Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara (@pkollipara). To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: $809 million. That’s how much the Ebola outbreak could cost the three most-affected countries in West Africa by the end of 2015.
Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: The return of $3 gas? U.S. gas prices are falling, and fast.
Wonkbook’s Top 5 Stories: (1) The Fed is boring again; (2) cracking down on Wall Street execs; (3) the debate over troops on the ground; (4) what could cause the U.S. to life its oil-export ban; and (5) end-of-life care needs fixing.
1. Top story: The Fed’s return to boringness
Well, that was a bit underwhelming: No rate-guidance change. “The Federal Reserve on Wednesday renewed its pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a ‘considerable time,’ but also indicated it could raise borrowing costs faster than expected when it starts moving. Many economists and traders had expected the U.S. central bank to alter the rate guidance it has provided since March, given generally improving data on the economy’s performance….In a statement after a two-day meeting of its policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, it announced a further $10 billion reduction in its monthly purchases, leaving the program on course to be shuttered next month.” Michael Flaherty and Howard Schneider in Reuters.
Explainer: Parsing the Fed: How the statement changed. Sarah Portlock in The Wall Street Journal.
Hurray, the Fed is boring again. “Because it’s fun and intellectually interesting to parse the small differences between the last Fed statement and the new one and so on, we can sometimes miss the big picture. The economy may not be going gangbusters, but it is now far removed from crisis mode. And the Fed, after years of improvising a response to an unprecedented crisis, is going back to its usual self: slow-moving, deliberate and more than a little bit boring. That may be less exciting for those of us who make a career out of parsing the words that emanate from the Marriner S. Eccles Building, the Fed’s headquarters here. But it’s better for everybody else.” Neil Irwin in The New York Times.
Economists’ reactions: Dovish statement, hawkish projections. Sarah Portlock in The Wall Street Journal.
Yawn. “The Federal Reserve’s policy makers just eyeballed the economy, and saw nothing new….You can go back to your nap now.” Marilyn Geewax in NPR.
The FOMC’s ‘considerable time’ phraseology may be devoid of meaning. “Fed Chair Janet Yellen, speaking to reporters, refused to be pinned down on how long a ‘considerable time’ is. There is a sense that it’s more than a month and less than a year, but that’s guesswork….Back in March, when she was still new on the job, Yellen committed the central banker’s faux pas of actually answering a reporter’s question fully when asked what the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee meant by saying it would keep rates low for a considerable time….Yellen has since fuzzed up her language in the grand tradition of her predecessors. Give the journalists at today’s Fed press conference credit for trying to extract some specificity.” Peter Coy in Bloomberg Businessweek.
Primary source: Highlights of Yellen’s remarks at the press conference. Reuters.
Or maybe Yellen doesn’t want to give in to the impatient. “While Ms Yellen diluted ‘considerable time’, she also played down the higher interest forecasts, saying the changes were small and that they do not capture the full range of uncertainty anyway….The bottom line was that Ms Yellen is not yet ready to move — and while that remains the case, the impatience of others is not going to press her into saying something precipitate.” Robin Harding in The Financial Times.
@davidmwessel: Sure took Yellen a considerable time to explain what ‘considerable time’ doesn’t mean.
We did get some clarity on how the Fed actually will raise rates when that time comes. “As part of the so-called exit strategy, the Fed will continue to rely on its benchmark federal funds rate…as the key rate used to communicate Fed policy. The rate influences other borrowing costs throughout the economy, such as those on mortgages, car loans and credit cards. Raising it tightens credit: lowering does the reverse. But the primary tool for moving the fed funds rate will be the interest rate the Fed pays on the money, called excess reserves, that banks deposit at the central bank. The Fed also will use an interest rate it pays on trades called reverse repurchase agreements, or reverse repos, to help ensure the fed funds rate stays in its target range.” Michael S. Derby in The Wall Street Journal.
Fed has just altered its overnight reverse-repo terms. Why that matters. “Some Fed officials have become worried…that rattled investors might pull their money from private short-term securities in times of turbulence and park it at the Fed, creating a de facto bank run. The Fed’s new reverse repo terms seem to take account of those concerns, most notably in the overall limit placed on the effort. The $300 billion daily cap is under the $339 billion mark seen on the final day of the second quarter. Recent operations have been hovering on either side of the $150 billion mark….The daily cap also seems to suggest the Fed is mindful of rising concerns that it is becoming the dominant destination to invest cash short term, displacing private-sector financial firms.” Michael S. Derby in The Wall Street Journal.
Most Fed officials still see 2015 for first rate hike. “In the forecast, 14 of 17 officials said they continue to believe the Fed’s first increase in near zero short-term rates will occur in 2015….The September forecasts represent a modest shift from June’s projections, when…12 saw 2015 as the most likely point of liftoff….The U.S. central bank’s so-called ‘dots plots’ describing its monetary policy outlook have evolved into a challenging part of the Fed’s forecasting activities. The dots denote the monetary policy views of all of Fed governors and regional bank presidents, and as such, many observers look to shifts in the distributions of these individual forecasts as an indication of a potential change in direction for the central bank.” Michael S. Derby in The Wall Street Journal.
@Neil_Irwin: Yellen: Could take until the end of the decade to achieve normalization of balance sheet.
Fed offers more upbeat view of job market… “The move comes amid an economic recovery that looks increasingly sustainable, even if it is not as robust as anticipated. The central bank released a more upbeat forecast for the job market Wednesday, predicting the unemployment rate would fall to between 5.9 percent and 6 percent by the end of the year. It slightly downgraded its assessment of economic growth this year to between 2 percent and 2.2 percent….The improving outlook means that the recovery no longer needs as much support from the nation’s central bank.” Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.
…and a growth downgrade for next year. “In what has become a regular ritual for Fed officials, policy makers revised down their forecasts for economic growth, particularly next year. The Fed slashed its 2015 forecast range for growth in gross domestic product down to just 2.6% to 3.0% in September, down from 3.0% to 3.2% in June.” Pedro Nicolaci da Costa in The Wall Street Journal.
Two hawks squawk in dissent. “Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, dissented because he believed continued improvement in the economy and labor market ‘likely warrant an earlier reduction in monetary accommodation than is suggested by the committee’s forward guidance.’ Charles Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, dissented in June and did so again Wednesday for the same reason. He said the Fed’s guidance was ‘time dependent and does not reflect the considerable economic progress that has been made toward the committee’s goals.'” Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times.
Another inflation report shows the Fed may not feel the pressure to rush its rate hikes. “U.S. consumer prices fell for the first time in nearly 1-1/2 years in August and underlying inflation pressures were muted, which could lessen the urgency for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. The Labor Department said on Wednesday its Consumer Price Index dropped 0.2 percent last month as a broad decline in energy prices offset increases in food and shelter costs….Concerns at the Fed that inflation was running too low have abated in recent months, but the CPI data suggested an acceleration of prices during the spring may have run its course….A second report showed homebuilder sentiment hit a near nine-year high in September.” Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.
Meanwhile, over on Capitol Hill… “The House of Representatives approved a bill that, its sponsor hopes, is the first step toward doing away with the Federal Reserve and handing Congress the power to control the U.S. money supply. Yes, Congress. The Congress that has barely been able to pass anything for the past several years. In charge of the nation’s money supply. Sure. What could possibly go wrong? The measure, sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), doesn’t seem that radical. It simply calls for an ‘audit’ of the Federal Reserve and the 12 Federal Reserve Banks around the country. But Broun belongs to a school of thought that views the central bank as an entity with vast, unconstitutional powers that has been usurping the prerogatives of the Congress for a century….The measure is, most likely, going nowhere.” Rob Garver in The Fiscal Times.
With QE3 winding down, we still don’t know what it bought us. “The program…was unprecedented. It wasn’t about spending money to get the U.S. out of a financial crisis or to prevent a double-dip recession. (Those were the goals of QE1 and QE2.) Rather, it was about spending money to give the weak economic recovery a boost. The program…has had its advocates and its critics. Advocates say the Fed’s massive intervention in the bond market helped create jobs and was an important signal to American consumers and investors that the economic recovery, which began in 2009, would continue. Critics, however, say the costs of the program weren’t worth the benefits….It’s too early to judge which side is right.” Andrew Flowers in FiveThirtyEight.
Mass incarceration may be making the Fed’s job harder. “Many Americans are still working only part time, and workers still aren’t getting higher wages — but employers are taking longer than ever to fill positions. What’s jamming the Fed’s frequencies? It is probably a combination of factors: a severe financial crisis…an aging population…an increasingly automated economy…or something else entirely. One likely source of interference is the increasing number of people who have been to prison or who have been convicted of a felony. This surprisingly large group might have difficulty finding work even in a good job market, making it harder for the Fed to stimulate the economy back to full strength.” Max Ehrenfreund in The Washington Post.
IMF warns of economic risks from ‘excessive’ financial market bets. “The global economy faces a growing risk from big financial market bets that could quickly unravel if investors get spooked by geopolitical tensions or a shift in U.S. interest rate policy, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday. The IMF…said in a report it still expects economic growth will pick up in the second half of 2014 after a rough start to the year. But it also warned that financial market indicators suggested investor bets funded with borrowed money looked ‘excessive’ and that markets could quickly deflate if there were surprises in U.S. monetary policy or the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.” Jason Lange in Reuters.
Other economic reads:
More businesses are closing than starting. Can Congress turn that around? J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.
Economic growth: Is playing with taxes the answer? Katy O’Donnell in Roll Call.
LANE: The Fed’s policies may have fed income inequality. “Obviously the central bank did not intend to increase inequality….Indeed, to the extent the Fed’s policies prevented truly massive joblessness, inequality might have been worse without them. That’s because a tighter labor market gives workers more leverage to bargain for higher wages. The question is whether, and how much, that effect is offset by others. Rock-bottom interest rates hurt small savers, who generally can’t diversify into higher-yielding but riskier investments. Greater transparency has been the Fed’s response to concerns about how it uses its vast power. Given that, a little more exactitude about monetary policy’s winners and losers doesn’t seem like too much to ask.” Charles Lane in The Washington Post.
YGLESIAS: Obama’s biggest economic-policy misstep. “Barack Obama has not accomplished nearly as much as his most fervent supporters — or, indeed, the president himself — had hoped he would during the 2008 campaign. This has led, naturally, to a litany of back-biting complaints about the corruption or incompetence of the president and his team, a storied list of alleged tactical failings or ideological betrayals. The truth is, however, that he has accomplished an enormous amount given the objective structural circumstances of American politics. But as the country waits to hear the latest announcement from the Fed about how rapidly it will end its Quantitative Easing programs, we are witnessing the biggest mistake of Obama’s presidency: the systematic neglect of the Federal Reserve and of his ability to influence its course of action.” Matthew Yglesias in Vox.
SALAM: How conservatives can win on social issues. ” I do think that conservatives can and should be the first movers on, for example, creating a more sustainable legislative settlement around the state-level regulation of cannabis….It would certainly change the conversation, and break the GOP out of its defensive crouch. Martin cites the recent Republican embrace of allowing for the sale of birth control pills over the counter as a way of parrying liberal attacks. Yet it is actually much more than that — it is an authentically conservative proposal that empowers women, including the many women who will still be uninsured, by choice or otherwise, even if Obamacare, and its Medicaid expansion, firmly takes hold. One hopes that this birth control shift will prefigure a new policy creativity on social issues.” Reihan Salam in National Review.
LOMBORG: The economics of violence. “What is the biggest source of violence in our world? With the brutal conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere constantly in the news, many people would probably say war. But that turns out to be spectacularly wrong….While we still don’t know enough, two points are certain. First, domestic violence against women and children imposes a social cost of $8 trillion each year, making it a huge — and vastly underreported — global issue. Second, there are solutions that can help to tackle some of these problems very cost-effectively. That is why reducing domestic violence belongs on the short-list for the world’s next set of development goals.” Bjørn Lomborg in Project Syndicate.
JACKSON AND JOHNSON: Saving the coral reefs. “Coral reefs are vital to the economies of the 38 Caribbean countries and territories and their 43 million people. These reefs generate roughly $3 billion annually in tourism and fishing and provide protection from storms. To save coral reefs, we need to follow the lead of Barbuda and our other proactive neighbors. We need to stop all forms of overfishing, establish large and effectively enforced marine protected areas and impose strict regulations on coastal development and pollution, while at the same time working to reduce fossil fuel emissions driving climate change. It’s not either/or. It’s all of the above.” Jeremy Jackson and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson in The New York Times.
PONNURU: Democrats can’t rely on pot, gay marriage. “After George W. Bush won re-election in 2004, Democrats had a bit of a freak-out about social issues. Prominent strategists, and even their losing presidential candidate, John Kerry, blamed the defeat partly on the perception that they were too extreme on abortion. This year, Democrats have no such worries. They’re campaigning hard on social issues, saying it’s their opponents who are out of step with the public. And many Republicans are responding defensively….But it’s a mistake to assume the public is moving substantially leftward on social issues or that Democrats now have a long-term advantage on them — because not all ‘social issues’ are the same.” Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View.
HART: Why research is biased against pot. “So why do scientists focus almost exclusively on the detrimental effects of drugs when they are, in fact, a minority of effects? Are scientists dishonest? Probably not. They are more likely to be responding to their perceptions of NIDA’s interests….As a result, they emphasize the negative effects of drugs to get their research funded….The result is that the majority of information on drugs published in the scientific literature, textbooks and popular press is biased toward the negative aspects of drug use. It has also helped shape a socio-political environment where certain drugs are deemed evil and any use of these drugs is considered pathological. This, in turn, has provided the fuel for restrictive policies with an unreasonable goal of eliminating illegal drug use at any cost to marginalized groups.” Carl L. Hart in the Dallas Morning News.
Science interlude: 10 awesome chemical reaction GIFs.
2. Are Wall Street execs no longer off limits for criminal charges?
Criminal charges against Wall St. execs pending? “The nation’s top prosecutor did not go into detail…but people familiar with the cases say the probes involve the possible manipulation of the $5.3 trillion global foreign-exchange markets….The attorney general has faced unrelenting criticism for failing to bring criminal charges against any Wall Street executives in the wake of the economic meltdown. Even after the Justice Department secured multibillion-dollar settlements with JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America…lawmakers and financial reform advocates have questioned why individuals behind such schemes have never been charged….The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles is preparing to file a civil suit against a key figure in the housing meltdown, Angelo Mozilo.” Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.
Holder: I feel your pain, but don’t blame me. “He said prosecutors could not always establish that high-ranking executives far removed from day-to-day operations knew about a particular scheme. He said blurred lines of authority often make it hard to name the person responsible for individual business decisions….The law caps rewards for potential whistleblowers in cases that do not involve fraud against government programs and hurts the ability of prosecutors to get Wall Street executives to cooperate, Holder said.” Aruna Viswanatha and Nate Raymond in Reuters.
Holder’s wish list: Power to reward whistleblowers more. “Many of the Justice settlements have been brought under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), which currently caps payments to whistleblowers at $1.6 million. Holder called the amount…not enough to lure Wall Street executives to risk their careers by coming forward. Holder said he wants Congress to bring possible rewards for whistleblowers in these cases more in line with the False Claims Act, which is used to prosecute companies and individuals for defrauding government programs and allows those who come forward with evidence to earn up to one third of a resulting settlement amount….Holder also asked for the authority to add more FBI investigators to white collar crime units without diverting resources away from counterterrorism investigations.” Jon Prior in Politico.
DOJ has a request of banks themselves: Rat out your employees, or else. “The Justice Department has a suggestion for banks hoping to avoid criminal charges: Rat out your employees. Marshall L. Miller, the No. 2 official in the Justice Department’s criminal division, detailed in a speech on Wednesday how banks would either earn credit for exposing nefarious individuals or face charges for protecting them. The comments by Mr. Miller reflect the Justice Department’s renewed interest in charging bank employees rather than just the banks.” Ben Protess in The New York Times.
Meanwhile, judge upholds U.S. effort to regulate overseas trading. “A federal judge on Tuesday upheld the Obama administration’s effort to rein in the sort of overseas trading that imploded in the financial crisis, upending Wall Street’s plan to roll back the regulatory overhaul. The 92-page ruling from Judge Paul L. Friedman of the Federal District Court in Washington — a surprising blow to some of the world’s biggest banks — hands a victory to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which drafted the overhaul. Unencumbered by costly litigation, which was filed by some of Wall Street’s top trade groups, the agency is now able to reach far beyond American shores in its oversight.” Ben Protess in The New York Times.
GAO: Dodd-Frank stability council coming up short. “The GAO’s study…comes nearly four years after the Financial Stability Oversight Council — a product of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law — was created to protect against a repeat of the Great Recession. Yet its core function has yet to be fully realized, GAO found….The GAO acknowledged progress the council has made in responding to a 2012 report, but issued a set of nine recommendations across three areas where investigators say improvement is still needed: identifying threats, maintaining transparency and coordinating its efforts.” Benjamin Goad in The Hill.
Other financial reads:
Credit Suisse loans draw federal scrutiny. Gillian Tan and Ryan Tracy in The Wall Street Journal.
Ex-Im Bank set for nine-month extension. Jamila Trindle in Foreign Policy.
O’BRIEN: Uh-oh. Those credit-rating agencies are at it again. “Tracy Alloway of the Financial Times reports that banks are once again asking around to get AAA ratings on dubious bonds….Now, the good news is that the subprime auto loan market isn’t nearly as big, or systemically important, as the subprime mortgage market was before the crash. But the bad news is that we haven’t gotten rid of the credit rating agencies’ perverse incentives to rate bonds better than they deserve just to drum up business. It was dumb enough to create a system that encourages the credit rating agencies to take a Panglossian view of the bonds they’re supposedly rating. It’d be even dumber to leave it in place after we’ve seen what a disaster it is.” Matt O’Brien in The Washington Post.
Keeping your cool interlude: Flutist stays calm and composed when a butterfly lands on her face during a performance.
3. Will troops be on the ground in Iraq or not? The debate, explained
When troops in Iraq aren’t actually boots on the ground. “To preview the conclusions: It depends what you mean by boots. To be clear about one thing, there are already military personnel in Iraq….They’re…stationed at headquarters in Erbil and Baghdad as military advisers and trainers. When Gen. Dempsey talks about ‘U.S. military ground forces,’ he means these guys; more specifically, he’s raising the possibility of taking them out of the rear and towards the front line where they might more actively direct military operations. The actual forces at the sharp end of the fighting, in other words what most civilians would understand by ‘boots on the ground,’ would still be local. That’s what Mr. Obama means, too.” Matthew Rose in The Wall Street Journal.
Explainer: Explaining the confusion over troops in Iraq. Lolita C. Baldor in the Associated Press.
There it is: General urges Congress to reconsider sequestration cuts to defense spending amid the ISIS battle. “Congress should look hard at whether to continue automatic budget cuts that weaken the U.S. military at a time when security around the world is deteriorating, a top U.S. general said on Wednesday. The rapid advance of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region has fueled calls by current and former military chiefs and the U.S. defense industry for a rethink of the hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic cuts, known as ‘sequestration’.” Adrian Croft in Reuters.
With bill authorizing arming of Syrian rebels, House also votes to avert shutdown, extend Ex-Im Bank authorization. “The measure, passed 319-108 with opposition evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, also contains a separately approved authorization for the Defense Department to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants. The bill, which now moves to the Senate for consideration on Thursday, extends current funding levels for discretionary government programs and agencies through Dec. 16. This will allow lawmakers time to sort out a longer-term spending measure when they return to Washington after the Nov. 4 mid-term elections.” David Lawder in Reuters.
Related: Thanks to ISIS, defense authorization bill is headed for last-minute dealmaking again. Connor O’Brien in Roll Call.
About those troops on the ground to help fight Ebola in West Africa… “It might strike some as odd that the military is being called on to address a disease outbreak that poses little direct threat to the U.S. But the Department of Defense actually has a long history of engagement in global health activities, ranging from developing drugs and vaccines for diseases (including Ebola) to helping countries build their surveillance and health-care systems, and bolstering their ability to handle dangerous pathogens. The U.S. armed services are often front and center when the U.S. responds to large-scale disasters, providing most of the ‘boots on the ground.'” Drew Altman in The Wall Street Journal.
A new source of peril for military: The troops’ fitness. “An increase in the number of overweight and out-of-shape service members who are unable to run long distances or perform physical tasks like push-ups poses a direct threat to the United States’ ability to defend itself, a group of retired military leaders fighting for improved childhood nutrition said Wednesday. The group…released a report that found that about 12 percent of active-duty service members were obese based on height and weight, a number that has risen 61 percent since 2002. The report said the extra weight cost the military about $1.5 billion annually in health care spending, as well as the expenses of replacing unfit soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen.” Ron Nixon in The New York Times.
Other national-security reads:
Proposal would require think tanks to disclose funding by foreign governments. Eric Lipton in The New York Times.
Investigations reveal cyberattacks on defense contractors. Christian Davenport in The Washington Post.
The Islamic State is messing up other people’s acronyms. Matt Berman in National Journal.
Cool contraption interlude: Someone built a golf-ball roller coaster.
4. What could prompt the U.S. to lift the oil-export ban
U.S. considering options if oil export ban challenged. “Officials in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the National Security Council have each held internal talks about potential free-trade challenges from South Korea and NATO allies, two sources familiar with the matter said. The internal discussions, which are still at a preliminary stage, are the clearest sign yet that the Obama administration is weighing options for easing the contentious export ban, a move that could dramatically alter global oil trading flows and boost revenues for U.S. producers currently limited to selling their crude domestically.” Timothy Gardner and Valerie Volcovici in Reuters.
What is the debate over crude-oil exports about, anyway? Jeff Brady in NPR.
U.S. flush with oil right now gives it an economic and geopolitical advantage. David Sheppard and Rania El Gamal in Reuters.
Falling prices and fleeing rigs may be the push policymakers need, economist says. “It will take a ‘train wreck’ of falling prices, declining oil production and idle drilling rigs before the United States lifts its longstanding ban on exporting crude, a noted economist predicted Wednesday. Analysts have warned those are the possible outcomes if existing discounts on U.S. crude grow even larger and domestic oil production exceeds the ability of the nation’s refiners to process it. And while oil producers are beseeching the Obama administration and lawmakers to ease the export ban now…Rice University economist Kenneth Medlock said political action probably will lag behind the oilfield impacts.” Jennifer A. Dlouhy in the Houston Chronicle.
Related: Oil producers and refiners are battling it out over oil-export policy. Jennifer A. Dlouhy in the Houston Chronicle.
Oil production hits a 28-year high thanks to shale. “Output rose 248,000 barrels a day to 8.838 million, the most since March 1986, according to Energy Information Administration data. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked supplies from shale formations in the central U.S., including the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas….U.S. output will climb 14 percent to an average of 8.53 million barrels a day this year, the EIA said in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook on Sept. 9. Production will rise to 9.53 million barrels a day in 2015, the most since 1970, according to the agency.” Mark Shenk in Bloomberg.
Pollution spurred by leaky wells (but not hydraulic fracturing) spur calls for tougher regulations. “A study that blamed natural gas drilling for water pollution in two states has spurred calls for stricter regulations to keep wells from leaking methane into aquifers. The study backed the oil and gas industry in one respect: It discounted hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as the source for harmful methane in water….The analysis…found instead that leaks in the steel-and-cement casings surrounding the well bore were to blame. Imperfections in the seal allowed gas to escape before it reached the surface, making water undrinkable and in some cases explosive.” Jim Snyder, Jim Polson and Bradley Olson in Bloomberg.
Other environmental/energy reads:
BP plans deeper drilling for offshore oil despite ruling. David Wethe and Bradley Olson in Bloomberg.
Congress could try extending clean-energy tax breaks. Patrick Rucker in Reuters.
U.S. solar, wind start to outshine natural gas. Ed Crooks in The Financial Times.
Obama administration delays climate power-plant rule ahead of U.N. climate summit. Maria Gallucci in International Business Times.
Fish-choking plastic balls have states limiting cosmetic contents. Elise Young in Bloomberg.
USDA approves new genetically modified corn, soybean seeds; EPA action is next. Mary Clare Jalonick in the Associated Press.
Meaning of life interlude: As explained by a youngster.
5. Is now the time to fix our flawed end-of-life care system?
It’s time to bury the ‘death panel’ myth for good. Is this the way to do it? “A rational and responsible national conversation about preparing for death and end-of-life care has been virtually impossible over the past five years because of the ‘death panel’ myth that erupted during the heated health-care debate of 2009….The truth is many people don’t have much say in the matter because they don’t appropriately plan for it….And that’s where health-reform legislation being debated by Congress five years ago could have helped filled the gap. Now in a new 507-page IOM report…recommendations include what the original ACA legislation would have done: pay doctors for speaking with their patients about end-of-life care.” Jason Millman in The Washington Post.
Some of IOM panel’s suggested reforms don’t need Congress. “For example, the panel urged insurers to reimburse health care providers for conversations with patients on advance care planning. Medicare…is considering doing just that, prompted by a recent request from the American Medical Association. Some private insurers are already covering such conversations, and many more would if Medicare did. But some recommendations — like changing the reimbursement structure so that Medicare would pay for home health services instead of emphasizing hospital care, and so that Medicaid would provide better coverage of long-term care for the frail elderly — would require congressional action.” Pam Belluck in The New York Times.
Separately, other experts suggest restrictions on testosterone use. “Federal health experts said Wednesday there is little evidence that testosterone-boosting drugs are effective for treating common signs of aging in men and that their use should be narrowed….The panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers voted 20-1 that prescribing language on blockbuster testosterone treatments should be revised to make clear they have not been shown to reverse common aging issues….The labeling change would drastically limit the drugs’ FDA-approved indication to men who have abnormally low hormone levels due to disease or injury, instead of aging….They acknowledged it will be difficult to change physician prescribing habits.” Matthew Perrone in the Associated Press.
More U.S. hospitals adopting “baby-friendly” policies. Brigid Schulte in The Washington Post.
How hospitals are getting safer for children. Tim Lahey in The Atlantic.
Other health care reads:
A new way insurers are shifting costs to the sick. Charles Ornstein in ProPublica.
World Bank warns Ebola’s economic impact could be catastrophic if virus left unchecked. Lena H. Sun and Lenny Bernstein in The Washington Post.
Rare respiratory virus attacking children is now in 16 states. Mark Berman in The Washington Post.
Singing interlude: Sen. Bernie Sanders singing “This Land Is Your Land.”
A look at who did (and didn’t) get mortgages in the boom, bust and after. Dina ElBoghdady.
How the pay gap leads to the retirement savings gap. Jonnelle Marte.
Federal Reserve details new exit strategy, keeps record-low rate. Ylan Q. Mui.
This chart bodes very badly for the taxi industry in its battle against Uber. Emily Badger.
It’s time to bury the “death panel” myth for good. Is this the way to do it? Jason Millman.
Mass incarceration is making the Federal Reserve’s job harder. Max Ehrenfreund.
VA watchdog official acknowledges link between delays, patient deaths. Richard A. Oppel Jr. in The New York Times.
States boost anti-trafficking laws to help labor, sex slaves. Stella Dawson in Reuters.
Is marijuana more addictive than alcohol? Colorado and Washington are about to find out. Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.
Federal background checks, a year after Navy Yard. Josh Hicks in The Washington Post.
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.
Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
Scottish readers: Undecided about the referendum? Please read How the media shafted the people of Scotland and Scottish Independence, Power And Propaganda.