The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wonkbook: Russia shrugs off U.S. sanctions in Ukraine crisis

Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here.

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 5 million. That's the number of people who have picked a health insurance plan through the Obamacare exchanges as the March 31 deadline nears.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: Food stamp use appears to be peaking.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Russia shrugs off sanctions; (2) Obamacare enrollment accelerates; (3) Yellen's biggest decision to make; (4) the Internet isn't in danger; and (5) an alarm sounded on climate.

1. Top story: As Russia shrugs off initial round of sanctions, what more can U.S. do?

Russia recognizes Crimea’s independence, defying new U.S. and E.U. sanctions. "The international crisis over Ukraine escalated sharply Monday as the United States and Europe imposed sanctions on senior Russian political and military figures, and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin signed a decree recognizing the Ukrainian region of Crimea as an independent state. Both actions were taken in response to Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, where a reported 97 percent of voters said they wanted to become part of Russia. The Obama administration said the vote was rigged and discounted it as illegal....What has become the most serious U.S.-Russia confrontation in decades showed no sign of abating Monday, and there was little indication that ongoing diplomatic efforts would succeed in finding a resolution. Beyond Crimea, Putin has defied Western demands that he stop military exercises on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders, end what the West has called destabilizing actions by pro-Russian provocateurs in Ukrainian cities and open negotiations with Ukraine’s interim government." Karen DeYoung and Griff Witte in The Washington Post.

Here's what the sanctions would do. "EU foreign ministers agreed to freeze assets and impose visa travel bans on 21 Russians and Crimeans, while U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration put similar sanctions on seven Russian government officials and four Ukrainians including ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. Putin responded by recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state. While the sanctions are the broadest used on Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, Western leaders left the door open to diplomacy. They kept more punitive measures in reserve to dissuade Putin from moving further into Ukraine and avoid severing trade ties between Russia and the West, even if that may offer little deterrence." James G. Neuger, Stepan Kravchenko and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan in Bloomberg.

Primary sources: President Obama's statementSecond Obama executive order; EU sanctions.


The failure of the U.S.-Russia reset in 9 photos. Adam Taylor in The Washington Post.

Meet the 11 Russians and Ukrainians that the U.S. is sanctioning. Linda Kinstler in The New Republic.

And in response, Russian officials scoffed. "President Obama’s decision to sanction 11 prominent Russian and Ukrainian politicians Monday was met with sarcasm and derision from Russia’s Twitter-happy deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin, who was Russia's long time representative at NATO, laughed off the Obama administration’s announcement of a new executive order implementing visa bans and asset freezes against seven Russian political figures, including close aides to Vladimir Putin, and four Ukrainians involved in the attempted secession of Crimea, including former President Viktor Yanukovich. He took to his English and Russian language Twitter accounts to point out that freezing the assets of Russian officials might not be a huge problem for those officials." Josh Rogin in The Daily Beast.

@DRogozin: Comrade @BarackObama, what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn't think about it?)

Russia also to respond with countervailing sanctions of its own. "U.S. senators, congressmen and top Obama administration officials are sure to be on Vladimir Putin’s sanctions list; a response to the Obama Administration’s announcement on Monday that 7 Russian officials and 4 Ukrainian officials would be barred from holding assets or traveling to the United States….While the final list is still being crafted, it will include top Obama administration officials and high profile U.S. senators, in an effort to roughly mirror the U.S. sanctions against Russian officials and lawmakers, according to diplomatic sources. At the top of the list in Congress is Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who recently co-authored a resolution criticizing Russia’s invasion of Crimea." Josh Rogin in The Daily Beast.

As Obama's strategy rolls on, so does Putin's defiance. "The sanctions...are the latest phase in a process that started with warnings, continued with a cancellation of preparations for the May G-8 summit in Sochi and the creation of a legal sanctions framework, and made a few stops along the way at the White House podium and U.N. Security Council….Vice President Joe Biden is headed to Poland on Monday night in a show of solidarity with leaders there and other Eastern European NATO allies. Obama will be in Brussels next week to press the case himself. But so far, despite all the tough talk and long phone calls between Obama and Putin, the Russians have proceeded exactly as they said they would, despite multiple explicit warnings from America and its allies: Troops came to Crimea and stayed. A referendum was announced and held. Putin formally recognized Crimea as a sovereign state Monday, and seems set to go through with Tuesday plans to address the Russian Duma, where he is expected to urge them to accept widely-ridiculed results from Sunday’s vote…and possibly proceed with annexing the peninsula. Meanwhile, Russian troops aren’t going anywhere.” Edward-Isaac Dovere in Politico.

Analysis: Global crises put Obama's strategy of caution to the test. David E. Sanger in The New York Times.

Explainer: How much more can the U.S. even do? The answer: Not much. Marina Koren in National Journal.

How far can Putin go? "With Western governments demanding loudly that Russia stand down, even some of Putin’s allies say they will be watching to see whether Putin intends to lower the tension — or embark on a more defiant course. The sanctions that the White House announced Monday against seven of Putin’s top aides and political allies are going to put that question to the test." Will Englund in The Washington Post.

Lobbyists in U.S. breathe sigh of relief at modest scale of sanctions. "In Washington, the narrow scope of the sanctions drew sighs of relief from the city's lobbyists, many of whom have energy and banking clients that could stand to lose tens of millions of dollars should tensions escalate further between the U.S. and Russia. According to one lobbyist with foreign clients, the sanctions amounted to the narrowest action the United States could have taken while still appearing to 'take action.'...The sanctions 'are surgical and designed not to create future problems.' For those lobbyists who represent Russian business interests in the United States that could draw Treasury Department scrutiny under the new sanctions, the answer is just to change the payment structure, said another lobbyist on background. 'The funding mechanism is the easiest thing to get around,' said the lobbyist, referring to the new prohibition on conducting business with the sanctioned Russian officials. 'All it takes is a nonprofit group that will pay you to do the work,' thereby creating a diversionary paper trail — one that doesn't trace back to a sanctioned individual. The casual attitude of both the lobbyists and the Russians regarding the sanctions was compounded by the fact that some key players in Putin's Crimea strategy escaped any sanctions at all." Luke Johnson and Christina Wilkie in The Huffington Post.

MILBANK: With sanctions, Obama aims to hit Vladi­mir Putin where it hurts. "There were no fewer than seven mentions of cronies on the call. 'WH Word of Day: ‘Cronies’ used so much in this sanctions conference call, it feels like they poll-tested reaction to it,' NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell tweeted during the call. Poll-tested, perhaps. But did they reality test it? Crony talk may sound strong to an American audience, but there’s little in the sanctions that would actually impair Putin’s cronies, or punish Russia for its actions....From Russia and Ukraine came reports that the targeted 11 don’t have substantial holdings in the United States and are unlikely to be affected greatly. It wasn’t a prank, but neither was it much of a punishment. Clearly, the administration wanted to see whether a symbolic first gesture would be sufficient to give Putin pause.... The select few cronies who were targeted were targeted only gently. On the call, an official said they were going after the assets and wealth of “the individuals known as the cronies” and not the businesses they run. The Obama administration 'will not rule out taking additional steps in the future,' this unnamable official said. That’s a relief. Putin isn’t the type who will back down unless his cronies are really hurting." Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

CHOTINER: Putin's aggression is not America's fault. "Putin is the leader of a foreign country. The idea that what's written in American magazines leads to American policymakers making policy that in turn enrages Putin that in turn aids and abets his thirst for aggression is, again, almost laughably solipsistic. American policy toward Russia going all the way back to the First World War has often been shortsighted or worse. But when thinking about how to respond—or not respond—to Russia's actions today, it's probably best to stop viewing those actions as the direct result of American foreign policy." Isaac Chotiner in The New Republic.

THE WASHINGTON POST: West's sanctions deliver only slap on the wrist. "The sanctions President Obama announced Monday to punish Russia and its collaborators in Ukraine are intended to inflict economic pain. So a fair measure of their adequacy was the reaction Monday of the Russian stock and currency markets: Both spiked upward in celebration. While Vladi­mir Putin matches or exceeds the most pessimistic expectations of his belligerence — over the weekend, Russian forces extended their invasion from Crimea to an adjacent area of Ukraine — the United States and its allies so far are delivering less than they threatened, or than markets expected, in retaliation. Unless the West quickly steps up measures against the oligarchs, bag men and banks that prop up the Russian regime, the result will likely be more aggression....Mr. Obama said Monday he will 'calibrate our response based on whether Russia chooses to escalate or de-escalate.' Since a de-escalation looks at this point like wishful thinking, we’ll know that the president’s calibrations are adequate when they cause Russia’s markets to plunge rather than rally." Editorial Board.

RADNITZ: Why Putin wants us to believe he's crazy. "No one knows if Putin has been stoking Western anxieties and manufacturing craziness as part of a deliberate, orchestrated campaign. He has probably been improvising for much of the last three weeks. It is also likely that he receives bad advice and his perceptions of events are extremely biased. But given all the breathless claims about what may be going on inside the president’s deranged head, it is worth considering that Putin may be fully aware of just how crazy he seems." Scott Radnitz in Slate.

GOLDBERG: Enough talk of a new cold war. "Will everyone please stop talking about a new Cold War? However badly things work out between Russia and the United States and the West, a new Cold War isn't in the cards because Russia today isn't the Soviet Union. Sure, we are in a diplomatic and geostrategic conflict with Russia, which was the heart of the old Soviet Union. Also, Russia wants much of the real estate that belonged to the Soviet Union before it collapsed. And Vladimir Putin is a former KGB colonel who now waxes nostalgic for the good old days. That's about it. That's hardly nothing, but the Cold War was far more than a conflict with Russia. Everyone should agree on that." Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times.

HIRSH: What about a 'cool war'? "The United States and Russia have both crossed a Rubicon in the Ukraine crisis, and Washington must now confront the likelihood that if the standoff continues, it will dramatically alter relations on a much larger map than Eastern Europe, inviting Russian recalcitrance in crisis zones as far afield as East Asia, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan....The U.S.-Russia rivalry that was being vociferously debated as recently as the 2012 presidential election, when President Obama mocked GOP nominee Mitt Romney's argument that Russia had become America's 'No. 1 geopolitical foe,' is today quickly becoming conventional wisdom in Washington. A kind of 'cool war' between the two countries — one that is not quite yet 'cold' — may already be emerging. While this is clearly nothing yet like the great ideological struggle and arms race of the Cold War, U.S. officials may soon need to consider a new strategy involving the containment of Russian countermoves around the world." Michael Hirsh in National Journal.

Top opinion

THE FINANCIAL TIMES: America's cavalier stance on the IMF. "When people fret that the US is becoming a reluctant superpower, they do not normally think of the International Monetary Fund. Yet there are few better examples of America absent-mindedly undercutting itself than Capitol Hill’s refusal to wave through its new IMF quota. The case for passing a bill that would embed IMF governance reforms initiated by successive US administrations – Republican and Democratic – is open and shut. Failure to do so before next month’s annual IMF and World Bank spring meetings would almost certainly delay any prospect of it happening until 2015. That would further erode US leadership among its G20 partners. The window is very narrow. Republicans need to step off their isolationist hobby horse. And President Barack Obama’s administration must find a way of convincing them to do so." Editorial Board.

PONNURU: The Republican midterm temptation to do nothing. "Republicans think they've hit on the perfect strategy to win back the Senate in 2014: Sit back and let it happen....So a lot of the party's leaders are turning passivity into a strategy. What they're telling one another is: Don't make yourself an issue. Don't make serious legislative proposals, because they will only be targets for Democrats. If Republicans make sure not to nominate weak or extreme candidates, and simply rail against Obama's health-care law, they will win....This strategy has ease of execution going for it....The flip side of that advantage is that the passive strategy doesn't maximize opportunity....If Republicans want to govern after 2016, for that matter, they should start preparing now: coming up with an agenda, selling it to the public and refining it as they go.But those considerations involve thinking past the next elections, and that's not something that comes naturally to a lot of politicians." Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View.

McLARTY: Why Democrats should side with the president on free trade. "When it comes to international trade agreements, Democrats have been sounding a lot like the "party of no." From congressional leaders to some in the party base, pessimism about free trade has become almost a reflex. The default position portrays trade deals as a threat to American jobs and wages, exposing our economic weaknesses to the world, rather than as opportunities to grow our economy and maximize our strengths....It's time to come up with a better approach. Instead of playing defense, or pushing off debate, Democrats should lead a constructive discussion about expanding trade, one true to the party's tradition and values. Its goal should be to place global commerce squarely in the mix of solutions for creating new jobs at good wages at home, restoring the middle class, and asserting U.S. leadership." Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty in The Wall Street Journal.

SOLTAS: Is this the best the economy can do? "Economic theorists wouldn’t be surprised by the possibility that the recession sapped the American economy’s potential. In fact, many warned us about it. A much-discussed paper from J. Bradford DeLong and Lawrence Summers, for instance, argued that an economy’s potential output falls when that potential goes unused for an extended period of time. Their estimates of how quickly that process happens would imply that half the slack that appeared during the recession has since decayed. If this is really what has happened, the policy prescription is clear: less monetary easing. Trying to repair lost potential is something monetary policy simply can’t do. Yet the central challenge of the Fed’s exit strategy is that these are risks, not certainties." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg View.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: A broken military justice system. "On Monday, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair avoided prosecution on sexual assault charges that could have brought him a life sentence. In an agreement with the prosecutor, General Sinclair pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including mistreating his accuser, an Army captain and his former mistress. The deal followed a stunning ruling by a military judge last week suggesting that by holding out for more severe punishment, and by rejecting an earlier plea deal, the senior Army officer overseeing the prosecution might have been improperly influenced by political considerations in bringing the most severe charges against the general because of a desire to show new resolve in the military against sexual misconduct. The prosecution had also been badly shaken by revelations that the general’s accuser may have lied under oath. The episode offers a textbook example of justice gone awry, providing yet another reason to overhaul the existing military justice system, which gives commanding officers with built-in conflicts of interest — rather than trained and independent military prosecutors outside the chain of command — the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try." Editorial Board.

KOHUT: Resurgent public optimism on the economy? Don’t hold your breath. "The data suggest that economic attitudes may be more complex indicators than they once were. The public’s view of the national economy is now filtered through the lens of partisanship, and moderated by a continuing perception that the economic news is mixed at best, even as some economic indicators have improved. At the personal level, one’s economic outlook is shaped more by socioeconomic class today than in recent years. Read trends in economic attitudes with care, because they are no longer simply a measure of how well most Americans judge the nation’s condition or their own. They now also reflect increased polarization and growing financial divides in the U.S. It may be some time before the public sees the national economy in a positive light. And the personal financial outlook of middle- and lower-income people may well remain gridlocked into the future." Andrew Kohut in Pew Research Center.

Waking up interlude: Rise and shine!

2. Obamacare hits 5 million signups.

Pace of health insurance enrollment picks up as Affordable Care Act deadline nears. "The Obama administration announced Monday that more than 5 million people have signed up for new insurance plans under the health-care law, suggesting new momentum for the program as the deadline to get covered this year approaches. About 800,000 people selected health plans on the state and federal insurance marketplaces in the beginning of March, officials said in a blog post — almost as many as signed up during the entire month of February. The figure brings the administration closer to Congressional Budget Office projections that 6 million people would enroll by the end of March. Officials had predicted that the pace of enrollments would pick up this month, because March 31 is the last day to sign up for a marketplace plan and avoid a fine. The health law requires most Americans to have health insurance or incur a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their income this year, whichever is higher." Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.

But we still don't know how many of those have paid. "As expected, the pace of signups has increased in March, with the deadline to gain coverage without being penalized looming and the White House doing an all-out media blitz to convince Americans to select plans. In September, HHS projected that about 1.4 million people would sign up for coverage in March....The signup figures provided by HHS represent individuals who have selected a plan, regardless of whether or not they have paid, which is typically how enrollment is defined." Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner.

Fact-check: Boehner’s claim that Obamacare has resulted in a net loss of people with health insurance gets four Pinocchios. Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post.

Another tool in Team Obama's youth-outreach toolbox: GIFsRebecca Ballhaus in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: 7 things you need to know about the Obamacare deadline. Liz Neporent in ABC News.

Other health care reads:

Obamacare was supposed to make markets more competitive. Has it? It's been a mixed bag. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

How to extend the Obamacare enrollment period. Clara Ritger in National Journal.

How kids are bringing medical marijuana to the states. Emma Roller in National Journal.

Animals interlude: Cats — 20 minutes of them.

3. What's the biggest decision facing Yellen this week?

This is the biggest decision Janet Yellen will have to make at her first meeting. "Is it possible to be too transparent? That’s the question the Federal Reserve will be grappling with this week when its top officials meet in Washington for their regular policy-setting meeting. Transparency has been the mantra of the central bank since former Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke took the helm of the historically secretive institution in 2006. He has cited changing that mindset as one of his greatest achievements. But officials may realize that less could be more when it comes to the Fed’s official guidance on when it will raise interest rates….The trouble is that investors and the public have come to expect nothing less than full disclosure. But the limit to Fed transparency may be its own uncertainty about the right path for policy. Here’s the real truth: Fed officials aren’t exactly sure when the right moment to raise rates will be. And that may be the clearest answer they can give." Ylan Mui in The Washington Post.

Fed seen swapping jobless threshold for qualitative guidance. "The Federal Reserve will probably scrap its 6.5 percent unemployment rate threshold and switch to qualitative guidance for signaling when it will consider raising the main interest rate, according to economists in a survey. The Federal Open Market Committee will say on March 19 that it will link policy to a range of economic indicators, according to 76 percent of 54 economists in a March 14-17 Bloomberg News survey. Twenty percent of the economists surveyed said the Fed will maintain the threshold it adopted in December 2012, while 6 percent said it will drop such guidance entirely….Yellen is working to refine Fed communications a year after she said the unemployment rate is limited in how much it reveals about the labor market....'A decline in the unemployment rate could, for example, primarily reflect the exit from the labor force of discouraged job seekers,' Yellen said in a March 2013 speech in Washington. 'That is an important reason why the committee will consider a broad range of labor market indicators.' " Jeff Kearns and Catarina Saraiva in Bloomberg.

Two economic reports are reinforcing the likelihood that Fed will keep tapering bond purchases. "American manufacturing output recorded its largest increase in six months in February and factory activity in New York State expanded early this month, the latest signs that the economy is gaining momentum after being dampened by severe weather. The two fairly upbeat reports on factory output appeared likely to encourage the Federal Reserve to further scale back its economic stimulus program this week, even though a separate report suggested that the housing sector would take a while to pull out of its recent soft patch....With job growth accelerating and manufacturing output rebounding, economists expect the Fed to announce another $10 billion reduction to its monthly bond purchases when the central bank’s policy makers conclude a two-day meeting on Wednesday." Reuters.

Continuing the taper was considered likely to begin with. "Yellen, who was sworn as chair on Feb. 3, has spoken of seeking continuity with Bernanke, under whom she served as vice chair. That’s partly why the Fed will likely announce this week a third reduction in its monthly bond purchases. Those purchases have been intended to keep long-term loan rates low to encourage spending and growth." The Associated Press.

Unemployment at a post-recession low in 30 states, but the news isn't all good. "Unemployment rates in 30 states are the lowest they’ve been since the recession ended, according to the Labor Department. But beneath that headline statistic, the state of the state labor markets is far from recovered....In the vast majority of states, long-term unemployment — a particularly intractable problem — is at or near record highs. In many states, the income gap between the poorest and richest has widened. And, as the Economic Policy Institute recently reported, low-wage workers in nearly every state have seen their wages drop (see chart below)." Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

Other economic indicators:

Home-builders' confidence still shaky. Tim Logan in the Los Angeles Times.

Other economy reads:

Long read: Your local pharmacy is closing the wage divide between men and women. Jordan Weissmann in Slate.

Has food stamp enrollment finally peaked? Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.

Here’s why the gender wage gap hasn’t budged in a decade. Ylan Mui in The Washington Post.

Earthquake interlude: Quake rattles live newscast in California.

4. Don't worry. The Internet isn't in danger.

Internet transition triggers GOP backlash. "The Obama administration’s decision to relinquish oversight over the group that manages the Internet’s architecture has raised an early red flag with Republicans, who blast the move as a threat to free speech. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has managed the Web’s domain-name system under contract with the U.S. government for more than a decade — but the Los Angeles-based nonprofit has worked to transform itself into a global organization free of U.S. ties. European Union officials backed the globalization effort, which intensified with Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s sprawling surveillance programs....Exactly who would regulate the Web’s back-end is unclear, but the decision already has sparked backlash among some in the GOP, who warn it could allow the United Nations or authoritarian countries to step in and seize control of the Web." Jessica Meyers and Erin Mershon in Politico.

Advocates see the opposite: "A necessary step toward a more global Internet and one less susceptible to strong-arming tactics. Critics 'are trying to politicize this,' said Cameron Kerry, the Commerce Department’s former general counsel and current visiting fellow at Brookings. 'This is about protecting the Internet from governmental interference. And the best way to do this is to get the U.S. government out of this role.'" Jessica Meyers and Erin Mershon in Politico.

Misinformation about the transfer abounds. "The blogosphere is all ablaze with chatter over the announcement that the U.S. government will relinquish its Internet administrative duties to a global coalition comprised of private companies, 'civil society, and other Internet organizations from the whole world'...The news has prompted overwrought, histrionic blogs and online comments about the end of free speech on the Internet as we know it. But that assumption is dead wrong. Furthermore, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of not only the functions of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) but of the DNS (Domain Name System) in general. Surveillance, content control, and government censorship of the Web are controversial and unsettling, but they have zip to do with Internet DNS....These workings of DNS are so far under the hood that no one, except perhaps DNS administrators, will notice any changes with their Web access. There is no imminent danger to the content we access, and once the U.S. government relinquishes these duties, you will still be able to access the Web as you do now." Samara Lynn in PC Magazine.

What is actually being transferred? "The transition to full ICANN control of the Internet's address system won't happen until October 2015, and even then, there likely won't be any sudden changes. ICANN was already managing the system under a contract from the Commerce Department. But having the ultimate authority over the domain name system was the most important leverage the United States had in debates over the operation of the Internet. It was a trump card the U.S. could play if it wanted to veto an ICANN decision or fend off an international attack on Internet freedom. The Obama administration is keenly aware of the potential for an authoritarian regime to seize power over the Internet. ICANN will have to submit a proposal for the new management system to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency within the Commerce Department." Brendan Sasso in National Journal.

Who will be in this new multi-stakeholder group? "The US has stated that the new organization will not be composed solely of governments, but that they should be treated as equal players to the eventual organization. There is some fair question over whether or not ICANN has the expertise to fulfill its mandate outside of any kind of oversight — in the past, its reliance on top-level domains as a source of income have led to charges that it faces a fundamental conflict of interest. Presumably the organization may be able to revisit its own funding model as well." Joel Hruska in ExtremeTech.

Explainer: ICANN 101: Who will oversee the Internet? Gautham Nagesh in The Wall Street Journal.

Big bang interlude: Physicist learns his life's work is correct.

5. Yes, climate change is still happening. But the U.S. took a step backward on it.

Top scientific group sounds the alarm on climate in new report. "A committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society...will warn that the effects of human emissions of heat-trapping gases are already being felt, that the ultimate consequences could be dire, and that the window to do something about it is closing....In a sense, this is just one more report about global warming in a string going back decades. For anybody who was already paying attention, the report contains no new science. But the language in the 18-page report, called 'What We Know,' is sharper, clearer and more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date. And the association does not plan to stop with the report. The group, with a membership of 121,200 scientists and science supporters around the world, plans a broad outreach campaign to put forward accurate information in simple language. The scientists are essentially trying to use their powers of persuasion to cut through public confusion over this issue." Justin Gillis in The New York Times.

Congress undoes the one good thing it has done on climate change. "Congress approved changes to the federal flood insurance program in June 2012 that lawmakers said then would fix the program's problems and make it more financially stable. The bipartisan reforms phased out subsidies for high-risk coastal properties, which onlookers concerned about climate change said was key to discouraging unsustainable coastal development. It was perhaps the only good thing on climate that Congress had done in a really long time. Last week, Congress decided to undo it....Lawmakers who pushed for the reversal declare it a win for homeowners facing large rate increases. But critics say Congress is turning a blind eye to the National Flood Insurance Program's insolvency and the growing risks climate change poses to its viability....Critics on both sides of the political spectrum accuse Congress and the Obama administration of bowing to pressure." Kate Sheppard in The Huffington Post.

Poll: More than four in ten Americans think global warming has been exaggerated in the news. Gallup.

Other environmental reads:

EPA bid for rules on coal-ash waste gains steam After N.C. accident. Valerie Bauerlein in The Wall Street Journal.

Optical illusions interlude: Whoa.

Wonkblog roundup

Obamacare was supposed to make insurance markets more competitive. Has it? Jason Millman.

The housing recovery is leaving minorities behind. Emily Badger.

Here’s why the gender wage gap hasn’t budged in a decade. Ylan Mui.

Obama administration wants fewer people to get insurance cancellation notices. Jason Millman.

This is the biggest decision Janet Yellen will have to make at her first Fed meeting. Ylan Mui.

Et Cetera

States urge retail giants with pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products. Elizabeth A. Harris in The New York Times.

Wyoming is the first state to officially reject new science standards. Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post.

In reversal since the recession, some states give more money to public television. Elizabeth Jensen in The New York Times.

Gillibrand, McCaskill rekindle debate after high-profile sexual assault case ruling. Stacy Kaper in National Journal.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.