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Norks Tried To Assassinate Defector In South Korea

Via Times of London:
North Korean spies disguised as refugees entered South Korea on a mission to assassinate their government’s most prominent defector, prosecutors in Seoul have said. The two military officers were allegedly ordered to murder Hwang Jang Yop, 87, a former senior member of the North Korean Workers’ Party who has become a hate figure since he defected to Seoul 13 years ago.
A real threat or politics? - Greg Pollowitz

Oops: Brits Amdit They Were Too Cautious Over Ash Cloud

Via Times of London:
The Transport Secretary today admitted that the Government had been “too cautious” in its decision to keep British airspace closed for six days, as criticism of the blanket flying ban increased. Speaking on BBC radio Lord Adonis said: “I think it’s fair to say that we have been too cautious. ‘We’ being the international safety regulators”. Britain was among the last European countries to lift flying restrictions as the first flight touched down at Heathrow just before 10pm last night. The airline industry lobbied strongly for an easing of controls since the weekend, citing evidence from test flights that showed aircrafts’ engines had not been damaged by the ash.
Well, if this is the case, I wonder what the White House has to say about it and their no show in Poland? - Greg Pollowitz

Why Calif. Is A Failed State: Legislature Debates Public’s Right To Refuse Delivery Of Phone Books

Via Top of the Ticket:
With minor issues like a $20 billion budget deficit still looming, a California legislative committee has taken a major progressive step forward on a far more important issue to protect the entire state’s precious environment. In a stunning 6-4 vote that drew remarkably little attention outside the committee room, the state Senate’s Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications has passed an almost pioneering measure that would allow California’s many millions of telephone subscribers to opt out of receiving annual telephone books, a right that many citizens may have thought they already possessed without legislative authorization. The bill was introduced by Sen. Leland Yee of the Bay area who is, of course, a Democrat. “At a time when Californians are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” Yee said, “we should give them that choice.” That choice had been taken away from citizens by previous legislators allegedly protecting said citizens by mandating phone book delivery to everyone.
It's for the trees! - Greg Pollowitz

Testimony By Paulson Official Could Undermine SEC Case Vs. Goldman

The government has testimony from a Paulson & Co. official that could contradict its own claims against Goldman Sachs, CNBC has learned. Paolo Pellegrini told the government that he informed ACA Management that Paulson intended to bet against, or short, a portfolio of mortgages ACA was assembling. If true, the testimony would go directly against government claims that ACA did not know Paulson was hoping the collateralized debt obligations would fail, and subvert charges that Goldman [GS 162.20 2.22 (+1.39%) ] breached its duty by not informing ACA of Paulson’s position. CNBC has examined documents in which a government official asked Pellegrini whether he informed ACA CDO manager Laura Schwartz about Paulson’s position.
About to go, "poof?" - Greg Pollowitz

GM Pays Back Loan, But Taxpayers Still Owed $50B Or So

Via AP:
DETROIT — General Motors Co.’s CEO said yesterday that the automaker has repaid the $8.1 billion in loans it received from the US and Canadian governments, a sign that a plan to rebuild the company is working. GM got a total of $52 billion from the US government and $9.5 billion from the Canadian and Ontario governments as it went through bankruptcy protection last year. The United States considered as a loan $6.7 billion of the aid, while the Canadian governments held $1.4 billion in loans.
I have to believe this is more marketing/election year gimmick than a sign that GM has righted its ship. - Greg Pollowitz

Great News: Obama Tells Scott Brown Immigration Overhaul In One Month

Via Wall Street Journal:
President Barack Obama called Massachusetts’ new Republican senator, Scott Brown, from Air Force One today to deliver some news: Democrats are moving forward with an immigration overhaul in a month. Brown, in an interview with the Journal’s Neil King Jr., said the president was giving him a heads-up that immigration was coming down the pike and he should give it some serious thought. The senator promised to look closely at the bipartisan bill that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) are trying to produce. “He called me originally about illegal immigration, something that he wanted me to look at that was coming down the pike,” Brown says of the call, which also roamed onto other topics like basketball and financial regulation. “I told him and others that I will read anything and make a judgment when it comes forth.” Alluding to the issue a few minutes later, Brown clarified what he told Obama. “When I said I have an open mind, it means I have an open mind to read the bill,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I will vote for granting amnesty to anyone. But I want to be respectful to the president and to any member who brings me a proposal.”
This will go well. . . - Greg Pollowitz

D.C. City Council Approves Medical Pot

Via Washington Post:
The D.C. Council unanimously approved a bill Tuesday to allow chronically ill patients to receive a doctor’s prescription to use marijuana and buy it from a city-sanctioned distribution center. Under the bill, which passed without debate, a patient who suffers from HIV, glaucoma, cancer or a “chronic and lasting disease” may receive a doctor’s recommendation to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana in a 30-day period. The patient would not be allowed to grow their own marijuana, but between five and eight pot distribution centers would be established in the city.
I guess D.C. is hoping if everyone is stoned during the next blizzard, residents won't realize that the city is too incompetent to plow the roads. - Greg Pollowitz

‘Kumar’ Robbed At Gunpoint In D.C.

Via Fox News:
Kal Penn — aka Kumar from that “White Castle” movie — was robbed at gunpoint early this morning while walking in a neighborhood in Washington D.C., TMZ has learned. Law enforcement sources tell TMZ Penn claims a man carrying a gun approached him around 1:20 AM and took his wallet and other personal property. We’re told Penn immediately reported the incident to authorities, who have launched an investigation into the matter.
Must have been a tea partier targeting the Obama administration, right? - Greg Pollowitz

Ten U.S. Cities In Free Fall

Via Forbes:
. . .Cities in the “Sand States” of Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada, where overbuilding was rampant, are also in trouble, claiming nine of the top 10 spots in our list of cities in free fall. In Las Vegas, Riverside, Calif., and Phoenix, median home prices have fallen 50%, 44% and 37% from their respective peaks. Jobs are vanishing. Though country-wide, employers added 162,00 jobs last month, Riverside gained 13% fewer jobs in February 2010 (the latest numbers available by metro) than it did the same month three years earlier. Tampa, Fla., saw a 10% drop, and Los Angeles added 9% fewer jobs over the same time period.
Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville are all on the list and pundits wonder why voters in Florida are angry? - Greg Pollowitz

McCain Won’t Support An Indpendent Crist

Via The Hill:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he will not support Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in his Senate race if he runs as an Independent. Crist, who helped McCain win Florida in the 2008 presidential GOP primary, has recently indicated he is mulling an Independent bid. McCain has backed Crist, but made it clear Tuesday that his endorsement will not stand if Crist is not the Republican candidate. Asked if he will support Crist as an Independent, McCain told The Hill, “No.” Pressed further, McCain said, “I support Republicans.”
We shall see. - Greg Pollowitz

Interesting SCOTUS Decision: 8-1, With Alito Dissenting

Via New York Times:
WASHINGTON — In a major and muscular First Amendment ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a federal law that made it a crime to create or sell dogfight videos and other depictions of animal cruelty. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the 8-to-1 decision, said the law created “a criminal prohibition of alarming breadth” and that the government’s aggressive defense of the law was “startling and dangerous.” The decision left open the possibility that Congress could enact a narrower law that would pass constitutional muster. But the existing law, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, covered too much speech that depicted lawful activities.
I leave this to the Bench Memo guys. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Panic: Pennsylvania Turning Red

Via Rasmussen Reports:
State Attorney General Tom Corbett earns nearly 50% support again this month in Pennsylvania’s race for governor, while only one of his Democratic opponents seems to be gaining any traction. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the Keystone State finds Corbett with 45% to 49% of the vote depending on his opponent, but this marks no change from last month. In February, his best showing to date, the Republican picked up over 50% support in two of the three match-ups.
It's those bitter, gun-clingers no doubt. - Greg Pollowitz

Science: Team Building Exercises Don’t Help Groups Bond

Via Telegraph:
Team building activities are a waste of time and do nothing to help groups bond, according to a new study. Researchers found that such routines were carried out for their own sake with no evidence that they improved team coherence. Surveys of 100 people who played team sports showed that there was no link between how often they carried out such activities and the binds that they felt to their group. The findings suggest that popular workplace team building strategies, which include such activities as walking over hot coals or playing paintball, are of little or no value. Dr Moira Lafferty, from the University of Chester, who led the study with colleagues from Liverpool Hope University, said: “Our findings suggest that, despite there being no positive relationship to team cohesion, team building activities … are still conducted. “
And workers around the world rejoice at these findings. - Greg Pollowitz

Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez To Obama: Push Immigration Reform Or I Tell Latinos Not To Vote In Nov.

Via The Hill:
A congressman from the president’s home state is threatening that he will urge Latino voters to stay home this November if the Democratic Party does not make a concerted effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.) is arguably President Barack Obama’s biggest Democratic critic in Congress. And he’s not fond of Obama’s top advisers at the White House, either. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) member has strongly criticized the administration’s policy on deportation and questioned its commitment to far-reaching reform.
I'll believe the threat when I see it, however. - Greg Pollowitz

Austan Goolsbee Describes Derivatives: It’s Kind Of Like A Coupon For A Free Taco

Via Politico:
. . .Start with Goolsbee’s tacos. Derivatives are financial contracts that derive their value from some other factor. Asked by POLITICO how he’d explain them to a layperson, Goolsbee said it’s like betting on an NBA game. You could bet on the final score, or you could take a coupon from Taco Bell offering a free taco if the home team scores more than 100 points. “That offer is a derivative,” Goolsbee said — a financial bet that pays off only if some external event comes true. “And you can trade that, because it has value,” said Goolsbee, who had a knack as a professor at the University of Chicago for breaking down finance-speak into plain English. At stake in the current debate is how many derivatives — which are private, undisclosed deals — should be forced onto public exchanges, where regulators can see which banks have a hand in which deals. That was one of the reasons why the Crash of ’08 was so severe — no one knew exactly who owed what to whom in the $450 trillion derivatives market, and that froze the entire financial system.
I love how the members of Congress admit they're about to regulate that which they don't understand. This should make for some great legislation, no? - Greg Pollowitz

It’s A Gateway Spice: FDA Wants To Regulate Salt

Via Washington Post:
The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products. The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.
They can take my salt shaker from my cold, dead hand! - Greg Pollowitz

Carl Levin Staffer: ‘Another Big Shoe To Drop On Goldman’

Via Newsweek:
Washington is suddenly looking very unkind to the firm that used to be known as “Government Sachs.” Now the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, is planning to focus hearings scheduled for next week at least in part on Goldman Sachs’s role in the financial disaster. Levin’s staff has uncovered new documents “that link certain actions to specific people” at Goldman, according to a senior legislative official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official would not divulge the nature of the allegation but said that Levin believes it amounts to “another big shoe to drop on Goldman.” Spokespeople for Levin said they were not prepared to discuss the nature of the probe, but his committee has been conducting several weeks of hearings and one is planned for April 27 on “the role of the investment banks.” “We expect to have some information tomorrow,” spokesman Bryan Thomas said Monday.
More to come. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Panic: Republicans Up Big In Indiana Senate Race

Via Rasmussen Reports:
As for the candidates, the latest poll finds former Senator Dan Coats with 54% support, up five points from last month. In that match-up, 33% of voters prefer Ellsworth. Five percent (5%) like another candidate, and nine percent (9%) are undecided. If Hostettler, a former congressman, is the Republican candidate, he picks up 50% of voters. Against Hostettler, Ellsworth earns 33% of the vote. Five percent (5%) prefer someone else in the race, and 12% are undecided. The third GOP hopeful, State Senator Marlin Stutzman, gets 41% support again this month, and Ellsworth earns 36% of the vote. Seven percent (7%) favor another candidate. Sixteen percent (16%) are undecided.
Don't jinx it people. . . - Greg Pollowitz

So Sad: Top al-Qaeda In Iraq Leaders Killed In Raid

Via Washington Post:
BAGHDAD — The two leaders of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq have been killed in an air strike carried out by American troops, Iraqi and U.S. officials announced Monday. The deaths of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of an umbrella group that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq, should disrupt insurgent attacks inside the country, officials said. Their slayings could also provide Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with a decisive political boost at a critical time.
Please pick up your virgins from the nearest courtesy desk. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Panic: Voters Divided On Second Term For Obama

Via Gallup:
PRINCETON, NJ — Registered voters are about evenly divided over whether President Barack Obama is deserving of a second term in office. Currently, 46% say he deserves re-election and 50% say he does not. Predictably, Democrats are one-sided for Obama’s re-election and Republicans are one-sided against it, while independents lean against a second Obama term. The 46% who say Obama deserves re-election is similar to his recent job approval ratings, which have been running just under 50%. The current results also echo what Gallup found recently when it asked voters whether they would be more likely to vote for Obama or the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Gallup has asked the public whether other recent presidents deserved re-election, and the results suggest that the question is not highly predictive this far out from a president’s re-election bid. For example, in late April/early May 2002, 69% of registered voters said George W. Bush deserved re-election. At that time, Bush’s job approval rating was 77% as he was still enjoying the post-9/11 rally. Bush did win re-election in 2004, although in a close contest with John Kerry.
Fingers crossed. - Greg Pollowitz


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