A late markup this week.
And the World…
Critical new sanctions were imposed up Iran as the standoff over that country’s nuclear program continues. Today the European Union passed a series of sanction that will phase in an Iranian oil embargo. The embargo will heavily impact Mediterranean EU members, many of which are unable to sustain the economic damage if Iranian oil is shut off. The Saudis have promised to make up the difference. European nations, despite their new embargo, still urge Iran to come back to the negotiating.
Progress continues in Burma (which some call Myanmar). As sanctions fall on Iran, more are being lifted on Burma. Europe removed some of these sanctions. This comes after Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi keyed up to run for Burma’s Parliament and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hauge visited the country in recent months.
As is old news now, Newt Gingrich dominated the South Carolina Republican primary. His win is, itself, not a surprise, but the scale of the win was surprising. It has shaken up the Republican race going into Florida and threaten Mitt Romney’s inevitability. Even as Romney scrambles to reverse himself on releasing his taxes returns, he already lost his double win of the Iowa Caucus and New Hamphire Primary when the Iowa Republican Party finalized the vote in favor of Rick Santorum. Even if he secures the nomination, he has taken considerable damage (and patience) he took great pains to avoid until now.
State of the Union Tomorrow!
Gabrielle Giffords will resign from Congress this week to focus on her recovery. The Arizona Congresswoman is recovery from a gunshot wound to the head she sustained last January. Twelve others were injured and six were killed including a staffer of hers and a federal judge. In her video, embedded below, she thanks Arizonans, but promises that her public career is not over. A new election will probably be held in June. Her last official act will be attend the State of the Union tomorrow.
The New York Times contemplates why iPhones are not manufactured in the United States. The story is a fascinating review of why manufacturing is not in the United States and no, it is not just about the cost of labor.
Mark Kirk, the junior Republican Senator from Illinois had a stroke this weekend and underwent surgery. Kirk, 52, a more moderate Republican was elected in 2010, is among what’s left of the moderate wing of the Republican party in the Senate. He is expected to recover, but may face physical disabilities. Kirk holds the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated to become president and was elected in a special election/regular election to replace Obama’s appointed successor and for a full term that began in 2011.
The State of Things:
Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren struck an historic agreement to limit third-party groups influence in the election. Already millions have been spent in ads opposing both candidates. Brown and Warren agreed to donate money to the others’ charity of their choice equal to half the amount third party groups spend. Early reports suggest the pro-Warren groups have more or less lauded the agreement and are prepared to stand down. American Crossroads, a pro-Brown group headed by Karl Rove was less enthusiastic saying phone-banking, mailers and other activities are allowed. The pledge only covers television, radio and online advertisements. Some question how long it may last and recall the failed pact between Sen. John Kerry and then-Gov. William Weld in the 1996 senate race.
Also last week, Brown kicked off his reelection campaign in Worcester. As expected, he will be using his “deployment” last summer to Afghanistan saying he was sent there. Glen Johnson fact checks that via Tweet.
Govenor Deval Patrick delivered his State of the Commonwealth address tonight with a particular focus on jobs and community colleges are part of the solution. Included in the address was a plan to revamp community college governance which seems similar to a revamp in Connecticut for its non-UCONN public colleges. Patrick also challenge the legislature to take up the long-stalled effort to reduce health care costs in the commonwealth. Proposals were released last year to mixed results, but the governor made a harder push tonight. Patrick is expected to release his budget this week with proposed tax increases on cigarettes and candy. While the cigarette taxes have a good likelihood of passage, the candy taxes have languished in the past. The revenue is necessary to maintain health care funding. Unclear, however, is the fate of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. That agency, which serves primarily the Boston area, faces a huge shortfall (again) and needs help or it will face massive cuts.
The board of appeals considers the Springfield City Council’s objection to Steven Desilets’s building permit for the biomass plant proposed for Page Boulevard. We’ve got the details of what to expect!
The Springfield City Council, after scheduling a special meeting to consider the disposition of an $800,000 for intervention programs for at-risk, voted to table the matter again to look into the matter further.
Springfield may follow Boston’s example and ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in stores that have pharmacies. The Public Health Council will hold in February, but as in Beantown it is expected to face some opposition.
A story in the Valley Advocate by Maureen Turner looks at the investigation the Springfield Police Department has launched over the death of Tahiem Goffe last year. The article considers the difficult balancing act Hampden County’s new district attorney Mark Mastroianni has faced as the NAACP and other groups demanded an independent inquiry into the teen’s death.
There is little doubt that Gabrielle Giffords and her tragic, but inspiring journey will be remembered in history. If Giffords does make a comeback to politics, she may beat this chapter in her life and in history in its impressiveness. For now, however, we leave you with this week’s tweet prize winner, Gabrielle Giffords (of course) and her tweet about finishing that Congress on Your Corner that was interupted by gunfire last year. It is a fitting and touching close to her career in the United States House of Representatives.