Newtown mom gives presidential address and other a.m. reads

*This morning, President Obama yielded his platform to a Newtown mother in a bid to sway public opinion on gun control.

Francine Wheeler, who stood in for the President during what would have been his weekly address, spoke about her six year old son Ben, one of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students murdered by Adam Lanza.

“To us, it feels as if it happened just yesterday,” she said. “We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common sense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us.”

Read her remarks in full here.

*Amid yesterday’s Friday afternoon news dump, it was revealed that President Obama will sign a shady whittling down of the STOCK Act into law.

Late this week, Congress quietly passed the bill, which, as Roll Call’s David Drucker described it, will “exempt federal employees and congressional staff from a STOCK Act provision requiring them to publish their financial holdings online.”

In not entirely unrelated news, a Gallup poll released on Friday found that only 15 percent of Americans approve of Congress, which, by the way, held zero hearings on its STOCK Act pare down.

*As the south and fly-over country seek to restrict abortion access, California’s state legislature is currently debating a proposal that would expand it — a move that would reverberate beyond the Golden State’s borders.

According to a Reuters dispatch from Los Angeles this morning, state lawmakers are discussing a bill that would “allow nurse-practitioners, nurse-midwives and physician assistants to perform a procedure known as aspiration, which uses suction to dislodge an embryo from the uterine wall during the first few weeks of pregnancy.”

Four other states – Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire – allow non-physicians to perform these early abortions, but California would be the first to codify the practice in law.

According to Margaret Crosby, an ACLU lawyer interviewed by Reuters who helped write the bill, “encoding freer access to abortion in the laws of a large state like California could eventually influence court cases over more restrictive laws in other states.”

*A semi-annual Treasury Department report on the currencies of major trading partners revealed that the Obama administration has warned the Japanese government that it’s watching Japanese policies “to ensure they were not aimed at devaluing the yen to gain a competitive advantage.”

Japan should have little to fret about, however. The report also concluded that “China’s currency remained ‘significantly undervalued,’ but again stopped short of labeling the world’s second-biggest economy a currency manipulator.”

The characterization elicited a Twitter groan from Senator Jeff Merkeley:

“Treasury says China’s pegged (to a band) currency isn’t manipulated? Seriously?” he bemoaned.

*The Russian government banned 18 American officials from entering Russia after the U.S. sanctioned 18 Russian officials under the Magnitsky law.

Americans who won’t be shopping on the Arbat anytime soon include John Yoo, former Cheney chief of staff David Addington, and two former Gitmo commanders; retired Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson.

According to the AP, that list — and the U.S. list of Russian officials slated for punishment — could have been far more expansive:

“I think that both sides showed a definite restraint because in Washington and in Moscow there were hotheads demanding to inflate the list to an unthinkable size,” parliament member Vyacheslav Nikonov, who focuses on foreign affairs, was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.

I’ll say. General Petraeus didn’t make the cut.

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.