The Week in Headlines: Things That Gave Eric Holder a Headache
What happened this week? Lots. And our friends at theSkimm have you covered with a run-down of the top headlines. (Want them delivered daily to your inbox? Sign up at theskimm.com )
Attorney General Eric Holder has launched a criminal investigation into the IRS’s tax-exemption scandal. Turns out, the extra scrutiny of some conservative groups’ tax-exempt applications was a bad idea, or “intolerable,” as Obama put it.
What'd Eric Say?
That there are a lot of statutes within the IRS code (yawn) and they’re checking out whether laws were violated. The IRS apologized last week for targeting certain groups (think “Tea Party” and “Patriot”). An investigative report found that the scandal was more widespread than thought (read: if you criticized government spending, you didn’t get expedited service) and execs knew about what was going down for a while. An Inspector General has blamed lax management.
This is the most serious escalation of the scandal so far and pretty much guarantees the IRS isn’t making new friends anytime soon. Consider for a second how popular it was before.
Holder says he was not involved in the Justice Department’s decision to secretly seize phone records of reporters and editors at The Associated Press .
What'd Eric Say?
It wasn’t me. The decision to get the phone records came down from a Deputy Attorney General instead. Why? Because Eric recused himself to avoid a conflict of interest.
What Was the Conflict?
Eric had already been interviewed about a CIA leak regarding a foiled terrorist plot in Yemen that the AP wrote about last year. The probe into the phone records was allegedly part of the investigation into how the leak got out. Eric said yesterday that the leak was one of the more serious he’s seen and defended the DOJ. He also used the word "hyperbole," so he clearly meant business.
The AP scandal has shocked even Washington, with many concerned that the Obama administration is getting a little too close for comfort when it comes to privacy rights.
Repeat After Me
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He was a lot better than the guy caught by Russian officials. Russia says it has arrested a CIA officer it believes was trying to recruit a Russian counterterrorism officer to spy for America. The spy, identified as Ryan Christopher Fogle, has been declared persona non grata and was ordered out of the country. The Federal Security Service—a new and improved version of the KGB—says Fogle had been working undercover as a diplomat and was caught in a blond wig with lots of cash, special equipment, a compass, and written instructions for his recruit. A very 1970s spy kit.
So far, the U.S. has been mum. The spy game comes at an awkward time, as Russia and the U.S. are trying to mend fences and bring the clashing sides in Syria together for an international sit-down. It doesn’t look like either side wants to make this a big thing.
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He just chooses his words carefully. This is what Sergey Brin, the big G’s co-founder, said was the upside to work-wife and Google CEO Larry Page’s voice issues . For the first time, Page explained the struggles that have at times made him avoid public speaking. Page has a rare and chronic, yet non life-threatening, health problem that makes him speak hoarsely and constricts his breathing. One of his vocal cords was paralyzed years ago and the other was weakened during a cold last summer. Page also revealed that he has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis , a thyroid condition, although it’s unclear whether that’s related to his vocal cord paralysis.
After the death of Steve Jobs, many wondered whether Google was hiding a sick CEO since Page had missed some public events, and there was a bunch of chatter about an exec’s responsibility to reveal health issues.
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That was less painful than expected. According to a new government report, the U.S. budget will shrink to $642 billion this year. That’s a good thing. It’s the smallest shortfall we’ve had in five years and a big improvement from last year’s $1.1 trillion deficit. We can thank higher taxes (if you didn’t have to pay them) as well as a big ol’ payment from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the good news. This will help push back the deadline for raising the government’s debt ceiling (borrowing limit) this year.
What's not feeling so hot about a financial outlook? The Eurozone , which saw its economy contract some more this year. France has now joined Italy in a recession. Merde.
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Where was this shirt made and were workers’ rights protected? Inditex, the parent company of Zara, and H&M; were among the first of the world’s largest retailers to announce that they would sign a legally binding agreement that finances fire and safety improvements in Bangladeshi factories that they use. The hope is that even more Western retailers will feel the pressure to make some changes.
The move comes three weeks after a building collapse in a factory killed at least 1,100. Bangladesh depends a lot on garment exports, as some of our favorite brands use Bangladeshi factories for the good prices, but its worker conditions have come under a ton of much-needed scrutiny lately. Over the weekend, Bangladesh said its minimum wage (the lowest in the world) would be raised. Some “deals” are definitely not worth it.
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