“Whether affected by the disease directly, or anxious about the future health of our families, or reminded of loved ones we have lost every time we set the table for dinner, or celebrate the holidays – the fight against breast cancer is relevant to everyone, and we each can play an important role in tackling this challenge.” Valerie Jarrett, senior White House adviser, explaining why the White house was lit up pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month on October 24, 2013
WEEK OF OCTOBER 21, 2013
Nation: Snowden again.
Evidence surfaced this week that the U.S. may have monitored the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leading Germany to summon the U.S. ambassador to discuss what Merkel’s spokesperson called a “grave breach of trust.” The reports came just days after France summoned the U.S. ambassador in Paris to discuss evidence that the U.S. had intercepted French phone calls on “a massive scale.” And now it looks like the U.S. can expect a few more calls. All of this news can be traced back to reports leaked by Edward Snowden, and will be sure to lead to some tense conversations in the coming months. White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters, “These are very important relations both economically and for our security, and we will work to maintain the closest possible ties.”
World: Seven straight hours of Middle East peace.
Okay, the meeting might have touched upon a few other issues, but on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome for a meeting that was scheduled to last seven hours. Talks have intensified as of late, with three negotiating sessions over the past week and another scheduled for Monday. But all sides are keeping quiet on the ongoing negotiations, and unfortunately, given the track record of Middle East peace talks, few onlookers are optimistic about the outcome. But there is something to be said for the fact that the two sides continue to talk. Who knows, maybe it is time for a change.
Politics: Pointing fingers over Obamacare.
Contractors who worked on the ill-fated Obamacare website rollout appeared before Congress in a hearing on Thursday, saying that the government didn’t properly test the system before it went live. But some experts are saying that the crash-happy site might have had more to do with subpar coding than its popularity. “Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working,” said President Obama on Oct. 21, pointing out that the healthcare site is troubled, but the program itself is not. Experts say the White House has just weeks to fix the problem, or costs will begin to rise for others in the system due to delays.
Business: Madoff scam resurfaces.
Federal authorities are preparing to take action in a criminal investigation of JPMorgan Chase under suspicion the bank helped facilitate Bernard Maddoff’s multibillion-dollar fraud, the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history (ending in 2009 with his arrest and 150-year prison term). The probe will review how the bank handled the funds of the convicted money manager, and a deferred prosecution deal is possible, though discussions are preliminary. These allegations come amidst news of JPMorgan’s tentative $13 billion accord with the Justice Department to resolve state and federal civil investigations tied to residential mortgage backed securities and the collapse of the housing market that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
Health: Possible restrictions on painkillers.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) recommended tighter controls on how doctors prescribe the most commonly used narcotic painkillers. This move represents a major policy shift and follows a decade-long debate over whether the widely abused drugs which contain the narcotic hydrocodone, should be controlled as tightly as more powerful painkillers such as OxyContin. “In recent years, the FDA has become increasingly concerned about the abuse and misuse of opioid products, which have sadly reached epidemic proportions in certain parts of the United States,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA. The proposed restrictions may go into effect as early as next year.
Women’s Affairs: Saudi women declare right to drive.
Although no law explicitly prohibits women from driving in Saudi Arabia, the government has traditionally refused to grant women licenses. For this reason, the women of Saudi Arabia plan to defy their nation’s harsh restrictions on Saturday by driving themselves to work or other errands. Supporters are not calling for any rallies or public gatherings to avoid challenging a government ban on protests, but the move is big on its own. Currently, in order to drive, Saudi women must rely on male relatives, pay for a driver, or stay home. “It is because we are very conservative that I am part of this” campaign, one 50-year-old government worker said Wednesday in Buraidah. “It is my belief and my faith that it is my right to drive my own car.” Hopefully the impact of this move will make a difference.