On Tuesday, Congressional negotiators reached a bipartisan budget compromise that would prevent another government shutdown, if approved by the House and Senate. Here is a helpful breakdown of the deal:
Source: The Washington Post
“American Exceptionalism” is a term we hear often in American politics despite the lack of a precise definition of the phrase. One area, though, where Americans appear hardly exceptional is education.
According to the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (administered every three years by the OECD), or PISA test, U.S. students lag around average on international science and reading subjects. More troubling, though, is the fact that U.S. teens scored below average in math. U.S. students are particularly weak in performing math tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations and translating them into mathematical terms, according to the OECD report.
Source: Cartoon Politics
The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty examines the ups and downs of President Obama and the Clinton’s relationship, and looks forward to what that might look like in 2016.
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The Wall Street Journal on the Senate’s attempt to rein in filibusters:
The result, a major change in how the Senate has operated for decades, is the culmination of accelerating partisanship in Washington and mounting frustration among Democrats in the face of GOP delaying tactics during the Obama years. The rule change could alter the balance of power in the current Congress by stripping Republicans of a lever for extracting concessions from Democrats.
In the future, if the same party controlled the White House and the Senate, as Democrats do now, presidents would have greater latitude to pick more-ideological nominees because they will not have to build support among the minority party.
The U.S. Senate enacted a major change to its rules, paving the way to allow a simple majority to confirm nominees for executive branch jobs and most judicial posts. The new rule changes, the so-called “nuclear option,” marks a major shift in the rules and folkways of the Senate.
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Iran and six world powers agreed early Sunday on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions.
Here is a short primer on the deal via Business Insider:
What nuclear technology does Iran have?
Iran has an almost complete nuclear fuel cycle – the infrastructure to manage the entire process from digging the uranium out of the ground to generating power with it. That includes uranium mines and processing plants to refine the ore into yellowcake.
Iran has two reactors: a nuclear power station in Bushehr on the Gulf coast that was built with Russian help and uses Russian-supplied fuel rods; and a research reactor in Tehran that uses 20%-enriched uranium fuel and produces isotopes for medical, agricultural and other scientific uses.
How does the Geneva deal restrict it?
The deal would stop Iran making any uranium enriched to above 5% purity. It would dilute its roughly 200kg stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium, the most immediate proliferation concern, or convert it to oxide which is harder to turn back into the hexafluoride gas, which can in turn be enriched further to make weapons-grade fuel. Iran undertakes not to build a plant for re-converting uranium oxide back to uranium hexafluoride.
It would also not be allowed to increase its stockpile of 3.5%-enriched uranium, so any that is produced during the six months of the interim agreement would have to be blended down or converted to oxide.
Iran would also have to freeze its enrichment capacity. It would not be allowed to install any new centrifuges and would be able to use only the roughly 8,000 which are currently being used for enrichment. The other 8,000 that have been installed but are not being fed with uranium hexafluoride would have to be “left inoperable”.
Major development work at the Arak heavy water reactor would be suspended for six months. No fuel could be put into the reactor and it could not be turned on. Furthermore, no more fuel rods can be made for the reactor and no major reactor components could be introduced.
To learn more about the details of the Iran nuclear deal, read here.