Monday, March 15, 2010

McClatchy Washington Report 3/15

  • Capital is the oxygen that a small business needs to survive and thrive, yet across the country, the air's pretty thin, as business owners from coast to coast complain of huge hurdles to getting badly needed loans. Small businesses account for 65 percent of U.S. employment, so it's a serious matter that the credit is crunch squeezing these firms.
  • The two Afghan security personnel were killed gangland-style. They were shot in the head, their stomachs were riddled with bullets and their bodies were dumped by the side of the road. The grisly murders in Wardak, a province just west of Kabul that's largely dominated by the Taliban, offered a flash of insight into how the insurgents wield power in the parts of Afghanistan where they're strong, a picture that contradicts the pious image the militant Islamists try to project.
  • The looming vote for final passage of the historic health-care bill is the stiffest challenge House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn has faced in his three-plus years as the lawmaker responsible for counting heads and ensuring passage of major legislation. "I need 216 votes to pass this bill," Clyburn told McClatchy. "All I want is 216 votes."
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry insists that his sole political ambition is to serve the people of Texas for another four years, but his triumph over U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the March 2 Republican primary is propelling his name onto the list of potential Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential race. But the governor declines, a Perry spokesman said.
  • Partial election results released Sunday for all of Iraq's 18 provinces showed Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's coalition ahead of formidable rivals, both secular and religious, in a tight race that's complicated by a glacial vote-counting process and allegations of fraud.
  • In Florida, a proposed state bill would tie teachers' pay to student performance rather than to years of experience has many educators worried. The plan would eliminate "professional services" contracts — what some people informally call tenure — and tie half of teachers' pay to student performance. Florida would be the first in the nation to hinge so much of an educator's salary on student performance, and one of just a handful of states that do not award multiple-year contracts to teachers with classroom experience.
  • In a year when California Republicans believe they have a serious shot at defeating three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the three GOP candidates — Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell — downplayed the social planks that ordinarily would go a long way in winning support from the party's conservative base during the California Republican Party convention this weekend.
  • For more than a year, the Federal Reserve has been pumping $20 billion a week into the nation's mortgage market to make up for the lack of private investors willing to back home lending. But the Fed has vowed to stop its spree at the end of this month. And there's little chance its policymakers will change their minds when they meet on Tuesday.
  • Two weeks after the U.S.-led forces swiftly seized control of this long-standing insurgent stronghold, Taliban forces are posing a new threat by menacing, beating and even beheading local residents who cooperate with the emerging Afghan government, according to Afghan and American officials.
  • With some Alaska legislators fuming over the pace of in-state gas development and broadly supporting energy diversification, a special House committee summoned the promoters of six large Railbelt projects last week to explain themselves and whether they should be subsidized with public funds. With a gas pipeline a ways off, wind, hydro, volcano power are possible energy alternatives for Alaska.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent months imploring Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, vowing a profound commitment to a negotiated peace and pledging his support for a two-state solution.
    Still, many people don't believe him. It's no wonder. Under Netanyahu, Israel has made a habit of taking the kind of missteps that make people think it doesn't really want peace.
  • U.S. Rep. Eric Massa is the new king of the confessors. Say what you will about him, the man knows how to make a public apology.
    The public mea culpa has fallen on hard times since the days when Roman officers made amends by falling on their swords — literally. That phrase since has been used to describe an act of public atonement, such as a resignation, but hardly anyone does that anymore, either.

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