Thursday, August 5, 2010

McClatchy Washington report 8/5

  • The housing boom that helped fuel U.S. economic growth and employment from 2000 to 2007 was an unsustainable bubble, and when it burst it not only sent the economy into a tailspin, but also left the U.S. economy struggling to create jobs.
  • In a country whose young parliament is filled with warlords, suspected drug barons, one-time mujahedeen fighters and religious zealots, Izatullah Nasrat Yar can still make history. Yar has set out to become the first "enemy combatant" once held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay to become an elected Afghan lawmaker.
  • Many scientists say they're skeptical of a widely publicized government report Wednesday that concludes much of the oil that gushed from BP's leaking well is gone and poses little threat to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Lockheed Martin could be close to landing another foreign order for F-16s after the Defense Department notified Congress on Tuesday that the government of Oman requested permission to negotiate to buy 18 planes, weapons and other equipment worth about $3.5 billion. The Oman deal still faces several hurdles. Congress has 30 days to veto the proposed sale. If that does not occur, the U.S. government would extend a formal offer to sell planes to Oman. Once that offer is accepted, Oman and Lockheed would negotiate terms of a sale.
  • Within an hour after a federal judge declared that gay people in California have the right to marry, Wendy Rae Hill gathered her partner, two children and mother and headed to the Sacramento County clerk's office. Hill and Carrie Tedrick, who have been together for three years, hoped to officially tie the knot Wednesday. They left disappointed. The clerk told them and other gay couples who wanted to take advantage of a window of opportunity to get married that no certificates would be issued for at least a day or two.
  • In one of his first major initiatives since he took command of the international force in Afghanistan a month ago, Army Gen. David Petraeus has launched a public relations offensive to focus attention on the Taliban-led insurgency's killings and abuse of Afghan civilians.
  • The U.S. Senate might leave town this week without finishing up what Democrats had hoped would be a significant political achievement before the August recess: passing a multibillion-dollar swath of programs to help struggling small businesses. On its face, the legislation would pour billions into a slate of programs to help small business obtain federal microloans, government contracts and export assistance. But the bill also is part of the political wrangling that's going on in Washington ahead of fall's midterm elections.
  • California's State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to open an investigation into a tiny Missouri nonprofit organization that has pumped nearly $500,000 into a voter initiative to suspend the state's landmark climate change law.
  • Federal prosecutors in Kansas City on Wednesday claimed a first-in-the-nation indictment against people who supply information used to build fake credit histories. In the federal grand jury indictment returned Wednesday, two people were accused of conspiring in a large-scale scheme to help others buy expensive houses in Lee's Summit, Missouri, by using phony credit reports and stolen Social Security numbers.
  • BP said it would begin pouring cement into the Deepwater Horizon well today in a procedure that could lead to the permanent sealing of the well. National Incident Commander Thad Allen gave permission for the process after a day of monitoring the well indicated no problems from the successful "static kill" that used heavy drilling mud to drive the crude oil back into the rock formation from which it had surged 106 days earlier.
  • Fierce partisans on both sides of the immigration debate would do well to take a breather.
    Some of the harshest measures of Arizona's controversial immigration law have been halted by an injunction. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton forbade the state from requiring police officers to check the immigration status of those they stop or arrest. Thus begins what promises to be a protracted fight in federal courts.
  • The politics and consequences of the Shirley Sherrod video and the WikiLeaks' Afghan was documents were dramatically different, but the two affairs have enough in common to warrant seeing them as a single takeaway moment in contemporary media history. In both cases — the civil servant unjustly lifted from obscurity to serve as a partisan punching bag and the deluge of secrets shaking certainties about a war that has evaded domestic political challenge — the news agenda was shaped by new media players who were playing by rules of their own.

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