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Robin Groulx / Axios

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to formally consider steps it hopes will fight robocalls:

  • It has proposed rule changes thats would make it easier for phone companies to block calls with fake caller ID information (a practice called "spoofing") without violating the agency's rules.
  • This could apply in cases where the number showing up on caller ID hasn't been given to a user yet or when the area code in question doesn't actually exist.
  • The commission will also ask for comments about other ways to block robocalls that violate the law.

Why it matters: Robocalls are a regular source of consumer frustration but regulators have struggled to bring them to heel. The vote also follows work by a robocall "strike force" that included companies like AT&T and Verizon as well as major Silicon Valley firms.

What's next: The public can now comment on the FCC's proposals. The agency will need to vote again for the rules to go into effect.

Go deeper

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence "will persist in the weeks." The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.

John Kerry: U.S.-China climate cooperation is a "critical standalone issue"

President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. must deal with China on climate change as a "critical standalone issue," but stressed that confronting Beijing's human rights and trade abuses "will never be traded" for climate cooperation.

Why it matters: The last few years have brought about a bipartisan consensus on the threat posed by China. But as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China will be a vital player if the world is going to come close to reining in emissions on the scale needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.