Obama gets his way on trade legislation


President Obama – bolstered by Congressional Republicans – secured what has been described as a “legacy defining” victory over his trade agenda, when the Senate approved a measure granting him “fast-track” negotiating authority. Business Insider reports:

The 60-to-38 vote on Wednesday clears the way for Obama to seek final language on a trade agreement with Japan and 10 other Pacific-rim nations, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congress can ratify or reject such agreements but not change them.

The measure now goes to the President of this signature, and speeds the process towards the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, despite vociferous opposition from many within his own party and labor unions.




President Obama’s trade agenda received a life-saving boost when the Senate voted to end debate on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which would give the President “fast-track” negotiating authority.

The move sets up a final vote on Wednesday and likely hastens the completion of the controversial 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would link 40 per cent of the global economy.

The Boston Herald writes in an editorial that the pact “would be a high point in a foreign policy that has otherwise been consumed by crisis management, and would give Obama a rare legislative achievement in the Republican-controlled Congress.”

It also means the President can also press ahead with a second deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, knowing Congress can vote for or against, but won’t be able to amend or filibuster. Jonathan Weisman at the New York Times writes:

The Atlantic agreement is not expected to be completed until the next administration is in office, but the trade negotiating powers would stretch for six years — well into the next presidency. Together those two accords would put much of the globe under the same trade rules, not only lowering tariffs and other import barriers but also creating new standards for Internet access, intellectual property and investor protections.

But there is still expected to be opposition.


* POLITICS * Opposition to the Confederate flag is snowballing in both the political and commercial arenas, as the South Carolina legislature moves closer to a debate on removing it from public display at the capitol building. Reuters reports:

“The change in opinion in the last day or two is like nothing I have ever seen. It’s been a tidal wave,” said College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts.

And pressure looks likely to continue to spread beyond the Palmetto state.

Even as far as this…

But not all stars and bars on cars are headed for the junkyard.  Politico reports that even as five governors called for the removal of Confederate flags from license plates in their states, South Carolina is taking things “one flag at a time.”

There are 1,020 South Carolina license plates emblazoned with the Confederate flags and generating almost $20,000 every two years for the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group founded in the 19th century to honor Confederate history that has been attacked in recent years for promoting works that celebrate the Ku Klux Klan and a book that called “Northern Jewish intellectuals/activists” the “deadliest enemies” of the South.

The White House is expected to announce on Wednesday that the US will no longer prosecute the families of US hostages who negotiate with their captors or attempt to pay a ransom. The move is expected to be criticized by some in congress who think it does not go far enough.


* WORLD * Documents released by Wikileaks apparently showed that the NSA had spied on the communications of French leaders for most of the past decade, including those of current President Francois Hollande, The Hill reports.

The Baltimore Sun reported on details of the autopsy of Freddie Gray, whose injury in police custody and subsequent death sparked protests and riots in the city in April. The trial for the six police officers charged in connection with Gray’s death will take place in October, after all entered not guilty pleas.





* MEDIA * Instagram announced an update featuring enhanced search and explore tools that will let users find photos by location and discover real-time trending topics. NPR reports:

More substantial than other recent makeovers touting new filters, this change will transform Instagram into a stream of real-time updates from around the country. Following in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook, Instagram wants to be a source for your news.


Google – finally – officially introduced the “undo send” feature for Gmail.

The Daily Mail, Snapchat and ad agency WPP announced the formation of a marketing agency to create brand-sponsored video and print content. The new venture will go by the, er, lets say distinctive name of Truffle Pig.


* SPORTS * Formula 1 could be set for an $8bn ownership shakeup, which could see F1’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone also sell his shareholding to a US-Qatar investor group, the Financial Times reports.


Tom Brady’s appeal against his suspension for “deflategate” wrapped up after 11 hours at the NFL’s headquarters in New York. USA Today reports:

There is no firm timetable for [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell to announce a decision on Brady’s status, just the latest development in a saga that has now dragged on more than five months. Lose, and Brady’s next step could be filing a federal lawsuit with a request for a temporary restraining order that would allow him to be on the field while the legal process plays out.


So, turns out that it’s Met’s fans what have the worst grammar in all of baseball?


And the catch of the day from the Cubs-Dodgers game at Wrigley:


* CULTURE * The most annoying restaurant trend happening today? There are plenty of contenders, but personally I agree with the Washington Post‘s Roberto Ferdman.

When a server clears a plate before everyone is finished, he or she leaves the table with a mess of subtle but important signals. Those who are still eating are made to feel as though they are holding others up; those who are not are made to feel as though they have rushed the meal. What was originally a group dining experience becomes a group exercise in guilt.


A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates a possible link between drugs for erectile dysfunction and the skin cancer melanoma.

On the other hand, though,

and, surprise surprise..


Finally, be careful about what you say to someone who may appear to be asleep. Their phone may not be, and it could cost you half a million dollars.


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