Friday, April 2, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 4/2

  • As the bottom fell out of the housing market and complex mortgage-backed securities began tanking in 2007, a strange thing happened at Moody's Investors Service, one of the largest firms that rate bonds for the risks they pose to investors. Moody's blue-ribbon board of directors stopped receiving key information from an internal committee that was supposed to keep the board informed of risks to the company.
  • If Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's strategy for winning the eight-year-old war by regaining the trust of wary Afghans is going to be a success, the 150 stalls around the market in Marjah is one place where it must take root.In the weeks since the Marines seized control of Marjah from the Taliban, the Marines have focused on winning the goodwill of the merchants at the ragtag Koru market outside their Marine outpost.
  • When President Barack Obama comes to Charlotte today to tour Celgard, a battery-parts maker that has received $49 million in stimulus money, he's sure to tout how government money will put people to work. But figuring out how many jobs were actually created by the stimulus has proven difficult.
  • Oil consumption has fallen, demand from U.S. motorists for gasoline is flat at best and refiners that turn crude into fuel are operating well below capacity. Yet oil prices keep marching toward $90 a barrel, pushing gasoline toward $3 a gallon in many markets, and prompting American drivers to ask, "What gives?"
  • South Carolina's U.S. Rep. John Spratt said he has all but known for two years that he has Parkinson's disease. A day after making the disclosure, South Carolina's longest-serving congressman pledged to show his 5th District constituents that he isn't slowing down.
  • A growing number of Mexicans are receiving asylum in the United States, where until recently most Mexican immigrants had sought work permits. But the escalating drug war violence south of the border over the last four years has prompted immigration judges and federal asylum officers to approve more Mexican asylum petitions.
  • The Jamestown settlers? Socialists. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton? Ill-informed professors made up all that bunk about him advocating a strong central government. Theodore Roosevelt? Another socialist. Franklin D. Roosevelt? Not only did he not end the Great Depression, he also created it. Joe McCarthy? He was a hero. In articles and speeches, on radio and TV, conservatives are working to redefine major turning points and influential figures in American history.
  • The Alaska state House Judiciary Committee is challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law. The committee chair introduced a bill called the "Alaska Health Freedom Act" at the request of Palmer Republican Rep. Carl Gatto.
  • The preferred form of cruelty by drug cartel henchmen is to capture enemies and behead them, a once-shocking act that has now become numbingly routine in Mexico. Dozens of people have been decapitated in recent months, most of them apparently members of rival drug gangs locked in turf battles over narcotics routes, betrayals of loyalty and territorial influence.
  • It must have seemed like a great idea at the time. There was this new medium, the Internet, and newspapers were posting stories on it, and someone decided to create a forum where readers could discuss and debate what they just read. It must have seemed an inspiration kissed by the spirit of Jefferson: a free public space where each of us could have his or her say.
  • Employees of the embattled civil rights group ACORN did not break state laws but acted inappropriately in videotapes secretly made by conservative activists showing members of the group apparently giving advice on how to operate a prostitution ring, according to a just-concluded investigation by Attorney General Jerry Brown's office.
  • The federal government on Thursday issued rules that will eventually boost mileage, reduce fuel consumption by about a third and hasten the next generation of technology-loaded hybrids and electric cars.

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