Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS - March 18, 2009

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New York Times
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-Outcry Builds in Washington for Recovery of A.I.G. Bonuses
The bonuses that the American International Group awarded last week were paid to 418 employees and included $33.6 million for 52 people who have left the failed insurance conglomerate, according to the office of the New York attorney general. The company paid the bonuses, including more than $1 million each to 73 people, to almost all of the employees in the financial products unit responsible for creating the exotic derivatives that caused A.I.G.'s near collapse and started the government rescue to avoid a global financial crisis.

-U.S. Weighs Taliban Strike Into Pakistan
President Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.

-Madoff's Accountant Is Charged With Securities Fraud
The accountant who provided auditing services to Bernard L. Madoff's investment advisory business for more than a decade, operating out of a tiny storefront office in Rockland County, was charged on Wednesday with securities fraud and aiding investment adviser fraud in connection with Mr. Madoff's vast Ponzi scheme.

-Still Broken
In last year's presidential election, as many as three million registered voters were not allowed to cast ballots and millions more chose not to because of extremely long lines and other frustrating obstacles. Ever since the 2000 election in Florida, the serious flaws in the voting system have been abundantly clear. More than eight years later, Congress must finally deliver on its promise of electoral reform.

-Obama's Real Test
When you hear a sitting U.S. senator call for bankers to commit suicide, you know that the anger level in the country is reaching a "Bonfire of the Vanities," get-out-the-pitchforks danger level. It is dangerous for so many reasons, but most of all because this real anger about A.I.G. could overwhelm the still really difficult but critically important things we must do in the next few weeks to defuse this financial crisis.

-NY: Report Shows Steep Gains by Students From Abroad
Days after it was criticized by lawmakers for failing to make gains with students struggling with English, the city's Department of Education released a report on Tuesday showing that unprecedented numbers of those students became proficient in English last year and that more of them passed state tests in English and math.\

Washington Post
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-US orders diplomats to leave Madagascar
The Associated Press
The State Department on Tuesday ordered all nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar and the families of all American personnel there to leave the country due to the uncertain security situation after the ouster of the Indian Ocean island's president.

-The Nationalization Option
By Harold Meyerson
You might think that having anted up $173 billion of our own money, we taxpayers would have some leverage at AIG, now that we own 80 percent of the shares. You might think that when chief executive Edward Liddy, a holdover appointee of Hank Paulson's, told Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that he had just mailed $165 million of our money as bonuses to the geniuses at the firm's financial products unit -- who probably did more on a per-banker basis to destroy global capitalism than any other kindred group -- that Geithner, upon hearing this news, would have responded, "Liddy, you're fired."

-Brake Lights on Iran
From Obama, a Mix of Caution and Confusion
By Michael Gerson
One of the snippiest arguments between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries concerned negotiations with Iran. Obama impulsively pledged his willingness to meet with the leaders of various outlaw regimes in his first year as president. Clinton countered, "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. . . . We're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be."

Wall Street Journal
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-Parliament's Fate Unclear Amid Kuwait Turmoil
DUBAI -- Kuwait's political system was again in turmoil Tuesday amid speculation that the country's emir would dissolve Parliament following the resignation of his cabinet the previous day. The government resigned Monday to prevent the questioning in Parliament of the country's prime minister, the nephew of Kuwait's emir, concerning a host of issues, including alleged mismanagement and land-use concerns. The government has resigned before to avoid similar questioning of the prime minister.

-Unionizing Fight Focuses on 3 States
The battle over a bill that would ease union organizing is zeroing in on lawmakers in three states -- Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Colorado. Business and labor are pressuring three key senators who are up for re-election in 2010, sparing little expense as they ratchet up television and radio ads, and recruit well-connected lobbyists.

-Kremlin Signals a Harder Line on Relations With the U.S.
MOSCOW -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev struck a Cold War tone on Tuesday, pledging to press ahead with an ambitious rearmament program in response to what he described as NATO's military expansion close to Russia's borders.

-North Korea Ejects Aid Groups
Associated Press
North Korea has rejected American food shipments and asked aid groups to leave the country by the end of the month, the United States and a leading aid agency said. The moves adds to mounting tension as Pyongyang plans a rocket launch that Washington sees as cover for a long-range missile test.

-In Defense of Tax Havens
If the government suddenly said you would incur more onerous and expensive tax regulations and reporting requirements if you moved your business to a low-tax state such as Texas or Florida from a high-tax state such as New York or California, you would be justifiably outraged. Now substitute Switzerland and Bermuda for Texas and Florida, and France and Germany for New York and California, and you'll understand a new form of "tax protectionism" that is infecting Washington.

Pew Research center
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-State of the News Media
2009 Report on American Journalism
In the last year, two important things happened that have effectively shortened the time left on the news industry's survival clock. A new report highlights some chilling numbers. Read more

The President's Approval Rating Slips Amid Division Over Economic Policies
Most think Barack Obama is doing as much as he can to fix the economy, but opinion is divided on many of his major programs. The popularity of GOP congressional leaders hits a record low. Iraq pullout applauded but views are split on Afghanistan buildup. Read more

-Faithful Finance
Losing Wealth, Finding God?
Is the falling economy raising attendance at religious services? Read moreChurch and Press
Religion in the News: 2008
Religion coverage clustered around big events such as the pope's visit and stories tended to fade quickly from the headlines. Read more

-Pew Interne Update Has Launched its New Website
The Pew Internet & American Life Project has updated its website, Be sure to give it a look. Read more

-Daily Number
21 of 24 - Out of Afghanistan
The Obama administration's plan to step up U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is unlikely to be welcomed in many of the world's nations; even in the U.S., only a small majority supports a troop buildup. Check back every weekday for another number in the news. Read more

Fort Report
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-Obama says he doesn't have luxury of taking on single problem at a time, defends budget plan
President Barack Obama on Tuesday brushed aside criticism that he's trying to take on too many issues at once, defending a $3.6 trillion budget that seeks to shore up the economy while also overhauling health care, energy and education.,0,3195442.story

-Just how bad off is the Republican Party (Part 2)?
A state-by-state look at the state of the Grand Old Party in the Age of Steele.
By Salon staff
As of press time, Tuesday evening, March 17, Michael Steele is still running the Republican National Committee. But tomorrow is another day, as Katon Dawson, I mean Scarlett O'Hara, once said. Perhaps Steele will be ushered offstage soon -- if, say, the GOP fails to win back Kirsten Gillibrand's old seat in New York's traditionally Republican 20th Congressional District on March 31. Perhaps Michael Steele will survive till 2010, and lead his party in a miraculous comeback in the midterms.

-AIG bonus flap may cost recipients
Lawmakers aim to place a huge levy on the money. The firm will pay $165 million and lose that amount in bailout funding.
By Jim Puzzanghera and Janet Hook
Reporting from Washington -- The government will deduct $165 million in proposed aid to bailed-out American International Group Inc. to recoup the cost of bonuses paid to employees of the giant insurer last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Tuesday. In a letter sent to congressional leaders, Geithner said he persuaded AIG Chief Executive Edward M. Liddy last week to scrap or cut hundreds of millions of dollars in future salaries and other compensation after determining that the bonuses already granted would be "legally difficult to prevent.",0,3230773.story

-In Letter to Kerry, Bernanke Warned of Fed's 'Limited Rights' in AIG Oversight
Fed chair Bernanke warned that the Fed did not monitor bonuses by the company
Just one day before the Obama administration expressed its disapproval of AIG's $165 million in bonuses, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned in a private letter to a key lawmaker that the Federal Reserve did not monitor bonuses by the company.

-Obama axes GOP in new budget push
By Walter Alarkon
President Obama ditched his bipartisan budget sales pitch Tuesday and went on the offense against his Republican critics. The move comes after the president felt substantial pushback from lawmakers in both parties who sharply attacked key elements in his $3.55 trillion proposal.

-Specter won't rule out run as an Independent
By Aaron Blake
Sen. Arlen Specter said Tuesday that he will not run for reelection in 2010 as a Democrat, but might run as an Independent. The Pennsylvania Republican has been under tremendous pressure from the GOP base since being one of just three Republicans to vote for the Democratic-led stimulus package last month.

-Troop deaths in Iraq
Poll: More view Afghan war as 'mistake'
By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
American support for the war in Afghanistan has ebbed to a new low, as attacks on U.S. troops and their allies have hit record levels and commanders are pleading for reinforcements, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

-Darfur aid crisis: As aid groups pull out, worries over humanitarian efforts mount
As aid groups are expelled, camps soon may lack resources
By Edmund Sanders
ZAM ZAM CAMP, Sudan-Feverish and dehydrated since fleeing to this overcrowded displacement camp last month, 2-year-old Manahel Abakar was supposed to be one of the beneficiaries of the International Criminal Court's effort to bring justice to Darfur. Instead she became one of its unintended casualties.,0,3892227.story

-Why Clean Coal Is Years Away
Coal is here to stay, but efforts to cut emissions are ambitious, expensive, and have largely stumbled
By Kent Garber
America runs on coal. It's cheap, plentiful (at least for another 100 years or so), and comfortingly domestic. Two hundred years ago, it powered the industrial revolution. Today, it spits out nearly half of the country's electricity.

-Obama Tries to Draw Up an Inclusive Energy Plan
After gasoline prices rose above $4 a gallon last summer, Republican cries of "drill, baby, drill" forced candidate Barack Obama into a rare retreat. Under pressure, he said he would support some expansion of offshore oil drilling, while still emphasizing conservation and renewable energy.


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