Posts from McClatchy reporters and editors covering Washington, Mexico, the Middle East and beyond. To read more, go to www.mcclatchydc.com/blogs .
Biden appears to be likely 2016 candidate
Posted by Leslie Clark
Vice President Joe Biden is sounding increasingly like a 2016 presidential contender, telling CNN’s New Day that “there’s no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run.”
Biden, who joked last week in a speech to the United Auto Workers that a chance to drive a 2014 Corvette Stingray was a reason not to run, told CNN Friday that he can’t come up with another reason not to run.
“There may be reasons I don’t run,” Biden said. “But there’s no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run.”
He even gave a timetable for a decision, saying “realistically, a year this summer.”
He said the decision to run or not will be based on “whether I am the best qualified person to focus on the two things I’ve spent my whole life on, giving ordinary people a fighting chance to make it, and a sound foreign policy that’s based on rational interests of the United States, where we not only are known for the power of our military, but the power of our example.”
He touted the “future for this country,” saying “I know people think I’m too optimistic. But it is incredible. There’s so much just within our grasp. Doesn’t mean I’m the only guy that can do it, but if no one else, I think, can, and I think I can, then I’d run. If I don’t, I won’t.”
Clapper details new surveillance limits
By James Rosen
National intelligence chief James R. Clapper said Thursday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had approved two limits on how the government can use huge volumes of data it collects about Americans’ phone use.
The new restrictions were among reforms promised last month by President Barack Obama to the controversial anti-terror surveillance program of the National Security Agency.
Under the first change, Clapper said, the massive caches of phone records can be searched only after a court finds that there is “a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the selection term is associated with an approved international terrorist organization.”
That limitation will be in place “absent a true emergency,” Clapper said without elaboration.
The second change requires that the data query results “be limited within two hops of the selection term instead of three.”
That reform means that government investigators can trace suspicious calls only through one intermediary number instead of through two numbers.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which Congress created in 1978 to approve wiretaps and other secret forms of monitoring, granted a motion from the Justice Department on Wednesday to implement the changes, Clapper said.
Mexico gets good news, but confidence lags
Posted by Tim Johnson
The views of Mexico’s economy by ordinary citizens and those living outside the country these days could hardly be more different.
Mexicans are now feeling the impact of a tax overhaul enacted late last year, and it has put them in a grumpy mood. Consumer confidence, as measured by a government index, has fallen to its lowest level in four years.
In January alone, the confidence index fell 6.2 percent and is down 15.5 percent from a year earlier.
Everyone feels the pinch of the new taxes – from the consumer buying a soft drink at the corner kiosk to the millions of Mexicans living near the U.S. border who suddenly saw a 5 percent increase in the value-added tax.
Economists say the sour mood will have a short-term impact on sales of appliances and other durable goods as Mexicans, feeling poorer, rein in their purchases.
But over at Los Pinos and at the Finance Secretariat, government officials are giving each other high-fives over a decision by Moody’s to upgrade Mexico to a coveted “A” grade sovereign rating, making Mexico only the second country in Latin America after Chile to earn such a rating.
This will help lower the country’s borrowing costs, and make Mexico more attractive to investors. Moody’s said a gamut of reforms ushered through last year by President Enrique Pena Nieto “will strengthen the country’s potential growth prospects...”
“Confidence in Mexico in the world is growing and widening,” Pena Nieto said last week.
Now, if only confidence in Mexico by Mexicans themselves would also grow.