Sunday, February 08, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS - February 08, 2009

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New York Times
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-Congress Is Divided Over Competing Stimulus Bills
The Senate agreement on a roughly $827 billion economic stimulus bill sets up tough negotiations with the House, primarily over tens of billions of dollars in aid to states and local governments, tax provisions, and education, health and renewable energy programs.

-White House Memo: 'Mom in Chief' Touches on Policy, and Tongues Wag
The government workers greeted Michelle Obama like a Hollywood celebrity, whooping and cheering and oohing and aahing over her slate gray power suit. But when she took to the podium, the nation's self-described mom in chief quickly turned policy wonk.

-New G.O.P. Chairman Defends Payment to Sister
Michael Steele, who was recently elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, paid a Maryland company run by his sister more than $37,000 for work related to his 2006 Senate campaign, a payment that Mr. Steele's spokesman said Saturday was entirely appropriate.

-Back on World Stage, a Larger-Than-Life Holbrooke
Stashed in a drawer in his Manhattan apartment between snapshots of family vacations, a photograph shows Richard C. Holbrooke on a private visit to Afghanistan in 2006. He is mugging atop an abandoned Russian tank, flashing a sardonic V-for-victory sign and his best Nixon-style grin. The pose is a little like Mr. Holbrooke himself: looming, theatrical, passionate, indignant.

-Editorial: Bank Bailout, Redux
The Obama administration rightly concluded last week that unless bailed-out bankers were forced to take pay cuts, public support for a continuing bank rescue would never materialize. But the pay curbs are minor in the grand bailout scheme, which will ultimately put hundreds of billions of tax dollars, if not trillions, on the line.

-Op-Ed Columnist: Slumdogs Unite!
SOMEDAY historians may look back at Tom Daschle's flameout as a minor one-car (and chauffeur) accident. But that will depend on whether or not it's followed by a multi-vehicle pileup that still could come. Even as President Obama refreshingly took responsibility for having "screwed up," it's not clear that he fully understands the huge forces that hit his young administration last week.

-Op-Ed Contributors: Head Start Falls Further Behind
College Park, Md.: BARACK OBAMA ran for president promising change.
Unfortunately, a look inside the stimulus package reveals that "change" mostly means spending vastly more on domestic programs without necessarily improving the way they operate. Nowhere is this clearer than in its provisions concerning education, particularly Head Start.

-Editorial: Huang Qi
In a changing world, one unfortunate constant is the abhorrent ways in which China abuses its people. Huang Qi is a victim of that abuse because he dared to help other victims - grieving parents whose children were killed last May when hundreds of poorly built schools collapsed during the earthquake in Sichuan Province.

-Op-Ed Columnist: Beyond the Banks
Jenin, West Bank: Visiting Israel, I've been peppered with questions from Israelis and Palestinians about where their peace process will fit in among President Obama's priorities. My guess, I've answered, is that President Obama has three immediate priorities: banks, banks and banks - and none of them are the West Bank.

-Op-Ed Contributor: Why the Muslim World Can't Hear Obama
Cairo: PRESIDENT OBAMA is clearly trying to reach out to the Muslim world. I watched his Inaugural Address on television, and was most struck by the line: "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers." He gave his first televised interview from the White House to Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language television channel.

-Op-Ed Contributor: Speaking With the Enemy
WHEN former Vice President Dick Cheney warned last week that terrorists will be emboldened by President Barack Obama's decision to close Guantánamo and to ban harsh interrogation techniques, I was reminded of a story.

-Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Russia Missile Deal
MUNICH - Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Saturday that the United States will pursue a missile defense plan that has angered the Kremlin, but he also left open the possibility of compromise on the issue and struck a more conciliatory tone than the Bush administration on relations with Russia.

Washington Post
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-Twilight Zone: For years, I roamed the borderlands. But now their way of life is under siege.
By Tom Miller
TUCSON: I am a border rat. I've been one since the day I hopped back and forth between countries over a fallen, rusty barbed-wire fence in the woodland along the Arizona-Mexico line some 40 years ago. Since that act of joyful anarchy, I've traveled the entire length of the frontier numerous times, dined and slept in just about every border town on both sides and chatted with folks of high and low life throughout.

-A TAXING SEASON: Revenge of the Tax Code
By Chris Edwards
If it were a movie, it would be called "Revenge of the Tax Code." The complex income tax, which has bedeviled average Americans for years, is biting back at the elite who helped create it. Tom Daschle, former chief lawmaker in the Senate, withdrew his Cabinet nomination because of an "unintentional" $128,000 tax mistake. Rep. Charles Rangel, chief tax-writer in the House, is also entangled in a tax scandal, as is Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Nancy Killefer, another high-ranking nominee who has withdrawn.

-UNFAIR SHARE: You Can Cap The Pay, But The Greed Will Go On
By Rakesh Khurana and Andy Zelleke
President Obama is now three weeks into his new job -- annual salary $400,000 -- and already he and his team are working overtime to make sure that no one at the helm of a bailed-out firm will pocket much more than he does. It's time, the president said last week, for "restraint," not millions in bonuses.

-The Red, the Blue and the Gray
The extraordinary coincidence of the first African American president taking office a few weeks before Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday is just one of the many links between Barack Obama and the Great Emancipator.

-Jews in S. America Increasingly Uneasy
Government and Media Seen Fostering Anti-Semitism in Venezuela, Elsewhere
By Juan Forero and Joshua Partlow
CARACAS, Venezuela, Feb. 7 -- Jewish leaders said it had never before happened in Venezuela: a break-in with anti-Jewish intent at one of the city's most prominent synagogues. A dozen armed men overpowered guards, spray-painted office walls with anti-Semitic insults, desecrated historic Torah scrolls and made off with computers containing personal information on congregants.

-Nearly 14,000 flee Sri Lanka's war zone
By C. Bryson Hull
COLOMBO (Reuters) - More than 1,400 civilians poured out of Sri Lanka's war zone on Sunday, bringing the total in the last four days to nearly 14,000 as soldiers try to deal a death blow to the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, the military said.

Wall Street Journal

-Pakistani Militants Say They Killed Polish Hostage
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani militants said they killed a kidnapped a Polish geologist on Saturday, heightening fears for a string of foreigners including an American U.N. worker abducted in Taliban territory near the Afghan border.

-The Stimulus Tragedy
Obama bets that we can spend our way to prosperity. President Obama has started to play the "catastrophe" card to sell his economic stimulus plan, using yesterday's terrible January jobs report to predict doom unless Congress acts. No doubt he'll get his way, but the tragedy of this first great effort of the Obama Presidency is what a lost opportunity it is.

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-Lowdown on stimulus: Compare Senate and House plans
A comparison of the $827 billion economic recovery plan drafted by Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans with an $820 billion version passed by
the House. Additional debt costs would add about $350 billion or more over 10 years. Many provisions expire in two years.,0,7970425.story

-Middle East: Seeking peace not a sign of weakness
By Paul Hirschson
Two and a half years ago, Hezbollah attacked Israel, killing Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two others inside Israeli territory. Israel found itself at war with a school of thought which has elevated suicide to a place in society which amounts to nothing less than the worship of death.,0,7685132.story

-Water management: Science doesn't support restrictions
By Rim Bishop
At its Feb.12 public hearing, South Florida Water Management District Board members will decide whether to permanently and by force of law restrict lawn watering, in most cases to a maximum of two days per week. That is when SFWMD will determine whether to proceed with its proposed "Year Round Irrigation Rule." Adoption of the proposed rule will have the following effect on those supplied by public drinking water utilities:,0,4408328.story

Miami Herald
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-Draining D.C. swamp no easy job for Obama
``I screwed up.''
-- President Barack Obama, Feb. 3, 2009
Wait a minute. He said that? There were cameras and microphones? Somebody caught it on tape?

Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn
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-What the centrists have wrought
by Paul Krugman
I'm still working on the numbers, but I've gotten a fair number of requests for comment on the Senate version of the stimulus. The short answer: to appease the centrists, a plan that was already too small and too focused on ineffective tax cuts has been made significantly smaller, and even more focused on tax cuts. According to the CBO's estimates, we're facing an output shortfall of almost 14% of GDP over the next two years, or around $2 trillion. Others, such as Goldman Sachs, are even more pessimistic. So the original $800 billion plan was too small, especially because a substantial share consisted of tax cuts that probably would have added little to demand. The plan should have been at least 50% larger. Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending - much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast - because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects - and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out. My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years. The real question now is whether Obama will be able to come back for more once it's clear that the plan is way inadequate. My guess is no. This is really, really bad.

Fort Report
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-Rush Limbaugh has his grip on the GOP microphone
Rob Carr / Associated Press
LOUD AND CLEAR: After President Obama called out the radio host by name, he went on the air and said: "I am Rush Limbaugh, the man President Obama has instructed you not to listen to!" As Republicans grapple with their fall from power, not all are comfortable with the talk radio king's suggestion that he, by default, has become the politically wounded party's unofficial leader.,0,2881422.story

-America's Scorecard in Iraq
BAGHDAD - This is what victory in the war in Iraq was supposed to look like: Fifteen million Iraqis voting in free and fair (largely) elections, emerging from their polling stations with their purple-stained fingers in an atmosphere that was free (largely) of intimidation or violence.


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