Monday, February 22, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 2/22

  • A recent war game conducted at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, part of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, provided some insight into just how dangerous an attack to thwart Iran's nuclear program could be. In the game, Israel successfully knocked out six of Iran's nuclear sites, but Iran's retaliation set off a chain of events that forced a massive U.S. military move in the Persian Gulf. The lesson: even a "successful" strike would likely come at tremendous cost.
  • One day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an impassioned plea for American-led forces to do more to avoid killing civilians in their fight against the Taliban, a NATO air strike killed as many as 33 civilians in southern Afghanistan, Afghan and U.S. officials said Monday. NATO forces thought the convoy was carrying Taliban fighters preparing to attack coalition soldiers.
  • More than four years after it became modern America's largest disaster, New Orleans is a city of contrasts that serves as a living lesson of do's-and-don'ts to its distant and shattered Creole cousin of Port-au-Prince: rebuilding is slow, painful, expensive, dynamic — and a marvel for those who stay.
  • If all politics are local, don't tell that to Jimmy Higdon. Higdon, a Republican from Kentucky, won a state Senate seat in December in a largely Democratic district with an unlikely strategy: He nationalized his race, warning of one-party rule by featuring Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's pictures in his television advertisements and campaign literature. Higdon, who was outspent by a 4-to-1 margin in the race, is happy that she's so unpopular.
  • In an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," the top commander for Iraq and Afghanistan says interrogations that conform to the Army Field Manual avoid possile abuses that serve only to recruit more forces for the enemy and that the memory of such incidents never goes away. He said he continued to support closing Guantanamo in a "pragmatic and sensible manner."
  • Not long after Erskine Bowles left Washington to return to North Carolina, the U.S. government's budget was in the black by $236 billion and there was a projected surplus for the next 10 years. More than a decade later, the budget proposed by President Barack Obama includes a $1.6 trillion deficit, adding to the $12.3 trillion debt. Bowles, now nearing the end of his tenure as president of the University of North Carolina system, has been asked to come back to Washington to see what he can do about the sea of red ink.
  • Alaskans may have lost their title as the No. 1 per capita recipients of earmarks, but it doesn't mean the federal spigot has run dry for the state that made the so-called "bridge to nowhere" a buzzword for wasteful spending.
  • The rare political unity that grew out of Haiti's Jan. 12th earthquake is beginning to fray amid calls by government opponents for change. Triggering the debate is not just lawmakers feeling that they have been excluded from the decision-making, but growing complaints over the government and the international community's handling of the crisis as they both continue to struggle to shelter more than 1.2 million people left homeless by the Jan. 12 quake.
  • Nearly $300 million has poured into five Sacramento-area districts since President Barack Obama authorized $100 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the nation's schools last year. Federal officials knew that districts strapped for funds because of declining state aid would use some of the stimulus money to plug budget gaps. But they'd hoped the money also would be used to start new programs that are innovative and reform education. However, an analysis by the Sacramento Bee finds that most local districts used their federal stimulus money to pay for keeping teachers and basic programs.
  • The stacked Canadian team, burdened with the gold-medal expectations of the entire country, was up against the carefree, inexperienced U.S. squad on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid. The game lived up to the hype in the most anticipated event of these Games so far.
  • With the public option shelved and the hysteria over nonexistent "death panels" exhausted, opponents of health care reform have zeroed in on the notion that everyone must buy insurance. Sandy Praeger is one Republican who refuses to join the opposition. The individual insurance mandate, she noted, began as a Republican idea. Some of the GOP senators who are driving the opposition supported it during the Clinton administration.

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