E.P.A. Staff Fears

Monday, December 18, 2017Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 9.41.38 AM

Good Monday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
— The First Draft Team
NEWS ANALYSIS

Champion of the ‘Little Guy’? Trump’s Actions Tell Another Story

By MICHAEL TACKETT AND JIM TANKERSLEY
President Trump at a campaign-style rally this month in Pensacola, Fla. He knows his audience, and he almost always returns to the theme of being the guardian of the working class.

President Trump at a campaign-style rally this month in Pensacola, Fla. He knows his audience, and he almost always returns to the theme of being the guardian of the working class. Tom Brenner/The New York Times

President Trump rarely misses a chance to offer himself up as the champion of “forgotten” Americans, men and women who feel ignored or derided by elites and believe, as he frequently says, that the “system is rigged” against them.
“You will never be ignored again,” he said this month at a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Fla., a phrase that became the banner headline the next morning in the local newspaper.
But this week, the president hopes to sign with great fanfare a tax bill that would deliver its largest benefits, not only in dollar terms but also as a percentage increase in income, to corporations and the wealthiest Americans. His own family stands to gain from tax breaks maintained or extended for corporate real estate ventures, and his heirs have reason to celebrate the doubling of the exemption from estate taxes: Under the bill, the Trump children and grandchildren could inherit $22 million tax free, though they would have benefited more from a cut in the estate tax rate or an abolition of the tax altogether.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Mr. Trump’s pick as chairman, Ajit Pai, reversed the Obama-era policy known as net neutrality, over the objections of consumer groups and owners of small internet businesses, who fear that without the protection, giant internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon will charge internet companies for offering “fast-lane” speeds, slow down the content of companies that do not pay or even block them. Consumers could be charged variable rates for internet access, depending on which websites they visit.
In the coming weeks, the Education Department plans to roll back protections for college graduates saddled with student debt from sham for-profit universities. And in the opening months of his presidency, Mr. Trump signed congressional resolutions permanently reversing rules that would have required companies seeking significant federal contracts to disclose violations of labor standards, and would have required oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments in exchange for access to drilling or mining rights.
Read more »
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson offered tantalizing details on how the United States would race inside North Korea to seize its nuclear weapons in the event of a collapse.

A Tillerson Slip Offers a Peek Into Secret Planning on North Korea

By DAVID E. SANGER

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson offered tantalizing details about how the United States would race inside North Korea to seize its nuclear weapons in the event of a collapse.

Harvey Weinstein has reached settlements with numerous women who claimed he harassed them. His use of nondisclosure agreements helped inspire a proposal in the tax bill that would bar companies from claiming deductions for sexual harassment settlements tied to such agreements.

Tax Bill Would Curb Breaks for Sexual Abuse Settlements

By CHRISTINA CARON

Companies would have to pay more in taxes if they use nondisclosure agreements, but experts say it isn’t likely to deter businesses from seeking confidentiality.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly were barred from using several words or phrases, causing upset among some staff and outside groups.

Purported Ban at C.D.C. of Words Like ‘Fetus’ Causes an Uproar

By SHEILA KAPLAN AND DONALD G. MCNEIL JR.

The Department of Health and Human Services played down a report that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told not to use several words in budget documents.

Downtown Livingston, N.J., an affluent suburb west of New York City where officials and residents fear the Republican tax plan will raise tax bills, decrease home values and make the town a less desirable place to live.

In One New Jersey Town, Pending Tax Changes Create Anxiety

By PATRICK MCGEEHAN

Residents of Livingston, N.J., are worrying that the proposed changes in the Republicans’ tax bill will alter the suburban lifestyle they cherish.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
Ed Krayewski in Reason:
“These kind of apocalyptics can be expected when sober arguments aren’t available, and there are very few that don’t rely on misrepresenting what the 2015 rules are or what their repeal means.”
Mr. Krayewski, writing in the libertarian Reason, echoes how many on the right have reacted to the news of the repeal of net neutrality. The hysteria on the left, he argues, can’t possibly live up to what will actually happen once the regulations are lifted from the telecom industry. Read more »
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From the Left
The editorial board of The Los Angeles Times:
“He wants the agency that oversees communications networks to wash its hands of the most important communications network of the 21st century.”
The editorial board of The Los Angeles Times addresses what some claim is a positive aspect of Ajit Pai’s recent decision: the choice to have the F.T.C. and other federal antitrust agencies oversee the broadband providers. “The obvious problem there,” the board writes, “is that broadband providers could pick winners and losers online and stay out of trouble for it simply by disclosing that they are, in fact, prioritizing traffic for any online site or service that can afford the fee.” Read more »
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More selections »