Thursday, February 19, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS - February 19, 2009

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New York Times
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-A Swiss Bank Is Set to Open Its Secret Files
UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, has agreed to divulge the names of well-heeled Americans suspected of using offshore accounts at the bank to evade taxes.

-Modifying Mortgages Can Be Tricky
When her brother could no longer help support her, Luzetta Reeves asked her small mortgage company to cut her monthly payments. It did - by 11 percent - making it possible for her to afford her house here on her modest fixed income.

-Kansas Governor Seen as Top Choice in Health Post
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is emerging as President Obama's top choice for secretary of health and human services.

-Trailing George Clooney
The Darfur conflict has now lasted longer than World War II, and the international community has remained monumentally feckless. Can George Clooney get the world to take action?

-Texas: Investigating Judge Keller
An inquiry is long overdue into whether Sharon Keller, an Texas appellate court judge, closed the court clerk's office before a death-row inmate could file an emergency appeal.

-Editorial: So What Tipped You Off?
Roland Burris's appointment to the United States Senate is proving to be the grim parting prank that won't end by Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former governor of Illinois.

-Swat Valley Blues
By Eric Etheridge
On Monday, the government of Pakistan announced it had cut a deal with Taliban forces and would quit fighting them for control of the Swat Valley, northwest of Islamabad, and accept their imposition of Shariah, or Islamic law, there. (Read the Times account.) Reaction from opinion mongers was virtually all negative, extremely so. At Swampland, Joe Klein said "This is terrible news."

-Clinton Tells of Why She Took the Job
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited a development program in a working-class Jakarta neighborhood and spoke about her decision to work for the man who defeated her for the presidential nomination, on her second day in Indonesia before flying to Seoul. "It was not anything I had any reason to expect or had even thought about," Mrs. Clinton said of President Obama's offer to her to be the nation's chief diplomat. "I had to make a hard decision." [...] In a light-hearted visit to Mr. Obama's boyhood home, Mrs. Clinton paid tribute to Indonesia's thriving democracy. "If you want to know if democracy, Islam, modernity, and women's rights can coexist, go to Indonesia," she said at a dinner with scholars, environmentalists, and women's rights advocates.

Washington Post
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-Burma's Agony
By Rena Pederson
NAYPYIDAW, Burma -- This is a city constructed out of fear. Naypyidaw reportedly was created by Burma's brutal dictators on the advice of astrologers and built in part by forced labor. Worried they might be vulnerable to attack in Rangoon, a port city, they abruptly moved the government 250 miles to the north three years ago and modestly named the new capital "Abode of Kings."

-Out of Bounds
In Dubai, prejudice and politics stain a tennis tournament. ISRAELI TENNIS star Shahar Peer is ranked No. 45 in the world in women's tennis. Ms. Peer makes a living playing in tournaments around the globe, with career earnings totaling more than $2 million. But all that skill isn't enough to triumph over ingrained prejudice in Dubai, the wildly rich city-state of the United Arab Emirates that has never granted visas to holders of Israeli passports.

-Free the Uighurs
They lose one in court. They should win in the White House. A FEDERAL appeals court has handed the Obama administration an opportunity to reverse some of the damage done by disastrous Bush administration anti-terrorism policies. President Obama should act with all deliberate speed.

-Pakistani Accord Appears Stalled
Government, Extremists Make No Move To Formalize Their Pact on Islamic Law
By Pamela Constable, Karen DeYoung and Haq Nawaz Khan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 18 -- A controversial, closely watched peace agreement designed to end Taliban violence in the scenic Swat Valley hung in limbo Wednesday amid criticism in Pakistan and rising concern in Washington.

-Betting on Bipartisanship
By David S. Broder
As far as most of Washington is concerned, Barack Obama's big talk about bipartisanship is kaput. One month into his presidency, many pundits and political analysts have told him to drop it. Get real, they say. It bought you next to nothing on the stimulus bill. Forget the compromising. Look for support where you may actually find it, on the Democratic side of the aisle.

-Palin Now Owes Taxes on Payments for Nights at Home, State Rules
By James V. Grimaldi
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) owes income taxes on nearly $17,000 paid to her as travel reimbursements when she spent nights in her Wasilla residence, according to a state legal opinion that the payments were not legitimate business expenses, a state official said yesterday.

-Scientists Await Action on Stem Cells
Some Proponents Had Expected Obama to Immediately Reverse Bush Policies
By Rob Stein
At the National Institutes of Health, officials have started drafting guidelines they will need to start funding human embryonic stem cell research that has been off-limits for nearly eight years.

Wall Street Journal

-Proposal Is Heavy on Incentives to Modify Loans
Challenges Include Dealing With Mortgages Sold to Investors and Borrowers
Who Owe Lenders More Than Homes Are Worth
In its effort to address the foreclosure crisis, the Obama administration is relying heavily on the carrot rather than the stick.

-Pressure to Rework Mortgages Will Ripple Through Industry
The foreclosure-prevention plan announced by President Barack Obama comes with incentives for lenders to ease mortgage payments for struggling borrowers -- but also with a cudgel: If the mortgage industry doesn't modify loans, bankruptcy judges may cut payments more sharply.

-Canada Slips on Oil's Slide
FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta -- Last summer, when the price of oil neared $150 a barrel, Terrance Coles's family earth-removal business in this energy boomtown was pulling in revenue of more than $200,000 a month. These days, Mr. Coles, who abandoned a failing seafood business in Newfoundland to join the oil rush here, is out of work, sleeping at the home of a cousin.

-WEALTH MANAGER: IRS Questions Pay of Charity Executives
The heat over executive compensation, centered lately on banks seeking government handouts, is spreading to the nonprofit world. Hospital chiefs, charity directors, university presidents and other nonprofit executives are coming under closer scrutiny from federal regulators, legislators and donors as big pay packages seem more out of scale in a sharp economic downturn.

PC World

-An Ongoing Effort
For privacy advocate group EPIC, a victory isn't yet so clear.
"It's great that Facebook has responded, and I think that's a step in the right direction--but these issues don't go away, and it's going to be an ongoing concern for users of new network-based services until we get comprehensive privacy laws in place," Rotenberg says. In the immediate future, EPIC plans to keep a close eye on Facebook's progress and the rights of its users. Rotenberg promises he and his colleagues will step in if the need arises--and won't hesitate to appeal to the FTC if it becomes necessary, either. "People shouldn't have to run around trying to think about which stuff they're going to delete," Rotenberg says. "People shouldn't be in that position. They should be able to sign up for a service with the confidence that their rights will be respected.",159743/printable.html

Miami Herald
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-Widow awarded $8 million in tobacco trial
Cigarette maker Philip Morris USA must pay $8 million to the widow and son of a Cooper City chain smoker whose 1997 death from lung cancer was the result of his smoking addiction, a Broward jury decided Wednesday.


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