U.S. Supreme Court Reviews Racial Protections in Voting Rights
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to consider overturning a central element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the “preclearance” provision. The government’s most important weapon against racial discrimination during elections, it requires nine states and local jurisdictions in seven others to obtain federal approval before they can change voting rules, because of their long history of racial discrimination. The challenge, brought forth by Shelby County, Alabama, says those discriminating practices no longer occur, making the provision unfair. Lower courts said recent attempts to suppress votes justify upholding it. In 2006, President George W. Bush signed a 25-year extension of the provision, with the support of the then-Republican Congress. The Supreme Court considered the challenge three years ago, but instead of ruling on its constitutionality, it made it easier for jurisdiction to seek exemptions. “In part due to the success of that legislation, we are now a very different Nation. Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today,” Justice John Roberts wrote at the time in the majority opinion. The court may hear arguments in February and rule in June.
Obama, Boehner Speak on Economy, Taxes, Jobs
Opening the next chapter in his agenda, President Barack Obama spent his first appearance since his reelection discussing the economy, jobs, and the deficit. He said he invited Congressional, business, and civic leaders to meet next week to discuss the looming fiscal cliff and “start to build consensus” around a plan to address these issues. While he indicated he is “open to compromise,” he reiterated his commitment to a plan that will include tax increases for the wealthy. “I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced,” Obama said. He also called on Congress to freeze tax hikes for the middle classes immediately. The Speaker of the House, the Republican John Boehner, also spoke, saying he was ready to start talks with Obama, but affirmed his stance on taxes. “Raising tax rates will slow down our ability to create the jobs that everyone says they want,” Boehner said. Should a deficit plan not be agreed upon, $607 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will be triggered. This could cut as much as five percent of the gross domestic product in a year, economist says, and raise unemployment back to 9.1 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
CIA Chief Resigns over Extramarital Affair
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus announced his resignation today, saying he has been engaged in an extramarital affair. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation,” he wrote in a statement. Petraeus headed the CIA for a little over a year, after leading the International Security Assistance Force, and the U.S. Central Command. Under George W. Bush’s administration, Petraeus was credited for bringing the Iraq war to a close. President Barack Obama, who was informed of Petraeus’ decision yesterday, hailed Petraeus today for his “extraordinary service.” “By any measure, through his lifetime of service, David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger,” Obama wrote. The news came as a surprise to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington. “I wish President Obama had not accepted this resignation,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. “This is an enormous loss for our nation’s intelligence community and for our country.”
Argentines Take to the Streets to Protest Against Cristina Kirchner
Hundreds of thousands of Argentines took to the streets yesterday to protest against President Cristina Kirchner governing style, high crime, 25 percent inflation (a realistic estimate, as the country has been consistently misreporting economic data), and efforts by Kirchner and her allies to amend the Constitution to allow her to run for a third term. Her government, which gave media empire Clarín until December 7th to sell its assets, is thought to be stifling free speech. Kirchner also banned purchases of U.S. dollars as a way to save them, and restricted imports, prompting the European Union (EU) and the U.S. to file a suits with the World Trade Organization (WTO). An estimated 700,000 demonstrators banged pots and pans in a “cacerolazo,” reminiscent of the protests during the economic crisis in 2001 and 2002.
Interplanetary Internet Lets Astronauts Control Robot on Earth
Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were able to control a robot on Earth with a new technology that acts like an interplanetary internet. Called the Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol, it would allow future missions to send more data over large distances. This technology is much better at handling delays and disruptions than the internet. Tested by astronauts of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), it would make it possible to communicate with a network of space missions at once, for example by sending information to a satellite orbiting and a mission to Mars at the same time.
Weekend Read: Genius: The Nickelback Story
How and why a rock-pop band that plays music many think is torture makes its money. In Bloomberg BusinessWeek.