Washington, DC is full of buildings stuffed with bureaucrats. Inside, the paper they push affects our lives in ways big and small. Two of these paper-pushing-processes are in the news this week for striking new moves that could have major impact in very different ways. They involve smoking and how we get online.
First, a look at the Food and Drug Administration’s bid to regulate e-cigarettes for the first time:
“With FDA having no authority to regulate these products, it is a bit of the wild, wild West,” says FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.
The agency’s new proposal would bar sales to minors and require product approval, among other measures. But it does not crack down on advertising or flavored products thought to appeal to kids.
It’s not as tough as the tobacco industry feared. That has tobacco insiders optimistic, and anti-smoking advocates furious.
Up next is a long fight between industry, anti-smoking advocates and regulators:
It could be years before anything currently proposed becomes reality. While that going may be slow, over at the FCC, they’re talking about content we want to go fast, working on rules that could determine the fate of our internet. The FCC's proposal would allow companies to pay broadband providers to allow their content to "sprint" to computers faster.
"It might behoove a company with deep pockets like Amazon or Facebook to pay extra and make sure they are promptly loaded on to your mobile device. But what about an independent media outlet?" asked Astra Taylor, an activist and author of The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age.
But Paul Gallant, a managing director at Guggenheim Securities, wonders if the FCC's proposals could benefit consumers by giving them more - and better - options. He suggests a scenario where ESPN pays Verizon Wireless so that customers can watch ESPN videos on their Verizon phones for free. For a lot of ESPN fans, that might look like good news.
"I think the FCC is starting to realize that having a blanket rule against any kind of traffic prioritization may wall off innovative new business models," Gallant said.
None of this is a done deal. The FCC will issue its proposal next month, and then open it up to public comment. There may not be enforceable rules until the end of this year, or later.
U.S. Postal Service workers picketed in front of Staples stores on Thursday. They were protesting USPS plans to provide mail services inside Staples stores, using nonunion Staples employees.
Hospitals in out-of-the-way places are making trade-offs as they adopt electronic medical records. Some are joining larger health systems, while others are searching for ways to go it alone.
Two growers are competing to harvest fresh figs earlier and earlier in hopes of transforming the industry for year-round production. But some fig lovers say they can hold out for summer fruit.
Google, Intel and others say they will now financially support the open-source software that encrypts much of the traffic on the Internet. The effort follows the discovery of a key security flaw.
Turkey has been roiled by street protests, a Twitter ban controversy and, most recently, a growing rivalry between the ruling party's top two figures, the president and prime minister.
Major changes are expected for the NCAA, whose board meets Thursday. Directors will consider giving the five power conferences more autonomy, as well as changing the way scholarships are administered.
The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to expand its regulatory powers to e-cigarettes and other popular products containing nicotine.
A Senate panel released a report Thursday that criticizes the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. It accuses him of repeatedly compromising his independence.
Early Thursday morning, the Ukrainian military moved into towns held by militants. Firefights and casualties have been reported at a number of different locations.
The Israeli government suspended peace talks with Palestinians, citing a unity agreement announced Wednesday by Palestinian leadership. The Israeli security cabinet came to the decision unanimously, angered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to end a seven-year schism with the Hamas movement.
As diplomatic talks in Geneva have failed to resolve the three-year-old civil war in Syria, the U.S. is undertaking a new covert program to send weapons in support of rebel forces there.
Syria will likely meet an upcoming deadline to hand over its declared chemical weapons. But the agreement seems to have emboldened the Syrian regime to use other brutal tactics, including a chemical not covered by the deal.