“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.” President Obama in a speech at National Defense University on Thursday, May 23, 2013
WEEK OF MAY 20, 2013
Nation: Tragedy in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is only just beginning to recover from a devastating tornado that ripped through the city of Moore on Monday, leaving 24 dead and 377 injured. Residents of Moore have expressed their gratitude for the many volunteers who streamed into the city to help, but it will be a long time before the city, with an estimated 12,000 damaged or destroyed homes, will rebuild. The White House announced that President Obama will visit the area this weekend to thank first responders and offer his condolences to the families who were affected by the storm. The people of OK are in our hearts, too.
World: Let’s talk about drones.
On Thursday, President Obama delivered the first major speech on counterterrorism in his second term. He focused primarily on the administration’s drone policy, stating that “the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power — or risk abusing it.” After admitting for the first time that four American citizens had been inadvertently killed in the crossfire of unmanned attacks, the administration announced a new policy guidance that will limit the number of drone strikes that can be carried out in places that are not overt war zones. The president also called on Congress to “refine and ultimately repeal” the current Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and announced that he would renew his effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Politics: We all have enough student loan debt, let’s not make it worse.
The House passed legislation this week that would head off a sharp increase in student loan interest rates starting July 1. Congress has only a short time left to act to prevent the rates of more than 7.4 million students with Federal Direct Stafford Loans from doubling; but, as with most things in Congress, it looks like it’s going to be a fight. The House bill would base loans on the interest rate of a 10-year Treasury note, up to an 8.5-10.5 percent cap, and allow them to reset each year. Republicans are all for the plan, but Dems don’t like it one bit. Senate Democrats will fight to continue with the current 3.4 percent subsidized rate for at least two years. The President’s proposal is somewhere in the middle, but it’s anyone’s guess who might come out on top.
Business: The Federal Reserve and economic stimulus.
The global stock market slump continues on Wall Street amid uncertainty that the Federal Reserve is committed to the economic stimulus. Fears that the Fed will reduce its stimulus helped send stock, bond and currency prices on a wild ride this week. The sweeping programs initiated by Ben Bernanke, the Fed Chairman, have helped feed a four-year rally in U.S. stock prices and inspired other central banks to follow suit. But even fans of the Fed’s efforts have said that the size and scope of the stimulus makes it hard to know what will happen once the Fed begins to take its foot off the gas, paving the way for unanticipated consequences and more market volatility.
Technology: Apple might be in trouble.
Apple is the nation’s most profitable technology company (hello iPod, iPhone, iPad) but Congressional investigators disclosed Monday that Apple had evaded billions of dollars in taxes through a web of subsidiaries set up around the world. By officially locating these sections of the company in places like Ireland, Apple was able to, in effect, make them stateless — exempt from taxes, record-keeping laws, and the need for the subsidiaries to even file tax returns anywhere in the world. On Tuesday, Apple executives defended their tax practices at a Senate hearing, claiming that it pays one of the highest effective tax rates of any major corporation. iDon’t think so.
Health: Check your cup – not all green tea created equal.
A new report published this week by ConsumerLab.com finds that some popular varieties of green tea are little more than sugar water, and others may be contaminated with lead. The good news? Tea brewed from green tea leaves is still really good for you. Just try to steer clear of products shipped from China (studies have shown that industrial pollution can cause some regions’ leaves to gather a greater amount of lead) and be aware that some bottled varieties may not be as healthy as they claim. Bottom line: read labels!