Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From Border Fences to Millionaire Candidates....

From American Progress:

Think Fast...

The Bush administration is scrapping a $20-million prototype of its "virtual" border fence along the Arizona-Mexico border "because the system is failing to adequately alert Border Patrol agents to illegal crossings. ... The move comes just two months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced his approval of the fence built by The Boeing Co."

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch "is moving to tighten his already-imposing grip on American news media, striking a tentative deal to buy his third New York-based paper, Newsday," for $580 million. The deal would put him in charge of three of the nation's 10 largest-circulation papers (including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post).

Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, said the resignation of Managing Editor Marcus Brauchli at the Wall Street Journal "has drawn concern among members who believed he helped keep some newsroom independence under the new News Corp. ownership." Yount said members see it as a "loss of 'a buffer who would maintain editorial independence.'"

Just months after leaving office, former Mississippi Republican senator Trent Lott is already cashing in as a lobbyist. "The firm he founded with former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) earned at least $945,000 during its first quarter in business, according to House filings." That number is likely to grow as the firm "continues to ink new contracts" as Lott and Breaux trade on the "valuable access" they earned as senators.

"The conflict in Darfur is deteriorating, with full deployment of a new peacekeeping force delayed until 2009 and no prospect of a political settlement," United Nations officials said yesterday. Estimates say perhaps 300,000 have died and some 4.27 million are "seriously affected by the conflict."

Italy's major electricity producer, Enel, is converting its massive power plant from oil to coal, "generally the dirtiest fuel on earth." European countries are expected to put into operation about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years. "[T]his plan is like barging into a war without having a plan for how it should be conducted," said NASA climatologist James Hansen.

This week, the CIA "is expected to begin briefing members of the Senate and House intelligence committees" on new information indicating that "North Korea was helping Syria build a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor before Israel bombed the site last September."

"A day after the Bush administration urged India to step up pressure on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his coming visit to New Delhi, India tartly said it did not need 'any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations,'" making clear that "no saber rattling from its friends in Washington would impair its relationship with a vital energy supplier."

And finally: Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the "millionaires' amendment" of the McCain–Feingold campaign finance law. Addressing whether his client had an advantage because he was wealthy enough to fund his own campaigns, the plaintiff's counsel, Andrew Herman, said, "[T]he public was not particularly interested in Mitt Romney, who spent a significant amount of money on his own behalf, and many other spectacular flameouts." After some laughter, Chief Justice John Roberts said, "I'm not sure we need characterizations of the political candidates."


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