Thursday, February 19, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS - February 18, 2009

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New York Times
Go to the links for the following articles:

-Economic Scene: Bailout Likely to Focus on Most Afflicted Homeowners
The long-awaited housing bailout will finally be announced on Wednesday. In a speech in Phoenix, a signature real estate boomtown gone bust, President Obama will explain his plan to reduce foreclosures. And the key to understanding that plan will be remembering that there are two different groups of homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure.

-Aides Say No Pardon for Libby Irked Cheney
Dick Cheney spent his final days as vice president making a furious last-ditch effort to secure a pardon for his onetime chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., leaving him at odds with former President George W. Bush on a matter of personal loyalty as the two moved on to private life, according to several former officials.

-Facebook Withdraws Changes in Data Use
After a wave of protests from its users, the Facebook social networking site said Wednesday that it would withdraw changes to its so-called terms of service concerning the data supplied by the tens of millions of people who use it.

-Texas Firm Accused of $8 Billion Fraud
In Texas, Robert Allen Stanford was just another wealthy financier. But in the breezy money haven of Antigua, he was lord of an influential financial fief, decorated with a knighthood, courted by government officials and basking in the spotlight of sports and charity events on which he generously showered his fortune. On Tuesday, his reign was thrown into turmoil as a caravan of cars and trucks carrying federal authorities pulled up to the headquarters of his company, the Stanford Group, to shut down what the regulators described as a "massive ongoing fraud" stretching from the Caribbean to Texas, and around the world.

-2 Investigations Into Burris Are Begun
The United States Senate Ethics Committee and a local Illinois prosecutor began investigations on Tuesday into the recently appointed junior senator for Illinois, Roland W. Burris, over Mr. Burris's shifting, inconsistent descriptions of how he came to be named to the seat vacated by the election of President Obama.

-Burris Defiant as Calls for Resignation Mount

-No Way, No How, Not Here
There are nine bodies - all of them young men - that have been lying in a Mumbai hospital morgue since Nov. 29. They may be stranded there for a while because no local Muslim charity is willing to bury them in its cemetery. This is good news.

-Saudi Arabia: Change We Can Believe In?
By Eric Etheridge
On Saturday in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah announced several new appointments to his government, his first major cabinet reshuffle since ascending to the throne in 2005. The changes included the appointment of Noura al-Fayez as Deputy Minister of Girls' Education, the first woman ever to sit in the Saudi cabinet. (Read a report by Nic Robertson of CNN on the changes; Crossroads Arabia has a comprehensive list of the changes. can be found here.)

-Get Out of the (White) House
By Lou Cannon
Almost from its inception, the presidency of the United States has been a heavy weight on its occupants. Thomas Jefferson famously called the presidency a "splendid misery." John Quincy Adams described his four years in the White House as "the four most miserable years of my life." Herbert Hoover wrote "The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson," a sympathetic account of Wilson's troubled presidency, then suffered through his own presidential ordeal. Some presidents, including Hoover and Jimmy Carter, aged noticeably during a single term in the White House.

Washington Post
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-Peer Pressure in the GOP
By Ruth Marcus
It would have been hard to predict, as the stimulus debate began, that President Obama would end up losing more Democratic votes than gaining Republican ones. More than twice as many, actually: Seven House Democrats voted against the measure, three Senate Republicans for it.

-Buy-Buy, Mr. Burris
The appointed senator from Illinois should go. WHEN THEN-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested in December for, among other things, allegedly trying to auction off the U.S. Senate seat left open by Barack Obama's election to the presidency, we feared that whomever Mr. Blagojevich eventually chose would be tainted by the association. Enter Roland W. Burris, a former Illinois state attorney general who swore up and down that there had been no quid pro quo involved in his selection. "There was certainly no pay-to-play involved," Mr. Burris assured last month, "because I don't have no money." And then this Associated Press bulletin hit yesterday afternoon: "Burris acknowledges trying to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich as he vied for Senate seat."

-$75B Program Aims to Lower Mortgages, Foreclosures
By Michael A. Fletcher and Renae Merle
President Obama today unveiled a $75 billion foreclosure prevention program, which the administration expects to reach up to 9 million homeowners.

-Back Home in Alaska, Palin Finds Cold Comfort
Scrutiny Has Been Intense Since Election
By Michael Leahy
JUNEAU, Alaska -- A couple of weeks before the Alaska legislature began this year's session, a bipartisan group of state senators on a retreat a few hours from here invited Gov. Sarah Palin to join them. Accompanied by a retinue of advisers, she took a seat at one end of a conference table and listened passively as Gary Stevens, the president of the Alaska Senate, a former college history professor and a low-key Republican with a reputation for congeniality, expressed delight at her presence.

-Israel links Gaza deal to soldier's release
By Adam Entous
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel decided on Wednesday against lifting its border blockade of the Gaza Strip until Hamas agreed the release of a captured Israeli soldier, putting a longer-term ceasefire proposal by Egypt on hold.

Wall Street Journal
Go to the links for the following articles:

-How Democracy Ruined the Bailout
Getting politics involved was Bernanke and Paulson's biggest mistake.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda, despite being a reputational black hole, can be educational. Never was it a good idea to have a financial crisis in the middle of a presidential election. Involving Congress was a mistake. Letting the technical matter of keeping the banks afloat become a political football was a terrible idea. Letting our willingness to deploy giant sums of taxpayer money become the measure of credibility was a disaster. Letting all this be sold on Capitol Hill amid shrieks about the country collapsing into a Second Great Depression was a confidence killer across the economy, which until that point had held up well.

-Clinton Seeks Improved Islamic Ties During Indonesia Visit
JAKARTA -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seeking to reinvigorate Washington's ties to the Islamic world, said the Obama administration would deepen relations with Indonesia as part of a broader U.S. diplomatic push in Southeast Asia.

Fort Report
Go to the links for the following articles:

-Stimulus: Good Money After Bad
By Robert Scheer
The Republican-engineered controversy around the stimulus is a phony. The stimulus package that President Obama signed into law Tuesday is a modest effort, actually too modest, at arresting the free fall of the American economy.

-What's in the stimulus for you?
By James Oliphant
President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package into law Tuesday while in Denver, his first major legislative victory and the final stroke in a six-week effort to jump-start the nation's struggling economy. Both houses of Congress passed the bill last week despite little Republican support. Here are answers to some questions about the mammoth bill - one of the biggest in U.S. history - and how it could affect you and your family:
Q Why am I not getting a check directly from the IRS, like last year?
A Because most people didn't spend that money. They saved it-which did little to boost the economy.,0,6087182.story

-Alan Greenspan: Economy Worst Since 1930s, Tarp Insufficient, Supports Bank Nationalization
Huffington Post
Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday that the global recession will "surely be the longest and deepest" since the 1930s, adding that the Obama administration's Troubled Asset Relief Program will be insufficient to plug the yawning financial gap.

-Syria urges better ties with US
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has urged the US in a newspaper interview to engage in talks with Damascus and restore full diplomatic ties.

-O, Canada: Plans for Obama's trip north
As a presidential candidate stumping across the Rust Belt a year ago, Barack Obama drew cheers when he threatened to quit the North American Free Trade Agreement unless Canada and Mexico agreed to tough new worker-friendly standards.


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