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The 2016 spending bill just passed. Good news: Funding for NASA. Bad news: CISA.

The must-pass piece of legislation has some tricks up its sleeve.

The 2016 spending bill just passed. Good news: Funding for NASA. Bad news: CISA.

Congress passed House Speaker Paul Ryan's $1.1 trillion government spending bill on Friday.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.


The 2,000 page bill, known as "the omnibus," was a massive undertaking that will fund the government through most of 2016, and it comes just in time to prevent a government shutdown. It took a lot of work and a lot of compromise to pull together, and the good news is, there's actually some pretty cool stuff in there.

Like, NASA getting more funding, for one.

After NASA's funding was famously slashed to a paltry $17 billion in 2013, this time around, the government has set aside over $19 billion for the organization to further develop its exploration programs.

The omnibus also includes new, extended health care coverage guarantees for 9/11 first responders, which former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart has been campaigning for.

There's also some money for the upcoming census and the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, aka CISA, which is ... wait, what's that?

Oh that's right.

The controversial government surveillance bill known as CISA has been tactfully snuck in.

Those congressional rascals.

The full text of the CISA, which passed the Senate in October, apparently appears 1,729 pages into the omnibus spending bill. Meaning it is now one giant step closer to the president's desk.

So what exactly is CISA?

Officially, it aims to "improve cybersecurity in the United States through enhanced sharing of information about cybersecurity threats, and for other purposes."

Essentially, it would allow the government to access Internet traffic information from companies without a warrant.

It's been hugely controversial since it was first introduced in 2014. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) called it "a surveillance bill by another name," and many others have touted it as a bill that invades the privacy of Americans for somewhat vague security reasons.

Sen. Ron Wyden, a notable CISA critic. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

The version in the omnibus is even worse than the original.

Key provisions that prevented direct information sharing with the National Security Agency have been stripped out, and limitations that say the information can only be used for cybersecurity purposes have been removed.

As Evan Greer, director of the activist group Fight for the Future said, "It's clear now that this bill was never intended to prevent cyber attacks."

Due to controversy and criticism, the bill has had a pretty hard time moving ahead so far. Despite passing the Senate earlier this year, tech firms like Apple, Twitter, and Reddit and organizations like The Business Software Alliance and the Computer and Communications Industry Association have all openly opposed it.

Even the Department of Homeland Security, aka the government agency that'd actually be the ones receiving all that Internet data stated in July that CISA could overwhelm the agency with data of "dubious value" while also sweeping away privacy protections.

So how could something like CISA become law?

Good question, me.

The answer is pretty simple. The omnibus spending bill was a must-pass piece of legislation.

It covers almost the entire 2016 spending plan for the federal government and needed to be passed to prevent a government shutdown. Which no one wanted right before the end of the year.


Rep. Paul Ryan (center) with President Obama and Sen. Mitch McConnell. Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images.

So by tucking CISA into the end of the omnibus, lawmakers were able to push it through with little chance of debate. It's pretty darn sneaky. Especially since the bill comes packed with other, positive funding decisions that will get held up or even lost if the spending bill continued to be delayed.

Congress has done this before; it's actually a disturbingly common practice.

Only a year ago, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) quietly attached a provision to the 2015 funding law that would allow U.S. taxpayers to fund bailouts for banks that trade risky derivatives. You know, the kind that crashed the economy in 2008.

That bill was also passed to prevent a government shutdown.

Rep. Kevin Yoder (center) in Washington. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

There are countless other examples, and if this sounds to you like it should be illegal, well, you're not alone. Unfortunately, the bill to make it illegal would probably have a "Punch Orphans in the Face Act" or something equally horrible attached to it.

The good news is, now that the bill has passed Congress — and was signed by President Obama — NASA will be getting the best funding it's had in years. There's even $175 million set for NASA researches to explore Jupiter's moon Europa. Which, if you haven't heard, is REALLY COOL.

And, hey, since the government is going to be surveilling your Internet, why not encourage them to keep funding the cool stuff? Google the phrase "NASA is awesome" as many times as you can. They'll get the message, I'm sure.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.