Fed, White, And Blue
February 17, 2022
The Good News
- Federal internet program reaches 10 million households (Axios)
- France to cut carbon emissions, Russian energy influence with 14 nuclear reactors (Ars Technica)
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” – Henry Ford
Fed, White, And Blue
The Federal Reserve System, or simply the Fed, is the nation’s central bank, with three primary functions: monetary policy, banking supervision, and financial services. The seven-member Board of Governors provides the system’s leadership. Governors are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, and serve a staggered fourteen-year term, with one term beginning every two years. The chairman and vice-chairman are appointed to four-year terms and may be reappointed. Besides guiding the nation’s monetary policy, the Board oversees the activities of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks and 24 branches comprising America’s banking system. It also exercises broad supervisory control over the financial services industry, administers certain consumer protection regulations, and oversees the nation’s payments system.
The Fed sits at the highest echelon of U.S. economic policymaking, yet throughout its history, members have been overwhelmingly white and male. Only three African-American men and ten women (all white) have ever served on the Board of Governors. President Biden has been under increasing pressure to diversify the Board. Last year he re-nominated current Fed chair, Jerome Powell, to a second four-year term, and chose female board member Lael Brainard to be vice-chair. In mid-January, Biden announced his nominations to fill the remaining three seats on the Board: Sarah Raskin, a former Fed and Treasury official, and two Black economists, Michigan State’s Lisa Cook and Davidson College’s Philip Jefferson. Cook could become the first Black woman to serve on the Board.
Biden would like Raskin to become the Fed’s vice chair of supervision – its top banking cop. It’s a crucial time for bank regulatory policymaking, and for the administration, which aims to elevate climate change in its broader economic agenda. Democrats and economists want to evaluate how more frequent and intense climate disasters could harm the health of banks or ricochet through the financial system. They believe Raskin would take the Fed in the right direction, but her nomination has triggered enormous backlash from Republicans and business lobbying groups who don’t believe climate change belongs in conversations about the financial system or economic stability. That conflict was front and center when Raskin testified earlier this month at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. The committee was supposed to vote on Biden’s nominations Tuesday, but Republicans boycotted the session, delaying the vote and leaving Board seats vacant. (Federal Reserve, ABC News, WaPo $)
Trial In Error
- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny looked fragile and gaunt when seen on a monitor during a new court session being held in a penal colony in Vladimir, Russia. Navalny is being “tried” on what he says are fabricated embezzlement charges that could mean 15 more years in prison. He is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence at the prison for a separate embezzlement charge.
- This time, Navalny is accused of embezzling donations to his FBK anti-corruption organization, which accused Vladimir Putin of owning a £1billion mansion, and other top officials of enriching themselves through corrupt schemes. Navalny’s family and supporters say the Kremlin is seeking an easy conviction by holding the trial inside a prison colony far away from his support base in Moscow.
- Reporters said those trying to enter the courtroom were barred from bringing in laptops, phones, or recording devices. Another Navalny ally said the danger to him has increased as Russia’s threat to Ukraine has been diverting public attention away from human rights concerns. (Guardian)
Devastating Mudslides In Brazil
- Intense rainfall that began Tuesday evening and continued overnight Wednesday caused powerful mudslides and flooding to sweep through a mountainous region in Brazil about 70 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Mudslides tore down dozens of homes on the hillsides above the historic city of Petropolis.
- Images on social media showed rivers of mud rushing through the city’s streets and carrying away everything along the way: cars, trees, even people. Firefighters and desperate residents continue searching for victims, and the death toll could still rise, but they estimate at least 94 have perished.
- A similar disaster in 2011 killed over 900 people – the worst natural disaster in Brazil’s history. Experts say such extreme weather events are becoming more common with global warming. Brazil’s National Meteorological Institute said the rains that caused the devastation this time were the heaviest the city had seen since 1952. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- In Italy, a Call for a National Investigation Into Clerical Sexual Abuse (NYT, $)
- France signals intention to pull rest of its troops out of Mali (WaPo, $)
- Ethiopia lifts state of emergency early, citing easing war (AP)
- In France, a Racist Conspiracy Theory Edges Into the Mainstream (NYT, $)
- Former Honduras President Detained After a U.S. Extradition Request (NYT, $)
- Canada to ease travel requirements as COVID cases decline (Reuters)
- Belgium to give workers right to request four-day week (Guardian)
Shedding Some Flight On The Problem
- Last year, the FAA got 5,981 reports of unruly airline passengers, with 4,290 incidents related to mask mandates. In November, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered federal prosecutors to prioritize investigations into crimes committed on planes. In early February, Delta Air Lines asked the Justice Department to help set up a national “no-fly” list of unruly passengers that would bar them from boarding any commercial air carrier.
- Delta has submitted more than 900 names to the Transportation Security Administration so that it could pursue civil penalties. Now, eight Republican senators are pushing back, arguing that the Transportation Security Administration “was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior onboard flights.”
- They argue that including bad-behaving airline passengers on a “no-fly” list would essentially be drawing an equivalence between terrorists and opponents of mask mandates. The Republican Senators opposed to the list include Mike Lee (Utah), James Lankford (Okla.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), and Rick Scott (Fla.). (WaPo, $)
- Benjamin White is a counselor at Sprunica Elementary School in Nineveh, IN. White sent a memo to parents that read: “In honor of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day, I will be coming around and teaching lessons related to equity, caring, and understanding differences.”
- The memo highlighted the benefits of covering such topics in the classroom, like “a greater understanding of diversity in the classroom and outside world” and “improved learning outcomes such as improved grades, better peer relationships, and greater career success later on.” White continued to say, “These lessons can provide a great impact on students and help facilitate a better learning environment for all.”
- The memo ended with: “If you would like to opt your child out of receiving these lessons then sign the form below…” The memo circulated on social media and prompted backlash against the school. On Wednesday the superintendent said district officials were “gathering information on the matter.” (NBC News)
Additional USA News
- SFPD put rape victims’ DNA into database used to find criminals, DA alleges (Ars Technica)
- Sandy Hook Families Reach Settlement With Gunmaker Remington (NYT, $)
- Jan. 6 panel expands inquiry into false electors scheme with new subpoenas (NPR)
- Adams lambasts press for unfair coverage, blames racial bias and threatens to deny access (Politico)
- A skier slid hundreds of feet and off a 50-foot cliff during an avalanche. He survived (CNN)
- FDA chief has been confirmed despite concerns over his pharmaceutical industry ties (NPR)
You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks
- President Biden was making some remarks Tuesday at the National Association of Counties 2022 Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. when he decided to share a story from his days as a young county official in Delaware in the early 1970s. Biden said he represented what he described as a ‘mixed-income’ district. Biden isn’t always known for his professionalism in speeches, and he’s suffered from a handful of self-inflicted gaffes. But one politician’s embarrassing gaffe is another’s beloved flub.
- The president told a story about once being contacted by a woman in his district who was “obviously not of the same persuasion as I was politically.” The woman “said: ‘There’s a dead dog on my lawn.’” Biden asked if she had contacted the county, and she said “Yes, they’re not here,” so Biden said: “Well, I’ll get them in the morning.” Biden continued to say that, because she told him she paid his salary, she wanted the dog off her lawn now.
- Biden said he responded in kind. “So I went over,” he said, as the conference crowd laughed and applauded. “I picked it up. She said: ‘I want it out of my front yard.’ I put it on her doorstep.” He wrapped up the story by saying “But I’ve gotten much better since then.” Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972 at age 29. He told the audience at the beginning of Tuesday’s remarks: “I ran for the Senate because it was too damn hard being in the council.” Now we know why. (Guardian)
- Russian gallery says guard added eyes to avant-garde work (AP)
- Man accused of lifting $25K dinosaur claw at Tucson gem show (AP)
- ‘Every year it astounds us’: the Orkney dig uncovering Britain’s stone age culture (Guardian)
- Typo sends drivers in Florida to Trump 2024 merch website (AP)
- Cook Islands reports first Covid case amid fears of ‘silent transmission’ (Guardian)
- The robber fly is an aerodynamic acrobat that can catch its prey in midflight (Ars Technica)
- Earth is warming too quickly for these tiny organisms to adapt (CNN)
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