Saturday, February 19, 2005

This week in law and policy

Negroponte tapped as intelligence chief

The biggest news on the law and policy front this week was President Bush's naming of Ambassador John Negroponte to the new post of Director of National Intelligence, in which capacity he will direct fifteen agencies. Negroponte, who currently serves as US Ambassador to Iraq and was formerly US Ambassador to the United Nations, is widely described by foreign service professionals as a diplomat with the potential to draw together intelligence heads not always amenable to cooperation.

Zaid A. Zaid (CLS '07), who worked for Ambassador Negroponte while a State Department employee, applauds the nomination: "I've seen Ambassador Negroponte in action. I worked for him for a year, and I know that he has the stature, respect, and personality to be able to pull together the 15 intelligence agencies. Ambassador Negroponte is a seasoned diplomat, and the diplomacy skills he possesses are what is going to be needed to navigate the delicate web that ha been woven in Washington amongst the intelligence agencies. I wish him the best of luck. If anybody can do it, he can."

Thus far, criticism of the appointment has come from Human Rights Watch, along with other human rights groups, who highlight Ambassador Negroponte's actions while Ambassador to Honduras during the early 1980s. Negroponte allegedly turned a blind eye to Contra abuses and silently condoned Honduran military unites that made use of sub-rosa kidnappings and killings.

Kyoto Treaty takes effect, but United States not on board

The Kyoto Treaty on global warming
went into effect on February 15, but faces an uncertain future due in part to the active opposition of the Bush Administration (despite the active role taken by the U.S. in negotiating the treaty during the 1990s).

Opponents criticize the treaty as economically inefficient and discriminatory, since industrializing nations like China and India are not held to the same limits as more developed nations like the European Union. Proponents respond by pointing to the symbolic value of the treaty and its precedential value in encouraging environmental innovation.

President Bush submits judicial nominations

In a signal that he's ready for another battle over the judiciary, the President has sent
20 nominees to the Senate , including several who had previously been blocked. Nominees include particularly contentious choices Priscilla Owen (5th Cir.) and recess appointee William Pryor (11th Cir.), whose term expires at the end of the year.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has once again threatened to change Senate filibuster rules to allow each nominee an "up or down vote." Nominees will first pass through the Senate Judiciary Committee and will come to the floor for debate (possibly) later this year.

Of those whom Bush has nominated to the judiciary, 204 have been confirmed and 10 filibustered for an overall approval rate of 95.3%.

Brookings Institute releases study on African Americans and "job sprawl"

According to a
study released by the Brookings Institute, the exodus of jobs from urban core areas to suburbs has separated jobs from African Americans and worsened racial segregation. The study suggests that more balanced metropolitan development, including better transportation and urban renewal, could help lessen segregation and improve job prospects in the long run.

FDA creates new drug oversight board


Possibly in reaction to new revelations about the dangers of pain medications like Vioxx and Celebrex, the FDA has created a new Independent Drug Safety Oversight Board to study medications that have been put on the market and improve the quality and quantity of publicly-available information about them (Washington Post coverage
here).

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