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Morning Brief: NYC Rocked by Subway’s Controlled Blast

by Renewing America Staff
August 22, 2012

Construction workers look over the damage following a blast at the 72nd Street construction site of the Second Avenue subway line in Manhattan on August 21, 2012 (Brendan McDermid/Courtesy Reuters). Construction workers look over the damage following a blast at the 72nd Street construction site of the Second Avenue subway line in Manhattan on August 21, 2012 (Brendan McDermid/Courtesy Reuters).

Residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side often are often inconvenienced by the $4.45 billion project to build the Second Avenue subway line, but yesterday an intentional underground explosion brought debris and smoke to ground level (NYT).  A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority explained: “We were doing a controlled blast, when clearly something went awry and an explosion was felt at street level.”  Stunning photos are available from NY Daily News.

The first Renewing America Progress Report and Infographic Scorecard, provides a critical assessment of federal transportation policy, including a description of major policy initiatives and important steps policy makers must take to revitalize critical infrastructure.

Virginia Invests $14 billion in Transportation

Virginia’s governor, Bob McDonnell, announced that Virginia has $14 billion in transportation infrastructure projects either under construction or in procurement.  “My administration has moved aggressively on transportation projects that will not only improve the quality of life for motorists and citizens, but also make Virginia a better place to work, start a business, live and visit,” said the governor.  Virginia has also launched a public-private transportation infrastructure bank that has already issued $312 million in low interest loans to support road projects.

Chicago’s $9 billion infrastructure plan was the subject of a Policy Initiative Spotlight by Steven J. Markovich.  As part of that plan, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has championed an infrastructure bank.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

International Trade and Investment

China Slightly Raises Rare Earths Quota

China announced a new round of rare earth export quotas that represent a 2.7 percent increase over 2011 levels (Reuters).  These metallic elements, such as Dysprosium and Yttrium, often possess chemical properties critical to a wide array of new technologies.  China currently produces over 90 percent of rare earth elements, and critics charge that it is using export restrictions to give its renewable energy industries an advantage in violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that frown on export restrictions. The WTO is currently investigating following complaints from the United States, Japan, and the European Union.

CFR Senior Fellow and Renewing America Director Edward Alden discusses the general lack of trade protectionism in the wake of the Great Recession, and the likelihood that the WTO has restrained this political impulse.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Innovation

Startups Pitch to Y Combinator

TechCrunch profiles its top ten selections of the seventy-five startups to present at Y Combinator’s fifteenth demo day.  From better fitting shirts and a private marketplace for entrepreneurial investment to a one-stop shop for funny, (and perhaps not-so-funny) internet memes, innovative startups competed for a spot with the prestigious Silicon Valley incubator.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are the primary engine of U.S. job growth. This CFR Backgrounder by Steven J. Markovich discusses how entrepreneurs create and finance startups and included comments from David Lieb, the CEO of Bump Technologies and a Y Combinator alum.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

Education and Human Capital

California Creates TK Class

California is preparing to launch a new grade, transitional kindergarten (TK), for students whose birthday falls after the Sept 1 cutoff (Scoop San Diego).  Under a law passed in 2010, the state’s cutoff date for regular kindergarten was moved forward from December to September.  Recent research indicates that students who enter kindergarten later benefit socially and academically.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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