Saturday, April 04, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST - April 04, 2009

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

-Pitchforks and Pistols
Lately I've been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They're apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their "leaders" seem to be trying to mold them into militias.

-Mr. Obama and Turkey
President Obama has wisely decided to visit Turkey during his first official trip to Europe. The United States needs Turkey's cooperation - in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as with Iran and efforts to broker Middle East peace. But there are also very worrying trends in Turkey's relationship with Europe and its internal politics.

-Barack's Continental Coolness
If nothing else, the president's trip overseas helped resolve the longstanding question of who can be more irritating, the Republicans or the French. Before we pursue that thought any further, let's agree that the Obamas wowed them in Europe. We were expecting a good reception, given the fact that the previous administration set the bar so low that Barack was able to get hysterical applause just by telling a crowd of students that Americans don't believe in torturing people.

-Getting Fuel Economy Right
The Obama administration has before it a rare opportunity to establish an aggressive - and unified - national standard for automobile fuel economy that could save consumers money at the pump, reduce oil dependency and greenhouse gases and help make America's car companies (or what's left of them after the present restructuring) more competitive.

-A Blow to Workers' Rights
When Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, it gave older Americans a broad right to sue for discrimination. But the Supreme Court has narrowed that right with a 5-to-4 ruling that union members cannot file lawsuits when their contracts call for arbitration of age-discrimination claims. The decision, which reversed the court's precedents, sets back antidiscrimination law significantly.

-Can Obama Be a Majority of One?
By Robert Dallek
Perhaps the biggest surprise the Obama administration has faced in its first 100 days has not been the dismal state of the economy or the difficulties abroad with Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, but rather the grudging cooperation of the Democratic Congress.

-Financial Industry Paid Millions to Obama Aide
Lawrence H. Summers, the top economic adviser to President Obama, earned more than $5 million last year from the hedge fund D. E. Shaw and collected $2.7 million in speaking fees from Wall Street companies that received government bailout money, the White House disclosed Friday in releasing financial information about top officials.

-13 Shot Dead During a Class on Citizenship
A gunman invaded an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., during citizenship classes on Friday and shot 13 people to death and critically wounded 4 others before killing himself in a paroxysm of violence that turned a quiet civic setting into scenes of carnage and chaos.

-Rejecting Aid, One Governor Irks His Own
For a millionaire, Gov. Mark Sanford has a reputation for frugality that borders on the extreme. Former employees say he has been known to require his staff to use both sides of a Post-it note. When Mr. Sanford was a congressman, he slept on a futon in his office and returned his housing allowance. And when, after he moved into the Governor's Mansion here, tax collectors declared his family's home on Sullivan's Island a secondary residence subject to a higher tax rate, he appealed and won.

-Times Co. Said to Consider Closing Boston Globe
The New York Times Company has threatened to close The Boston Globe unless labor unions agree to concessions like pay cuts and the cessation of pension contributions, according to a person briefed on the talks.

Washington Post
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-Taking The Fight to The Cartels
By Josh Kussman and Brian C. Goebel
The Mexican government is in a fight to the death with powerful drug cartels, and the Obama administration's main focus appears to be preventing the violence from crossing our border. Yet allowing the cartels to win would be disastrous for the Mexican people and dangerous for the United States. U.S. strategy should be not just to bolster our borders but to help Mexico establish the rule of law and score a decisive victory against the cartels that both menace that country and threaten our own security and prosperity.

-Obama, Going Along to Get Along
By Jackson Diehl
Barack Obama has proved in the past few days that he can work smoothly and productively with a wide range of foreign leaders -- provided that he allows them to set the agenda.

-Government vs. the Axles of Evil
By George F. Will
The Constitution enumerates three requirements for those who would be president (they must be natural-born citizens, at least 35 and a resident within the country for 14 years) and now the government's thrashing about in the economy imposes a fourth: Presidents must be able to speak pluperfect nonsense with a straight face, lest the country understand what the government is doing. Obfuscation serves political salvation when what the government is doing includes promising that if Chrysler will sell itself to Fiat, U.S. taxpayers will lend that Italian firm $6 billion.

-New Words for War
President Obama tries out his own description of the 'global war on terrorism.'
SECRETARY OF STATE Hillary Rodham Clinton recently confirmed that the Obama administration has dropped the phrase "global war on terror." She didn't say why. "I think that speaks for itself. Obviously," was her elaboration. That raised a few obvious questions: Does the new administration believe the fight against al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamist groups doesn't amount to war? Is the threat to the U.S. homeland less, in President Obama's estimation, than that perceived by President George W. Bush? And does the United States still expect its NATO military allies to join in this newly unnamed, speaks-for-itself endeavor?

-Last Holdout Governor Will Now Accept Stimulus Money
By Philip Rucker
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford backed down yesterday from his standoff with the White House over stimulus funding, becoming the last governor in the nation to officially announce that his state will accept economic recovery aid.

-Tax-Haven Blacklist Stirs Nations
After G-20 Issues Mandate, Many Rush to Get Off Roll
By Anthony Faiola and Mary Jordan
LONDON April 3 -- One day after world leaders threatened tax havens with sanctions, a host of countries on a freshly published "list of shame" scrambled to get off it even as questions surfaced over China's maneuvers to exclude Hong Kong and Macau.

-Gates Planning Major Changes In Programs, Defense Budget
Proposal Said to Move Focus To Counterinsurgency Efforts
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Ellen Nakashima
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to announce on Monday the restructuring of several dozen major defense programs as part of the Obama administration's bid to shift military spending from preparations for large-scale war against traditional rivals to the counterinsurgency programs that Gates and others consider likely to dominate U.S. conflicts in coming decades.

Wall Street Journal

-World Waits on North Korea Missile Launch
By PETER SPEIGEL in Washington and EVAN RAMSTAD in Seoul
The first day of a five-day period set by North Korea to launch a rocket or missile passed Saturday with no action beyond a media statement from Pyongyang and a mistaken report from Japan that the rocket had been fired.

-NATO Boosts Afghanistan Presence
More Trainers, Police, but No Additional Combat Troops
Associated Press
STRASBOURG, France -- European leaders pledged at NATO's 60th-anniversary summit Saturday to send thousands of soldiers and police to train Afghanistan's army and secure its coming elections, but they shied far from matching America's pledge to dispatch a large number of new combat forces.

-Suspected U.S. Missile Attack Kills 13 in Pakistan
Associated Press
ISLAMABAD - A suspected U.S. drone fired at least one missile at a home in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing 13 people, intelligence officials and a resident said.

-For Governor, Aid Arrives Not a Moment Too Soon
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been trying to get the attention of Washington for years. She has it now, with the White House orchestrating a wide-ranging restructuring of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. Michigan is the state most deeply affected by the auto industry's overhaul, which is likely to involve plant closings, job cuts, lower wages and lost benefits. Even after waves of downsizing, Michigan has by far the highest number of auto jobs in the country, seven times more than No. 2 Ohio.

-Arrest of U.S. Reporters Adds to the Tension
North Korea Has Detailed Little About the Situation and Has Issued Only Two Brief Statements About the Women
By EVAN RAMSTAD in Seoul and GEOFFREY A. FOWLER in San Francisco The vagueness surrounding North Korea's recent arrests of two U.S. journalists on its border with China is a hallmark of Pyongyang's relationship with the world and a powerful tool for dictator Kim Jong Il's authoritarian regime.

Fort Report
Go to the links for the following articles:

-Reconciliation is a fighting word in Congress
By Wes Allison
Only in the partisan food fight that is Congress these days could the term reconciliation mean "I win, and you lose." As the House and Senate debated their $3.5 trillion budget outlines this week, the rhetoric over taxes, spending and congressional priorities was often overshadowed in the Capitol by talk of a little-known but powerful parliamentary tool that has absolutely nothing to do with getting along.

-Don't dog Blue Dog Democrats
There's trouble around the Democratic campfire. The party has the White House and solid congressional majorities. But what it doesn't have is everyone on the same page, strumming the same chords, singing the same tune.

-Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum
By Dave Zirin
Socialism's all the rage. "We Are All Socialists Now," Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we're already living in the USSA. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about the global economic crisis? In the March 23 issue, we published Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher Jr.'s "Rising to the Occasion" as the opening essay in a forum on "Reimagining Socialism." will feature new replies to their essay over the coming weeks, fostering what we hope will be a spirited dialogue. I'll never forget interviewing Lester "Red" Rodney, the 96-year-old former sports editor of the Communist Party's newspaper, the Daily Worker. Speaking about the Great Depression, Rodney said, "People who weren't around during the 1930s can't fully grasp what it was like politically. If you weren't some kind of radical or were considered brain-dead, and you probably were!"

-Why Are Democrats Undermining Obama's Diplomatic Plans for Iran?
The Congress members calling for the U.S. to set a time table for Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment program are missing the point.
Matthew Yglesias
Throughout a record-length presidential campaign, Barack Obama -- first in the primaries, and then in the general election -- stood firmly behind his view that the United States of America needs to make a serious effort at good-faith negotiations with Iran in order to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear activities and help stabilize the region. Now with the attempt to put that agenda in practice just barely beginning, efforts are already underway to quietly kill it. Consider a letter sent this weekend by a powerful group of House Democrats -- Steny Hoyer, Howard Berman, Ike Skelton, Silvestre Reyes, Henry Waxman, Gary Ackerman, and Robert Wexler. Any engagement, they argue, should come only with the agreement that Iran "must verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program within at most a few months of the initiation of the discussions."

-The Big Takeover
The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall
Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution
It's over - we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline - a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

-Obama's humble America
By Sam Youngman
President Obama used his first full day in the arena of heavyweight international diplomacy to reveal an ambitious agenda and a new American humility. Even as the events in London were marred by violent riots and protocol hiccups, Obama enjoyed a day of meetings with traditional rivals and longtime enemies, the productivity of which surprised even some White House officials.


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