Wednesday, May 19, 2010

FP morning brief 5/19

  • BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded last month in the Gulf of Mexico, hasn't publicly divulged the results of tests on the extent of workers' exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.
  • Highway robbers and railway bandits are riding high in Mexico, pulling off brazen daylight heists and inflicting serious damage on the national economy. Train robberies occur an average of 4.5 times a day, and parts of Mexico are so rife with truck hijackings that one newspaper labeled them "Bermuda Triangles," referring to the Atlantic Ocean region where ships and planes supposedly have vanished.
  • Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., wants the government to finish building the 700-mile fence between the U.S. and Mexico. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants to end the health insurance industry's antitrust protection. West Virginia's two senators want help with mine and oil rig safety.
  • Five Army generals promised a thorough investigation Tuesday into complaints that National Guard troops returning from Iraq got second-class treatment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to make way for the base's active-duty brigades coming home from war this summer.
  • Republican Rand Paul, a Tea Party-backed political newcomer, soundly defeated the GOP establishment candidate in Kentucky's Senate primary Tuesday. The outcome was not only a measure of the Tea Party's growing influence in the Republican party, but also a referendum on party leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • South Carolina's seven gubernatorial candidates met for a family-values-themed debate Tuesday as the campaign entered its final three weeks. The Republican half of the twin 30-minute debates started with sparks based on state Rep. Nikki Haley of Lexington's first gubernatorial ad hitting the air Tuesday. In it, Haley criticized one opponent for voting in favor of the federal bank bailout. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer was also pressed on his claims of ending "generational welfare."
  • Fourteen intelligence failures led to last year's Christmas Day bombing attempt on a Northwest Airlines jet bound for Detroit, according to a Senate report released Tuesday.
  • As Haiti seeks to rebuild following the Jan. 12 earthquake, so too does the country's challenging mango industry. One of the few bright spots even before the 7.0-magnitude quake, mangoes and the peasants who grow them have become key in helping put revenue back in this quake-shattered economy.
  • If you're planning to put some shrimp on the barbie on Memorial Day weekend, better stock up now. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday it's nearly tripling the amount of waters in the Gulf of Mexico that are closed to fishing because of a massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. That'll mean a shortage of domestic shrimp over the next month, predict those in the seafood business.
  • CalPERS is on the verge of imposing a $600 million rate hike on the state, intensifying the political debate over the size of state employee pensions and their cost to taxpayers. The increased contribution would put additional pressure on a state budget that's already facing a $19.1 billion deficit.
  • Here in the U.S., our two-party system is built to stall. Gerrymandering and the campaign finance system only harden the divide. And Americans, more than Europeans, tend to surround themselves with people who think the way they do, in their neighborhoods and social structures. Throw in websites and cable news networks that cater to the extremes and you have a polarized society.
  • When the political climate changes, things that were once routinely acceptable suddenly seem intolerable. On the subject of government spending, the climate has shifted decisively. The problem is that normally, the political incentives run the wrong way. Politicians who are big spenders tend to be rewarded with campaign money and support, while budget cutters tend to draw opposition and risk losing their jobs.

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