Sunday, March 29, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST - March 29, 2009

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New York Times
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-Spanish Court Weighs Inquiry on Torture for 6 Bush-Era Officials
LONDON - A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

-Obama Will Face a Defiant World on Foreign Visit
President Obama is facing challenges to American power on multiple fronts as he prepares for his first trip overseas since taking office, with the nation's economic woes emboldening allies and adversaries alike.

-European Court Seems to Rankle Kremlin
MOSCOW - Fed up with the brazen string-pulling and favor-trading in the corrupt Moscow courts, a judge named Olga B. Kudeshkina went public, criticizing the system in numerous interviews as little more than a legal bazaar - "an instrument," as she put it, "for settling political, commercial or simply personal scores."

-Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries
TORONTO - A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

-Speaking Freely, Biden Finds Influential Role
When President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. meet for their standing Friday lunch engagement, Mr. Obama always picks the cuisine - a subtle break from previous administrations in which the president and the vice president typically ordered off a menu, and a reminder, if any was needed, about who is in charge.

-A Boy Living in a Car
CAP HAITIEN, Haiti: As America's unemployment rate rises, those paying the severest price aren't necessarily in Detroit or Miami. One of the newest street children here in this northern Haitian city is a 10-year-old boy whose father was working in Florida but lost his job and can no longer send money home. As a result, the family here was evicted, the mother and children went separate ways to improve their odds of finding shelter, and the boy found refuge in an abandoned wreck of a car.

-Mother Nature's Dow
While I'm convinced that our current financial crisis is the product of both The Market and Mother Nature hitting the wall at once - telling us we need to grow in more sustainable ways - some might ask this: We know when the market hits a wall. It shows up in red numbers on the Dow. But Mother Nature doesn't have a Dow. What makes you think she's hitting a wall, too? And even if she is: Who cares? When my 401(k) is collapsing, it's hard to worry about my sea level rising.

Washington Post
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-A Ritual Slowly Unravels In India
Alarm Grows as More Sikh Youths Give Up Turbans
By Rama Lakshmi
CHANDIGARH, India -- Text messaging with one hand and holding a cup of milky tea in the other, spiky-haired Amandeep Singh Saini, 27, recalled the year-long battle he waged against his traditional Sikh parents to cut his hair.

-Swiss Talk Tough In Banking Battle
Blacklist Threat Looms Over Tax Havens
By Craig Whitlock
BERN, Switzerland -- This country may be politically neutral, but the Swiss are girding for battle to protect one of their most cherished values: banking secrecy.

-The Big Idea: Want to Fight Terrorists? Try Mocking Them.
By Carlos Lozada
With the Taliban regaining strength and Osama bin Laden still on the loose, President Obama announced a new strategy Friday to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition to new funding for Pakistan's democratic institutions and more U.S. troops to train the Afghan security forces, here's another anti-terrorism tactic the president might consider: Make al-Qaeda boring.

-Afghanistan's Karzai Endorses Obama Plan
By Pamela Constable
KABUL, March 28 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that he was in "full agreement" with President Obama's newly announced strategy for Afghanistan, saying it was "exactly what the Afghan people were hoping for" and promising to "work very closely" with the United States to implement the plan.

-Delay in Immigration Raids May Signal Policy Change
By Spencer S. Hsu
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.

-Look to Beijing
By Zachary Karabell
A hundred years ago, London would have made sense as the spot where the world's leaders should gather, as they will this week, to grapple with a spreading economic crisis. The city was the early 20th century's nexus of finance and power, and Britain straddled the globe as the only true superpower. But we're in the 21st century now, and the G20 heads of state should not be plotting in the shadow of Big Ben. They should be sitting across from Mao's Tomb, near the Forbidden City, in the meeting halls off Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

-Welcome to America, the World's Scariest Emerging Market
By Desmond Lachman
Back in the spring of 1998, when Boris Yeltsin was still at Russia's helm, I led a group of global investors to Moscow to find out firsthand where the Russian economy was headed. My long career with the International Monetary Fund and on Wall Street had taken me to "emerging markets" throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, and I thought I'd seen it all. Yet I still recall the shock I felt at a meeting in Russia's dingy Ministry of Finance, where I finally realized how a handful of young oligarchs were bringing Russia's economy to ruin in the pursuit of their own selfish interests, despite the supposed brilliance of Anatoly Chubais, Russia's economic czar at the time.

-Teach the Kids, and the Parents Will Follow
By Jay Mathews
Like most principals, Dave Levin believed that parental support was essential to a school's success. So when many families pulled their kids out of his struggling South Bronx charter school after its first year, he thought he was in trouble.

Wall Street Journal
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-Iran's Renewed Border Dispute With Iraq Threatens to Hinder U.S. Efforts
BAGHDAD -- Iranian officials have resurrected a decades-old sea-border dispute with Iraq, raising tensions that could become a stumbling block to Washington's recent outreach to Tehran. The spat -- over territory through which most of Iraq's oil exports pass -- is part of a diplomatic chill from Tehran that Iraqi officials say began this year because of Baghdad's pact with Washington that formalized the U.S. troop presence.

-Zardari Moves to Ease Pakistan Political Crisis
Associated Press
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's president said his party would help the opposition return to power in a key province, moving to end a political crisis threatening to hobble his U.S.-allied government's efforts against Islamist militants.

-Texas Opens Classroom Door for Evolution Doubts
The Texas Board of Education approved a science curriculum that opens the door for teachers and textbooks to raise doubts about evolution. Critics of evolution said they were thrilled with Friday's move. "Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said Dr. John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that argues an intelligent designer created life.

-Thousands Rally Ahead of G-20
Associated Press
LONDON -- Thousands of people marched through European cities Saturday to demand jobs, economic justice and environmental accountability, kicking off six days of protest and action planned in the run-up to the G-20 summit next week in London. In London, more than 150 groups threw their backing behind the ``Put People First" march. Police said around 35,000 attended the demonstration, snaking their way across the city toward Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. Protest organizers said they wanted leaders from the world's top 20 economies to adopt a more transparent and democratic economic recovery plan.

-Mr. Obama's Surge
He'll need some of Bush's fortitude to resist the crossfire from left and right.
President Obama unveiled his strategy for the war in Afghanistan yesterday, and there is much to like in it. Our main question -- and, we suspect, the world's -- is whether the new Commander in Chief is really prepared to devote the resources and political capital that his plan will need to succeed.

-Obama Taps Three Nominees for Treasury Posts
President Barack Obama Saturday named three more nominees for positions at the U.S. Treasury: Helen Elizabeth Garrett, assistant secretary for tax policy; Michael S. Barr, assistant secretary for financial institutions; and George W. Madison, general counsel. All are subject to Senate confirmation. Ms. Garrett is vice president for academic planning and budget at the University of Southern California and was a member of President George W. Bush's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, which issued its report in November 2005. She also serves as chair of the finance committee of the national governing board of Common Cause. Mr. Barr currently teaches Financial Institutions, International Finance, Transnational Law, and Jurisdiction and Choice of Law at the University of Michigan law school. He was a deputy assistant Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration. Mr. Madison is former executive vice president and general counsel of TIAA-CREF, the financial-services firm.

-Obamanomics Isn't About Big Government
The president's focus is on improving human capital.
Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?

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-From Antarctic base to Great Pyramids, lights dim worldwide for Earth Hour 2009
From an Antarctic research base and the Great Pyramids of Egypt to the Empire State Building in New York and the Sears Tower in Chicago, illuminated patches of the globe went dark Saturday for Earth Hour, a campaign to highlight the threat of climate change. Time zone by time zone, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries joined the event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund to dim nonessential lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The campaign began in Australia in 2007 and last year grew to 400 cities worldwide.,0,717975.story

Miami Herald
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-Paying higher taxes no fun -- but necessary
If you're rich and think nobody loves you anymore, meet Rep. John Boehner. He's the House minority leader from Ohio who is anchoring the opposition to President Barack Obama's proposed tax hikes on households making more than $250,000 a year.

Fort Report
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-No VacancyReading the tea leaves of the Supreme Court's retirement prospects.
By Dahlia Lithwick
Court watchers can't take their eyes off the Supreme Court right now, obsessively scrutinizing every judicial cough or comment for hidden evidence of illness or depression or looming retirement plans-in the manner of wild-eyed New Yorkers on the hunt for a rent-controlled apartment. Attention largely centers on Justice John Paul Stevens, who turns 89 in three weeks, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just turned 76, who recently underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer. Only two weeks ago, Ginsburg made headlines again when she told a Boston audience the justices haven't posed for a court photo featuring a new justice in a while, "but surely we will soon." Even more speculation is focused on Justice David Souter, 69, who famously pines for a return to his New Hampshire home. Souter claims to have the world's best job in the world's worst city, and in a very rare public appearance last month, he described the beginning of each court's term as the start of a "sort of annual intellectual lobotomy."


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