Bill targets super-successful stock traders of Congress

Democratic senators want to ban fellow lawmakers from trading individual stocks, a controversial practice that many see as inherently corrupt

A bill that would ban sitting members of the US Congress and their family members from stock trading has been introduced in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently defended market access as essential in a free economy.

Jon Ossoff, a Democratic senator from Georgia, joined forces with his fellow party member Mark Kelly of Arizona to sponsor a new anti-insider-trading bill. It requires US lawmakers and their family members to either divest from stock assets or put them into a blind trust while holding office. The measure is meant to reduce the conflicts of interest that investor lawmakers face as public servants.

“Members of Congress should not be playing the stock market while we make federal policy and have extraordinary access to confidential information,” Ossoff said.

It’s time to put an end to corrupt insider trading and ensure that leaders in Congress focus on delivering results for their constituents, not their stock portfolios.

My bill with @SenOssoff would make Washington more transparent and accountable. https://t.co/kpRnVuDngI

— Senator Mark Kelly (@SenMarkKelly) January 13, 2022

At the moment, lawmakers can participate in daytrading, but are obliged to report it under the 2012 STOCK Act. A wide-ranging investigation by Insider revealed last month that last year 54 members of Congress were in violation of the rules in some way. Ossoff and Kelly are among 10 lawmakers who volunteered to put their portfolios into blind trust, according to the report titled ‘Conflicted Congress’ – a fact that the two reflected in their joint press release.

Reportings under the STOCK Act make it possible to evaluate how good members of Congress are at trading, and year after year many of them outperform the market. The watchdog Unusual Whales released its latest analysis on Monday. It showed elected officials making transactions worth nearly $290 million last year and enjoying return rates well above that of $SPY, Standard & Poor’s exchange-traded fund.

This is incredible @ossoff.

In 2021, many politicians beat the market.

We need more accountability.

See the full report: https://t.co/V5CQZyoAaJ pic.twitter.com/bsV3OH8EDk

— unusual_whales (@unusual_whales) January 13, 2022

According to Unusual Whales, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most successful Democratic member of Congress to trade stocks last year, was asked by journalists about the report and defended lawmakers’ right to invest in individual stocks. “We are a free market economy and should be able to participate,” she said while explaining her opposition to restrictions.

However, momentum is growing to outlaw the practice, which critics perceive as a legalized form of political corruption that ultimately skews the decisions of legislators toward serving their own financial interests. Ossoff and Kelly cited support for a ban by good-governance organizations as well as 76% of American voters across the political aisle, when justifying their bill.

A competing bill banning stock trading by Congress members is reportedly about to be introduced by Republican Senator from Missouri Josh Hawley. According to Axios, Ossoff sought Hawley’s support for his initiative to make it bipartisan, but talks “fizzled out.” The differences between the two initiatives are in the scope (the Ossoff/Kelly version includes dependent children of sitting members in addition to spouses), penalties and enforcement mechanisms, the report said.

Landmine-sniffing ‘hero rat’ dies

The rodent’s bravery allowed it to detect more than a hundred explosives and clear 225,000 square meters of land in Cambodia

An African giant pouched rat, named Magawa, who found 78 landmines and 38 unexploded ordinances in Cambodia and was awarded a medal for his service, has passed away at the age of eight.

The news was shared earlier this week by APOPO, a mine-clearing NGO, which trains rats to detect mines.

“Magawa was in good health and spent most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm, but towards the weekend, he started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in his last days,” it said, adding that the creature had “passed away peacefully.”

The “hero rat” has done “incredible work” over the years, which helped “communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play without fear of losing life or limb,” APOPO pointed out.

In 2020, this work landed Magawa a gold medal from the British veterinary charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. It’s the highest award for gallantry an animal can receive.

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The legendary rat was born at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania in 2013, where APOPO has a training center. While there, Magawa was taught to detect landmines through the scent of chemicals present in them.

At the age of three, the rodent was sent to Cambodia, which remains dotted with landmines after years of internal and external conflicts between 1975 and 1988. The explosives planted in the ground have left tens of thousands injured and greatly limited the size of usable land.

Magawa’s handlers have always praised his extraordinary stamina, which saw him covering larger areas than his fellow mine-sniffing rats every day.

During his career, he found more than a hundred explosives, which allowed 225,000 square meters of land to be declared mine-free. Having been the star of many a news report over the years, he retired from active service last June.

African giant pouched rats have established themselves as perfect landmine detectors because they compensate for their poor vision with their great sense of smell and memory. Not only are they cheaper to train than service dogs, but, weighing between 1.0 and 1.4kg, they are also light enough not to set off mines when they step on them.

They can search an area the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes, while a human with a metal detector usually requires a few days to do the same job.