SPLASH! News for March 27, 2017

Dive Into the News of the Day

Kiran Opal


Trump Creates New White House Office headed by Jared Kushner

TIME – President Donald Trump is set to announce a new White House office run by his son-in-law that will seek to overhaul government functions using ideas from the business sector.

A senior administration official said Trump on Monday will announce the White House Office of American Innovation. The official sought anonymity to discuss the office in advance of the formal rollout.

The plans for the office were first reported by The Washington Post.

The innovation office will be led by Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, and will report directly to the president.

Among those working on the effort are National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives and deputy national security adviser, Chris Liddell, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives and Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives. All have extensive business experience.

Plant Failure Dumps Millions of Gallons of Sewage in Seattle

CBS News – Millions of gallons of raw sewage and untreated runoff have poured into the United States’ second-largest estuary since a massive sewage treatment plant experienced equipment failures that forced it to stop fully treating Seattle’s waste.

The county-run facility has been hobbling along at about half-capacity since the Feb. 9 electrical failure resulted in catastrophic flooding that damaged an underground network of pumps, motors, electric panels and other gear.

The sewage treatment plant — Washington state’s largest — is only partially treating dirty water that goes down Seattle toilets and washes off roofs and roads before discharging it into Puget Sound. It’s likely to face fines for violating federal clean-water laws

GOP Struggles to Govern Despite a Monopoly in Washington

PBS NewsHour – The Republican Party of “no” for Democrat Barack Obama’s eight years is having a hard time getting to “yes” in the early Donald Trump era.

The unmitigated failure of the GOP bill to replace Obamacare underscored that Republicans are a party of upstart firebrands, old-guard conservatives, and moderates in Democratic-leaning districts. Despite the GOP monopoly on Washington, they are pitted against one another and struggling for a way to govern.

The divisions cost the party its best chance to fulfill a seven-year promise to undo Obama’s Affordable Care Act and cast doubt on whether the Republican-led Congress can do the monumental — the first overhaul of the nation’s tax system in more than 30 years — as well as the basics — keeping the government open at the end of next month, raising the nation’s borrowing authority later this year and passing the 12 spending bills for federal agencies and departments.

Powerful TX Republican Sees Tough Road for ‘Bathroom Bill’

Reuters – The Republican speaker of the Texas House of Representatives said on Friday a bill to limit bathroom access for transgender people would face a tough time in the chamber, where there are worries of an economic hit to the state if it became law.

Speaker Joe Straus, who sets the Republican-dominated House’s legislative agenda, stopped short of saying the measure was doomed. He made his remarks at a University of Texas forum in Austin.

“I don’t feel a great deal of fervor to promote that bill in the House,” Straus said.

Analysts expect Straus to send Senate Bill 6 (SB 6) to a committee led by one of his political supporters, who will keep it tucked away. The measure would then die when the current session ends in late May.

“Straus is signaling very clearly that SB 6 is dead,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University in Houston.


Facial Recognition Database Used but FBI is Out of Control

the Guardian – Approximately half of adult Americans’ photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals. About 80% of photos in the FBI’s network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver’s licenses and passports. The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time and are more likely to misidentify black people than white people.
These are just some of the damning facts presented at last week’s House oversight committee hearing, where politicians and privacy campaigners criticized the FBI and called for stricter regulation of facial recognition technology at a time when it’s creeping into law enforcement and business.


Neil Gorsuch Grilled on Possible Conflicts of Interest

Washington Times – Judge Neil Gorsuch is facing questions about conflict of interest from senators on both sides of the aisle about nearly 1,000 cases the Supreme Court nominee recused himself from hearing during his time on the circuit court.

As a former lawyer for a prominent Washington firm and also as a key staffer in the Justice Department’s civil division during the Bush administration, the judge said he took part in debates on issues that later came up in the cases he saw while serving on the bench. Rather than taint court rulings in those cases, he said he recused himself.

“For me, it was significant because I had been in the government in a position of where we oversaw a number different litigating units. That causes a fair amount of recusal right there,” he said.

Written by Pamela Getz

Writer and Activist. Follow Pamela on Twitter @goddesspamela.

Pamela Getz is Editor of International Affairs for Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

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SPLASH! News for March 27, 2017