The Briefing: February 18th, 2014

Less on this briefing today than last time’s since I hope to do one more before the week’s out. Enjoy!


The Domestic

  • President Obama unveiled further emissions standards for large delivery trucks, set to take effect by March 2016. Alongside the President’s new fuel efficiency standards for coal plants and private vehicles, this is welcome news for emissions regulation but, like most measures, it does not represent any sort of comprehensive innovation in climate policy.

  • A recent CBO report was released showing that the proposed minimum wage hike to $10.10/hour by 2016 could cost the country nearly 500,000 jobs. At the same time the report indicates that the hike could push nearly a million workers out of poverty and drastically raise wages.

  • The Arkansas legislature is currently debating whether to continue the state’s Private Option, a unique compromise on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion that allowed Governor Mike Beebe (D) to push it through with some Republican support. However, this model for conservative medicaid expansion may fail should it not receive the necessary votes leaving behind worrying repercussions both for Arkansas and the national discussion on Medicaid expansion.

  • The failure of a unionization vote for a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee spells worrying signs for the future of Southern labor. However, concerns are also being raised about statements made by Republican politicians like Senator Bob Corker that may have influenced the vote.

The International

  • The ongoing protests in Kiev, Ukraine have reached a new level of bloodiness. Some 18 people were killed and a protest encampment went up in flames during renewed clashes between the government of President Viktor Yanukovych and the anti-government protesters. For now at least, no clear conclusion seems visible to this crisis.

  • Venezuelan protests have escalated even further against President Maduro’s government. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has surrendered himself while anti-government cries escalate against rising inflation, crime, and food shortages.

  • Protests in Thailand have also escalated since the police seem to be losing their reluctance to use force; at the same time, protesters and police opened negotiations on Tuesday. The protests seem focused on corruption surrounding Prime Minister Yingluck’s government, particularly on the influence of money in the Thai political system.

  • China has  rejected the recent United Nations report that accused North Korea of war crimes and warned that the report will do little to advance human rights in the Hermit Kingdom. It’s possible that China’s angst arises from the criticisms it received in the report, particularly surrounding its policy of returning North Korean defectors.


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