"Why $46 Billion in Pentagon Cuts Shouldn’t Make Us Less Safe"

(Source: The Atlantic)

"Congress, not email, destroyed the Postal Service"

But the deeper source of the Postal Services woes is the U.S. Congress, not some imagined incompetence on the part of its managers and executives. In fact, the Postal Service is quite well managed and operates as efficiently and effectively as we have any right to expect, given the constraints we have imposed on it. And the main constraint is political: We have allowed the U.S. Congress to control the agency, and for decades – centuries, really – Congress has dictated that the Postal Service operate in ways that are politically useful for members of Congress even though they make no economic sense. In the process, our elected representatives have steered the agency into a ditch.

Scientist Removed From EPA Panel Due To Industry Opposition

In 2007, when Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an Environmental Protection Agency panel assessing the safety levels of flame retardants, she arrived as a respected Maine toxicologist with no ties to industry.

Yet the EPA removed Rice from the panel after an intense push by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry lobbying group that accused her of bias. Her supposed conflict of interest? She had publicly raised questions about the safety of a flame retardant under EPA review.

"Drug overdose deaths up for 11th consecutive year"

Drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th straight year, federal data show, and most of them were accidents involving addictive painkillers despite growing attention to risks from these medicines.

"The big picture is that this is a big problem that has gotten much worse quickly," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which gathered and analyzed the data.

In 2010, the CDC reported, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths nationwide. Medicines, mostly prescription drugs, were involved in nearly 60 percent of overdose deaths that year, overshadowing deaths from illicit narcotics.

Everyone knows American politics are unusually polarized these days. But who stands at the left and right poles? Our colleagues at National Journal are this week releasing their annual rankings of how liberal and conservative members of the House of Representatives are.

On the right side of the aisle, it will surprise almost no one that former Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri was the most conservative member of the House in 2012. Akin, of course, came to prominence with his ill-advised, ill-informed suggestion that in the case of “legitimate rape,” a woman’s body can prevent conception. That comment helped him crash and burn in his attempt to unseat Senator Claire McCaskill. Akin scored a 97.0 on NJ’s scale.

(Source: The Atlantic)

"It's Been 951 Days Since the Senate Passed a Major New Law"

If you’re wondering whether President Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda has a chance to make it through Congress, this little fact might be worth keeping in mind. Pessimistic analyses of the prospects for the Obama agenda have mostly focused on the recalcitrant, GOP-led House of Representatives. But Obama’s problem may actually be with the house of Congress his party controls. House Speaker John Boehner has signaled that he’ll consider proposals that make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate. Based on recent history, that could be a tall order.

Lest you think this is about Republican obstruction of the Democrats’ Senate majority via the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome, that’s only part of the problem. Note that this period of inaction doesn’t quite correlate with the last time Democrats had 60 votes, which was January 2010. And the Senate has actually done plenty of things in the past two years and seven months — the deals that ended the 2011 debt-ceiling fight and the recent “fiscal cliff,” for example, as well as contentious items like the highway bill and the reapproval of the Export-Import Bank.

The Self Made Myth

The Price of Inequality in America

"A Tea Partier Takes Charge of North Carolina's Budget"

Now, Pope has an opportunity to push through tax and spending cuts he’s long championed. His think tanks favor a repeal of North Carolina’s income tax, privatizing Medicaid, and reducing the state workforce. “We’re going to see a major overhaul of state government, a major overhaul of the tax code,” says Dallas Woodhouse, state director of Americans for Prosperity’s North Carolina chapter. “The corporate income tax will disappear. The personal income tax will be cut at least in half.”

"Meet the American Company Helping Governments Spy on 'Billions' of Communications"

Every day, billions of emails and phone calls flow through communications networks in countries across the world. Now, one American company has built technology capable of spying on them all—and business is booming.

Verint, a leading manufacturer of surveillance technologies, is headquartered in Melville, N.Y., in a small cluster of nondescript buildings that also includes the office of a multinational cosmetics supplier and some electronics companies.

Among Verint’s products are unremarkable security cameras and systems that enable call center managers to monitor their workers.  But it also sells some of the world’s most sophisticated eavesdropping equipment, creating a line of spy tools designed to help governments and intelligence agencies snoop on communications across an entire country.