A U.S. Congress watchdog is faulting the Energy Department for not having a clear idea why costs have risen so much on a key nonproliferation program.
The department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration forecasts a roughly $3 billion increase in the cost to its efforts to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium by transforming it into atomic reactor fuel known as mixed oxide. Congress’ Government Accountability Office in a new report released on Thursday said the agency had erred by not analyzing the “root causes” behind the cost increase.
The congressional auditors noted the nuclear weapons agency historically has “difficulty in completing projects within cost and schedule,” which has contributed to a number of these initiatives facing “high risk of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.”
The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility under construction at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina has seen its projected price tag rise from $4.9 billion to $7.7 billion. Several government officials and industry insiders recently told the Center for Public Integrity the final cost of building and operating the plant could reach as high as $30 billion. That projected expense reportedly has led the Obama administration to consider looking for another option for disposing of the 34 tons of plutonium that the MOX facility was intended to handle.
One major reason for the rising project costs is that the Energy Department in 2007 approved cost and schedule estimates when the overall designs were only 58 percent complete, according to the GAO report. Because of this early move, agency officials are now reporting that the expense of key components for the plant are on average 60 percent higher than was earlier estimated.
The report concluded there was not a clear understanding as to why the Energy Department approved the cost estimates when the design work was far from being complete. Having that knowledge could help NNSA officials in the future avoiding repeating the mistakes made with the mixed-oxide program, the auditors said.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”