Friday, March 12, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 3/12

  • The sour economy is producing a bumper crop of cash-strapped consumers, business owners and shady agents who're fueling a wave of insurance fraud that's keeping regulators and law enforcement officials busy from coast to coast.
  • One piece of the American effort to find a way to make solar energy cheap enough that everyone will want it is unfolding in a modest redbrick building in this Midwestern city once known as one of the nation's top makers of glass.
  • Twin blasts rocked Lahore on Friday, hitting the high-security cantonment district, killing at least 39 people. Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at up to 50. Over 95 people were injured. The attacks, close to each other, struck a busy market inside the cantonment, home of the local army garrison, near a bus stop and a mosque.
  • As the White House reconsiders the decision to prosecute the five alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in civilian court, the likely change of course seems designed to protect vulnerable Democrats in Congress more than it is to improve the chances for conviction.
  • More than a year after President George W. Bush left the White House, some people are getting a little sentimental about him. Several weeks ago, a billboard popped up in Minnesota featuring a cheery picture of Bush smiling and waving, next to the phrase "Miss me yet?" Now T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and other items featuring the same photo and phrase are selling on the Internet at a steady clip.
  • The S.C. House will not have to tighten the belt on state spending quite so much when legislators begin debating the budget next week. Congress is poised to approve $200 million more in state aid, which would reverse some proposed cuts in the $5.1 billion budget plan. And state revenues — which have been in free fall for two years — are stabilizing.
  • On the morning of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, men and women all over the country decided to join the military. What Michael Steer decided that day probably saved the lives of some of them. Steer, an N.C. State professor of electrical and computer engineering, and a naturalized citizen from Australia, was meeting with Army researchers when the attack came. He says he immediately knew that he wanted to fight terrorism by drawing on his years of research on the interactions between energy fields and electronic devices.
  • The European Parliament voted Thursday to condemn Cuba by a crushing margin over a hunger striker's death, and Spain's ruling Socialists later hinted they might trim back their bid to improve European ties with Havana.
  • In the 19th century, Kentucky convicted at least 58 people for "seducing or enticing slaves to leave their lawful owners." Now, several Kentuckians are working to clear the names of those whose "crimes" today would be recognized as among mankind's finest acts.
  • Sacramento officials Thursday night presented a plan to cap the number of marijuana dispensaries in the city at a dozen and impose strict requirements for their operations. But representatives for marijuana patients and many of the city's 39 registered dispensaries threatened lawsuits. They charged the plan would shutter tax-producing businesses and deny care to hundreds of cannabis patients.
  • California State University authorities are nudging students — often called "super seniors" — to graduate and make room in the cash-strapped system. The 23-campus CSU has clamped down on admissions as it works to reduce enrollment by 40,000 students over two years.
  • We've seen this movie many times. So there is little that is surprising about the Republican National Committee fundraising document recently reported by Politico, the one that offers strategies to get donors to part with their money. Donors can, it says, be persuaded to give by appealing to their egos, by offering them tchotchkes or by promising them access. And some, the small donors, the $5- and $10-Janes and Joes, can be persuaded if you play to their fears.
    The sole surprise is that someone actually wrote it down as a PowerPoint presentation and was absent-minded enough to leave a hard copy in a hotel.

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