February 21, 2014 |
WASHINGTON - The day after Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, Federal Reserve policymakers hadn't yet grasped the scope of the financial storm blowing overhead. What was clear to them as they gathered for a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16, was that economic conditions were worsening, according to transcripts released Friday of key Fed meetings that year. "The markets are continuing to experience very significant stresses this morning," said Ben S. Bernanke, then the Fed chairman, arriving late for the meeting, "and there are increasing concerns about the insurance company, AIG. " But Fed officials weren't ready for the unprecedented steps, such as bailing out the giant insurer, American International Group Inc., that they soon would be taking in a tumultuous year that transformed the central bank from obscure guardian of interest rates to aggressive fighter of financial crises.
February 16, 2014 |
CHILPANCINGO, Mexico - On a cool evening in February, Pioquinto Damian, the head of the Chamber of Commerce here in Guerrero's capital city, was locked away in his downtown apartment, afraid to step outside. He was convinced that the mayor had tried to kill him in an ambush just a few days before. In response, the governor had assigned him 18 heavily armed police officers as bodyguards. A few miles outside town, hundreds of members of autodefensas - vigilante "self-defense" militias composed largely of fed-up farmworkers - were patrolling the streets of semirural suburbs with ancient rifles and shotguns, hoping to rid them of the drug cartel thugs who had terrorized them for years.
February 16, 2014 |
The most sinister video you're likely to find online just now comes from people who oppose online gambling. "Disreputable gaming interests are lobbying hard to spread Internet gambling throughout the country," a voice over intones. Cue the grainy black-and-white footage of something sketchy going on in an alleyway, the ominous music and allusions to criminal "syndicates" and terrorism. The narrator warns that "an established Al Qaeda poker network could extract enough untraceable money from the United States in just a few days to fund several 9/11-sized attacks.
February 14, 2014 |
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - President Obama flew across the country seeking to soothe the jangled nerves of allies Friday, meeting in the morning with House Democrats worried about reelection and at day's end with a key Middle Eastern leader who sits precariously close to regional conflicts. The day's tour took the president from the eastern shore of Maryland to the drought-stricken Central Valley to a desert compound in Rancho Mirage - an aberrant schedule for a White House usually regimented in its commitment to generating just one message a day. In his evening meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the Sunnylands retreat, Obama spoke about the civil war in Syria, the resurgent violence of Al Qaeda and a proposed framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
February 11, 2014 |
WASHINGTON - Acknowledging "enormous frustration," President Obama said Tuesday that his administration "continues to explore every possible avenue" to help resolve the nearly 3-year-old Syrian civil war, although he again said he had no plans for military intervention. Appearing with French President Francois Hollande, a reliable partner in his foreign policy agenda, Obama called Syria a "crumbling" state and worried that conditions there have destabilized the region. The president also expressed frustration in another area of close cooperation with France, threatening to come down "like a ton of bricks" on businesses that would trade with Iran while international talks continue over its nuclear program.
February 10, 2014 |
Last October, in between arguments over the debt ceiling, the federal government somehow found time to send me an email. My student loan payment was 70 days past due, the message read, so the government had negatively reported me to each major credit bureau and would continue to report me until my account was brought current. I'm betting the government sent out a lot of those letters to people like me: college graduates from middle-class families who didn't qualify for much in the way of scholarship aid and had parents who couldn't afford to pay for their schooling.