WASHINGTON — Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy introduced legislation this week aimed at providing up to $100 million in federal assistance to help homeowners and businesses whose homes and buildings suffer from crumbling foundations.

The Connecticut tandem put two bills into the hopper that provide two separate ways for the $100 million to be authorized over a five year period.

“These bills are a critical first step in addressing a living nightmare for homeowners and business owners,” Blumenthal said.

Hundreds of buildings, mostly in eastern Connecticut, have foundations that are crumbling because the concrete used contained high levels of pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide that oxidizes, or rusts, when it comes in contact with water. The reaction causes foundations to buckle.

The cost of replacing a foundation — involving the lifting of a house, the demolition of the old foundation, and the pouring of a new one — can run $150,000 to $200,000 or more.

One bill would establish a grant program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to award up to $20 million annually over a five year period directly to small businesses, condominium associations and homers to prevent, repair and mitigate damage caused by concrete foundations containing pyrrhotite.

The other bill would create through the Department of Housing and Urban Development a similar grant program that would instead be administered through individual states.

“We feel it is important to put two pieces of legislation in the hopper so that there are two different pathways to solve this problem. One way is for direct help from the federal government and the other would supplement state efforts,” Murphy said.

Himes Cries Foul Over Conservative Complaints Against Facebook

In testimony this week before the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Representative Jim Himes lambasted Republicans for fueling fear and anger among conservatives by promoting “a false narrative” that Facebook and other social media have “mounted a deliberate crusade to filter out conservative opinion.”

“Eventually everyone will know that the charge that Facebook filters out conservative commentary is untrue … but in the meantime we will have put one more dent in our democracy,” Himes complained.

The Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday focused on concerns that Facebook and other social media platforms use an algorithm that discriminates against conservatives such as Diamond and Silk, a popular, pro-Donald Trump duo on YouTube. The two also testified at the hearing along with Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee.

Blackburn said that there are “growing concerns about how and why big tech companies are making decisions to ban, deprioritize, or otherwise filter completely legal speech on line.” She noted that last October Twitter blocked her campaign launch video from its advertising platform due to her pro-life message. While Twitter later admitted it had erred and allowed her video on its platform, she said such mistakes seem to occur only at the expense of conservatives.

Himes disputed her claim and said that Facebook had not purposefully censored Diamond and Silk. The company had reached out to them publicly and privately to apologize for the error. Moreover, they suffered no more decline in online interactions than liberal sites like Rachel Maddow or the Young Turks, he said.

“Those are the facts,” Himes said. “The problem is this particular truth is pretty boring … It does not play into the carefully manufactured fear of the American right that everybody is out to get them.”

Himes went on to criticize Republicans for fearmongering to deflect attention from their political agenda.

“The Right must be under siege because if there is no siege there is no fear and there is no anger. And, without fear and anger,” he said “people might ask themselves why we are mortgaging our children’s future rather than improving their education. They might wonder why we haven’t lifted a finger to shore up Social Security. They might realize that we’ve done absolutely nothing to rebuild our ports and our highways and our railroads.”

Watch his testimony on YouTube

Blumenthal Seeks Protection for Mueller

Senator Richard Blumenthal this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in support of legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by President Trump.

The panel voted 14-7 in favor of the measure with four Republicans joining Democrats in favor. Calls for protection increased following a Trump tirade on Twitter over the FBI’s warranted search of the home and office of lawyer Michael Cohen.

Trump appeared on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning ahead of the vote and continued to fume over what he sees as unfair treatment to him and his supporters. He also acknowledged that Cohen had handled a nondisclosure deal on his behalf with Stormy Daniels, an adult movie actress who says she was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump.

“The President’s rash and reckless statements this morning heighten our clear and urgent imperative to protect the Special Counsel,” Blumenthal said in a statement after the committee met. “This measure will assure the integrity and independence of an investigation vital to our national security and public trust in the rule of law.”

Blumenthal went on to say that no one should be above the law including the president.

“No President can obstruct justice by firing a special counsel or by blocking a legitimate criminal investigation. This mandate for special counsel protection is more vital now than ever before and its importance mounts by the day,” he said.

The bill has no realistic chance of becoming law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t bring it to a floor vote.

Connecticut Economist Nominated For ‘The Fed’

President Donald Trump on Tuesday forwarded to the Senate his nomination of Richard Clarida as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Clarida, an economics professor at Columbia University and global strategic advisor to bond-fund manager Pacific Investment Management Co., was assistant secretary of Treasury under George W. Bush. A position that required Senate confirmation.

The 60-year-old would replace Daniel Tarullo who resigned with four years remaining to this term on the Board of Governors. Clarida would also assume the vice chairman’s role previously held by Stanley Fischer, who has also resigned.

Trump indicated last week that he planned to nominate the Harvard-educated Clarida, who now lives in Connecticut.

Bloomberg reported that if confirmed, Clarida would bring a mix of skills to the job including knowledge of financial markets gained during more than a decade at Pimco, as well as insights into how Washington works.

New York University professor Mark Gertler, who has co-written research papers with Clarida, said to Bloomberg: “I would describe him as centrist and pragmatic. He has a nice balance between understanding and contributing to what the academic literature has to say and very practical, real-world knowledge.”

Vox News also wrote about Clarida’s nomination describing his basic views on monetary policy as aligning with those of recent Fed chairs.

“Clarida favors the Fed’s policy of increasing interest rates in advance of any inflation trouble, but doing so gradually and with the expectation that interest rates will be permanently lower than what was the norm in the 20th century,” Vox wrote.

Sikorsky Prepping Raider Helicopter for Army Bid

Stratford-based Sikorsky Helicopter has engineered its S-97 Raider coaxial experimental helicopter to use whichever “improved turbine engine” the U.S. Army chooses for its future helicopter fleet as it looks ahead to supply the Army’s Future Vertical Lift aircraft.

Chris Van Buiten, the company’s vice president of technology and innovation told Defense News in a recent interview that it hopes to present the aircraft as a strong and soon-to-be-ready contender for the next generation of Army helicopters expected to come online in the 2030s.

The Army is said to be on track to award a contract to one of two teams currently developing a future helicopter engine in late 2018. Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney have teamed up to compete against GE Aviation for the engine contract that would replace every engine on both AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks.

Read more at Defense News

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