“While President Kennedy’s life was tragically cut short, his vision lives on in the generations he inspired — volunteers who serve as ambassadors for peace in distant corners of the globe, scientists and engineers who reach for new heights in the face of impossible odds, innovators who set their sights on the new frontiers of our time.” President Obama, in his speech proclaiming November 22, 2013 as a Day of Remembrance for President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination
Nation: Severe storms rip through the Midwest.
This week, residents throughout the Midwest are coming to grips with how to rebuild their lives after an intense storm system produced a reported 76 tornados across the middle of the Nation on Sunday. Eight people were killed, six in Illinois and two in Michigan, and more than half a million people were still without power early Tuesday. A National Weather Service survey team reported the storm had winds of up to 190 mph, making it the most powerful November twister since 1950. Washington, Illinois Mayor Gary Manier described the impact on his town as, “Devastation. Sadness.”
World: Afghanistan agreement.
The U.S. and Afghanistan have reached a deal on the final language of a bilateral security agreement, guiding the role of American troops in the nation for years to come. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the accord was reached Wednesday between himself and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Kerry also noted that now, “It’s up to the people of Afghanistan.” If approved, the agreement would go into effect January 1, 2015 and last “until the end of 2024 and beyond, unless terminated,” calling the U.S. military role in Afghanistan “very limited.” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “The war in Afghanistan will end next year…the combat mission will be over.”
Politics: The Senate’s gone nuclear.
The Senate voted this week, after many years of debate on both sides of the aisle, to invoke the “nuclear option,” nuclear because it has the potential to make the Senate’s already-tense partisan relations even worse. Under the option’s new rules, a simple majority would be required to move forward on executive branch and judicial nominations (excluding those to the Supreme Court). That’s 51 votes when all 100 senators are present. Previously, 60 were required, but recently that 60 has led to extreme gridlock. Republicans weren’t happy about Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to move forward with the rules change, since it will make it harder to block controversial votes. But, likewise, it will also make it harder for Democrats in a future Senate that could be controlled by a Republican majority. President Obama praised the change, saying that senators should vote their consciences — “but they should vote … that’s what they’re there to do.”
Business: Making things better for workers in Bangladesh.
Two groups of major retailers agreed this week to implement joint inspection standards for thousands of garment factories in Bangladesh, part of an effort to improve workplace safety. The groups, one American and one European, together amount to well over 100 prominent companies who outsource work in Bangladesh. The agreement will set important safety standards for things like sprinkler systems and smoke alarms, and will greatly increase the safety of factory workers abroad. “I think it’s great — we had very productive meetings,” said the chief safety inspector for the accord, Brad Loewen, whose members include companies like H&M. “These standards are very robust, but also reasonable and will make a big difference in the safety of garment factories in Bangladesh.”
Health: Yet another benefit to exercising.
According to a new study, the impact of exercising while pregnant just doubled: not only does the woman benefit, but she also may boost the development of her unborn child’s brain. Previous studies have proved the physical benefits to both mother and child, but this is the first of its kind to find links between exercise and baby cognition. Elise Labonte-LeMoyne, Ph.D., who led the study said, “We suspect that when mom exercises she generates a variety of chemicals,” including many related to brain health, which can move into her bloodstream and eventually mingle with her baby’s blood. “We were surprised by how much of an effect we saw,” she said.
Women’s Affairs: Yellin’ for Yellen.
Nominee Janet Yellen moved one step closer to becoming the first woman to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve Thursday when she gained the support of Senate Republicans on the Banking Committee, who voted to send her nomination to the full Senate for a vote. But, not everyone supported her nomination. Senator Marco Rubio called Yellen a “lead architect” of monetary policies “that threaten the short and long-term prospects of strong economic growth and job creation.” But Senator Bob Corker, who voted for Yellen’s nomination, disagreed, saying that “I do believe she will bring a more transparent approach to Fed decisions and guidance,” Corker said. “She has the qualifications necessary to be Fed chairman.” So far, Yellen’s nomination has met little opposition, and promises to sail through the democratically controlled Senate when it comes to the floor.