Super Sunday! Bread and circuses and suicide bombings!

The Taliban conduct a night ambush against U.S. troops on January 24. A commenter on this YouTube video wrote: “holy cow, tracer rounds are so cool!” Yeah, really cool.

What a Sunday in sports and terror: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer fought to the death in a Grand Slam final, and so did the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. Best Super Bowl I’ve ever seen. Best display of tennis skills I’ve ever seen.

Now that those matches are over, let the real games begin.

Sorry, Cardinal fans, but the worst news Sunday was the latest fight to the death in Afghanistan — yet another suicide bombing by the Taliban:

A man wrapped in explosives walked into a compound filled with Afghan police officers Monday morning and detonated his payload, killing 21 officers and himself, the Interior Ministry said.

The attacker struck in Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province, a mountainous area where the government’s authority is being contested by the Taliban. Oruzgan is the birthplace of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban movement.

This is ominous news, and not because of the location. Here’s some context missing from the New York Times story quoted above. The BBC (yes, it uses a different spelling for the Taliban) explains:

The Taleban have changed tactics since facing foreign troops in open battles two years ago, says the BBC’s Ian Pannell in Kabul.

The tactics of insurgents in Iraq are being duplicated, with more suicide bombings, roadside bombs and hit-and-run ambushes, our correspondent says.

Just another reason to rue the Bush regime’s unjustified invasion of Iraq. Taliban fanatics were able to hone their killing skills by adopting a strategy perfected by other fanatics in Iraq. Once again, we’re reminded of George W. Bush‘s most enduring legacy, his accidentally truth-telling words from 2004:

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

One could argue that the scary increase in suicide bombings in Afghanistan probably wouldn’t be happening if not for the Bush-Cheney regime’s vital contribution of spreading the “war on terror” to Iraq and thus giving fanatics the chance to think of new ways to commit suicide/homicide.

Meanwhile, in other business…


N.Y. Times: ‘Afghan Suicide Bomber Kills 18’

N.Y. Times: ‘Bailouts for Bunglers’ (Paul Krugman)

Question: what happens if you lose vast amounts of other people’s money? Answer: you get a big gift from the federal government — but the president says some very harsh things about you before forking over the cash.

Am I being unfair? I hope so. But right now that’s what seems to be happening.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the Obama administration’s plan to support jobs and output with a large, temporary rise in federal spending, which is very much the right thing to do. I’m talking, instead, about the administration’s plans for a banking system rescue — plans that are shaping up as a classic exercise in “lemon socialism”: taxpayers bear the cost if things go wrong, but stockholders and executives get the benefits if things go right.

When I read recent remarks on financial policy by top Obama administration officials, I feel as if I’ve entered a time warp — as if it’s still 2005, Alan Greenspan is still the Maestro, and bankers are still heroes of capitalism.


N.Y. Times: ‘A Month Free? Rents Are Falling Fast’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Firms Getting U.S. Aid
Face Strict Pay Curbs’

The White House is expected to impose tougher restrictions on executive compensation at firms that get substantial government aid, as part of an effort to improve public perception of the $700 billion financial bailout.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘No joke — I’ll fire 23,000, Mike warns’

Digital Journalist: ‘”Dr. Strangelove and President Bush’

N.Y. Times: ‘Gaza Notebook: The Bullets in My In-Box’ (Ethan Bronner)

NewsBusters: ‘Robert Gibbs, Reporters Laugh Off Fairness Doctrine Question’ [SEE TRANSCRIPT or VIDEO]


President Obama watched last night’s Super Bowl with a few political pals – and a couple of foes.

Obama, a Steeler fan, had 11 Democrats and four Republicans over — including Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, who once warned electing Obama would spark “dancing in the streets among the terrorists of the world.”

N.Y. Times: ‘Herbert Hoover Lives’ (Frank Rich)

Here’s a bottom line to keep you up at night: The economy is falling faster than Washington can get moving. President Obama says his stimulus plan will save or create four million jobs in two years. In the last four months of 2008 alone, employment fell by 1.9 million. Do the math….

What are Americans still buying? Big Macs, Campbell’s soup, Hershey’s chocolate and Spam — the four food groups of the apocalypse.

N.Y. Times: ‘Welfare Aid Not Growing as Economy Drops Off’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Recession Gives Cobblers New Traction’

The shoe-repair industry has been given a new lease on life as Americans opt to repair shoes rather than replace them.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Brilliant student, pal cut down in stolen car crash’

N.Y. Times: ‘Risks Are Vast in Revaluation of Assets’

As the Obama administration prepares its strategy to rescue the nation’s banks by buying or guaranteeing troubled assets on their books, it confronts one central problem: How should they be valued?

Not just billions, but hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are at stake.

N.Y. Times: ‘Israeli, Palestinian Attacks Batter Gaza Ceasefire’


Just when it started to look as if The New York Times Co. had found a way to dig itself out from under its massive debt load, the beleaguered newspaper company may be on the verge of getting knocked down again.

The cash-strapped publisher last week reported that its pension plan was facing a $625 million shortfall at the end of 2008, compared with a deficit of $48 million a year earlier….

More than $1 billion in debt is looming over the ad-starved company, which was forced to get a $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim at a steep 14 percent interest rate, to put its stake in the Boston Red Sox up for sale and to negotiate the sale of part of its brand-new Eighth Avenue headquarters.

Now, the company is getting socked again by the financial crisis and subsequent market turmoil as it wreaks havoc on its pension plan. To be sure, the Times doesn’t owe billions in retirement benefits like the Big Three automakers, but it’s one of hundreds of US companies suffering from a severe pension squeeze.

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Promises Review Board for Bailout Program’


Last week was a painful one for magazines, as Condé Nast decided to shutter Domino and Readers Digest‘s parent laid off a chunk of its staff. While advertising pages are down across the board, there are a number of mags that are fighting for their survival.

N.Y. Times: ‘Oil Below $41 as US Crude Workers May Strike’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Super Bowl XLIII is no quick fix for the economy’ (Mike Lupica)

N.Y. Times: ‘Spinach and Peanuts, With a Dash of Radiation’


N.Y. Times: ‘Justice Dept. Under Obama Is Preparing for Doctrinal Shift in Policies of Bush Years’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘More than 100 killed in Kenya oil tanker explosion’

N.Y. Times: ‘Rising Acidity Is Threatening Food Web of Oceans, Science Panel Says’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Now Hiring: Lehman’

Lehman has become a hot source of work for finance professionals needed for the process of dissolving the firm.


A group of angry Bank of America shareholders plans to demand that Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis get the boot at the bank’s upcoming annual meeting.

N.Y. Times: ‘Phelps Apologizes for Marijuana Pipe Photo’

The Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps quickly acknowledged his poor judgment after a photograph showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe was published Sunday in a British newspaper. Although his admission is unlikely to effect his swimming eligibility, it could affect the millions of dollars he has secured in endorsement deals….

Since his record-breaking performance in Beijing, Phelps has added Kellogg’s, Mazda and Subway, among others, to an endorsement portfolio that already included Visa and AT&T. In a 60 Minutes interview that aired in December, Phelps’s agent…said that Phelps could earn more than $100 million over his lifetime.

IPS: ‘MEDIA-US: Gaza Coverage Echoed Govt Support of Israel’

<New Times (Phoenix): ‘Senator Shocks Press: “%$#@ Like A Beast!”‘

New Times (Phoenix): ‘Leapin’ Lizards’

Vos Iz Neias?: ‘Assemblyman Hikind: More Victims Coming Forward In Former Russian Principal Case’

On his weekly radio show this just-past Motzoei Shabbos, Assemblyman Dov Hikind revealed that according to his information, [confirmed by VIN News] another victim has come forward with allegations that he was abused by the disgraced former principal of Elite High School of Brooklyn.

On the show, Mr. Hikind also discussed the accused principal’s admission of guilt.

Most significantly, Hikind announced a major yom tefilah to be held on March 1, 2009 in front of the Borough Park “Y” on 48th Street to demonstrate a communal request for forgiveness from Hashem for not doing enough to protect our children from, and inform our community of, heinous crimes that have been occurring over the past decades in which we turned a blind eye to abuse victims.

Mr. Hikind said that he would continue his crusade, and said “those who are upset with what I do, I ask them: ‘Take over what I do.’ I even offered one of the biggest Chasidic institutions many months ago, when they were upset at my work, to take over–and I never heard back from them.”

‘The Madoff Scandal and the Future of American Jewry’

From the conservative, Jewish-establishment magazine Commentary:

…Perhaps this will set off a war of scarcity between Jewish groups fighting over the money of those who are still giving, but the initial indications are that cooperation may prevail over chaos.

Representatives of thirty-five of the largest Jewish foundations in the country met in New York on December 23, 2008, to coordinate their responses to the crisis and agreed to offer millions of dollars in loans to not-for-profits victimized by Madoff–a heartening display of a community banding together in a time of crisis.

But the real problem facing specifically Jewish charitable organizations is not a scarcity of dollars to be spread among rival Jewish causes, but rather competition from secular groups that have also been injured by the economic crisis.

An assimilated Jewish donor who feels the charitable impulse but has fewer dollars to contribute might feel a greater sense of affinity and cause with an environmentalist group or an arts organization, and focus his reduced power on them instead. Just as the openness of American society has made it less likely for Jews to marry other Jews, so, too, it is less likely that Jews will give primarily to Jewish causes….

The long-term threat for Jewish philanthropy, then, isn’t Bernard Madoff but rather the overall threat facing the larger Jewish community in the United States–what came to be known, nearly two decades ago, as the “continuity crisis.”

When the 1990 National Jewish Population Study reported alarming rates of intermarriage, numbers that offered the terrifying prospect of the eventual withering away of the Jewish population in the United States, a debate began in the organized Jewish world about how to address the approaching demographic disaster.

Art Observed: ‘Brandeis University considers closing Rose Museum due to losses from Madoff investments’

CBS: ‘Double Trouble for Madoffs?: Brother Of Bernard Made Florida Real Estate Moves That Raise Questions About How Much Family Knew’

Peter Madoff‘s role in the scam, if any, remains unclear. But timing of the homestead exemption requests raises questions as to who knew what and when….

CBS News has learned that [Bernard] Madoff and his brother, along with their wives, took steps two years ago — around the time that federal regulators started probing Madoff’s business activities — that could help prevent their Florida homes from being taken away from them, something possible under Florida state law.

“Florida has very unique laws and has been described by some as a debtor’s haven,” said John Pankauski, a Florida estate attorney. “People who may want to protect their property will seek the protection of Florida laws.”

Florida’s “homestead” laws, which are unlike what any other state has, in part allow homeowners facing legal judgments (or other financial issues) to protect their primary residence fully — keeping it out of the hands of potential creditors. One of the key steps in qualifying for the home-protection is seeking “homestead exemption,” which provides homeowners with a tax break.

On May 10, 2001, Peter Madoff bought the home at 200 Algoma Road in Palm Beach, Fla., along with his wife Marion. Both were listed as owners at the time.

Five years later, on Nov. 8, 2006, Peter transferred the title to Marion making her the sole legal owner of the home….

ABC: ‘The Imp in a Bottle: Ponzi/Madoff in a Broader Perspective: Ponzificating on Madoff, Pyramid Schemes and the Financial Crisis’

N.Y. Daily News: New York Post writer busted in bid to interview Bernard Madoff’

A bumbling New York Post reporter was busted Saturday after he tried to sweet-talk his way into Bernie Madoff’s upper East Side penthouse, police said.

Josh Saul, 25, claimed to be a real-estate broker when he entered the Ponzi scheme swindler’s building at 133 E. 64th St. around 1 p.m., police said. “He misrepresented himself,” a police source said.

Saul was escorted upstairs by a doorman and was near the front door of the $50 billion scam artist’s $7 million duplex when he was unmasked, cops said.

The hapless hack’s weekend at Bernie’s did not end with the exclusive interview he was angling for. Instead, he was arrested, charged with trespassing and issued a summons.

Saul, 25, of Greenwich Village, has been working at the Post for about a year. He is also the dubious star of a Web site that includes photos of him dancing in his underwear, chugging beer from a keg, wearing a woman’s wig and balancing objects on his head.

Reached Saturday night, he referred all questions to his newspaper.

Post spokesman Howard Rubinstein declined to comment.

The fact-challenged tabloid quoted an anonymous source on Friday as saying that brokers have been invited by the trustee of Madoff’s firm to assess the disgraced investor’s apartment.

Z Magazine: ‘Wall Street swindler inadvertently strikes powerful blows for social justice?’

N.Y. Times: ‘Art at Brandeis’

Hard times force hard choices on everyone. But that does not require bad decisions too. At Brandeis University, President Jehuda Reinharz has made hard times worse by deciding to close the university’s Rose Art Museum and sell off more than 6,000 works in its collection….

The Madoff scandal and its effects on some of Brandeis’s major donors have made new fund-raising possibilities especially bleak.

Selling the university’s art collection would help plug its financial gap, but it would create a gaping hole in Brandeis’s mission and its reputation. It would default on one of the great collections of contemporary art in New England, one built early on with extraordinary artistic acumen. The core works were acquired by the museum’s founding director from such young artists (at young artist prices) as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.



War of words: Turkish PM Erdogan storms out at Davos after Gaza row with Israel’s Peres

Veering off-topic from the global meltdown, Turkey’s prime minister had his own meltdown today at Davos. See the CNBC video above and then read this BBC report, which captures only a bare hint of the full explosion:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos after an argument with Israel’s president.

Mr Erdogan clashed with Shimon Peres in a discussion on the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip, telling him: “You are killing people.”

Mr Peres said Mr Erdogan would have done the same had rockets hit Istanbul.

Mr Erdogan accused the moderator of not allowing him to speak and said he did not think he would return to Davos.

He was cut off as he attempted to reply to a passionate defence of Israel’s actions made by Mr Peres.

Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries to have dealings with Israel, but relations have been under strain since the Islamist-rooted AK Party was elected to power in 2002.

“I do not think I will be coming back to Davos after this because you do not let me speak,” Mr Erdogan shouted before marching off the stage in front of Mr Peres, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and an elite audience of ministers and international officials.


From baseball to hardball: George Mitchell lands in Mideast to probe the deadliest beanball war — Jews vs. Arabs

The Wall Street Journal, reporting from Davos, asks (gulp), “Is Capitalism, as We Know It, Dead?”

Pumped up from his experience as chief investigator of steroids abuse in baseball, George Mitchell is now in for some really heavy lifting: the testosterone-laden, rage-filled Arab-Jew death dance in the Middle East.

No coincidence that Mitchell’s arrival in the region as President Barack Obama’s peacemaker was accompanied by a flareup of violence.

In the former Maine senator’s baseball probe, few of the players would even talk to him, so he relied heavily on former Mets batboy Kirk Radomski.

This time, however, he’ll be dealing with some people who throw serious heat — rocks, rockets, white phosphorus — and everybody will be talking all at once. Whether they’ll listen to him is another thing.

But he has experience in cutting in on partners locked in death dances: Mitchell won praise a decade ago for helping to hammer out an accord in Northern Ireland.

If he has any success at all in the Middle East, Mitchell will get more than just a feather in his cap. He would indeed replace James G. Blaine in the history books as the plumed knight from Maine.

Meanwhile, in other business…


Village Voice: ‘What Cooked the World’s Economy? It wasn’t your overdue mortgage.’ (James Lieber)

Time: ‘Is California the State Closest to Economic Ruin?’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Unemployment Rises in Every State: Joblessness Is Worst Where Housing, Manufacturing Are in Trouble, but Spreading Fast’


Bloomberg: ‘Pfizer’s Wyeth Purchase Puts New Jersey Town’s Jobs, Taxes, Deli in Peril’

Pfizer Inc.’s agreement to buy Wyeth has Main Street in Madison, New Jersey, toting up potential damage.

Time: ‘The GOP Grapples with Obama’s Charm Offensive’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Taxpayers’ running tab on Yankee Stadium parkland’

Taxpayers will get socked for nearly $194 million to replace parkland gobbled up by the new Yankee Stadium – almost 70% more than first estimates.


N.Y. Times: ‘Iranian Leader Demands U.S. Apology’

A day after President Obama struck a conciliatory tone toward Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Washington on Wednesday to apologize for its actions toward his country for the past 60 years and said it was unclear whether the new American administration was merely shifting tactics or wanted real change.

But, in a speech in the western city of Kermanshah, he did not explicitly rebuff the American president’s gesture.

Time: ‘How Al-Arabiya Got the Obama Interview’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Top execs still living like kings’ (Juan Gonzalez)

How much longer will Congress use billions in public money to bail out the nation’s biggest banks, then let the top executives remain in charge?

New Yorker: ‘Ms. Kennedy Regrets: Why Caroline Kennedy dropped out’

N.Y. Times: ‘Rove Subpoenaed on U.S. Attorneys’


Harper’s: ‘Weekly Review’

…Former vice president Dick Cheney attended the inauguration in a wheelchair, Senator Edward Kennedy had a seizure, Aretha Franklin‘s voice cracked, and Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill performed with the aid of a backing track….

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Blabbering Blagojevich turns to puppy talk’

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich cranked up his Manhattan media blitz Tuesday as FBI tapes detailing alleged pay-to-play deals were featured at his impeachment trial back home.

Bloomberg: ‘Bankruptcy Lawyers Seek $18.50 a Minute as Creditors’ Recoveries Shrink’

Lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, home to former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, are asking as much as $1,110 an hour for bankruptcy work while creditors are recovering less of their loans through company restructurings.


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Blowfish testicles poison diners’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Novartis Posts 70% Rise in Net’

…The company said it expects record results in 2009, but also warned that the market and economic environment is becoming increasingly challenging.

Novartis, based in Basel, also reported a small pipeline setback, saying it will file meningitis vaccine Menveo for approval for use in infants in 2011, which is later than planned. This comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked to test the vaccine on an additional 1,500 infants.

Bloomberg: ‘Obama Broadband Plan Is Too Small, Has Too Many Conditions, Companies Say’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Flare-Up Tests Mideast Truce as Mitchell Arrives’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Medics Say They Were Blocked from Hard-Hit Gaza Village’

Bloomberg: ‘Pakistani Crackdown on Mumbai Attack Suspects Leaves Imams Preaching Jihad’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Illinois Senators Hear Blagojevich’s Taped Conversations’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Times Square hotel tops list of dirtiest hotels in America’

The Hotel Carter was named the dirtiest hotel in America Tuesday by, marking the third time in four years that the W. 43rd St. dump has topped the list.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Barclays Chiefs Join Growing List of Davos No-Shows’

Two top executives from Barclays PLC of the U.K. became the latest prominent bankers to decide against going to global capitalism’s big annual conference, as the financial crisis takes its toll on the major finance houses.

Bloomberg: ‘Schwarzman Pledges “Wonderful Time” for Buyouts as Wealth Drops $7 Billion’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Defendant hurls human feces at jury’

Bloomberg: ‘Olympic Bailout Puts Vancouver Taxpayers on Alert for a Montreal “Big Owe”‘

The athletes’ village rising in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics is casting a shadow over the city’s finances.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Davos: Is Capitalism, as We Know It, Dead?’

Bloomberg: ‘TARP Bank Shares Index Losses Are Four Times the S&P 500’s’

Since the U.S. Treasury began investing in banks through its Capital Purchase Program, a gauge of participating companies’ share prices has lost four times as much as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Bloomberg: ‘Mack Tells Wife He May “Lose” Morgan Stanley Before Staking All on Brokers’

It was early September, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 15 percent for the year. The credit squeeze was grinding on. Deals were few. Morgan Stanley’s John Mack, a chief executive officer who loves a prank, sent three of his deputies small, gray electronic blood pressure machines with Velcro wristbands….

Wall Street Journal: ‘Bill Clinton Speech Fees Topped $4.7 Million in ’08’

Wall Street Journal: ‘High Priest of Sex and Suburbia’

‘Gay vs. Madoff’

Tommy De Seno‘s Jersey Shore Blog offers a math lesson:

Brothers Lawrence and Kenneth Gay are facing a plea bargained sentence of 11 years in prison for stealing $13,000 from a poker game in Brick, New Jersey.

That’s one year in jail for each $1,181.00 stolen.

By that math, Bernie Madoff, who stole $50 billion, should be sentenced to 43 million years in prison.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Perjury Charges Being Considered: SEC Officials Believe Madoff Lied to Them During Past Examinations’

Securities Docket: ‘Testimony of SEC’s Linda Thomsen Before Senate Banking Committee (Madoff Matter)’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff Enablers Winked at Suspected Front-Running’

Wall Street Journal: ‘In Echoes Of Madoff, Ponzi Cases Proliferate’


Cardinal calls Gaza ‘concentration camp’ — lit up by white phosphorus, observers say

Al Jazeera report on white phosphorus in Gaza.

As Chico Marx said, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

That’s easy when it comes to Gaza. The Jewish state’s brutal use of white phosphorus — alleged over the weekend by observers on the ground dispatched by NYC-based Human Rights Watch — is lighting up the landscape.

However, most of the U.S. press (a notable recent exception is Newsweek) has its usual blind spot when it comes to Israel’s war on Gaza. As the Daily News noted late last week in “‘Concentration camp’ Gaza stirs fire”:

Relations between the Holy Land and the Holy See were tense Thursday night after a leading Vatican cardinal compared the besieged Gaza Strip to a concentration camp.

“Defenseless populations are always the ones who pay,” Renato Cardinal Martino told the Italian daily Il Sussidiario. “Conditions in Gaza increasingly resemble a big concentration camp.”

That drew a furious denunciation from Israeli officials, who said the comment was “based on Hamas propaganda.”

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the son of Holocaust survivors, called on the Pope to apologize to Israel.

Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, defended his comments.

“They can say what they want, but the situation in Gaza is horrible,” he told the newspaper La Repubblica.

Confirming that is Human Rights Watch, whose observers belie Hikind’s claim that the brutality in Gaza is propaganda.

In fact, it’s even worse than the cardinal says, according to HRW.

You question the watchdog group’s credibility? HRW broke several major stories of U.S. atrocities in Iraq — including the horrific tale of the American soldiers in Fallujah who proudly called themselves the “Murderous Maniacs” and admitted to kicking the shit out of Iraqis just for the fun of it. (See my September 2005 item “U.S. Soldiers Reveal New Torture Tales.”)

Now, here’s what HRW says about what’s going on:

On January 9 and 10, 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers in Israel observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area.

Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an “obscurant” (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.

“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch.

If the Nazis had had white phosphorus — the 21st century version of napalm — they would have used it against the Jews.

Now for less bad news…


N.Y. Times: ‘Adding to Recession’s Pain, Thousands to Lose Jobless Benefits’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Retail Bankruptcy Wave Expected’

N.Y. Times: ‘Storm Sinks Indonesian Ferry, 250 Feared Dead’

Bloomberg: ‘U.S. Consumers Keep Autos Longer, Shun Showrooms as Cuts in Payrolls Mount’

Drivers rattled by the worst U.S. labor market since World War II are hanging on to old autos longer instead of buying new models, threatening to crimp sales again in 2009 after demand plummeted to a 16-year low.


N.Y. Post: ‘Sex, Drugs & Death at Luxe Hotel’

A Long Island banana mogul at the center of a deadly sex romp at a tony Midtown hotel lives a double life – married suburban dad and…

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Plans To Keep Estate Tax’

Obama and congressional leaders plan to move soon to block the estate tax from disappearing in 2010.

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Signals His Reluctance to Look Into Bush Policies’

Barack Obama indicated that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping.

N.Y. Times: ‘Democrats Look for Ways to Undo Late Bush Administration Rules’

Harper’s: ‘The $10 trillion hangover:
Paying the price for eight years of Bush’ (Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes)


Wall Street Journal: ‘New Playing Field In Electric Car Push’

Fewer barriers in electric-car production have leveled the playing field for newcomers hoping to compete against established car makers.


Mayor Bloomberg’s crackdown on motorists who abuse official parking placards has snared a slew of detectives and investigators who work for the city’s prosecutors, the Post has learned…

N.Y. Times: ‘In Emphasis on Economy, Obama Looks to History’

Harper’s: ‘A Farewell to Dick Cheney’

Dick Cheney is the man that James Madison was warning us about.

Harper’s: ‘Harper’s Index: A retrospective of the Bush era’

Bloomberg: Paulson Bailout Fails to Give Taxpayers Buffett’s Terms With Goldman Sachs

Henry Paulson‘s bank bailouts, done under “great stress” during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, failed to win for U.S. taxpayers what Warren Buffett received for his shareholders by investing in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The Treasury secretary made 174 purchases of banks’ preferred shares that include warrants to buy stock at a later date. While he invested $10 billion in Goldman Sachs in October, twice as much as Buffett did the month before, Paulson gained certificates worth one-fourth as much as the billionaire, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Goldman Sachs terms were repeated in most of the other bank bailouts.

Salon: ‘Bill Moyers on Israel/Gaza’ (Glenn Greenwald)

N.Y. Times: ‘Citi Is Urged to Replace Chairman’

Regulators are pressing Citigroup to shake up its board and replace its chairman in an effort to restore confidence in the beleaguered bank.

Newsweek: ‘If Obama is Serious: He should get tough with Israel’ (Aaron David Miller)


Gov. Paterson joined an estimated 10,000 Israel supporters in Midtown yesterday to proclaim the Gaza offensive an act of self-defense. “We recognize the right of the state of Israel to…

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Eyeless in Israel’

N.Y. Times: ‘Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War’

Tel Aviv-based journalist Lisa Goldman takes the Israeli press to task over its coverage of the Gaza campaign. “For the most part, Gaza as a place inhabited by human beings has been ignored,” she writes of Israeli media coverage.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Timeline: The Gaza Strip, From Disengagement to Operation Cast Lead’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Israel hints at end of Gaza operations’

Israeli leaders hinted Sunday the Gaza assault might soon wind down, even as thousands of fresh reservists joined the battle and infantry units pushed toward the crowded heart of Gaza City.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Analysis: Ceasefire hinges on Egypt closing smuggling routes’

The Nation: ‘Can Labor Revive the American Dream?’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed: Hasidic Singer, Subject of Rabbinic Ban, Tries Again’

Hasidic singing sensation Lipa Schmeltzer was set to perform last March before a crowd of thousands at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater in New York. The concert, a charity fundraiser, was billed as “The Big Event.”

Then, less than three weeks before the concert date, 33 ultra-Orthodox rabbis — including some of the community’s most prominent figures — issued an edict banning attendance. The event, they warned, was likely to cause “ribaldry and lightheadedness.”

Deferring to the rabbis, organizers promptly canceled the concert. The ban, however, roiled the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, world, sparking an unusual public outcry in a community known for its scrupulous obedience to rabbinic authority.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘What Happens to Gaza When the Fighting Stops?’

Nation: ‘Moral Blindness on Gaza’ (Robert Scheer)

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Fact or Fiction?: The Story of the Fake Holocaust Memoir’

A children’s book based on Herman Rosenblat‘s Holocaust love story, which was recently exposed as a hoax, was pulled from bookstores. The East Village Mamele explains the scandal to her daughter.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘ABC’s hidden cameras unveil anti-immigrant prejudice’

Investment News: ‘Morgan Stanley, Citi in retail merger talks’

Nation: ‘Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction’ (Naomi Klein)

To end the bloody occupation, Israel must be the target of the same kind of global movement that finally ended apartheid in South Africa.

Nation: ‘Toward Peace in Gaza’

Investment News: ‘Rubin retires from Citi’

Nation: ‘Caroline and Me’ (Katha Pollitt)

Caroline Kennedy would like to be a senator. I don’t blame her. So would I!

Especially if Governor Paterson could just waft me into office, and I didn’t have to, um, you know, campaign. I’ll bet some parts of the job are really fun, and it’s public service, which is so uplifting. You think I’m joking, but every argument that has been advanced for Kennedy is just as true for me. She’s a mother, a writer, a person with no electoral experience or, so far as we know, longstanding interest in acquiring any–me too! She has more kids; I’ve written more books–I’d say it averages out.

Nation: ‘Obama Anoints Kaine, Praises (And Snubs?) Dean’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Big shakeup at fatal psych ward’

Fox News: ‘”Victims” of Madoff Scandal Do Math, Realize They Profited’

From Fox News: “Hundreds and maybe thousands of investors in Madoff’s funds have been withdrawing money from their accounts for many years. In many cases, those investors have withdrawn far more than their principal investment.” And more:

“I had a call yesterday from a guy who said, ‘I’ve taken out more money then I originally put in, but I still had $1 million left with Madoff. Should I file a $1 million claim?'” said Steven Caruso, a New York attorney specializing in securities and investment fraud.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Madoff vics: Let him rot in jail’

Madoff’s victims say it’s outrageous that he has been allowed to serve house arrest in his cushy East Side pad.

N.Y. Times: ‘Eight Years of Madoffs’ (Frank Rich)

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Prosecutors Push Back Deadline’

Federal prosecutors bought more time to focus on their investigation of Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud scheme after they reached a deal with Mr. Madoff’s lawyers to delay the deadline to bring an indictment in the criminal case against him.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had faced a deadline Monday to convince a grand jury to indict the New York money manager on fraud charges or show at a public court hearing that there was “probable cause” to arrest him, but Mr. Madoff’s lawyers agreed Friday to give the government until mid-February to do so.

Delaying any indictment gives prosecutors time to investigate Mr. Madoff and others without having to prepare for trial, or negotiate a deal in which he agrees to plead guilty to certain charges in exchange for a lower prison sentence, says Anthony Barkow, a former federal prosecutor.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘AJCongress Crippled by Madoff Scandal’

Telegraph: ‘”Hellishly hot” sauce dedicated to Bernard Madoff’

Wall Street Journal: ‘New Ponzi Case Pursued’

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission brought civil charges against a Pennsylvania man accused of running a $50 million Ponzi scheme since at least February 1995.

Gothamist: ‘Bernie’s Weekend at Home, Before Judge’s Decision’

N.Y. Times: ‘GMAC Chairman With Ties to Madoff Steps Down’

Gawker: ‘Marc Rich Lost “Insignificant” Millions to Madoff’

N.Y. Times: ‘New Description of Timing on Madoff’s Confession’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Brother, at Arm’s Length?: Peter Was No. 2 and Close to Bernard; Investigators Now Scrutinizing Role’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Bernie Madoff’s bagman had everything to lose’

J. Ezra Merkin, former chairman of national lender GMAC, crashes to earth as the second biggest conduit for Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Funds of Funds & Madoff: “Like Presiding Over the Long-Term Funeral”‘

Advanced Trading: ‘Fund-of-Hedge Funds Lacked Technology to Avoid Madoff Losses’

Investment News: ‘Madoff scam hurts Mackenzie Financial’ ‘Activist Gunning For Yeshiva Board’

A hedge fund is campaigning to fire the board of Yeshiva University because of its investment with Bernard Madoff. ‘Commentary From Our Publisher: Bernie, We Hardly Knew Ya’ ‘Merkin Liquidation Stymied By NYU’ ‘Woman Tied to Madoff in Hiding’


‘Times’ declares war on news, gets right in your grille — for a change

The Times as Jimmy Cagney and the reader as Mae Clarke. It’s about time.

A banner day for the New York Times.

Newspapers that don’t go out for blood are worthless. The Times often should be itself flayed because it so often doesn’t take full advantage of its tremendous resources and usually undeserved clout and instead exudes arrogance and condescension.

This morning, however, its reporters slapped on their fedoras and got the goods, and their editors snapped out of it, rolled up their Brooks Brothers sleeves, and laid it on us.

Like Jimmy Cagney shoving a grapefruit into Mae Clarke‘s face in The Public Enemy (1931), Ethan Bronner‘s “U.N. and Red Cross Add to Outcry on Gaza War” calls a war a war and shoves the details into your face during your breakfast before you have time to take your first sip of coffee:

“International aid groups lashed out at Israel on Thursday over the war in Gaza, saying that access to civilians in need is poor, relief workers are being hurt and killed, and Israel is woefully neglecting its obligations to Palestinians who are trapped, some among rotting corpses in a nightmarish landscape of deprivation”.

You can see that Bronner’s piece doesn’t fiddle around with the paper’s usual stiff, officious lede followed by some boring, pseudo-analytical claptrap about how something affects decision-makers.

Bronner’s second paragraph is the kind of thing you usually see as the lede of such a story:

“The United Nations declared a suspension of its aid operations after one of its drivers was killed and two others were wounded despite driving United Nations-flagged vehicles and coordinating their movements with the Israeli military. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called for an investigation by Israel for a second time in a week after the more than 40 deaths near a United Nations school from Israeli tank fire on Tuesday”.

The paper’s still not up to speed on the fact that many Jews, both here and in Israel (particularly in Israel), are angrily opposed to the war on Gaza.

The peace movement among Jews gets prominent play in the vibrant Israeli press and in other outlets around the world. But not in the U.S. media.

However, you can always go to New York’s own Forward, thank G-d, where the indefatigable Nathan Guttman‘s “Peace Groups Lose First Major Gaza Challenge On Capitol Hill: Attempts by Activists To Shape Resolution Come Up Short” opens a window on news that most of the rest of the U.S. press routinely ignores.

Enough of the negative stuff about negative stuff: The Times does deserve another kudos or two or three: Another example of today’s fired-up Times is a Paris dispatch from veteran Alan Cowell, “Gaza Children Found With Mothers’ Corpses”:

“The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had discovered “shocking” scenes — including small children next to their mothers’ corpses — when its representatives gained access for the first time to parts of Gaza battered by Israeli shelling. It accused Israel of failing to meet obligations to care for the wounded in areas of combat”.

Years ago, Cowell did a bang-up job writing such pieces day after day for the Times from apartheid-era South Africa. Now he’s filing stuff about apartheid-era Israel.

Even the paper’s editorial page this morning took off its kid gloves, dismissed its manservants and maids, and unleashed a sneer or two at its fellow Establishment members. Labeling the confirmation hearing for the new Secretary of Health and Human Services a “cuddly welcome for Mr. Daschle,” the editorial board climbed down from the pedestal it has built for itself and started punching at the incoming Obama regime:

“…The hearing before a Senate health committee was mostly a love-fest as senators from both parties expressed admiration for their former Senate colleague….

Unfortunately, the hearing did not tell us much at all about how the incoming Obama administration intends to pay for its emerging health care programs or how, for all of his smoothness at the hearing, Mr. Daschle will deal with the very real and very big differences his team has with Republicans on this and other vital issues.

Instead, the senators avoided asking such tough questions, and Mr. Daschle bent over backward to reassure Republicans that he would not try to ram anything too unpalatable down their throats….”

A welcome dose of cynicism instead of the expected deadly dull civility and caution.

Yes, there are still some nits to pick in the Times, but this morning the paper emits a louder buzz than usual.

Tally-ho! Release the hounds! The paper usually acts more like C. Montgomery Burns hounding the beleaguered folk in Springfield. This morning, it’s dogging a newspaper’s proper targets.

While you’re wiping the grapefruit off your face, click on these items, front-loaded this morning only with other Times pieces, most of which have surprisingly hard-hitting, newsy ledes…


N.Y. Times: ‘Latinos Recall Pattern of Attacks Before Long Island Killing’

N.Y. Times: ‘Senate Allies Fault Obama on Stimulus’

N.Y. Times: ‘As His Inmates Grew Thinner, a Sheriff’s Wallet Grew Fatter’

N.Y. Times: ‘Fatal Avalanches Rattle Ski Country in the West’

N.Y. Times: ‘Bill Easing Unionizing Is Under Heavy Attack’

N.Y. Times: ‘Nationwide Inquiry on Bids for Municipal Bonds’

“The federal investigation that prompted Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico to withdraw his nomination as commerce secretary offers a rare glimpse into a long-simmering investigation of possible bid-rigging, tax evasion and other wrongdoing throughout the municipal bond business.

Three federal agencies and a loose consortium of state attorneys general have for several years been gathering evidence of what appears to be collusion among the banks and other companies that have helped state and local governments take approximately $400 billion worth of municipal notes and bonds to market each year”.

N.Y. Times: ‘For BlackBerry, Obama’s Devotion Is Priceless’

Bloomberg: ‘Excrement, Insulation, Bike Paths Trim CO2 Emissions in Cities’

Wall Street Journal: ‘A Wolfe in Regulator’s Clothing: Drug Industry Critic Joins the FDA’


Bloomberg: ‘Brokers Disdain Toaster Salesmen in Bank America’s Merrill Deal’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Business Warms to Obama, but Frictions Loom on Climate’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Gotti hit man dips his foe in acid, but loves mommy’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Wall Street Is Big Donor to Inauguration’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Brooklyn Nets Arena cutbacks? Bruce Ratner scales back plans; Star architect Frank Gehry may go’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Lehman Brothers Plans Private-Equity Spinoff’



Wall Street Journal: ‘Bailout Pact Of GM, U.S. Would Block A UAW Strike’

Bloomberg: ‘London Boom Time Bill Comes Due as Bankers Buy Coffee on Credit’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘I snapped & whacked her: Chilling confession in Linda Stein slay aired’



Wall Street Journal: ‘Hedge-Fund Middlemen Get Pinched’



Wall Street Journal: ‘Chevron Warns of Hefty Drop in Earnings’

Bloomberg: ‘Billion-Dollar U.S. Verdicts Vanish After Appeals, New Rulings’


Bloomberg: ‘Obama Must Tackle Fannie, Freddie’s Federal Ties’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Panel Steps Up Criticism of Treasury Over TARP’

Bloomberg: ‘Al-Jazeera Said to Mull Bid for English Soccer’s Mideast Rights’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff’s Three-Bedroom Riviera Retreat Belied Ponzi Scheme Role’

Bloomberg: ‘Merkin Intimidated Co-Op Board While Building Funds Madoff Lost’


Bloomberg: ‘Uma Thurman No Help to Arpad Busson in Madoff Fraud’s Nightmare’

Wall Street Journal: ‘U.S.: Madoff Had $173 Million in Checks’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff Con Hits Boston, Home to Victim Shapiro, Ponzi’


Blintzkrieg in Gaza; Madoff covers up family jewels

“Gaza medics in the line of fire,” from Al Jazeera

Congratulations to the New York Times. The word “war” made it into a front-page story this morning about Israel’s war on Gaza.

Ethan Bronner‘s piece even sports the word in its headline: “Gaza War Role Is Political Lift for Ex-Premier.”

As I noted yesterday, the Times has a particular problem calling a spade a spade in the Middle East. Witness one of its other war stories this morning, Steven Erlanger‘s “Rockets Fired From Lebanon Into Israel,” which generally avoids the word “war” and features this lede:

Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza threatened to broaden on Thursday as at least three rockets were fired into the north of Israel from Lebanon.

Yeah, “conflict.” Please. The pro-Israel New York Post has no problem calling this a war.

Even Israel’s government is calling its bombardment of Gaza “Operation Cast Lead.” Compare that with the B.S. euphemisms the U.S. is using in Iraq and Afghanistan: “Operation Iraqi Freedom and “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Look, if people don’t want to call what’s going on in Gaza a “war,” I’ll settle for “blintzkrieg.”

There was a time, oh about 40 years ago, when the Jews of Israel were an underdog state with a sense of humor (especially among their American Jewish supporters) melded into their fight for survival. See this Time story from 1967, in the midst of what became known as the Six-Day War, that rounded up jokes about that “conflict” under the headline “Blintzkrieg” (supply your own ba-dum-pum rim shots after each line):

“It’s unfair,” said a U.A.R.[United Arab Republic] spokesman. “They have 2,300,000 Jews on their side. And we have none.” He denied, however, that Egypt had asked the Russians for their 2,500,000 Jews. Soon after the war’s start, Nasser made a brief guest appearance on the popular Cairo TV show, Where’s My Line? Reports from the second day of fighting indicated that the Egyptians had destroyed four Jeeps, a kosher mobile kitchen and 14 air-conditioned Cadillacs. The Israelis claimed 400 MIGs and 24 flying carpets. Ralph Nader launched a campaign to provide Arab tanks with back-up lights.

The unstoppable Israeli thrust through the Sinai Desert quickly became known as the blintzkrieg. It was led by the crack regiment known as the Bagel Lancers. When Israeli troops reached the Suez Canal, they grabbed the lox. At one point in the campaign, an Arab division spotted a lone Israeli sniper on a sand dune. The commander dispatched three men to get him. When they did not return, he sent a dozen. None of them came back. So he finally sent an entire company. Two hours later, one blood-splattered Egyptian soldier crawled back. “It was an ambush,” he explained. “There were two of them.”

The Six-Day War was a turning point. Forty years later, the laughter has died out. Israel acts less and less like an underdog and more and more like an overlord, thanks to its decades of harsh occupation policies, and as many commentators in Israel have noted with anguish, the decades of acting like occupiers have coarsened Israeli society.

The Jewish state’s grim throttling of Palestinians these days is pretty much unleavened by humor. Insanely orthodox. Humanism is also kosher, but you wouldn’t know it these days.

Anyway, I’m still willing to be assaulted by a blintzkrieg. Make mine raspberry…



N.Y. Times: ‘Sarkozy, Merkel, Blair Call for New Capitalism’

New Yorker: ‘Will the Times live?: More on the end of newsprint’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Macy’s to close 11 stores; other retailers report dismal sales figures’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Citigroup, Senators in Talks to Let Judges Modify Mortgages’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Hugo Chavez flips oil aid back on for Bronx poor’

New Yorker: ‘Beware of Pity’

Like so many Jewish writers of her generation, Hannah Arendt attempted in her work to shine the light of intellect on the extreme darkness she lived through…

New York: ‘The Worst Movies of 2008’

N.Y. Times: ‘China Losing Taste for Debt From U.S.’

As the global downturn has intensified, Beijing is starting to keep more of its money at home, which could have painful effects for U.S. borrowers.

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Promises Bid to Overhaul Retiree Spending’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Homeowners get soaked by shoddy homes’


This time, a picture was worth several dozen shoes. At least 150 pro-Palestinian New Yorkers rallied against Mayor Bloomberg for his recent trip to Israel and unfettered support of that country…

New Yorker: ‘Homelands’ (David Remnick)


Seeking Alpha: ‘Aftershocks from the Satyam scandal’ (via Bloomberg)

After admitting over $1B of value on its books was fictitious, Satyam (SAY) is dealing with the fallout, as are the accounting industry, investors and Indian markets. In frenzied premarket trading, Satyam shares lost 99.89% yesterday, plummeting from $9.35 to $0.01, and were halted before regular trading hours began.

New Yorker: ‘Barney’s Great Adventure: The most outspoken man in the House gets some real power.’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Dell to Cut 1,900 Irish Jobs, Shift Operations to Poland’

U.S. computer maker Dell Inc. announced Thursday it will slash its Irish work force and shift its European manufacturing operations to Poland in a move certain to undermine Ireland’s recession-hit economy.

Dell is Ireland’s second-largest employer, its biggest exporter and in recent years has contributed about 5% to the national gross domestic product. Economists warn that each Dell job underpins another four to five jobs in Ireland.


N.Y. Daily News: ‘New administrator blamed for faculty revolt at Bronx High School of Science’


New York: ‘Caroline’s Quiet Rebound’



Seeking Alpha: ‘Housing: Where Is the Bottom?’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Is a “Danger,” Argue Prosecutors’


N.Y. Times: ‘UK Fraud Office Starts Madoff Investigation’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Chicago lawyer cursed by same name is Mad as hell’

N.Y. Times: ‘Elderly Madoff Investors in Financial Trouble’


Jews v. Arabs: It’s war, even if the ‘Times’ tries to avoid calling it that

Al Jazeera reporting on the war in Gaza

Will somebody please call this a war?

You won’t find the word “war” in this morning’s lede story in the New York Times on Israel’s bombardment and invasion of Gaza.

Is the Times afraid of offending New York’s Jews, especially the right-wing Jewish establishment? Is it fearful of provoking a slew of accusations from that hawkish establishment that the paper is antisemitic? Probably.

But that’s nuts. The word pops up several times in the city’s main Jewish newspaper, the Daily Forward, which is definitely not a lefty publication.

For example, the Forward‘s lede story this morning is from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (the Chosen People’s wire service), for whom Dina Kraft writes:

Just as in the summer of 2006, when the northern part of the country huddled in bomb shelters during the Second Lebanon War and the rest of the country carried on with its business, a new war has come that affects Israelis — at least in part — according to geography.

Practically all of the U.S. mainstream press goes through gyrations to avoid calling what’s going on in the Middle East a “war.”

That’s why if you want to read the un-P.C. skinny about the current war between Arabs and Jews and about the complex, murky, often slimy world of American-Israeli politics, you have to read the Forward. Or at least the press in other countries.

Depending on your political or gastronomic persuasion, order another bagel or sfiha and click on these stories…



Wall Street Journal: ‘Israel to Discuss Gaza Cease-Fire’

A high-ranking Israeli delegation was scheduled to arrive in Egypt to discuss the possibilities of a cease-fire in the Jewish state’s 12-day assault on the Gaza Strip.


Wall Street Journal: ‘Job Test Spawns Culture of Cheating’

Online personality tests have helped retailers to automate hiring. But the tests are also creating a culture of cheating and raising questions about their fairness.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Dovish Jewish Groups Break Ranks, Call for Cease-Fire’


Department of Labor, please hold. A rush of out-of-work New Yorkers overwhelmed the state’s unemployment system yesterday, forcing the program’s automated phone banks and…

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Pushes States to Cover More Unemployed’

Village Voice: ‘Mayor Mike and the Yanks: City Hall gift-wraps another present for baseball’s richest team’ (Tom Robbins)

N.Y. Post: ‘New York City animal shelters scramble after strep outbreak kills dogs’

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Seeks to Mend Rift Over Panetta’


N.Y. Times: ‘Facing Losses, Billionaire Takes His Own Life’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘You don’t scare me, thug’

A Queens grandmother who fought off a prowler said she wants to confront her attacker.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘As Bush Exits, Four High-Profile Felons Hope For Pardons’

…Public campaigns have been launched on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, the Navy analyst who was sent to jail for spying on behalf of Israel, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a leading neoconservative and former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Jewish philanthropist and former junk-bond king Michael Milken had his application for pardon submitted by Washington bigwig Ted Olsen.


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Free perking for ex-MTA official’

N.Y. Times: ‘Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘B’klyn stops being polite: The Real World comes to Brooklyn for its 21st season’

ABC: ‘The Burris Circus and the Politics of Race’

Onion: ‘Terror Experts Warn Next 9/11 Could Fall On Different Date’

Wall Street Journal: ‘India Outsourcer
Rocked by Fraud’

Satyam Computer Services Ltd. Chairman B. Ramalinga Raju Wednesday resigned admitting to falsifying company accounts and inflating revenue and profit figures over several years, sending the company’s shares plunging 78%…..

Satyam’s clients include General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Applied Materials Inc., Caterpillar Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Sony Corp.


Forty-five percent of Americans want Gov. Paterson to name Caroline Kennedy to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a poll released yesterday.

N.Y. Times: ‘Cuomo Aide Is Said to Try to Slow Kennedy Bid’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Israel’s Stark Choice in Gaza: Cease-Fire or Regime Change?’


N.Y. Times: ‘Specter Attacks Choice for Attorney General’


A campaign bus for a candidate in the City Council’s special election killed a 9-year-old Queens boy scampering home from school yesterday…

N.Y. Observer: ‘Palm Beach Ponzi Pique: Why Did Madoff Bilk Own Mishpocheh?’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Tried to Stave Off Firm’s Crash Before Arrest’

Ten days before his arrest, Bernard Madoff received $250 million from a man who helped give him his start on Wall Street, a move that shows how the investment manager tried to raise cash to stave off his firm’s collapse.

Mr. Madoff received $250 million around Dec. 1 from Carl Shapiro, a 95-year-old Palm Beach, Fla., philanthropist and entrepreneur who is one of Mr. Madoff’s oldest friends and biggest financial backers, according to people familiar with the matter.


Former SEC exec Meaghan Cheung, who oversaw a 2006 probe of swindler Bernard Madoff’s firm, defended herself yesterday against claims that she and others blew it by not uncovering his huge…


New York University lost as much as $94 million when a hotshot money manager, against the school’s wishes, invested the cash with swindler Bernie Madoff, its lawyers told a judge yesterday…



Mike Bloomberg launches preemptive trip to Israel; invasion of NYC unlikely

Waltz With Bashir, a movie that sprang from a previous Israeli invasion of Lebanon, won Best Picture from the National Society of Film Critics. A free Madoff Watch T-shirt to the reader who suggests the best title for the first movie spurred by Israel’s current invasion of Gaza.

On an overseas trip while Rome burns, Mike Bloomberg is acting as if term limits remained intact and he couldn’t run for another term.

The mayor’s in Israel, having a “blast,” as the Post puts it, during the invasion of Gaza.

While the rest of the city’s inhabitants are facing an onrushing New Depression, Bloomberg is occupied with the occupiers. Focusing primarily on getting his aides to make sure he stays alive, the mayor’s not exactly concentrating on the crisis back home. How does a New York City mayor keep schools, health clinics, transit service, and libraries from being slashed? He dunno.

Meanwhile, a woman was slashed while jogging behind Gracie Mansion. If Bloomberg had been at home, he (or his valet) might have peeked out the window and shooed away her attacker.

Lots of other news follows, for the all the good it will do you. Plus, at the end of this aggregation, see a cluster of Madoff Watch items…


Editor & Publisher: ‘Media Commentary Muted as Israel Invades’


Wall Street Journal: ‘U.S. Transition Slows Negotiations Over Gaza’

N.Y. Times: ‘Gaza Hospital Fills Up, Mainly With Civilians’

Bloomberg: ‘Israel Troops Drive Deep Into Gaza; Sarkozy Leads Truce Effort’

N.Y. Times: ‘Activist Unmasks Himself as Federal Informant in G.O.P. Convention Case’

Vanity Fair: ‘The Good, the Bad, and Joe Lieberman’ (James Wolcott)

Bloomberg: ‘Journal of a Plague Year: Faith in Markets Cracks Under Losses’

N.Y. Times: ‘The End of the Financial World as We Know It’ (Michael Lewis)


It has been a year of record misery: the largest bankruptcy, bank failure and Ponzi scheme in U.S. history; $720 billion in writedowns and losses by financial institutions; $30.1 trillion in market valuation wiped out.

Bloomberg: ‘Buffett Has “Nowhere to Hide” Amid Berkshire’s Plunge’

N.Y. Times: ‘For Israel, Chance to Strike Before an Ally Departs’


N.Y. Times: ‘Woman Slashed While Jogging in Park Behind Gracie Mansion’

Vanity Fair: ‘The Ultimate Bubble?’

Media Week: ‘Kathy Griffin In Hot Water Over Comments on CNN’

Gawker: ‘Kathy Griffin’s “Dicks” Banned From Times, “Magic Negro” OK’

Bloomberg: ‘Engines of Recovery Flame Out as Economy Seeks Obama-Fed Rescue’

N.Y. Times: ‘Blood Sugar Control Linked to Memory Decline, Study Says’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Israel’s Ground Assault Marks Strategy Shift’


Gawker: ‘Scientology Founder Slams Drugs That Might Have Saved Travolta’s Son’

Bloomberg: ‘Obama Moves to Counter China With Pentagon-NASA Link’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Stress and the city: New York is gripped by fear. Are we headed back to the bad old days of the 1970s?’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Mayor Bloomberg whisked into bomb shelter in Israel as rocket fire erupts during solidarity trip’


A proud father wanted the best for his daughter on her wedding day, but the fairy-tale event turned into a $100,000 fiasco that ended with the blushing bride kneeling over the toilet vomiting…


A Long Island couple whose wedding celebration evaporated in a cloud of carbon monoxide is still furious over unpaid expenses for the ruined reception…

Daily Beast: ‘Carnival of the Shameless: What do Dubya, Blago, Bernie Madoff, and Roland Burris have in common? No regrets!’ (Christopher Buckley)


New York: ‘Stephon Marbury May Soon Destroy Celtics’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘”I’m not guilty,” yells bus driver’

New York: ‘The Catastrophe Capitalist: Short-seller Jim Chanos is having the time of his life through this crisis’

Muckety: ‘Ties to former Paterson aide may help Caroline Kennedy’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Thacher Proffitt: case closed: Downward spiral touched off by mortgage crisis claims its most prominent legal victim’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Residential permits down 74% in November’

Crain’s New York Business: ‘Majority of arts groups cutting back’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Analysis: Gov. leaving Kennedy in limbo’


Crain’s New York Business: ‘Hard Times: News brand shops assets to cut debt’

In the past year, The New York Times Co. has slashed the dividend it pays investors by 75%, cut the companywide head count by 8%, raised the newsstand price of the flagship paper while merging its sections, and consolidated two New York area printing plants into one.

Big steps, but apparently not big enough. The world’s foremost newspaper brand ended 2008 with its stock price down more than 60%. To raise $225 million to pay down long-term debt, the company is planning a sale-leaseback of part of its Renzo Piano-designed headquarters. It is also actively shopping its minority stake in the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

Like every other newspaper publisher, the Times Co. is grappling with an unprecedented collapse in print advertising and a dramatic slowdown in online ad growth. In the first nine months of 2008, revenues fell 7%, to $2.2 billion. Meanwhile, net income–which was boosted in the year-earlier period by the sale of the company’s broadcast unit–plunged 92%, to $27.3 million. The company, which has roughly $1 billion in debt, is negotiating with lenders over the more than $600 million in loans that are coming due this year and next.

Bloomberg: ‘SEC Said to Examine More Ponzi Schemes After Madoff’

FOX News: ‘Report: Former Madoff Employees Selling Memorabilia on eBay’

New Yorker: ‘Cheat, Pray, Love’

Crain’s New York: ‘Milberg rides Madoff: Scandal-plagued law firm rebuilds image, representing Ponzi scheme victims’

Huffington Post: ‘Madoff Employees Still Being Paid Despite Nothing To Do’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Why the Bernie Madoff Scandal Is a Good Thing’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Gives Prosecutors Details of His, Firm’s Assets’

Muckety: ‘Even Dr. Doom invested with Madoff’

Wall Street Journal: ‘How the SEC Can Prevent More Madoffs: Bolster its risk-assessment and enforcement staff’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Chasers Dug for Years, to No Avail’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Madoff Took Funds Near Arrest’

ABC: ‘The Safeguard Madoff Victims Missed: How Custodial Accounts at Banks Can Help Avoid Madoff-Type Schemes’



‘Shoe intifada’ vowed; we quake in our boots

Now we have another chance to peer into the soul of terrorists, rebels, and other insurgents.

Enraged at the alleged beating of the journalist who hurled at George W. Bush, a Muslim cleric in Iran has called for a “shoe intifada.”

Still unconfirmed: The cleric promised martyr wannabes 72 pairs of new shoes.

No time to tell you more. A snowstorm’s coming, and I need to leave for the city so I can stop at al-Payless before going to work.

So click on these …



The estranged wife of United Technologies Chairman George David says she has weekly expenses of $53,000 — more than what half the households in America earn annually and higher than the cost of attending an Ivy League school for a year.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Bush shoe protester has been beaten, Iraqi judge says’

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush was beaten afterwards and had bruises on his face, the investigating judge in the case said today, as a senior cleric in Iran urged others to wage a “shoe intifada” against the US.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Surgeon finds foot in baby’s brain’

N.Y. Post: ‘Bubba of Arabia’

BBC: ‘One in 10 Jobs Tied to Autos? Not so Fast’
Bailout Backers Claim 13 Million Jobs Rely on Auto Industry, but Economists Say It’s 2 Million

Xinhua (China): ‘Web site ordered to pay damages to China’s first “virtual lynching” victim’

Center for Responsive Politics: ‘Madoff and Company Spent Nearly $1 Million on Washington Influence’

The man behind a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that has roiled Wall Street and shaken up the nonprofit world was also a long-time contributor to Democrats,

Washington Post: ‘The Confessor in Chief’ (Dana Milbank)

Slowly, painfully, self-awareness has come to George W. Bush.

Telegraph (U.K.): ‘DreamWorks “struggling”: Everything Steven Spielberg touches usually turns to gold.’


New Yorkers got slammed yesterday by the third leg of a triple whammy — a 7 percent property-tax hike, approved by the City Council, that takes effect on New Year’s Day.

Times (U.K.): ‘Barack Obama lays into SEC for its lack of “adult supervision”‘

Telegraph (U.K.): ‘Increase in robots “could lead to lack of human contact”‘

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Records show Caroline Kennedy failed to cast her vote many times since 1988’

Telegraph (U.K.): ‘Sandwiches cause woman to faint’

L.A. Times: ‘Health providers’ “conscience” rule to take effect’

The last-minute Bush administration declaration lets doctors, clinics, receptionists and others refuse to give care they find morally objectionable.

San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Gay leaders angered by Obama’s prayer pick’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Two ex-Lehman brokers among 4 hit in insider ring’

The feds busted a $4.8 million insider trading scheme involving two ex-Lehman Brothers brokers who funneled confidential tips through a Playboy Playmate, officials said Thursday.

Times (U.K.): ‘It’s dramatic! It’s sensational! It’s the Fed rescue’

Quantitative easing may not sound exciting, but it is as momentous as the Gettysburg Address or the D-Day landings.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Fairfield Extended Madoff’s Reach: Investment Fund’s Marketing Effort Helped to Raise Billions for Money Manager’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Keen to Regulate Finance’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Clinton Reveals Donors’

Former President Bill Clinton‘s charitable foundation has taken in more than $140 million in the past decade from foreign sources, including the Saudi royal family and leaders of a Middle Eastern government now negotiating a controversial deal with the U.S. government to procure nuclear-energy technologies.

Those were among the details included in the list of 205,000 donors to the Clinton Foundation, released for the first time Thursday, as part of an unusual deal negotiated with Barack Obama when the president-elect decided to nominate Mr. Clinton’s wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, for secretary of state.


Hillary? Watch Obama like a hawk.

And you thought that Hillary Clinton was the political season’s upset loser and that the upset winner, Barack Obama, promised “change.”

You were wrong. Reneging on his promise of change, Obama may turn out to be the only fresh face in his administration. He is expected to bail out Clinton by naming her today as his Secretary of State.

It wasn’t that many years ago that Clinton was appointed chief diplomat of Wal-Mart, thanks only to her possessing the celebrity of being a governor’s wife.

During the chain’s march toward becoming the world’s largest corporation, she carried the message of low, low prices to small towns throughout America’s heartland. Not to mention — she didn’t — that she was a Democratic governor’s wife representing the world’s largest union-buster. (See my May 2000 story, “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.”)

Now, unless all the signs are wrong, she’ll be the chief diplomat of a country with low, low esteem. Maybe it isn’t so bad to have a celebrity in the post to try to restore our international rep, but as some outlets point out, Clinton and the other expected foreign-policy appointments are all more hawkish than Obama.

And many of them are much more experienced and/or skillful at actual diplomacy and/or negotiation. Maybe no diplomat will be able to step into the Mumbai rubble and tiptoe through the still dangerous minefield that is India and Pakistan. Clinton doesn’t have the chops to strike deals, as her record on health care and other issues prove. She was good at such “constituent services” as making sure that potholes are fixed. Big deal.

She doesn’t have much of a track record of skillful negotiating from her years as First Lady and senator. One can only hope that Clinton surrounds herself with some real diplomats and just focuses on being the chief U.S. spokesmodel.

There’s little doubt that we are now officially a celebrity culture. Gone are the days when colorless types like Warren Christopher can move into Foggy Bottom or when little-known wonks like Condoleezza Rice can use the job to attain celebrity. Now it’s celebrity first, then the job.

Not that I’m telling you anything new, but if you still don’t think we’re a celebrity culture, ask the New Yorkers who started lining up yesterday to watch gun-crazy football player Plaxico Burress‘s perp walk, also scheduled for today. (It is a pretty interesting tale.)

Clinton is perhaps the first celebrity to get the State post, which is usually a stepping stone to the presidency, not a reward for losing. (See the list.)

Now she’ll be third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind Joe Biden and the Senate president pro tem Robert Byrd, who at 91 is so decrepit that he has to be wheeled around the Capitol. [Correction: Actually, Hillary would be fourth, behind Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and then Byrd. The order of succession is vice president, then House speaker, then Senate president pro tem, then secretary of State. Thanks to reader “Bob” for pointing this out.]

Good thing the Democrats have control of the Senate. Otherwise, convicted felon pro pen Ted Stevens would still be president pro tem.

As for Hillary’s new job, don’t blame me. I tried to stop her with this and that.

Moving on to the this and that of the here and now …


Wall Street Journal: ‘India Security Faulted as Survivors Tell of Terror’

Washington Post: ‘Obama Poised to Name Hillary Clinton to State Post’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Hillary Clinton passed on Appropriations chair to become Obama’s Secretary of State’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Captured Terrorist: Mumbai Attackers Had Orders To Kill Israelis’

The Age (Australia): ‘Experts not certain al-Qaeda to blame’

BBC: ‘How Mumbai attacks unfolded’

McClatchy: ‘With economy souring, illegal immigrants going home’

BBC: ‘Pakistanis wary of Mumbai claims’

N.Y. Times: ‘One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex’

N.Y. Times: ‘A Handpicked Obama Team for a Shift in Foreign Policy’

Barack Obama’s national security team includes two veteran cold warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than that of the new president.

Salon: ‘Sympathy for Charles Graner’

No one from the Bush administration has been held accountable for torture. But the guard from Abu Ghraib prison is still behind bars, and his family wants to know why.

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Chabad Grieves for Emissaries Killed in Mumbai’