Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara (@pkollipara). 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. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: Nearly 3,000. That's the latest milestone that the confirmed-death toll will soon hit in the Ebola outbreak.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: This depressing chart shows that the rich aren’t just grabbing a bigger slice of the income pie — they’re taking all of it.

Wonkbook's Top 4 Stories: (1) Eric Holder's legacy; (2) improving global health security; (3) oil's pivotal role in the ISIS fight; and (4) new transportation-safety threats.

1. Top story: The polarizing legacy of Eric Holder, one of Obama's stalwarts

Nation's first black AG leaves polarizing legacy. "Holder, at one point fighting back tears, cited a series of actions he said his Justice Department took to empower the powerless, ranging from fighting for voting rights to reforming criminal sentences for low-level drug offenders....The nation’s fourth-longest-serving attorney general, Holder leaves a complicated legacy, one in which the very qualities that have endeared him to liberals...have often left him at odds with Obama’s opponents. He tried to revitalize the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and spoke with unusual candor about racial matters." Jerry Markon and Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Timeline: A look back on Holder's tenure as attorney general. Jacob Gershman in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: Key moments in Holder's tenure. Max Ehrenfreund, Danielle Douglas and Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post.

Exit interviews:

Holder: We finally started to turn this aircraft carrier around. Joshua DuBois in The Daily Beast.

Revealing al-Qaida offshoot’s terror plot, Holder vows renewed fight. Andrew Romano in Yahoo News.

Holder was Obama's 'heat shield' on divisive issues such as race. "Some of Holder’s closest current and former aides refer to their boss as 'the heat shield' — the guy who has taken the worst from Republicans, the media and the black community, and let Obama stay above the fray. There’s a mix of sarcasm and frustration in their words and some truth to the nickname. Here’s why: Holder has been the administration official who could — and would — go places Obama either couldn’t or didn’t want to go when race was the issue. As the nation’s first black attorney general, Holder’s been an outlet for black leaders who are sometimes frustrated with the White House, aides say." Phil Mattingly in Bloomberg.

Timeline: The controversies that Holder faced. Chicago Tribune.

Related: GOP bids farewell to its top target. Josh Gerstein and Burgess Everett in Politico.

Long reads:

Why Holder quit. Glenn Thrush in Politico Magazine.

How Holder survived. Glenn Thrush in Politico Magazine.

Holder v. Roberts. Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker.

Holder led Bush’s DOJ for 12 days — and closed a key investigation. "On Jan. 20, 2001, newly inaugurated President George W. Bush was waiting for his pick to serve as attorney general, John Ashcroft, to be approved by the Senate. In the meantime, he decided, the department would be run by a deputy that had served under outgoing Attorney General Janet Reno: a guy named Eric Holder....When Bush held his first Cabinet meeting Jan. 24, 2001, Holder was in the room. And when the Department of Justice decided a week later not to press charges against police officers involved in a notorious — and racially charged — shooting, it was Holder who explained the agency's decision." Philip Bump in The Washington Post.

Attorney General Eric Holder is resigning from his post as the longest-serving member of President Obama's Cabinet. From the "Fast and Furious" scandal, to collecting reporters' phone records, to the Defense of Marriage Act, here's a look at Holder's comments on some of the biggest controversies during his nearly six-year tenure at the Department of Justice. (Jackie Kucinich, Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

Holder's smorgasbord of accomplishments. "In the last 18 months, he has rallied the Justice Department and even Congress around reforms throughout the criminal justice system, from early release of nonviolent prisoners to easing mandatory prison sentences, which fall heaviest on minorities. He has been a strong advocate of voting rights, fighting to resuscitate the 1965 Voting Rights Act through new legal interpretations after a devastating blow from the Supreme Court. He has fought for renewed voting rights for felons....Gay rights groups were also unreserved in their praise for Holder....But other liberals were disappointed by Holder’s record on privacy and national security and by what they said was his failure to prosecute Wall Street titans responsible for the recent 2008 financial collapse." Timothy M. Phelps in the Los Angeles Times.

Explainer: An overview of Holder's legacy, from counterterrorism to civil rights. Jim Kuhnhenn in the Associated Press.

Holder questions marijuana's legal status. "Holder said...it's time to reconsider marijuana's legal classification in the federal government's scheduling system. Under the current classification, marijuana is placed in the same category as heroin, which severely limits how researchers and doctors can use the drug. A reclassification could dramatically shift how the federal government handles marijuana in the war on drugs and provide some legal legitimacy to medical marijuana at the federal level....Holder clarified that he's still unsure about where he stands on the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, but he said legalization efforts at the state level should provide a lesson for federal policymakers." German Lopez in Vox.

Holder procrastinated on bank crime. "Holder since last fall has rolled out a series of multibillion-dollar penalties against financial institutions culminating with Bank of America (BAC) Corp.’s record $16.7 billion settlement last month....Holder...spent much of his almost six year-tenure defending the Justice Department’s record of few Wall Street prosecutions even as President Barack Obama promised to hold banks accountable. Holder’s legacy on financial crime is shaped in part by his own U.S. Senate testimony last year that some banks may be too large to prosecute for fear of harming the global economy. Even after racking up $37 billion in penalties from banks...critics say he either hasn’t done enough or has gone too far. Holder has been especially blamed for not bringing cases against bank executives." Tom Schoenberg in Bloomberg.

The end of big mortgage cases? "While several big banks remain in the Justice Department’s crosshairs...the settlements are expected to be much smaller than the record sums extracted from Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. Those still under investigation by Justice include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. But those cases are not expected to produce the headline-catching sums....Among the signs that the big bank cases may be winding down: Tony West, who was Mr. Holder’s point-man in the big bank settlement talks, recently left the Justice Department and will join PepsiCo as its general counsel." Deborah Solomon in The Wall Street Journal.

Holder's 'legacy project': Getting cops, public to trust each other. "That's how Holder described the DOJ's new National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice — a new federal effort to fix local police-community relations....The new program seemed unfortunately timely, as the killings of young black men by police...this summer had made clear just how broken the relationship is between many American police departments and the communities they served. The new 'legacy project' initiative is designed to bring local police departments into a new era — one where they understand how important public trust is to getting their jobs done, and understand how their everyday actions might be damaging that trust." Dara Lind in Vox.

Ferguson, Mo.: Holder's biggest legacy? "For someone who has been such a punching bag while in office, Attorney General Eric Holder is leaving on a more successful note: his response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that may serve as a capstone for a civil rights legacy that could outlast the controversies of his tenure. Holder’s visit to Ferguson last month after the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager — and the Justice Department’s promise to conduct a wide-ranging investigation of all of the Ferguson Police Department’s practices — will help solidify what allies see as his lasting legacy: a commitment to equal justice for all Americans." David Nather in Politico.

Ferguson police chief apologizes to Brown's parents as tensions ignite again. "Jackson’s videotaped remarks came as Brown’s parents held a Washington news conference calling for the Justice Department to take over the investigation of the shooting and minutes before news broke that U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. planned to resign. Holder has been a pivotal figure in the controversy. The confluence of events marked a dramatic day in the ongoing case in which Ferguson anxiously awaits a grand jury’s decision on whether Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted. The tensions in the city have not eased, and as recently as this week, scores of protesters again faced off with authorities." DeNeen L. Brown in The Washington Post.

Interview: St. Louis County prosecuting attorney on the grand jury considering the Ferguson shooting case. Kimberly Kindy in The Washington Post.

New NAACP report urges Congress to pass legislation to end racial profiling. "Hoping to seize on the national dialogue about race and law enforcement ignited this summer by a series of high-profile police shootings, the NAACP issued a detailed report on racial profiling Thursday and called on Congress to pass legislation banning the practice in law enforcement. The NAACP, which is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, also called on the Justice Department to clarify federal profiling guidelines to eliminate loopholes created by post-9/11 national security measures." Wesley Lowery in The Washington Post.

Looking ahead: The battle to replace Holder has already started. "With Nov. 4 midterm elections potentially tipping the balance in the Senate, some Republicans immediately called for a delay in the hearings and votes on the new attorney general until January, when the possibility of a GOP majority in the Senate might give Republicans almost total control of the outcome. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) issued a political call to arms for conservatives, saying that outgoing senators should not vote on the nominee during the post-election lame-duck session....Democrats argued that Republicans should step back and allow Obama to select his own cabinet without GOP obstruction." Paul Kane and Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Explainer: The odds on six candidates to replace Holder. David Weigel in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Other legal reads:

As election nears, voting laws unclear in some states. Pam Fessler in NPR.

Higher judicial pay to cost $1.2B over next decade. Andrew Taylor in the Associated Press.

Packing pistols in public seen as next gun-control battle. Joel Rosenblatt in Bloomberg.

Federal regulators float an aggressive new plan to cut the cost of prison calls. Nancy Scola in The Washington Post.

POSNER: He provided legal support for secrecy, surveillance and war. That's just pragmatism. "While Holder’s decisions disappointed civil libertarians of all stripes, they were not obviously wrong. Indeed, they were mostly right. 'In times of war, the law falls silent,' said Cicero. This is something of an exaggeration in the United States today, but it remains true that the rights of people considered a threat to a country tend to diminish as the magnitude of that threat increases, for good reason. Holder, like his Bush administration predecessors Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft, adopted a pragmatic rather than rigidly legalistic position on civil rights, human rights, and the laws of war. That pragmatism will be his legacy." Eric Posner in Slate.

McADAM AND KLOOS: Are today's deep divides due to the civil-rights movement? "In the past few years, we’ve celebrated the 50th anniversaries of many seminal events and landmark achievements of the civil rights movement, from the nonviolent direct action campaign waged in Birmingham, Alabama, to the March on Washington and Freedom Summer....And next year, we will commemorate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which restored to Southern blacks the franchise that had been unconstitutionally denied them during the Jim Crow era. These are all, certainly, accomplishments to celebrate. But the legacy of the all these landmarks is much more complicated and tinged with — make that drenched in — irony than the conventional story of courage and triumph lets on." Douglas McAdam and Karina Kloos in Politico Magazine.

Top opinion

KRUGMAN: The show-off society. "Giant yachts and enormous houses have made a comeback....And there’s no mystery about what happened to the good-old days of elite restraint. Just follow the money. Extreme income inequality and low taxes at the top are back. For example, in 1955 the 400 highest-earning Americans paid more than half their incomes in federal taxes, but these days that figure is less than a fifth. And the return of lightly taxed great wealth has, inevitably, brought a return to Gilded Age ostentation. Is there any chance that moral exhortations, appeals to set a better example, might induce the wealthy to stop showing off so much? No." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

SALAM: The case against a maximum wage. "Like Yglesias, I believe that there are serious problems with corporate governance in America. Where we part company is over his apparent conviction that confiscatory taxes are an important part of the solution. I won’t belabor the case against ultra-high marginal tax rates — Arpit Gupta has summarized some of the scholarly research on the impact of high rates on long-run growth. Rather, I’ll just suggest that we focus more directly on how the tax code encourages excessive leverage and how our regulatory regime shields incumbents from competition from the new firms that give rise to new business models. Those are causes that, hopefully, we can all agree on." Reihan Salam in National Review.

GALBRAITH: Environmentalism is dead. "Where before the world looked to American leadership for the landmark environmental agreements of the past, today it sees mostly bitter partisanship and disagreement. Long-term, collaborative thinking is not in vogue. Congress will never pass cap-and-trade, at least until Miami starts flooding. And other big polluters, like China and India, will not lightly sign onto an international accord that could upend their economies, at least in the near term. The giddy optimism of the Rio days has given way to a long, almost paralyzing slog." Kate Galbraith in Foreign Policy.

RAMPELL: The public investment in for-profit colleges isn't paying off. "For-profit colleges can’t get no respect, at least not from employers. Which suggests that maybe they should be getting less generous taxpayer subsidies, too.... it turns out that dropout rates aren’t the only reason this sector’s default rates are so high. The lucky few students who actually complete their degrees have serious trouble getting jobs, too....These findings, like others suggesting that for-profit college graduates have higher unemployment rates, should give pause not just to students considering attending such schools but to policymakers and taxpayers more broadly." Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post.

GRAETZ: The bipartisan inversion evasion. "At a minimum, serious tax reform should shift taxes from corporations to their shareholders and bondholders. This would not only be more favorable to economic growth, it would also be more progressive. In the 1990s, the U.S. Treasury and the American Law Institute showed how to do this by converting a substantial part of the corporate income tax into a withholding tax on shareholders. In such a system, dividends would be taxed the same as other income, not at a lower rate as U.S. law now provides....Substituting a tax on sales of goods and services for much of the individual and corporate income taxes would be even more favorable to economic growth. But in the near term, this may be a step too far." Michael J. Graetz in The Wall Street Journal.

LEWIS: Why the libertarian boom is bad for traditional conservatives. "We're all fighting for as much equality and freedom as we can safely preserve. We just disagree about how much is too much. As historian Christopher Lasch noted, to some degree, 'liberal democracy has lived off the borrowed capital of moral and religious traditions antedating the rise of liberalism.' The same applies to today's libertarian ethos. And the question is this: How long can we continue? The answer is most definitely not forever." Matt K. Lewis in The Week.

KHANNA AND KHANNA: Smart regulation can bring out the best of the sharing economy. "Several cities have recognized the benefits to be gained from promoting a sharing economy....But economic change of this magnitude inevitably has its opponents, some with legitimate concerns. Do peer-to-peer businesses undercut incumbents by not paying similar taxes? Are such businesses — flush with venture capital — running their operations at a loss in order to capture market share? And should these firms be allowed to access telecoms data to learn about customers’ habits and movements, thus giving them an unfair advantage?" Ayesha Khanna and Parag Khanna in Project Syndicate.

Happy Friday interlude: Celebrate the end of the workweek with this close-up video of a running puppy.

2. The global-health security threat that Ebola epitomizes

The U.S. and its military's $750M fight to stop a pandemic. "The World Health Organization estimates that 2,800 of at least 5,800 Ebola cases have ended in death. However, estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released this week show that 20,000 cases have occurred to date. The CDC estimates that the virus could spread to between 550,000 and 1.4 million people in the next four months....As more details about the Obama administration’s plan to stop the virus trickle out, it’s becoming clear that the 3,000 soldiers the Pentagon plans to send to West Africa would be there to contain the virus and attempt to stop it from spreading outside of the region." David Francis in The Fiscal Times.

Explainer: AFRICOM’s Ebola response and the militarization of humanitarian aid. Kim Yi Dionne, Laura Seay and Erin McDaniel in The Washington Post.

Long read: How a Pentagon agency screwed up in Ebola fight by delaying an experimental drug. Brendan Greeley and Caroline Chen in Bloomberg Businessweek.

But global aid is struggling to get to where it's needed. "If aid doesn't arrive soon to West Africa, health officials have warned that more than million people could be infected with Ebola by late January. Last week President Obama announced plans for a surge in U.S. aid to the region. The U.K. and the European Union followed suit. The United Nations is also gearing up to provide aid. Representatives from member states met Thursday in the U.N. General Assembly to tackle the crisis. The big question has been: How long will it take to turn these promises of aid into action on the ground?" Michele Kelemen in NPR.

Obama tells U.N. that U.S. can't do it alone, cites global security threat. "President Obama warned a summit of world leaders Thursday that the Ebola outbreak that has infected thousands in west Africa has gone beyond a health crises and is a 'growing threat to regional and global security.' Citing new commitments from the United Nations last week, Obama said there had been progress. But after meeting with leaders from African nations at the U.N. General Assembly, the president cautioned that 'we need to be honest with ourselves. It’s not enough.'" David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

This is about more than just Ebola. It's also about global health security. "President Obama and other leaders will try again to strengthen a longer-term strategy to enhance global health security. The White House, which launched an initiative in February aimed at preventing the global spread of infectious-disease epidemics, will host a meeting Friday of officials from 44 countries to discuss how to develop basic disease detection and monitoring systems to contain the spread of deadly illnesses. The United States has pledged to help 30 countries bolster their capacity to deal with infectious disease and bio­terrorism threats over the course of five years; a total of 100 nations have committed to take action in connection with the administration’s initiative." Juliet Eilperin and Lena H. Sun in The Washington Post.

Ebola has avoided U.S. completely so far, but... "A bit of luck was involved there. And that luck seems to be holding six months into the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Not a single reported Ebola case has made the leap from the West African outbreak to the United States or Europe — or Asia or Australia. Only two nations, Senegal and Nigeria, have seen any Ebola cases slip out of the virus’s hot zone centered on Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Maintaining this lucky streak will only get more difficult — and soon impossible — as the outbreak grows exponentially....That doesn’t mean an outbreak, but at least one case." Todd C. Frankel in The Washington Post.

Congress releases leftover war funds to fight Ebola. "Top lawmakers in Congress have approved the use of leftover Afghanistan war money to fight Ebola in West Africa. But just $50 million of President Barack Obama's $1 billion request has been approved for immediate use, under the opaque process....The final hurdle was the approval of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who protested that the Pentagon has provided virtually no details about the mission, which would send the military to Africa to help with the logistics of fighting the dangerous virus. Inhofe signed off on the request on Wednesday." Andrew Taylor in the Associated Press.

An Ebola vaccine turned down by WHO: Could it still be of help? "The sudden sense of urgency for an Ebola vaccine was an about face from a few months earlier when Glaxo contacted the WHO, asking whether its vaccine could help with the outbreak. At that time, the company was told the focus was on containment and the WHO didn’t have a policy for using vaccines in this type of situation. 'We’ll get back to you' was the message....As those months passed and containment efforts failed, the epidemic spun out of control....With no approved Ebola medicines, and experimental treatments in short supply, a vaccine is now one of the best hopes for halting the virus’s spread." Makiko Kitamura and Shannon Pettypiece in Bloomberg.

Scientists, officials puzzled by enterovirus, which is now confirmed in 38 states. "An outbreak of respiratory illness first observed in the Midwest has spread to 38 states, sending children to hospitals and baffling scientists trying to understand its virulent resurgence. As of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 226 cases of infection with enterovirus 68. But it is likely that many times that number have been stricken....Enteroviruses are common, but this strain is not. Symptoms in the current outbreak resemble those of a bad cold....But some children progress to wheezing and having breathing difficulties. Scientists say they do not know why it is happening." Catherine Saint Louis in The New York Times.

Other health care reads:

Half of gay, bisexual men with HIV go untreated, report says. Kim Painter in USA Today.

FRIEDERSDORF: DHS isn't prepared for a pandemic. "As the Department of Homeland Security endeavors to prevent another 9/11...it is worth remembering that there are far deadlier threats out there. I speak not of ISIS or Ebola, but the influenza virus. The flu pandemic that began in 1918 killed 675,000 Americans.....Worldwide, that same flu pandemic killed an estimated 30 to 50 million people. It would take 16,000 attacks like 9/11 to equal that death toll. Those figures powerfully illustrate the case for redirecting some of what the United States spends on counterterrorism to protecting ourselves from public health threats. Of course, money only helps if it isn't squandered." Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.

Om nom nom interlude: This pet bearded dragon lizard gobbles down a snack.

3. Oil's pivotal role in the fight against the Islamic State

Airstrikes cripple most Islamic State refineries in Syria. "American military officials said Thursday that U.S. and allied airstrikes had crippled most of the small oil refineries controlled by Islamic State in Syria and that the remainder would be targeted in coming days....Kirby said the Islamic State produced about 300 to 500 barrels a day from each of the small refineries in Syria, providing the jihadists with revenue as well as refined fuel for their vehicles....The attacks were intended to damage the refineries with precision-guided munitions instead of destroying them, he added. Some of the infrastructure was left intact in the hope that a future Syrian government — controlled by moderate forces instead of President Bashar al-Assad or the Islamic State — could restart the refineries, he said." Rebecca Collard and Craig Whitlock in The Washington Post.

Oil prices are insulated from the effect of U.S. airstrikes' because of a supply glut. "Oil demand is growing at its slowest since 2011, while the U.S. shale boom means production outside OPEC is rising by the most since the 1980s, the Paris-based IEA said in a monthly report Sept. 11....While fighting in Iraq has spurred companies...to evacuate workers from the country since June, the country pumps and exports most of its crude from its Shiite-dominated southern region, where Islamic State’s Sunni insurgency has had little impact. The conflict has largely spared the south, home to about three quarters of Iraq’s oil production." Nayla Razzouk, Grant Smith and Anthony DiPaola in Bloomberg.

Lawmakers in U.S. oil heartland soften over export ban. "Texan lawmakers are already preparing for the prospect of crude oil exports from the state's major ports, and assessing what it means for constituents. Even representatives of districts that include large oil refineries, the owners of which have expressed strong opposition to exports for fear it would increase the price of crude, told Reuters that they would support the shipment of oil overseas....At stake is not just the state of the U.S. market where growing volumes of oil are logjammed without an outlet. Supporters of exports also see it as a powerful political tool abroad as Europe seeks greater independence from Russian energy and violence spreads across the Middle East." Edward McAllister in Reuters.

Exxon's 2-week Russia sanctions reprieve hurts anti-Putin push. "After Exxon Mobil Corp. mounted a campaign to warn U.S. officials that prematurely halting work with Russian oil giant Rosneft on an exploratory oil well could foul the Arctic, the Obama administration last week gave the company a two-week reprieve from sanctions on Russia. The temporary retreat has handed Russia’s leaders a golden public relations opportunity, one they plan to exploit. Today in the Kara Sea off Siberia’s northern coast, Igor Sechin, a Putin confidante, ex-Soviet apparatchik and the chief executive officer of Rosneft, the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company by production, will announce an update on the $700 million exploratory well." Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Alan Katz and Joe Carroll in Bloomberg.

Other environmental/energy reads:

Oil industry sets voluntary rail rules ahead of potential federal action. Timothy Cama in The Hill.

EPA chief: Power plant rule could see "adjustments." Zack Colman in the Washington Examiner.

The EPA is cracking down on dentists. Clare Foran in National Journal.

Solar advocates fight utilities over grid access. Jeff Brady in NPR.

For oil and gas companies, rigging seems to involve wages, too. Naveena Sadasivam in ProPublica.

A rising tide of contaminants. The New York Times.

Food interlude: Kids react to trying caviar.

4. The changing world of transportation safety

Easing of marijuana laws worries road safety advocates. "As the nation eases marijuana laws, road safety advocates worry that highway rules for driving under the influence of pot are lagging, which could lead to fatal crashes. Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C.; adult recreational use is legal in Washington state and Colorado; marijuana has been decriminalized in 16 states and Washington, D.C....The research is mixed on how cannabis affects driving performance. Though marijuana can slow decision-making and decrease peripheral vision, drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to drive more slowly and less aggressively." Larry Copeland in USA Today.

Google Glass may be as distracting as your phone. "The first scientific study of driving while texting with Google Glass found that the hands-free eyewear is no safer to use on the road than a smartphone....About 40 people...texted about an arithmetic problem via Google Glass or a smartphone while driving in a simulator. In the process, the drivers were confronted with a car braking suddenly in front of them. After a near-collision in the simulator, Sawyer said the texters demonstrated different levels of confidence in their ability to safely text and drive. Smartphone users created more space than Google Glass users between their car and the car ahead. Sawyer said Google Glass offered one slight advantage." Barbara Liston in Reuters.

Air aside: The FAA is letting Hollywood use drones — and more are on the way. "Thursday's decision marks the first time the agency has granted a commercial entity an exemption from the rules that prohibit drones from flying in U.S. airspace without a special certificate. The civil drone industry has been pressuring the FAA to relax that ban and to develop new regulations designed to safely integrate unmanned vehicles into the nation's air traffic system. While we're still waiting for those formal rules, the FAA is now saying that making movies with drones, or TV shows, or advertisements, or anything else you might do on a closed production set, is legal — so long as you can prove it's safe." Brian Fung in The Washington Post.

Other transportation reads:

GM ignition-switch victims' families to accept compensation offer. Jessica Dye in Reuters.

After a GM recall, a fiery crash and a payout. Hilary Stout in The New York Times.

Hungry puppy interlude: This puppy wants some watermelon.

Wonkblog roundup

The new HHS secretary’s biggest task: A better Obamacare experience. Jason Millman.

Why the next pick for U.S. Attorney General has huge implications for the housing industry. Dina ElBoghdady.

Think you drink a lot? This chart will tell you. Christopher Ingraham.

Here’s a look at the most important moments in Eric Holder’s tenure. Max Ehrenfreund, Danielle Douglas and Christopher Ingraham.

Donald Trump just inspired Chicago to rewrite the rules on absurdly large building signs. Emily Badger.

This depressing chart shows that the rich aren’t just grabbing a bigger slice of the income pie — they’re taking all of it. Christopher Ingraham.

FBI: U.S. now has one active shooter incident every three weeks. Christopher Ingraham.

The pay gap between CEOs and workers is much worse than you realize.Roberto A. Ferdman.

Can China save itself from a great slowdown? Matt O'Brien.

Et Cetera

Emergency communications agency finds ways to hire friends, skirt competitive bidding. Greg Gordon in McClatchy Newspapers.

FBI chief blasts Apple, Google for locking police out of phones. Craig Timberg and Greg Miller in The Washington Post.

U.S. business spending plans, jobs data support growth outlook. Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.

Feds say migrant families fail to report to agents. Alicia A. Caldwell in the Associated Press.

Path opened for young immigrants to serve in the military. Julia Preston in The New York Times.

In Newtown, healing comes slowly. Caitlin Emma in Politico.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.