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All Eyes on Treasury Appointments

February 12, 2017 by Dan Kazan in News and Media, Politics

Portrait of Steven Mnuchin, President Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of the Treasury. Photo by Office of the President-elect.

All eyes are certainly on Washington at the moment as confirmations and political appointments are under way. At the moment, the new Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (who was confirmed yesterday) is considering who to tap for the senior roles in his department.

James Donovan is being considered for deputy Treasury Secretary, according to those in the know. Justin Muzinich is also being considered, quite possibly as undersecretary for domestic finance or counselor.

While nothing is set in stone yet, these decisions would place well-known Wall Street figures in Washington. Currently, the Treasury has been operating with a quite limited staff.

As the article from Politico explains about Jim Donovan,

“Donovan, a Goldman partner and managing director, is close to Mitt Romney and served as one of the 2012 GOP nominee’s top fundraisers. He was also a top fundraiser and economic adviser for Jeb Bush in the 2016 campaign. He joined Goldman in 1993 and covered major clients in both investment banking and investment management. He made partner in 2000 and worked with then co-presidents John Thain and John Thornton on broader strategy for Goldman as a whole.”

DeVos Confirmation Could Need Pence’s Vote

February 2, 2017 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media, Politics

Lisa Murkowski

President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos might need a tie-breaker vote from Vice President Mike Pence to win her confirmation.

Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski said they are going to vote against DeVos to be the next Secretary of Education. If they follow through with their decisions it could mean the Senate is evenly divided 50 to 50, a standoff. When that happens Senate rules call for the Vice President to be the tie breaker.

Other senators that had previously been undecided on their vote came out in favor of DeVos after the two renegades announced their opposition.

Due to her commitment to improve our nation’s school system for all students and her focus on increasing parental engagement, I am supporting Betsy DeVos as our nation’s next secretary of education,” Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who was seen as the final potential swing vote, said. “I believe Betsy DeVos is the right choice for this position.”

If the Vice President is indeed called upon to break the tie, it will be the first time a VP ensured the confirmation of a member of the Cabinet.

The announcements by Collins and Murkowski created several hours of tension, giving liberals at least one reason to smile after the election of Trump. Collins said on the Senate floor on Wednesday night that,

“This is not a decision I make lightly. I have a great deal of respect for Mrs. DeVos. I will not, cannot vote to confirm her.”

Interior Secretary Nominee Zinke:There is Such a Thing as Climate Change

January 25, 2017 by Dan Kazan in News and Media

Official portrait of Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT)

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for interior secretary, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, declared during his confirmation hearing this week that he does not “believe (climate change) is a hoax,” distancing himself a bit from what Trump has said about the phenomenon.

Zinke seemed to disagree with what Trump said in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” but he is not 100 percent on board with the declarations climate scientists have made. Zinke agreed that the climate is changing, and that people are a large contributor to it, but he also said that “there’s debate” over the extent of that contribution.

Asked if he would allow fossil fuel resources to be developed on public lands, Zinke answered that, “we have to have an economy.” Senator Bernie Sanders that added, “I’ll take that as a yes, there will be fossil development on public lands.”

Senator Al Franken later referred to a 2010 letter in which Zinke said that climate change was a serious threat that needed immediate action. Franken asked if Zinke still believes in what was written in the letter.

Zinke answered, “I want to be honest with you. We both agree that the climate’s changing. We both agree that man is an influence.”

“A major influence,” Democrat Franken stated.

“I’m not an expert in this field,” Zinke retorted.

Franken then said, “To me that’s a cop-out. I’m not a doctor but I have to make healthcare decisions.”

Fact-Checkers Want Facebook on Their Side

December 12, 2016 by Gail Nussbaum in Culture, News and Media

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Facebook, USA, captured during the session ‘The Next Digital Experience’ at the Annual Meeting 2009 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 30, 2009. Courtesy of the World Economic Forum.

It has been a rough year for facts, as fake news has been spreading through the media with little restraint and serious consequences. Three of the largest fact-checking organizations, Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact; FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center; and Fact Checker, a Washington Post project, joined together and send a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, asking him to do what he can to reign in and stop propagating false stories and fake news.

Right after election day the “Big Three” called on Zuckerberg to “start and open conversation on the principles that could underpin a more accurate news ecosystem on its News Feed.”

The fact checkers admit that the burden is too big for them to handle alone, especially now that Donald Trump, known for disseminating misinformation himself has won the election. Facebook was highly criticized during the election season and immediately following it for allowing some of the most egregious lies to circulate freely, giving legitimacy to such blatant falsehoods as: the endorsement of Trump by Pope Francis; the murder-suicide of an FBI agent who was investigating the Hillary Clinton email controversy; and more.

At first Zuckerberg laughed off the criticism, but later said that he would “take misinformation seriously.”

The fact checkers continuously pointed out the exaggerations and out and out lies circulating around the social media world, but their objections were often overrun by false headlines. They say that only Facebook has the reach and influence that can truly cripple the spread of fake news. The fact checkers would like to see Facebook take real action now, before the new president is inaugurated.

“Facebook has completely turbo-powered fake news sites,” says Alexios Mantzarlis, director and editor of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network. “But it’s also probably the first platform that could measure how these things spread, and how we could push back.”