ThinkFast: March 9, 2009


Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman worries that “the White House has decided to muddle through on the financial front, relying on economic recovery to rescue the banks rather than the other way around.” “Sooner or later, the administration will realize that more must be done,” Krugman writes. “But when it comes back for more money, will Congress go along?”

Economists at the World Bank warned yesterday that “the world is falling into the first global recession since World War II,” and it is confronting developing countries with “massive financial shortfalls that could turn back the clock on poverty reduction.” The new World Bank report said the crisis “began with junk mortgages” in the U.S.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) has changed his tune on Barack Obama. “He’s shown real leadership,” Lieberman told the AP in an interview. “Bottom line: I think Barack Obama, president of the United States, is off to a very good start.”

More than 600 self-described climate change skeptics are meeting in New York City this week to challenge the “broad scientific and political consensus” that humans are dangerously heating up the planet. The International Conference on Climate Change, organized by the Heartland Institute, aims to counter efforts “to tackle global warming with legislation requiring cuts in the greenhouse gases.”

Improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Afghanistan “killed three times as many coalition troops in the first two months of 2009 compared with the same period last year. The increase points to a strengthening insurgency and potentially more violence as warmer weather arrives along with intensified fighting.” During the same period, “96 troops were wounded, a 146% increase from the 39 early last year.”

The White House announced yesterday it would pull out 12,000 troops from Iraq by September, the first step toward removing all troops by 2010. Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, emphasized the status of forces agreement requiring the end of the U.S. occupation by 2011. “The Iraqi government has no intention to accept the presence of any foreign troops or bases after 2011,” he said.

In his Sunday column, Tom Friedman writes that the growth the U.S. has experienced for the past 50 years is “simply unsustainable economically and ecologically.” “We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said ClimateProgress’s Joe Romm.

On CNBC this morning, billionaire Warren Buffet said that the economy has ”fallen off a cliff” over the past six months and that “not only has the economy slowed down a lot, but people have really changed their habits like I haven’t seen.” Buffet added that he thinks unemployment “will likely climb a lot higher before the recession is done,” but that “everything will be all right” eventually.

McClatchy newspapers will cut 1,600 jobs, or 15% of its work force. “As with other newspaper companies, McClatchy is suffering as readers and advertisers shift away from newspapers. The economic downturn is “particularly painful for McClatchy” since it has “large newspapers in areas hit hard by the real-estate meltdown.”

And finally: President Obama led a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for 77-year old Sen. Ted Kennedy last night at the Kennedy center. The Massachusetts senator was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Referring to her short-lived attempt to seek former New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate seat, Caroline Kennedy joked, “I never thought I’d be in a room with so many senators.”

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