't have to disclose their donors. The contributions are a reminder of federal court decisions in recent years, like Citizens United, that loosened prior restrictions in campaign finance laws. That can hide who's really backing candidates — and what favors or influence could be owed should they get elected.   read more
  • U.S. Utility Firms Worry about Insurance Coverage in Event of Power Grid Cyber Attack

    Friday, January 29, 2016
    The potential costs of an attack in the United States are huge. Last year Lloyd's and the University of Cambridge released a 65-page study estimating that simultaneous malware attacks on 50 generators in the Northeastern United States could cut power to as many as 93 million people, resulting in at least $243 billion in economic damage and $21 billion to $71 billion in insurance claims. The study called such a scenario improbable but "technologically possible."   read more
  • One Place Where Women’s Pay Remains Stubbornly Equal to Men’s: U.S. Military

    Sunday, December 20, 2015
    The one thing that historically has held back women in the armed forces is that not all jobs were open to women, especially spots in combat units which are seen as a prerequisite for promotion. But Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s announcement that all jobs are open equally to men and women changed that and women should soon see a clearer path to advancement. The Coast Guard offers a two-year sabbatical to encourage mothers to stay in the service.   read more

Controversies

  • NSA to Merge Offensive and Defensive Hacking Operations, Counter to Advice of Presidential Panel

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    Some technology specialists and privacy advocates have said the government agency responsible for building and exploiting flaws in computer software for spying purposes should not be the same one entrusted to warn companies about detected software weaknesses. The presidential panel cited concerns about “potential conflicts of interest” between the NSA’s offensive and defensive objectives, in addition to the need to restore confidence with the U.S. technology industry.   read more
  • Republican Lawmakers Take Heat for Rejecting Obama’s Final Budget Sight Unseen

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    “While the last budget of an outgoing president is usually aspirational, and sets a theme for what he or she hopes will be followed up by his or her successor, it nonetheless should be reviewed by the Congress,” said Republican G. William Hoagland, former Senate Budget Committee staff director. “I believe that permitting the administration the courtesy of explaining its intent and what it thinks of the policy should have been maintained,” added Republican economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin.   read more
  • U.N. Proposal for Aircraft Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards Criticized by Environmentalists

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    Environmentalists complained that ICAO has been working on international standards for 18 years and is now proposing to give aircraft manufacturers another dozen years to comply. "These dangerously weak recommendations put the Obama administration under enormous pressure" to take greater action, said Vera Pardee, an attorney who has sued the U.S. government over aviation emissions. Aviation accounts for about 5% of global greenhouse emissions, according to environmentalists.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • U.S. and UK Spy Agencies May be Allowed to Request Online Chat Data and Emails from Media Companies

    Saturday, February 06, 2016
    Talks focused on letting UK agencies, such as MI5, serve orders on U.S. firms demanding data for “live intercepts” in inquiries involving UK citizens. UK agencies might also be able to ask U.S. companies to turn over stored data, such as emails. Rep. Adam Schiff said Congress should monitor any privacy and civil liberties issues, "including making sure these British orders do not cover U.S. persons or individuals within the U.S., do not permit bulk collection, and have due process protections."   read more
  • Canada Stops Sharing Compromised Spy Information with U.S.

    Saturday, January 30, 2016
    Canada has stopped its electronic spy agency from sharing some data with key international allies after discovering the information mistakenly contained personal details about Canadians, government officials said on Thursday. Ottawa acted after learning that the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) agency had failed to properly disguise metadata - the numbers and time stamps of phone calls but not their content - before passing it on to their international partners.   read more
  • U.S. Perceived as 16th Least Corrupt Nation; Denmark Tops List, North Korea and Somalia Tie for Worst

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016
    TI attributed the overall global improvement to the work of citizen activists fighting corruption in places such as Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Ghana - all countries which were able to improve their ratings in 2015. "Corruption can be beaten if we work together," said TI chairman Jose Ugaz in a statement. "To stamp out the abuse of power, bribery and shed light on secret deals, citizens must together tell their governments they have had enough."   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Chairman of the Federal Election Commission: Who Is Matthew S. Petersen?

    Tuesday, February 02, 2016
    President George W. Bush nominated Petersen to a spot on the FEC in June 2008. His nomination was confirmed by his former employers on the Rules Committee. He served a term as FEC chairman beginning in 2010. As one of the three Republican appointees on the FEC, Petersen has been a reliable vote against attempts to reform elections. In 2013, for instance, he voted to make it more difficult for the Justice Department to prosecute campaign finance violations.   read more
  • Secretary of the Army: Who Is Eric Fanning?

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016
    Fanning was deputy director of the Committee on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. The group was an outgrowth of the 9/11 Commission and assessed activities aimed at preventing WMD proliferation. In 2009, Fanning was named deputy under secretary of the Navy, where he worked to bring efficiencies to the service’s processes. If he’s confirmed by the Senate, Fanning will be the first openly gay civilian head of an armed forces branch.   read more
  • Cuba’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez?

    Monday, January 25, 2016
    Cabañas is Cuba’s first ambassador to the United States in more than 50 years. His appointment to the post came two months after a restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had ended during Cold War hostilities in 1961. Cabañas maintained a somewhat higher profile than his predecessors, traveling around the United States speaking to various organizations. He was the first head of Cuba’s Interests Section to allow himself to be filmed at such events.   read more

Featured Story

Federal Advisory Panel on Pain has 6 Members with Links to Drugmakers

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Two panelists work for the Center for Practical Bioethics, which receives funding from multiple drugmakers, including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, which donated $100,000 in 2013. One panelist holds a chair at the center created by a $1.5-million donation from Purdue. The other received more than $8,660 in speaking fees, meals, travel and other payments from pain drugmakers. The legislation creating the panel was championed for years by drugmakers.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • It’s Not Just Flint: Water Supplies in many U.S. Cities are Contaminated by Lead

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    In Flint, Michigan, as many as 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead. But it is hardly the only such occurrence. Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city — in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi — as well as in scores of other places in recent years. Such episodes are unsettling reminders of what experts say are holes in the safety net of rules and procedures intended to keep water not just lead-free, but free of all poisons.   read more
  • U.S. Housing Agency Considers Booting Out Public Housing Residents with Improved Income

    Monday, February 08, 2016
    A HUD I.G. report has found that more than 25,000 of the 1.1 million U.S. families in public housing - about 2.5% - earn too much money to qualify for housing subsidies. "The families identified by HUD ... met the income limits at the time of admission...but their income now exceeds such income limits," HUD said. The agency added that rising income is good because it is a sign that a family is on its way to self-sufficiency, but when it's temporary it shouldn't be used to end assistance.   read more
  • Twitter Pulls Plug on 125,000 Extremists’ Accounts

    Sunday, February 07, 2016
    Twitter’s disclosure of the number of terrorist account suspensions sets it apart from its social media peers. Facebook regularly discloses the number of government requests it has received for content takedowns on its service, but the company does not break out the removal of terror-related content. YouTube has given more than 200 outside organizations the ability to “flag” potentially harmful content, which YouTube can then review and remove.   read more

Unusual News

  • With 400,000 Items in Storage, Overwhelmed Park Service Seeks to Limit Mementos Left at Vietnam Memorial Wall

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016
    Among the items left behind since the memorial was dedicated in 1982 are a custom-built Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a general's stars, eyeglasses, military ribbons and medals, money and flags. The proposed changes call for keeping only personal artifacts of personnel whose names appear on the memorial, Vietnam War military service items, and protest and advocacy materials related to the war. Most of the items left at the site now have no direct connection to Vietnam veterans or the war.   read more
  • Registered Drone Operators Outnumber Registered Planes in U.S.

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a legal forum on Monday that the agency passed the milestone last week when it topped 325,000 registered drone owners. There are 320,000 registered manned aircraft. Huerta said the number of small unmanned aircraft is even larger because drone operators often own more than one drone. FAA officials launched a drone registration program just before Christmas, saying it would help them track down operators who violate regulations.   read more
  • 8 States See Big Drop in Number of People without Health Insurance

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    Independent experts say the coverage gains are due to the Obama health care law, boosted by economic recovery. That poses a dilemma for GOP presidential candidates, who are vowing to repeal "Obamacare," while offering hardly any detail on how they'd replace it without millions losing coverage. Indeed, a group of conservative policy experts said Republicans will need some kind of "grandfathering exemption" to avoid disrupting the lives of people who have gained coverage.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Millions of Dollars in Shadowy Campaign Money Fuel Presidential Campaigns

    Sunday, February 07, 2016
    At least $4 million in dark money is flowing to outside groups helping White House hopefuls. Both parties benefit from money routed through obscure corporations, or from nonprofits that don't have to disclose their donors. The contributions are a reminder of federal court decisions in recent years, like Citizens United, that loosened prior restrictions in campaign finance laws. That can hide who's really backing candidates — and what favors or influence could be owed should they get elected.   read more
  • U.S. Utility Firms Worry about Insurance Coverage in Event of Power Grid Cyber Attack

    Friday, January 29, 2016
    The potential costs of an attack in the United States are huge. Last year Lloyd's and the University of Cambridge released a 65-page study estimating that simultaneous malware attacks on 50 generators in the Northeastern United States could cut power to as many as 93 million people, resulting in at least $243 billion in economic damage and $21 billion to $71 billion in insurance claims. The study called such a scenario improbable but "technologically possible."   read more
  • One Place Where Women’s Pay Remains Stubbornly Equal to Men’s: U.S. Military

    Sunday, December 20, 2015
    The one thing that historically has held back women in the armed forces is that not all jobs were open to women, especially spots in combat units which are seen as a prerequisite for promotion. But Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s announcement that all jobs are open equally to men and women changed that and women should soon see a clearer path to advancement. The Coast Guard offers a two-year sabbatical to encourage mothers to stay in the service.   read more

Controversies

  • NSA to Merge Offensive and Defensive Hacking Operations, Counter to Advice of Presidential Panel

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    Some technology specialists and privacy advocates have said the government agency responsible for building and exploiting flaws in computer software for spying purposes should not be the same one entrusted to warn companies about detected software weaknesses. The presidential panel cited concerns about “potential conflicts of interest” between the NSA’s offensive and defensive objectives, in addition to the need to restore confidence with the U.S. technology industry.   read more
  • Republican Lawmakers Take Heat for Rejecting Obama’s Final Budget Sight Unseen

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    “While the last budget of an outgoing president is usually aspirational, and sets a theme for what he or she hopes will be followed up by his or her successor, it nonetheless should be reviewed by the Congress,” said Republican G. William Hoagland, former Senate Budget Committee staff director. “I believe that permitting the administration the courtesy of explaining its intent and what it thinks of the policy should have been maintained,” added Republican economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin.   read more
  • U.N. Proposal for Aircraft Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards Criticized by Environmentalists

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016
    Environmentalists complained that ICAO has been working on international standards for 18 years and is now proposing to give aircraft manufacturers another dozen years to comply. "These dangerously weak recommendations put the Obama administration under enormous pressure" to take greater action, said Vera Pardee, an attorney who has sued the U.S. government over aviation emissions. Aviation accounts for about 5% of global greenhouse emissions, according to environmentalists.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • U.S. and UK Spy Agencies May be Allowed to Request Online Chat Data and Emails from Media Companies

    Saturday, February 06, 2016
    Talks focused on letting UK agencies, such as MI5, serve orders on U.S. firms demanding data for “live intercepts” in inquiries involving UK citizens. UK agencies might also be able to ask U.S. companies to turn over stored data, such as emails. Rep. Adam Schiff said Congress should monitor any privacy and civil liberties issues, "including making sure these British orders do not cover U.S. persons or individuals within the U.S., do not permit bulk collection, and have due process protections."   read more
  • Canada Stops Sharing Compromised Spy Information with U.S.

    Saturday, January 30, 2016
    Canada has stopped its electronic spy agency from sharing some data with key international allies after discovering the information mistakenly contained personal details about Canadians, government officials said on Thursday. Ottawa acted after learning that the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) agency had failed to properly disguise metadata - the numbers and time stamps of phone calls but not their content - before passing it on to their international partners.   read more
  • U.S. Perceived as 16th Least Corrupt Nation; Denmark Tops List, North Korea and Somalia Tie for Worst

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016
    TI attributed the overall global improvement to the work of citizen activists fighting corruption in places such as Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Ghana - all countries which were able to improve their ratings in 2015. "Corruption can be beaten if we work together," said TI chairman Jose Ugaz in a statement. "To stamp out the abuse of power, bribery and shed light on secret deals, citizens must together tell their governments they have had enough."   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Chairman of the Federal Election Commission: Who Is Matthew S. Petersen?

    Tuesday, February 02, 2016
    President George W. Bush nominated Petersen to a spot on the FEC in June 2008. His nomination was confirmed by his former employers on the Rules Committee. He served a term as FEC chairman beginning in 2010. As one of the three Republican appointees on the FEC, Petersen has been a reliable vote against attempts to reform elections. In 2013, for instance, he voted to make it more difficult for the Justice Department to prosecute campaign finance violations.   read more
  • Secretary of the Army: Who Is Eric Fanning?

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016
    Fanning was deputy director of the Committee on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. The group was an outgrowth of the 9/11 Commission and assessed activities aimed at preventing WMD proliferation. In 2009, Fanning was named deputy under secretary of the Navy, where he worked to bring efficiencies to the service’s processes. If he’s confirmed by the Senate, Fanning will be the first openly gay civilian head of an armed forces branch.   read more
  • Cuba’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez?

    Monday, January 25, 2016
    Cabañas is Cuba’s first ambassador to the United States in more than 50 years. His appointment to the post came two months after a restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had ended during Cold War hostilities in 1961. Cabañas maintained a somewhat higher profile than his predecessors, traveling around the United States speaking to various organizations. He was the first head of Cuba’s Interests Section to allow himself to be filmed at such events.   read more