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Obama likely to issue executive order on cybersecurity as early as January An executive order from President Obama aimed at protecting the nation from cyberattacks is likely to be issued in early 2013, and perhaps as soon as January, observers say.
The long-awaited executive action is unlikely to be taken before the end of the year, given the delicate negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.” Republican lawmakers have made it known that they strongly oppose an executive order on cybersecurity.
“It’d be reasonable to say that releasing the executive order now would irritate Congress and might create an unnecessary burden for reaching a deal on the fiscal issues,” said James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (The Hill)
Obama's Pot Problem: Now that states have started legalizing recreational marijuana, will the president continue the government’s war on weed? When voters in Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana in November, they thought they were declaring a cease-fire in the War on Drugs. Thanks to ballot initiatives that passed by wide margins on Election Day, adults 21 or older in both states can now legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The new laws also compel Colorado and Washington to license private businesses to cultivate and sell pot, and to levy taxes on the proceeds. Together, the two states expect to reap some $600 million annually in marijuana revenues for schools, roads and other projects. The only losers, in fact, will be the Mexican drug lords, who currently supply as much as two-thirds of America's pot.
Drug reformers can scarcely believe their landslide victories at the polls. "People expected this day would come, but most didn't expect it to come this soon," says Norm Stamper, a former Seattle police chief who campaigned for legalization. "This is the beginning of the end of prohibition."
But the war over pot may be far from over. Legalization has set Colorado and Washington on a collision course with the Obama administration, which has shown no sign of backing down on its full-scale assault on pot growers and distributors. Although the president pledged to go easy on medical marijuana – now legal in 18 states – he has actually launched more raids on state-sanctioned pot dispensaries than George W. Bush, and has threatened to prosecute state officials who oversee medical marijuana as if they were drug lords. And while the administration has yet to issue a definitive response to the two new laws, the Justice Department was quick to signal that it has no plans to heed the will of voters. "Enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act," the department announced in November, "remains unchanged." (Rolling Stone)
Reversing 'Citizens United' It will be a year this week since Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative activist colleagues on the Supreme Court joined together in a dramatic assault on American democracy. Their decision in the Citizens United case overturned more than a century's worth of precedent by awarding corporations the rights of citizens with regard to electioneering. The court did away with limits on when corporations can spend on elections, how much they can spend and how they can spend their money, allowing unlimited contributions from corporate treasuries to flood the electoral landscape.
As The Nation noted in the days after the case was decided, "This decision tips the balance against active citizenship and the rule of law by making it possible for the nation's most powerful economic interests to manipulate not just individual politicians and electoral contests but political discourse itself."
According to Bill de Blasio, New York City's public advocate, Citizens United spending - that is, spending that was only made possible by the court's ruling - accounted for 15 percent of the roughly $4 billion spent on the 2010 midterm elections. Eighty-five million dollars of Citizens United money was spent on U.S. Senate races alone. Worse, 30 percent of all spending by outside groups was funded by anonymous donations, an illegal action prior to the ruling. Forty million of the dollars spent on Senate races came from sources that might never be revealed. (Washington Post)
Senate Passes Sweeping Food-Safety Bill After stalling for more than a year, a sweeping food-safety bill passed with bipartisan support in the Senate on Tuesday, paving the way for increased federal inspections and other preventative measures. The vote was 73 to 25.
Though the bill has yet to be reconciled with a previous version passed by the House in July 2009, there has been some indication that the House will adopt the Senate's bill, a senior Democratic aide tells HuffPost.
The Food Safety Modernization Act would strengthen the power of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the nation's food supply, vastly improving its ability to ensure safety.
The law will focus on the areas of food-borne illness prevention, detection and response. It will also protect American consumers from unsafe food made overseas by subjecting imported foods to the same standards as food produced in the United States.
The bill is thought to be the most significant overhaul of the food-safety system in decades, and, as noted by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on the Senate floor on Monday, it has attracted uncommonly broad support.
"I realize that the bipartisan road is not always easy to follow, but I can confidently say when we approach legislation in this manner, we often end up with a better, stronger and more responsive law in the end," said Dodd. "I think this bill is an example of just that."
The $1.4 billion measure has the backing of Congressional Democrats and has been touted by the likes of environmental activist Michael Pollan, who, in a New York Times op-ed on Sunday, called the measure "the best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply." (Huffington Post)
The Chamber of Commerce's Agenda: Killing Net Neutrality and Censoring the Internet The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's attempt to throw next week's elections is cause for widespread alarm -- their agenda includes privatizing social security, undoing worker and consumer rights, blocking environmental protections, keeping banking regulations loose, and stymieing important health care reforms.
You can help Demand Progress fight back by signing on to our campaign that calls on local chambers of commerce to disaffiliate from the U.S. Chamber. The movement's already begun, with one New Hampshire chapter breaking off, and several others publicly distancing themselves from the national's shenanigans. - 2. The Chamber supports the Internet Blacklist bill that we told you about last month -- the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). COICA vastly expands the government's ability to block access to certain websites -- in ways that run roughshod over due process rights and violate the First Amendment. (Huffington Post)
Campaign finance reform: R.I.P.? For four decades, advocates for stricter campaign finance rules have been on a long, slow march to make big money in politics less important and more transparent.
Now, in 2010, they are seeing the results: Never in modern political history has there been so much secret money gushing into an American election.
By Election Day, independent groups will have aired more than $200 million worth of campaign ads using cash that can’t be traced back to its original source, predicts Fred Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit group Democracy 21.
"And this is just the beginning," Wertheimer said. "Unless we get some changes here to mitigate this problem, I would expect we will see $500 million or more in 2012." (Politico)
Engineers Slam Internet 'Censorship' Bill Under Review by Senate Internet entrepreneurs are in a panic over a Senate bill they say will censor the Web, stifle Silicon Valley startups, damage the United States' credibility on free speech and ultimately trigger the creation of an alternate-universe Internet.
The West Coast engineers say they were blindsided last Monday when the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill has a bipartisan roster of co-sponsors who say it will be a tool for stopping the worst offenders in the world of online piracy.
The bill would give the attorney general new powers to shut down websites deemed dedicated to counterfeit material -- by going through the courts and by encouraging service providers to go after sites the Justice Department puts on a public blacklist.
According to the bill, a website would have to be "dedicated to infringing activities" to trigger the enforcement. (Fox)
Congress Mulls Stiff Crypto Laws The encryption wars have begun.
For nearly a decade, privacy mavens have been worrying that a terrorist attack could prompt Congress to ban communications-scrambling products that frustrate both police wiretaps and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Tuesday's catastrophe, which shed more blood on American soil than any event since the Civil War, appears to have started that process.
Some politicians and defense hawks are warning that extremists such as Osama bin Laden, who U.S. officials say is a crypto-aficionado and the top suspect in Tuesday's attacks, enjoy unfettered access to privacy-protecting software and hardware that render their communications unintelligible to eavesdroppers.
In a floor speech on Thursday, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) called for a global prohibition on encryption products without backdoors for government surveillance. (Wired)
DISCLOSE Act: House Passes Major Campaign Finance Legislation The final vote was 219 to 206 in favor of the DISCLOSE Act, with only two Republicans -- Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Joseph Cao (R-La.) -- crossing party lines. The bill would provide tough new disclosure rules for groups that invest in the election process. In addition to forcing all 501c4 groups to stand by the ads they sponsor during elections (with the CEO of the organization literally forced to appear in the spot), the law would also require groups that met certain criteria to reveal who was funding their election activity.
The latter provision sparked intense pushback from a host of business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. House Democratic leadership had granted an exemption from that particular element of disclosure for the NRA. But after fierce objection to the carve out, the bill's author, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), expanded the loophole to include other organizations as well.
The legislation was pulled from consideration late last week when passage became uncertain. House leadership made impassioned pleas to their colleagues on Thursday morning (see below) before heading to the floor this afternoon to finally vote. (Huffington Post)
Global Weirding Is Here Therefore, climate experts can’t leave themselves vulnerable by citing non-peer-reviewed research or failing to respond to legitimate questions, some of which happened with both the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (New York Times)
Lobbyists for cap and trade face daunting task The U.S. Senate's stalled climate bill is getting a last big push from an unlikely ally -- a group of energy companies who say a carbon market will help them get financing for the next generation of energy production. (Reuters)
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