In the Know: March 1, 2014

  • In the Know Reporter: Laicie Heeley
  • In the Know Reporter: Brooke Klauer

I hope “we can now move on from this controversy and assure the American people that everyone is welcome to live, work, and enjoy” the state. – Sen. John McCain, who was among those Members of Congress who urged Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto a controversial gay-rights bill this week.

World: Tensions continue to worsen in Ukraine.
Former foreign minister Arseny Yatsenyuk was chosen as interim prime minister of Ukraine this week, leading up to a presidential election on May 25 and a new legislative vote in the summer. Shortly thereafter, dozens of masked gunmen seized the regional government administration buildings in Ukraine’s southern Crimean region Thursday, raising the Russian flag in a challenge to the country’s new leaders. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s fugitive president, Victor Yanukovich, surfaced in Russia as U.S. officials urged Russia’s leaders to keep their distance from the ever-worsening conflict. What happens next is still anyone’s guess.

Politics: Arizona governor vetoes controversial gay-rights law.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial measure that would have allowed businesses in the state to deny service to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs. While the Republican-controlled state legislature passed the bill, several high-ranking Republican Members of Congress had called on Brewer to veto, along with members of the LGBT community and large corporations such as Apple, which recently announced plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Mesa, AZ.

Nation: Defense budget is shrinking.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001. The proposal was released on Monday and officials argue that it leaves a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations. “You have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can’t carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war,” a senior Pentagon official said. All is subject to congressional approval, of course.

Business: Reduced deficit.
The endless rounds of deficit reduction in Washington in recent years have significantly improved the nation’s budget outlook, reducing projected borrowing by $3.3 trillion through 2024, according to new estimates by Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray. Why does this matter now? Murray argues that while actions taken by Congress have improved the nation’s fiscal outlook, the sluggish recovery has darkened projections. Therefore, she says, it’s time for lawmakers to stop bickering about spending cuts and start focusing on measures that stand a chance of improving economic growth. Agreed.

Health: Nutrition label overhaul.
The Food and Drug Administration is proposing several changes to the nutrition labels you see on packaged foods and beverages. If approved, the new labels would place a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D and potassium. Meaning the serving size would accurately reflect the entire package, making calorie counting and choosing healthier foods easier. “You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” said first lady Michelle Obama. Long time coming, we think.

Women’s Affairs: Honda names its first woman to the board.
After coming under fire for its failure to diversify, for the first time ever, Honda has appointed a women to its board. Hideko Kunii, a technology expert, will join the board along with Issao Mizoguchi, a Brazilian of Japanese descent who has worked for Honda for nearly 30 years. This is also the first time a foreigner has been granted this type of promotion within the company.

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