Friday, March 27, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST - March 27, 2009

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New York Times
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-Pakistan and Afghan Taliban Close Ranks
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - After agreeing to bury their differences and unite forces, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan have closed ranks with their Afghan comrades to ready a new offensive in Afghanistan as the United States prepares to send 17,000 more troops there this year.

-Obama Sets New Afghan Strategy
President Obama plans to further bolster American forces in Afghanistan and for the first time set benchmarks for progress in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban there and in Pakistan, officials said Thursday.

-Aided by Safety Nets, Europe Resists Stimulus Push
VIENENBURG, Germany - Last month Frank Koppe gathered together all 50 of his employees at Koppe-Apparatebau for coffee, cake and the kind of bad news that has lately become all too familiar. He told them the small company's business, designing and manufacturing custom equipment for industrial plants, had been sliced nearly in half.

-Suicide Bomber Kills 48 in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - A suicide bomber brought the roof of a crowded mosque crashing down on worshipers in northwest Pakistan Friday, setting off explosives as a cleric intoned the holy prayers, killing scores of people in what was the bloodiest attack this year.

-Obama Makes History in Live Internet Video Chat
The White House said more than 64,000 people watched President Obama answer questions on Thursday in the first live Internet video chat by an American president. But in declaring itself "Open for Questions," on the economy, the White House learned it must be careful what it wishes for.

-The Market Mystique
On Monday, Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, responded to criticisms of the Obama administration's plan to subsidize private purchases of toxic assets. "I don't know of any economist," he declared, "who doesn't believe that better functioning capital markets in which assets can be traded are a good idea."

-The Winnable War
Khyber Pass, Afghanistan: I came to Afghanistan skeptical of American efforts to transform this country. Afghanistan is one of the poorest, least-educated and most-corrupt nations on earth. It is an infinitely complex and fractured society. It has powerful enemies in Pakistan, Iran and the drug networks working hard to foment chaos. The ground is littered with the ruins of great powers that tried to change this place.

-Being a Partner for Peace
As he prepares to take office as Israel's next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is offering what sounds like a tantalizing commitment. He said that his government will be a "partner for peace."

Washington Post
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-North Korean Nuclear Test A Growing Possibility
By Blaine Harden
SEOUL -- North Korea moved a long-range missile to a launchpad this week and plans to send it into space in early April in defiance of repeated international warnings.

-Political Parties See Dramatic Decline in Fundraising
'08 Debts Linger As Recession Slows Giving
By Paul Kane and Chris Cillizza
In the wake of a recession, months of falling stock markets and a marathon campaign that endlessly taxed donors, political party committees find themselves racked by declining revenue and mounting debt.

-Slow Boil Over Egg Roll Tickets on Web
By Timothy Wilson
Maybe we should go back to standing in line. The White House's Internet distribution of tickets to this year's Easter Egg Roll appears to have begun with a splat.

-U.S., Mexico to Intensify Fight Against Violent Drug Gangs
By Mary Beth Sheridan
MONTERREY, Mexico, March 26 -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that Mexico and the United States had agreed to develop a "checklist" of tasks for both sides to intensify the fight against Mexican drug gangs engaged in a bloody turf war.

-Sebelius faces hearing on HHS nomination
The Associated Press
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius faces a confirmation hearing next week in Washington on her nomination as U.S. secretary of health and human services.

-Vatican Archbishop Issues Apology
Comments on Abortion Are Being Used to Attack D.C., Arlington Dioceses' Leaders
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
A Catholic archbishop who believes abortion rights politicians should be denied Communion has apologized that his comments are being used as an attack on Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.

-Drugs, Guns and a Reality Check
By Eugene Robinson
It's an indictment of our fact-averse political culture that a statement of the blindingly obvious could sound so revolutionary. "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on her plane Wednesday as she flew to Mexico for an official visit. "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border . . . causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians."

-Protection for Smokers
Why is the deadliest product sold legally in the United States free from federal oversight?
THERE HAS BEEN a flurry of outrage at the lax regulation that allowed contaminated peanuts to kill nine people and sicken close to 700. Yet it almost goes unnoticed that cigarettes, the deadliest products sold legally in the United States, are free from oversight. That's right: The Food and Drug Administration regulates almost everything Americans ingest, including nicotine gum, but not the product that makes that gum necessary. That allows cigarette makers to peddle a noxious mix of chemicals with impunity. Long-stalled legislation that would give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products would change that. The House shouldn't hesitate to pass the measure, which could come up for a vote as early as Monday.

Pew Research center
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-Do U Txt?
Internet Typology: The Mobile Difference
Glance at any coffee shop or airport boarding gate, and it is easy to see that mobile access to the internet is taking root in our society. A new Pew Internet study divides users of communication technology into 10 groups ranging from "Digital Collaborators" and "Media Movers" to "Tech Indifferent" and "Off the Network." Read more

-What Kind of Tech User are You?
Find out which group you're in at Take our quiz
Middle Class Missed Out
Before the Great Recession, a Phantom Recovery
The eight-year period from 1999 through 2007 is the longest in modern U.S. economic history in which inflation-adjusted median household income failed to surpass an earlier peak. Read more

-Looking Ahead
Unusually Wide Gap in 'Satisfaction,' 'Right Direction' Measures
Americans' perception about the state and direction of the nation usually go hand-in-hand. However, big events, like last fall's election, can split these two indicators of the public's national outlook. Read more

-Obama's Euro Trip
Optimism and Obstacles in Europe
Polls suggest the president may receive a mostly -- but not entirely -- warm reception on his overseas trip with stops in Britain, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Turkey. Read more

-Policy Agenda Plus: Carbon Cap, Gays in the Military and Renewing U.S.-Cuba Ties
New polling finds the public favors setting limits on carbon emissions, allowing gays to serve openly in the military and re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Read more

-Populist Pandering
For the Media, AIG Is All the Rage
The narrative for a complex economic crisis got much simpler: one corporate villain and one angry public. Read more

-AIG Taxes Broadly Supported
Most Americans found the media attention the AIG bonuses received appropriate and a majority supports Congress' plan for a heavy tax on the bonuses. Read more

-An End to Religion, Newspapers and the American Way of Life
Bloggers largely eschewed the parsing of economy-related details in the news for a more abstract and far-reaching discussion. Read more

-Daily Number
72% Decline - Capitol Beat
As the size of government has grown in recent decades, the Fourth Estate on Capitol Hill has shrunk by 72%; currently 160 outlets maintain reporters with Congressional credentials, down from 564 outlets in the mid-1980s. Check back every weekday for another number in the news. Read more

Fort Report
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-GOP offers budget outline with details to come
By Molly K. Hooper and Reid Wilson
House Republicans outlined their party's budget objectives, but not without Democrats accusing the GOP of skimping on the details.

-The House GOP "Budget"
Posted by Ed Kilgore
In response to the president's taunt the other night that GOP critics of his budget haven't bothered to offer their own, the House GOP today made a big show of, well, confirming his point, for the time being at least.

-Blacks, Latinos Take Hit On Jobs
The ax fell without sound or shadow: Tatiana Gallego was called into human resources and laid off from her job as an admissions counselor for a fashion college.

-Media savvy making Obama the Ubiquitous President
From social-networking sites to a bilingual speech on Univisión, Barack Obama has emerged as the Ubiquitous President. Chatting on late-night shows. Beaming bilingual messages via satellite. Even lingering in your Inbox. If the new president is anything, he's this: digital and ubiquitous.

-Cuomo Widens His A.I.G. Investigation
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Thursday afternoon that he was widening his investigation of the American International Group to examine whether its trading counterparties improperly received billions of dollars in government money from the troubled insurer. Those counterparties include Goldman Sachs, which received $12.9 billion, as well as Société Générale of France and Deutsche Bank of Germany, which each received nearly $12 billion.

-Sources: GOP leaders split on budget "blueprint"
By Glenn Thrush
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) raised objections to an abbreviated alternative budget "blueprint" released today -- but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.

-THE PARTY OF NO (IDEAS).... About nine years ago, then-Gov. George W. Bush was asked about his budget experience. Bush said he was proud of what he'd put together: "It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." Keep that quote in mind when considering the "budget" House Republicans unveiled this morning. Stung by their stereotyping as the "party of no," House Republicans eagerly promoted the unveiling of their alternative to President Obama's budget today -- but when they finished speaking, reporters had one big question: Where's the actual budget? You know, the numbers that show deficit projections and discretionary spending?
-Steve Benen 2:30

-Where's the Plan, Wall Street?
FOR the last several months, Americans have looked to Washington to lead them. But where's the leadership on Wall Street? There is an enormous opportunity for a C.E.O. to come forward with a plan to reform the financial system and pledge a change from business as usual. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's chief executive, has been the most outspoken of his peers during the crisis - and has done an admirable job addressing the issues - but he has been more focused on helping instill confidence in the economy and the health of his own firm. John Mack, the chief executive of Morgan Stanley, has shown glimpses of public leadership, at one point apologizing for the crisis by saying, "We are sorry for it."

-Obama on the World Stage: What Power Means
By Joe Klein
"Power is getting people or groups to do something they don't want to do," writes Leslie H. Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in his new book, Power Rules. It seems an aggressively simplistic thought for a member of the foreign policy priesthood. But Gelb doesn't define power merely as the use or threat of force. (In fact, he argues, wars usually occur when the creative use of power has failed.) Power is a combination of factors - military, diplomatic, economic, moral - that give a country the ability to make its way in the world. Gelb believes that most recent Presidents have used power foolishly, squandering it - which is something Barack Obama should bear in mind as he goes forth to meet with the world's leaders in Europe the first week in April. The new President has shown a predilection for diplomacy, a subtle strategic sense of the world. But sometimes you have to throw your weight around - quietly, but firmly - and Gelb has raised an essential question: Will Obama know how, and whether, to react if diplomacy fails? (Read "Is Europe Falling Out of Love with Obama?"),8599,1887709,00.html


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