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: 40 to 70 percent. That's the percentage by which the world must cut carbon-dioxide emissions by mid-century to keep global warming below a globally agreed-upon 2 degrees Celsius.
Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: Your taxes are really low, in one chart.
Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Burwell's tough task ahead; (2) the future of U.S. economic influence; (3) squabbles delaying climate action; (4) toughening Russia sanctions easier said than done; and (5) why NSA's use of Heartbleed, if true, is big.
1. Top story: Burwell has a lot more on her plate than just Obamacare
Can Burwell turn HHS around? "Sylvia Mathews Burwell has a big task ahead of her. The outgoing White House budget official is poised to take the reins of one of the largest bureaucracies in the United States as it implements ObamaCare, the most sweeping new social program since Medicare. But as President Obama's nominee to head the Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS), Burwell would have more on her plate than just the healthcare law. The HHS secretary is in charge of a volatile mix of programs, politics and stakeholders that makes it among the hardest of all the Cabinet positions." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.
For HHS hot seat, Obama chooses Burwell, a budget wonk. "In selecting Sylvia Mathews Burwell to direct the government’s largest domestic agency, President Obama did not turn to the ranks that have often filled the post of secretary of health and human services -- members of Congress, governors, experts in health policy. After the political tumult and technical defects that have hindered the Affordable Care Act, Obama selected a trusted budget wonk with a reputation for management acumen and a rapport with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. By choosing someone he twice called a 'proven manager' in his announcement Friday, Obama signaled his need for a set of steady hands to shepherd his signature domestic initiative through the end of his tenure....In succeeding Kathleen Sebelius, Burwell instantly would become the Obama administration’s most visible champion of the law -- and a lightning rod for its critics -- at a time when public opinion remains deeply divided." Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein in The Washington Post.
The biggest problems for Obamacare's next leader. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.
5 problems Burwell will encounter on Day One. Jennifer Haberkorn in Politico.
That didn't take long: Republicans already lashing out at Burwell. "President Barack Obama's new nominee for health secretary drew some early political fire from Republicans on Sunday in what could foreshadow a stormy election-year confirmation debate in the U.S. Senate over the future of the law known as Obamacare. Two days after Obama nominated his budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Republican lawmakers alleged the new nominee could help the White House exert political control over Obamacare enrollment numbers and other data showing how well the reforms are working." David Morgan in Reuters.
Can Burwell avoid the Sebelius trap? "Kathleen Sebelius had the focus and even keel the White House needed in a Health and Human Services secretary, but not necessarily the behind-the-scenes management skills. And that's what HHS needs most from her successor. Particularly in her public appearances and her work with the states, Sebelius channeled the administration's top priorities: finding a way to stand up a massive new policy framework while trying not to feed the political firestorm that already surrounded the law." Sam Baker in National Journal.
Will government shutdown haunt Burwell? "As director of the Office of Management and Budget, Burwell was the individual who sent out the memo on the eve of the October 1 deadline for Congress to fund the government, saying officials should 'now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.' At the time, the shutdown sparked huge controversy among conservatives, who were particularly outraged that monuments on the Washington Mall, including the World War II Memorial were closed during the shutdown....Burwell’s nomination could lead to a return to this debate and reopening of arguments about an event once thought long consigned to the past. It adds another complication to confirmation hearings in which Republicans, only six months before midterm elections, will be looking to score political points criticizing the Affordable Care Act." Ben Jacobs in The Daily Beast.
Sebelius isn't leaving just yet. Burwell's confirmation could take a while. "Nominations fights have opened deep partisan rifts in the Senate. Last year, Senate Democrats unilaterally changed Senate rules to bypass filibusters of nominees, allowing them to advance most with a simple majority rather than 60 votes. Republicans have complained this rule change greatly undermined minority party rights in the Senate, and have retaliated by forcing the Senate to use the maximum time allowed before holding final votes on Obama's nominees. Just this week, Republicans delayed two other nominations that Reid had hoped to finish this week, but decided to put off until after the recess. Burwell will have to go through the committee process before her nomination will reach the Senate floor. The Senate will also be out of town for the next two weeks during the spring recess, so her nomination won’t be considered until next month. Sebelius has said she would stay on at HHS until a replacement is confirmed." Ramsey Cox in The Hill.
And when the Senate does consider her nomination, look out. "Buckle up and get your gavels ready -- here comes another round of contentious, high-profile hearings. And they’re coming just in time for campaign season, ahead of what was already going to be a difficult summer of people getting acclimated to their new plans and new insurance rates being announced. Democrats will be hoping Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation -- kept tightly under wraps since the one-on-one meeting in early March when she gave Obama the news -- will finally force the president closer to the offensive, aggressive position on Obamacare that they’d been begging for In the post-nuclear option Senate, as long as the White House can keep 51 Democrats on board, President Barack Obama can count on OMB director Sylvia Matthews Burwell being confirmed to replace Sebelius. But Republicans will be counting on doing their damage long before the vote goes to the floor, starting with the hearings....Democrats say they like the contrast this sets up: Republicans want to keep fighting the same old battle over Obamacare, they’ll say, while Obama and his allies want to keep getting the system in shape -- and by the way, so do the 7.5 million people who signed up for the law." Edward-Isaac Dovere and Carrie Budoff Brown in Politico.
Background reading: Sylvia Mathews Burwell's next marathon. Ben White and Jennifer Epstein in Politico.
Sebelius's slow-motion resignation. "The White House frustration with Ms. Sebelius crystallized by Thanksgiving, as it became clear in Washington that she would eventually have to go....But three things put off Ms. Sebelius’s departure: Mr. Obama’s fear that letting people go in the middle of a crisis would delay fixing the website; his belief that ceremonial firings are public concessions to his enemies; and the admiration and personal loyalty that Mr. Obama still felt for Ms. Sebelius and her advocacy for his chief domestic legacy....Over the next four months, Ms. Sebelius engaged in a kind of slow-motion resignation, largely staying out of the national limelight but crisscrossing the country in a furious effort to enroll people in health insurance and taking comfort from strangers who recognized -- and offered thanks -- for her efforts....As the website improved and enrollment numbers neared the administration’s goal of seven million people, she began plotting her exit." Michael D. Shear, Jackie Calmes and Robert Pear in The New York Times.
@AlbertBrooks: If you like your health secretary you can keep her.
Explainer: The 5 people who have served in the Obama Cabinet longer than Sebelius has. Abby Phillip in The Washington Post.
Video: In interview, Sebelius says launch of website was "terribly flawed and terribly difficult."
Sebelius says she told Obama staying on 'wasn't an option.' Reuters.
News compilation: Sebelius explains her resignation. Kaiser Health News.
Primary source: Full transcript of Sebelius's interview. NBC News.
Everyone wins with Sebelius's departure. "The handling of Sebelius’s resignation offers a new twist on the Washington tradition of presidential departures. Usually, it’s awkward and the Cabinet secretary, or whoever’s being shown the door, is clearly leaving under a cloud. No one asks whether they’re leaving on their own or were pushed, because it’s obvious. With Sebelius, President Barack Obama waited so long that they were both able to spin a happier storyline -- that she was leaving after turning hard times for Obamacare into a last-minute victory." David Nather in Politico.
Sebelius's political career is probably over. "Six years ago, Kathleen Sebelius was a rising Democratic star. She exits the national stage today as something very different: A politically wounded figure whose nearly three decade-long run in elected or appointed office has almost certainly come to an end....As she ponders her next move, Sebelius will have to come to grips with the reality that both nationally and back home in the state where she was once wildly popular, she's become a symbol of the Obama's administration's most polarizing policy." Sean Sullivan in The Washington Post.
Video: Oops -- Sebelius is hit by one last glitch. The Wall Street Journal.
Poll: Obamacare still not popular, but fewer say it will do harm. Gallup.
Other health care reads:
U.S. judge set to rule on drug firm’s suit against Massachusetts for painkiller ban. Brady Dennis in The Washington Post.
How much does your doctor really make? Brandon Turner in The Atlantic.
Charts: How children's health coverage is changing, in seven charts. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.
Sensitive health market data leaked after government phone call. Anna Wilde Mathews and Brody Mullins in The Wall Street Journal.
HHS rule would further tighten noose on individual insurance market. Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner.
Vulnerable Dems opting to wait out ACA attacks. Manu Raju in Politico.
Arkansas to appeal abortion ruling. Lisa Bose McDermott in Reuters.
DICKERSON: Sebelius's last job. "Kathleen Sebelius, the outgoing health and human services secretary, has one last job she can do for President Obama. She can allow Republicans to heap criticism upon her as she heads out the door. The more she is seen as the agent of Obamacare’s woes, the embodiment of the bad website and the law’s generally snakebit nature, the better it is for the political health of the president’s signature program. As if to fulfill this promise, when Sebelius read her prepared remarks announcing her departure on Friday at the White House, she flipped through her pages and admitted, 'Unfortunately, a page is missing.'" John Dickerson in Slate.
FIRESTONE: Kathleen Sebelius was too cool and too patient. "Kathleen Sebelius was known for her patience and cool under savage attack by Republicans, who treated her as a stand-in for the health law. She sat through hearings calmly reciting talking points while they fumed and fulminated for their audience. But that turned out to be one of her biggest liabilities, and helps explain why the Obama administration is eager to replace Ms. Sebelius....What the health law needed in its first years was a cheerful, populist warrior who could laugh at the truly ridiculous distortions and lies Republicans invented about it, and roar back with the truth. Instead, she came across as a mild technocrat. She never emerged from the defensive crouch she assumed after the law’s calamitous debut." David Firestone in The New York Times.
HILTZIK: Sebelius's legacy in context. "Most of the reporting of her announcement has highlighted the rocky launch of the government's enrollment portal, HealthCare.gov. The law's surprising success in overcoming its stumble at the starting gate, as represented by this week's announcement that 7.5 million Americans have signed up for insurance for 2014 via the state and federal exchanges, gets second billing at best. That's life in politics -- Sebelius's obituary will probably read the same way, no matter what Obamacare's record shows when that day comes....The appointment of White House budget chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Sebelius's successor offers a chance to provide clarity on the Affordable Care Act....If Republicans really care about bringing affordable healthcare to their constituents, they should roll up their sleeves and help her do so." Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Advice and Obamacare consent. "Kathleen Sebelius has been let out a rear door of the Health and Human Services Department, and her exit is an opportunity for getting some ObamaCare accountability. President Obama tapped Sylvia Mathews Burwell as her replacement on Friday. The Senate should try to use her confirmation to expose the law's continuing troubles and improve HHS transparency." Editorial Board.
CANNON: Sebelius's resignation may create more problems for Democrats than it solves. "From one perspective, Burwell seems like a safe choice. The Senate confirmed her as OMB director by a vote of 96-0. And since Senate Democrats eliminated the filibuster for such nominations, she would need only 51 votes this time around. Currently, 55 senators caucus with the Democrats. So Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) could let four vulnerable Democratic senators walk, and she would still prevail. But Burwell’s nomination is unlike any the Senate has ever considered before. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, if the Senate does not confirm any nominees to the Act’s 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board, then all of the Board’s powers fall to the Secretary of Health and Human Services....President Obama hasn’t nominated anyone else to IPAB so far, and he’d probably be foolish to do so....So Burwell may be the only IPAB nominee we ever see from this president. Which is why senators will want to examine very closely Burwell’s views on IPAB, its powers, its constitutionality, and its relationship with Congress." Michael F. Cannon in Forbes.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is Washington just impossible? "As Washington says goodbye to now Former Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius, I wonder, is Washington just impossible? Who leaves this town without scars? Having been here for so long, I have met hundreds of politicians on both sides of the aisle and I have yet to meet one who did not come here with the goal of making it better for Americans....There is something fundamentally wrong with a city that is all about taking sides, and not solving problems when everyone genuinely came here to solve problems." Greta Van Susteren in The Huffington Post.
HUNT: What Washington has to say about Sylvia Burwell. "'Sylvia is one of the four or five ablest people I ever met,' said Roger Altman, a deputy Treasury secretary in President Bill Clinton’s administration who is the chairman and founder of Evercore Partners Inc., an investment bank. 'Between her intellect, her values and her wonderful calm, she is the best.' Even some Republicans who strongly disagree with her on the issues share some of that assessment of her abilities....A pragmatic liberal, her views and values were formed in her native West Virginia, where her father was a doctor and her mother a small-town mayor. She hasn’t forgotten her roots and often returns to the state. Burwell is a rarity in Washington: People are as effusive of her in their private praise as they are publicly." Albert R. Hunt in Bloomberg View.
BEUTLER: Sebelius's resignation doesn't mean what supporters or critics say. "It's true, for instance, that Sebelius wouldn't be resigning if Obamacare were still in the midst of October or November-like chaos. The end of an ultimately successful enrollment period gives rise to a quiet moment during which a successor can transition smoothly into Sebelius' role. It reflects genuine confidence that the worst is behind them. But it's simultaneously true that Sebelius probably wouldn't have resigned the week after open enrollment ended if implementation had been a cakewalk. It wasn't. This isn't a mic drop at all. And though that doesn't mean the administration is admitting that the law is a mess as it stands right now, it does point to a recognition that there needs to be accountability for the Healthcare.gov outage, and perhaps that in-cycle Democrats need an answer for voters who expect that kind of accountability....That she's on her way out tells us something. Just not as much as interested parties would have you believe." Brian Beutler in The New Republic.
SHILLER: Better insurance against inequality. "Paying taxes is rarely pleasant, but as April 15 approaches it’s worth remembering that our tax system is a progressive one and serves a little-noticed but crucial purpose: It mitigates some of the worst consequences of income inequality. If any of us, as individuals, are unfortunate enough to have income drop significantly, the tax on that income will plummet as well -- and a direct payment, or negative tax, might even be received from the government, thanks to the earned-income tax credit. In this way, the tax system can be viewed as a colossal insurance system, guarding against extreme income inequality. There are similar provisions in other countries. But it’s also clear that while income inequality would be much worse without our current tax system, what we have isn’t nearly enough. It’s time -- past time, actually -- to tweak the system so that it can respond effectively if income inequality becomes more extreme." Robert J. Shiller in The New York Times.
HILTZIK: Putting photos on Social Security cards is a bad idea. "Some Democrats have suddenly embraced the old notion of turning Social Security cards into national photo IDs. The goal is to undermine Republican voter suppression efforts that rely on demanding government-issued photos, by making these universally available. What a terrible idea....This is certainly not the first time the idea has come up. Its chances of happening are probably nil, and that's a blessing. Here's why. To begin with, it wouldn't achieve its ostensible goal, which is to take the wind out of Republican voter-suppression efforts....As for the supposed virtues of placing photos on Social Security cards, these are elusive at best....Perhaps the worst aspect of a Social Security photo ID is that it represents a capitulation to a dishonest and sleazy campaign to disenfranchise Americans and keep them out of the voting booth by intimidation. Civil rights leaders like Young and Clinton should not give in to the threadbare rationales for tightening the rules offered by the enemies of voting rights. They've been fighting too long to secure those rights to back down now." Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.
SAMUELSON: The idleness trap. "The public policy question is, 'What can we do about the long-term unemployed?' And the candid answer is, 'We don’t know.' We don’t know because, since World War II, long-term unemployment has not been as big a problem in the United States as it has been in Europe....The great fear is that many of these workers will never find new jobs....We are not on the verge of an inflation breakout. At present, the Fed doesn’t plan to raise short-term interest rates until 2015; for now, that’s the right policy. Some exuberance in labor markets -- more hiring, wage gains -- would help almost everyone. Long-term unemployment is a huge national and personal tragedy. It’s an idleness trap. We don’t know how to solve it; but we can at least not make it worse." Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post.
BLOW: The problem of self-sorting. "We are self-sorting, not only along racial lines but also along educational and income ones, particularly in our big cities. Our cities are increasingly becoming vast outposts of homogeneity and advantage, arcing ever upward, interspersed by deserts of despair, all of which produces in them some of the highest levels of income inequality ever seen in this country. Some call this progress; I call it a perversion, at least of the concept of diversity -- of race, culture, identity and class -- that dynamic engine that built urban identities and that is now being erased out of them." Charles M. Blow in The New York Times.
JENKINS: Medicare proves spending money is not the same as doing good. "The biggest billers aren't necessarily selling overpriced if nonfraudulent services of little use to patients -- though we know Medicare spends a great deal on services that are overpriced and of little benefit to patients. How do we know? Because Medicare patients aren't paying and, in many cases, aren't compos mentis. They do what they're told and, at every turn, the system's incentives are to put them through the treatment rituals that are most profitably rewarded whether or not they are useful for the patient....This brings us, naturally, to ObamaCare....The Affordable Care Act was never a carefully thought-out reform, but, that said, it contains one useful impulse: It reserves most of its subsidies for the needy, unlike the indiscriminate gusher of Medicare and the tax code's handout for employer-provided insurance. Indeed, the ideal next step would be to abolish Medicare forthwith and roll its membership into ObamaCare. Never will happen? Don't be so sure." Holman Jenkins in The Wall Street Journal.
BRUNI: There's more to women's unequal lot than the salary gap. "Decades into the discussion about how to ensure women’s equality, we have a culture that still places a different set of expectations and burdens on women and that still nudges or even shames them into certain roles. There was too little recognition of that last week at the White House, where President Obama practiced the timeless political art of oversimplification, reducing a messy reality into a tidy figure and saying that working women make only 77 cents for every dollar that working men earn. He left the impression that this was principally the consequence of direct discrimination in the form of unequal pay for the same job. Some of it is, and that’s flatly unacceptable. But most of it isn’t. And the misuse of the 77-cent statistic could actually hurt the important cause of giving women a fair shake, because it allows people who don’t value that goal a way to discredit those of us who do, and because it gives short shrift to dynamics that must be a part of any meaningful, truthful, constructive discussion." Frank Bruni in The New York Times.
LUCE: The power of the U.S. cable barons must be challenged. "Some time in the next year, Comcast’s proposed $45.2bn takeover of Time Warner Cable is likely to be waved through by antitrust regulators. The chances are it will also get a green light from the Federal Communications Commission (headed by Tom Wheeler, Comcast’s former chief lobbyist). The deal will give Comcast TWC control of 40 per cent of US broadband and almost a third of its cable television market.Such concentration ought to trigger concern among the vast majority of Americans who use the internet at home and in their work lives. Yet the backlash is largely confined to a few maverick senators and policy wonks in Washington." Edward Luce in The Financial Times.
Batkid interlude: He's back!
2. Don't fret. The U.S. is still the most influential economic power — for now.
U.S. as global engine of growth putt-putts instead of purring. "The U.S. is resuming its role as an engine of global growth, this time one that just putt-putts along instead of purring. As the International Monetary Fund declares the strengthening U.S. economy is providing a 'major impulse' to the world, economists are questioning just how powerful it will prove to be. The U.S. contribution to global expansion from 2014 to 2019 will likely average about two-thirds that of the quarter-century before the recession started in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on IMF projections. 'The U.S. is still the most important engine of global growth although perhaps not as much as it once was,' said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania." Simon Kennedy and Ilan Kolet in Bloomberg.
Chinese finance official: Please excuse us while we renovate our economy. "The world’s second-largest economy is getting a long overdue makeover. That means slower growth. Get over it, said one of China’s top finance officials." Wayne Arnold in The Wall Street Journal.
But could Congress' inaction on IMF reforms end up reducing U.S. influence? "As far as looks go, Washington turned in a dazzling performance....But politics-wise, Washington let down its global guests. They came begging Congress to approve a package of IMF reforms, but are leaving Sunday with nothing. 'We are all very disappointed by the ongoing failure to bring these reforms to conclusion,' Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey told reporters....The global leaders have taken every opportunity to express their frustrations with the U.S. failure to ratify the 2010 agreement to reform the IMF. On Saturday, they suggested the IMF would turn to other options if Congress doesn't act by year's end. Without going into specifics, Sinapore's finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that figuring out a way to enact IMF reforms without Congress' approval would be possible, though less desirable. Such a move, coming early in 2015, would reduce American influence in the global economy, he said. That outcome would cause a 'a disruption in the multilateral system' and leave the world less safe, he added. Given that outlook, he said he still believes Congress will act before year's end." Marilyn Geewax in NPR.
Finance officials push for bold action to sustain economic growth. "At the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual spring meetings, concerns about crisis have given way to concerns about complacency. The euro zone has re-emerged from recession. Emerging-market jitters have quieted. The fiscal battles in the United States have abated. But the recovery remains fragile and in many cases, growth remains sluggish, leaving a jobs gap of 62 million." Annie Lowrey in The New York Times.
Domestic agendas undermine global economic policy debate. "On the surface, most things appear brighter, but scratch a little and the ugly tensions in the global economic policy debate are as apparent as ever. The official parts of the meetings were a success." Chris Giles in The Financial Times.
Tensions over monetary policy after G20 meeting. "For a bunch of people who just agreed the global economy is doing better, top officials from the world's rich and poor nations sound rather worried. For poor nations, the easy monetary policies in advanced economies are leading to big swings in capital flows that could destabilize emerging markets. For rich countries, the hoarding of currency by developing nations is blocking progress toward a more stable global economy. Those tensions, which have been brewing for years, seemed to be rising as finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of 20 economies gathered last week in Washington, as evidenced by harsh words from Washington and Delhi. Both rich and poor say they are acting in their own self interest, and what makes the conflict so intractable is that both have very rational arguments. Even though the G20 agreed the global economy was on better footing, the tensions suggested little progress ahead in rebalancing the global economy away from a state where the rich world borrows massively to buy things from the poor world." Jason Lange in Reuters.
Producer prices rise 0.5%, but unclear whether it augurs inflation increase. Ben Leubsdorf in The Wall Street Journal.
Consumer sentiment reaches nine-month high in early April. Reuters.
Retail sales show U.S. firms as China cools. Vince Golle in Bloomberg.
Other economic reads:
Distressed homeowners seeking mortgage relief could get stuck with a big tax bill. Dina ElBoghdady in The Washington Post.
Explainer: 5 takeaways from the equal pay debate. Frank James in NPR.
Democrats settle on fairness issues hoping to avert repeat of 2010 midterm disaster. Wesley Lowery in The Washington Post.
Government workforce closing pay gap but more work needed, report says. Eric Yoder in The Washington Post.
IMF introduces term "spillbacks" into financial officials' lexicons. Ian Talley in The Wall Street Journal.
Outdated tax code gives some working spouses a bad deal. Jennifer Ludden in NPR.
Animals interlude: Cat gets super-excited when owner returns.
3. Politics are killing global efforts to combat climate change
Governments must do more in face of dire global-warming threats. "Global greenhouse gas emissions soared to 'unprecedented levels' during the decade that ended in 2010, despite efforts to limit carbon from sources such as power plants and cement factories, as well as deforestation. At a meeting in Berlin, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Sunday released a report that found that nations still have a chance to fulfill the goal but must aggressively turn away from relying largely on fossil fuels such as coal for energy and replace them with cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind power. To reach their target of 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) over preindustrial levels, nations must work together to lower emissions 'by 40 to 70 percent' of what they were in 2010, the report said....In a week-long meeting riven with disagreements between developing and industrialized nations, there was little confidence that the challenge spelled out in the report can be met." Darryl Fears in The Washington Post.
How to attack global warming, in 6 steps. Brad Plumer in Vox.
Summary: U.N. issues guide to slow climate change. Reuters.
The emissions problem is only becoming worse. "The good news is that ambitious action is becoming more affordable, the committee found....Moreover, since the intergovernmental panel issued its last major report in 2007, far more countries, states and cities have adopted climate plans, a measure of the growing political interest in tackling the problem. They include China and the United States, which are doing more domestically than they have been willing to commit to in international treaty negotiations. Yet the report found that the emissions problem is still outrunning the determination to tackle it, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rising almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century. That reflects a huge rush to use coal-fired power plants in developing countries that are climbing up the income scale, especially China, while rich countries are making only slow progress in cutting their high emissions, the report said." Justin Gillis in The New York Times.
Well, this stinks: Gassy cows are warming the planet, and they're here to stay. Maanvi Singh in NPR.
How politics are ensarling the IPCC process. "In Berlin, the politics showed through in a dispute over how to categorize countries in graphs showing the world's carbon emissions, which are currently growing the fastest in China and other developing countries. Like many scientific studies, the IPCC draft used a breakdown of emissions from low, lower-middle, upper-middle and high income countries. Some developing countries objected and wanted the graphs to follow the example of U.N. climate talks and use just two categories -- developed and developing -- according to three participants who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the IPCC session was closed to the public." Karl Ritter in the Associated Press.
What policy routes are available? "The IPCC report sets out multiple possible routes. Some, based on renewable energy and cutting energy waste, are low-risk and comfortable, rather like a fast electric train. Other more circuitous routes, such as delaying action and then being forced to suck carbon out of the air later, look more like a four-wheeled drive over a mountain range. The IPCC has put a definitive map on the table and shown that the price of climate action is affordable. But the hardest choices remain in the hands of the powerful: which route to take and, even more difficult, who pays for the ticket." Damian Carrington in The Guardian.
Court: EPA doesn't need to curb carbon monoxide to stop global warming. "A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not required to adopt carbon monoxide standards to mitigate global warming, and that its current standards are sufficient to protect public health. Environmental groups had challenged the EPA's 2011 decision that it does not have to adopt carbon monoxide secondary standards -- meant to protect the environment -- and that its existing primary standards -- meant to protect health -- are sufficient." Timothy Cama in The Hill.
Other environmental/energy reads:
Ohio finds link between hydraulic fracturing and sudden burst of earthquakes. Paresh Dave in the Los Angeles Times.
Chillin' at the zoo interlude: Polar bear wants to play catch.
4. Why new sanctions on Russia may be easier said than done
U.S. faces reluctant partners in push for more sanctions. "The United States is working to convince a reluctant Europe of the need to punish Russia more severely for its meddling in Ukraine while at the same time warning Moscow to step back or take more financial hits. It's a difficult balancing act for Europe, which wants to make Russia pay for its aggression but fears the economic turmoil from the fallout of new, harsher trade sanctions by the West. Europe is Russia's largest trading partner and therefore has huge sway over Russia's shaky economy....European Union foreign ministers are set to meet Monday to decide what additional penalties to impose if Russia continues to ignore the West's warnings. As Ukraine deals with potential bankruptcy as well as Russian troops along its eastern border, the White House announced Saturday that Vice President Joe Biden would leave for Kiev for meetings with government officials on April 22." Lara Jakes and Lori Hinnant in the Associated Press.
U.S. preps new hits against Russia. "The Obama administration is moving quickly to levy new sanctions against Russia, hoping to stop what the U.S. government now sees as a Crimea-style incursion by unmarked Russian troops in several cities in Eastern Ukraine. But so far, America and its European allies can’t agree on how to hit the Vladimir Putin regime for its latest move onto Ukrainian territory, senior Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast." Josh Rogin in The Daily Beast.
Key general splits with Obama over Ukraine. "During classified briefings on March 26 and March 27, Gen. Philip Breedlove painted for members of the House Armed Services Committee a bleak picture of Russia’s actions -- and warned that the United States was not taking steps it could to help Ukraine better defend itself. On several points -- from estimates of Moscow’s troops to intelligence-sharing with Russia’s likely adversaries -- Breedlove’s briefing directly contradicted the message coming from other branches of the Obama administration....The quiet protests from one of Obama’s most important generals at the moment reveal an important policy rift inside the administration. While President Obama, the joint chiefs of staff and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have hesitated to provide too much assistance to the interim government in Ukraine, Breedlove has wanted to do more." Eli Lake in The Daily Beast.
NASA cut ties with Russia — but it's not that simple. "Yes, NASA will stop certain contact with Russia. Russian officials won’t be able to visit the United States, and many meetings and teleconferences will be cancelled. (Wait 'til next year, boreal forest research conferences). But a number of large ties will remain intact, despite the White House directive. Cutting them just isn’t possible when, for example, the United States is wholly dependent on Russia to ferry astronauts to and from space. And, naturally, there is a U.S. astronaut in space right now who will eventually need to hitch a ride home. The White House move underscores just how reliant NASA is on Russia for crucial parts of the U.S. space program." Katie Zezima in The Washington Post.
No, Russia isn't going to try to steal the Internet. "Fox News has had a field day with the issue, with guest co-host Gregg Jarrett suggesting that China and Russia would in future be able to control the internet -- and that the UN would be taxing it. But all this is scaremongering." Emily Woollacott in Forbes.
Other foreign policy reads:
U.S. blocks Iran’s pick as envoy to U.N., setting up new confrontation. Anne Gearan in The Washington Post.
State Dept. No. 2 to step down next fall. Hannah Allam in McClatchy Newspapers.
How the Mideast peace process went "poof." Edward-Isaac Dovere in Politico.
With sanctions eased, Iran not feeling the benefits. Rick Gladstone in The New York Times.
Message in a bottle interlude: Message in bottle arrives after 100-plus years.
5. Why it's a big deal if the NSA knew of and exploited the Heartbleed problem
NSA is said to have exploited Heartbleed bug for intelligence for years. "The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said. The agency’s reported decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts. The NSA, after declining to comment on the report, subsequently denied that it was aware of Heartbleed until the vulnerability was made public by a private security report earlier this month." Michael Riley in Bloomberg.
Internet outraged in the wake of the news. Read the tweets. Eric Brown in International Business Times.
@dliebelson: So, under the pretense of protecting Americans, the NSA left millions of Americans open to identity theft. No words.
@ramez: Allegation that NSA knew about Heartbleed is just an allegation. But fits their statements about breaking SSL & collection of SSL sessions.
Analysis: Why it's a big deal if true. "On its face, it is difficult to imagine any justification that will even begin to soothe the shock and outrage among people and businesses, both American and non-American, who take computer security seriously. If it turns out that this vulnerability has been exploited, either by criminals or (more likely) by non-U.S. intelliigence agencies, the outrage will be even greater. The willingness of the private sector to cooperate with the U.S. government in sharing information about vulnerabilities will be compromised, perhaps irrevocably. The informal dominance of the U.S. in international Internet governance debates will be undermined. Organizations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, which create many of the basic underlying protocols of the Internet, will move from grumbling and unhappiness to outright revolt." Henry Farrell in The Washington Post.
NSA denies it knew of the bug. "The NSA is disavowing its knowledge of the Heartbleed security vulnerability after a Bloomberg report suggested that the spy agency had exploited it for at least two years. 'NSA was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private-sector cybersecurity report,' NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines told The Post. "Reports that say otherwise are wrong.' The White House and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence echoed that statement Friday, saying neither the NSA nor any other part of the U.S. government knew about Heartbleed before April 2014." Brian Fung in The Washington Post.
National Security Council backs disclosing security vulnerabilities. "Disclosing vulnerabilities in commercial and open source software is in the national interest and shouldn't be withheld from the public unless there is a clear national security or law enforcement need, President Barack Obama's National Security Council said Saturday. The statement of White House policy came after a computer bug called 'Heartbleed' caused major security concerns across the Internet and affected a widely used encryption technology, the variant of SSL/TLS known as OpenSSL, that was designed to protect online accounts....The NSC, which Obama chairs, advises the president on national security and foreign policy matters. Its spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, said in a statement Saturday that the federal government was not aware of the Heartbleed vulnerability in OpenSSL until it was made public in a private sector cybersecurity report." The Associated Press.
Heartbleed sheds light on how NSA uses bugs. "The turmoil caused by the 'Heartbleed' encryption bug is shedding light on a little-known element of the White House's surveillance overhaul package: how the government handles software holes and vulnerabilities. The National Security Agency has compiled a list of software bugs and holes known as 'zero days,' which the agency has exploited to gain access to secure networks before they can be fixed." Gautham Nagesh in The Wall Street Journal.
U.S. warns on hackers trying to exploit bug. Jim Finkle in Reuters.
Other tech reads:
Firms handing data to U.S. spies may break law, EU says. Aoife White in Bloomberg.
Record-breaking interlude: Man drinks world's largest cocoa beverage in record time.
What independent coffee shops say about where we live. Emily Badger.
The most important fact we rarely admit in talking about segregation and poverty. Emily Badger.
Here are the biggest problems for Obamacare’s next leader. Jason Millman.
Your taxes are really low, in one chart. Christopher Ingraham.
What it’s like to be the middle child of the banking world. Danielle Douglas.
These maps tell you everything that’s wrong with our drug pricing system. Steven Rich and Peter Whoriskey.
Boston Marathon bombing report finds little could have been done differently. Eileen Sullivan in the Associated Press.
The SEC's just been caught colluding with banks it's supposed to regulate. Matt Yglesias in Vox.
Senators ask U.S. to stop garnishing tax refunds to pay for old debts. Marc Fisher in The Washington Post.
CIA trying to ease Hill tensions. Manu Raju and John Bresnahan in Politico.
Documents show GM's sluggish response to deadly defect. Eric Beech and Paul Lienert in Reuters.
Long read: The difficult choice facing service members who say they were sexually assaulted. Stephanie McCrummen in The Washington Post.
Parents lean in favor of Common Core, but many unaware. Gallup.
U.S. backs down in standoff with cattle rancher. Bill Chappell in NPR.
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Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.