Budget Plan, Net Neutrality, and Ukraine in :60


President Submits $4 Trillion Budget Plan

President Obama submitted a new budget plan to Congress on Monday. The president’s $4 trillion proposal cited a growing economy as the main reason behind the president’s desire to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America.”

Several congressional Republicans swiftly criticized the proposal, most notably House Speaker John Boehner, who quipped, “It may be Groundhog Day, but the American people can’t afford a repeat of the same old top-down policies of the past.” Many Republicans expressed concern over President Obama’s call for “sweeping tax increases” that will total about $1 trillion over the next ten years.

However, the plan also includes a 4.5% increase in military spending and a proposal that would cause beneficiaries of Medicare and Medicaid to pay more for their medical care, possibly by implementing co-payments and surcharges for premiums. These proposals in the budget plan offer hope that the president will be able to reach a compromise with the Republican-controlled Congress. Congress will begin debating the specifics of the budget proposal in the coming weeks.


New Net Neutrality Proposal Released

FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler released a proposal Wednesday morning that would change the way the United States regulates the internet. Mr. Wheeler’s plan recognizes the internet as a utility, designating it as a Title II telecommunications service under the Communications Act. This reclassification allows the FCC to enforce rules that forbid service providers from charging websites and other distributors of data on the internet extra in order to be delivered at a faster rate.

The “paid prioritization” banned in Mr. Wheeler’s proposal is the primary concern for those who support net neutrality. Major proponents of the plan, including many large Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google, argued that big service providers like Comcast and Verizon could charge websites extra to deliver their content faster. Paid prioritization could therfore have potentially dangerous implications. Websites subjected to “slow lanes” of networks would be less accessible than their richer counterparts who are otherwise able to pay for “fast lanes.” Opponents argue that reclassification discourages internet providers from investing in new technology that could otherwise improve internet speeds.

The final vote by the FCC on these rules will take place on February 26th.


Conflict in Ukraine Escalates

Violence in Ukraine escalated over the weekend after a breakdown of cease-fire talks between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels. The cease-fire deal reached in early September never fully ended the violence, but it did temporarily lower the conflict’s intensity level. In January, however, the rebels launched an offensive to recapture infrastructure lost over the summer. 224 civilians were killed in the final three weeks of January, and 28 soldiers died over this past weekend.

Pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko has announced a plan to increase rebel forces to 100,000 within the next ten days. However, analysts remain skeptical of his ability to raise an army of that size. Ukraine’s government also announced a mobilization plan to increase their numbers to 200,000 in 2015.

According to Pentagon officials President Obama is now reconsidering supplying Ukraine with “lethal defensive arms.” Thus far, the United States has only supplied non-lethal aid due to concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potential response.


In other news…

A video released Tuesday allegedly shows ISIL militants burning Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh alive.

Harper Lee is planning to release a sequel to her beloved classic. The recently discovered “sequel” was actually written first, but her editor encouraged her to write a novel focusing on Scout’s backstory. The second book would eventually become “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

A car video shows TransAsia flight crashing into a river in Taipei, Taiwan Wednesday. 31 people have been confirmed dead with 12 still missing.

Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-Ill.) “Downton Abbey”-inspired office has landed him in trouble with the Office of Congressional Ethics. This is the same congressman who was featured on the cover of Men’s Health in 2011.

Liza Mazahyeva is one of many mothers whose son left to fight with ISIL. Foreign Policy investigates the “lost boys” of Russia’s Chechen Republic.

Looking for an in-depth analysis of Katy Perry’s performance? The New York Times has you covered. Read to the end to see their 2016 prediction. Spoiler alert: It’s Taylor Swift.

Despite rising numbers of female Senators and members of Congress, a Republican takeover means fewer committee leaders are women.

Foreign Policy explains what the conflict in Iraq could mean for the future of an independent Kurdistan.

Ross Ulbricht was found guilty of running the black market website Silk Road and could be sentenced to life in prison.

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