Dow Jonesin': Rupert Murdoch reports big loss on 'Wall Street Journal'-related writedown

Rupert MurdochThe pot's calling the kettle black: The New York Times runs a Reuters story this afternoon about Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. posting an $8.4 billion writedown on the advertising-challenged Wall Street Journal and other properties.

The Times, as we know, is in even worse shape and has even reached out to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

Nevertheless, the snooty paper of record neglected to mention its own troubles — while it saw fit to mention the woes of other media corpses:

News Corporation is the latest media conglomerate to report gloomy financial results as advertisers slash their budgets in the weak economy.

This week, Time Warner posted a $16 billion quarterly net loss because of a write-down, and the Walt Disney Company posted a sharply lower-than-expected profit in part because of poor TV ad and DVD sales.

The bad news for the Wall Street Journal — the best piece of Murdoch property other than The Simpsons — is that it's apparently dragging down the whole thing.

Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about the Times's own troubles, read this story from Murdoch's Post:

I told you last month that newspapers needed a bailout. But George W. Bush, whose presence on the scene provided mucho grist for the mill, has fled to Texas, and all he left us was this lousy meltdown.

Fossils still bite: Bernie Madoff and prehistoric snakes

PRESS CLIPS Good for the New York Times! Always trying to take a broad view (even when one doesn't exist, as Jack Shafer often points out), the paper weighs in on how the plight of Bernie Madoff's white-haired victims gives us valuable insights about the global meltdown with this morning's "Fossils of Largest Snake Give Hint of Hot Earth."

Good info that the "prehistoric snake" was "a giant relative of today's boa constrictors." The elderly Madoff wasn't the first, nor will he be the last, snake to swallow your money. Wall Street is really is a dangerous place, even for celebrities — see the latest list of Madoff's victims.

Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos's testimony yesterday on Capitol wasn't quite as colorful, but the bookish-yet-tigerish accountant was pretty damn intense, as I previously noted.

Among other fascinating details, Markopolos told the dazed House members that he planned to deliver to the SEC today a "mini-Madoff." The agency is sure to accept this silver platter with respect and care.

President Barack Obama, on the other hand, is showing me no respect with his $500,000 limit on CEO pay ( VIDEO). To get a bailout, I have to limit my pay? I don't think so.

While I wait for my manservant to dress me, I'll also point out that the Times story "Daschle's Ambitions Collided, Friends Say" does little more than say what I already said yesterday. The Times was more polite.

Please click on these items. Pretty please...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

CNN: 'Toyota shuts down all but one assembly line'

N.Y. Post: 'BANKS' MONEY WELL SPENT'

New York's top banking firms went on a multimillion lobbying spree late last year -- just as the feds were crafting a $700 billion rescue plan for struggling banks.

The banks got an extraordinary return on their investment, as they got federal cash injections that were thousands of times larger than what they spent trying to influence Congress and the administration - which doled out the cash.

Newsday: 'Drilling leases on Utah land scrapped'

In a high-profile reversal of the Bush administration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday the government is scrapping the leases of 77 parcels of federal land for oil and gas drilling in Utah's redrock country.

N.Y. Daily News: 'Twins' rage: Coward could never face our father'

N.Y. Times: 'Senate Adds Homebuyer Tax Credit to Stimulus Bill'

N.Y. Post: 'O WARNS OF "CATA$TROPHE": URGES STIMULUS OK AMID MOUNTING RESISTANCE'

Wall Street Journal: 'Forget Golf: Street Junkets Get Junked'

CNN: 'Overseer calls for bank bailout makeover'

Special inspector general for Treasury's $700 billion financial sector bailout said program needs tighter regulation and a better investment strategy.

Financial Crisis Update: 'SEC Official Endorses Central Counterparty for Credit Default Swaps as Global Consensus Grows'

N.Y. Times: 'Daschle's Ambitions Collided, Friends Say'

N.Y. Times: 'Science Found Wanting in Nation's Crime Labs'

N.Y. Post: 'ON WALL STREET: WHO COULD LIVE ON $500K?'

Wall Street Journal: 'Study: 9/11 Lung Problems Persist Years Later'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Cops on hunt for suspect in brutal rape in East Harlem laundromat'

N.Y. Times: 'Boo Hoo in the Boardroom'

Wall Street Journal: 'Faith-Based Program Gets Wider Focus'

When President Barack Obama launches his version of the faith-based initiative Thursday, he will expand the mission to include abortion reduction and outreach to the Muslim world. He will also try to avoid the thorniest constitutional issues that beset the program for years under his predecessor.

Mr. Obama's approach to the federal faith office reflects his search for common ground on contentious social issues, and his willingness to dial back some of his campaign positions.

N.Y. Post: 'AMAZIN' AMBUSH! SHAMSKY'S ANGRY EX POUNCES'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Cheney: Beware nukes'

Wall Street Journal: 'Gaza's Isolation Slows Rebuilding Efforts'

N.Y. Times: 'Societal Cost of Meth Use Is Gauged in New Study'

Bloomberg: '"Failed" Wall Street Forces Biggest Rewrite of Rules'

N.Y. Post: 'PLAYBOY'S ROCKER SCRIBE RIFFS ON STREET ROGUES'

N.Y. Daily News: 'The great Big Apple sports broadcaster debate'

N.Y. Post: 'SMOKING FEATHER OF FLIGHT 1549'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Lehman judge charged with hitting wife gets lawyer'

A federal judge charged with slapping his wife hired a big shot defense attorney as he faces a misdemeanor charge that could land him in the clink.

James Peck, 63, the bankruptcy judge overseeing the breakup of Lehman Brothers, hired Barry Bohrer, a prominent criminal defense lawyer whose clients have included Sam Israel, the hedge fund swindler who went on the lam last summer after faking his own suicide to avoid a 20-year jail term.

Peck, who was briefly assigned to handle the Bernard Madoff bankruptcy until he recused himself in December, told cops when they came to his Park Ave. apartment Saturday afternoon that "I was defending myself."

He said his wife, Judith Peck, 64, was late in returning to the city from their home in the Hamptons and then they argued over a ladder that she had put in his closet.

"I was moving the ladder out. She slapped me in the face," he told cops. "I put the ladder down and slapped her back. We slapped each other back and forth."

Bloomberg: 'Soros Imitators Reap Riches in Financial Whirlwind on Global Macro Funds'

Forbes: 'Buffett Sinks Billions Into Swiss Re'


'Sandy Koufax, John Malkovich among Bernie Madoff victims as court filings are released'

MADOFF WATCHFrom the Daily News:

...Other victims were identified as Ground Zero developer Larry Silverstein, the estate of late singer John Denver, actor John Malkovich, former Mets second baseman Tim Teufel and even Madoff's lawyer Ira Sorkin. The 163-page list also includes hundreds of trust funds, charities, pension plans and unions, as well as entries for Madoff's grandchildren. [FULL LIST]

Boston Globe: 'The whistleblower: Dogged pursuer of Madoff wary of fame'

U.S. News & World Report: '5 Things to Know About Whistleblowing'

Bloomberg: 'Madoff Said Only Brother Could Do Audit, Witness Tells Congress'

Whistleblower Lawyer Blog: 'Whistleblower Protections Added to Economic Stimulus Bill Passed by House'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Photo gallery: Madoff's victims'

N.Y. Post: 'DIVORCEE BIDS TO 'EX'-TEND MADOFF PAIN'

Whistleblower Lawyer Blog: 'Hedge Funds Face Regulation & Oversight by SEC--Will There Be Another Compliance Tool in Addition to IRS Whistleblower Program?'

Fortune: 'Did Madoff's feeder fund shop for friendly audits?'

Whistleblower Harry Markopolos testifies that Fairfield Greenwich switched auditors three times in three years.

AP: '[Massachusetts] pension fund fires 2 managers'

Two managers of the Massachusetts state pension fund have been fired for poor performances, including one who lost $12 million investing with accused Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff.

N.Y. Daily News: '$1B of swindled funds uncovered, Madoff's alleged vics to get paid "in the near future"'

N.Y. Post: 'HOW SEC BOZOS BLEW IT: WHISTLEBLOWER RIPS DO-NOTHING FED "FLEAS"'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Car dealer hopes to say, "I Madoff with 100G"'

N.Y. Daily News: 'GM Omar Minaya says Mets will not go after Manny Ramirez'

Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon computed the Mets' 2009 payroll at $143 million when factors such as Freddy Garcia's probable salary with bonuses, the $1.6 million owed to the Diamondbacks for Scott Schoeneweis and $2.25 million owed to Willie Randolph are included. Wilpon handed Minaya that budget early in the offseason, before Wilpon learned his family had lost money in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Wilpon declared that the Mets had accomplished their winter objectives, mentioning the acquisitions of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz and "addition by subtraction" with trades that shipped out players such as Aaron Heilman and Schoeneweis.


Wall Street's bonus army pulls bank robbery; Al Jazeera's Josh Rushing joins his U.S. mates in Afghanistan

In "Taliban resurgence pushes troops to change tack," Al Jazeera's Josh Rushing joins U.S. troops on the frontline in Afghanistan. Watch this and then ask yourself: Why isn't this as freely available on your cable as CNN or Fox News? And yes, you've heard Rushing's name; he's the former Marine flack during the Iraq invasion who was featured in the documentary Control Room and then defied the Pentagon by talking about his experiences with Al Jazeera. Now he works for Al Jazeera.


PRESS CLIPS Unlike Wall Street's short-sellers, I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but capitalism is not dead, despite the moaning and groaning from Davos to D.C.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that the global economy will come to "a virtual halt." No, not yet and not for everybody. For evidence, see "What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses" in the Times:

Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.

That was the sixth-largest haul on record, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State comptroller.

While the payouts paled next to the riches of recent years, Wall Street workers still took home about as much as they did in 2004, when the Dow Jones industrial average was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high.

On the other hand, you can say that capitalism is in trouble, judging by the surprisingly cynical, lively tone of Ben White's above story.

In fact, this is one of the rare moments when a Times story is sharper and more skeptical than the tabloids' stories on the same topic. Compare this morning's Daily News story: "City takes hit as Wall St. bonuses cut." Or the Post's: "WALL STREET BONUSES DROP TO LOWEST IN 30 YEARS."

Yes, the fact that the bonuses sharply fell indicates trouble on Wall Street. But the main thing it indicates is that the bonuses in past years have been staggeringly unconscionable and are now falling back to being merely unconscionable.

In any case, Barack Obama, the nation's first Kenyan-Kansan president, has already used his bully pulpit to preach social responsibility and rail against greed. Looks as if he might have to summon these Wall Street gangsters to the basketball court and posterize them. You know, add them to his In-Your-Facebook.

And you can just ignore the caterwauling by Capitol Hill's Republicans about Obama's stimulus plan. Even the Wall Street Journal reports that corporate types look favorably on Obama's package.

For those of us accident victims bleeding after being run over on Wall Street or gasping for breath at the foot of Capitol Hill, that stimulus package can't come too soon. The depression is finally hitting home: I almost dropped my laptop when I heard that profits earned by my Sony baby daddy dropped by 95 percent. Poor little laptop overheats as it is.

If yours still works (and if you're reading this, it is), click on these items...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: 'MTA BOARD FARES BADLY AT HEARING'

Members of the MTA board were called "callous" and "oppressors" at a fare hearing in Brooklyn last night that drew nearly 500 people.

Wall Street Journal: 'Continuing Jobless Claims Hit Record'

N.Y. Times: 'What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses'

Despite crippling losses in 2008, employees at financial companies in New York collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.

N.Y. Post: 'DEAD LETTER DAY IS LOOMING: POSTAL SERVICE LICKED BY $6B DEFICIT, LOOKS TO SLASH DELIVERIES'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Mobster put body in acid, then gave boss the finger -- in soup'

N.Y. Post: 'CONEY ISLAND'S ROCKET SPARED'

Astroland Park's popular Rocket won't be blasting out of Coney Island after all. City officials confirmed yesterday that the park's longtime operator, the Albert family, has donated...

N.Y. Times: 'House Passes Stimulus Plan Despite G.O.P. Opposition'

Without a single Republican vote, President Obama won House approval for an $819 billion economic plan as Democrats sought to temper their own differences.

Wall Street Journal: 'U.S. Moves to Aid Credit Unions'

Bloomberg: 'Gore Says Stimulus Package's Investments Will Help Combat Global Warming'

N.Y. Post: 'DA: #!@ ATT'Y $CAMMED SICK MORGY CURSIN' MAD OVER LOST MILLIONS'

It takes a special kind of thief to get Morgy this mad. Manhattan's gentlemanly district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, yesterday needed a pair of profanities to describe a big-shot...

N.Y. Times: 'Youth Charged With More Attacks on Latinos'

The seven defendants in the deadly assault on Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, are accused of assaulting or attempting to assault a total of eight other Latino men.

N.Y. Post: '"BIZ BILK" GAL WANTS LOOT BACK FROM FEDS'

The wealthy Upper West Side woman charged with bilking $80 million from Fortune 500 firms is complaining that she can't live without her Rolex, Warhol and MontBlancs...

Bloomberg: 'Mitchell's Firm Lobbied For Dubai's Ruler to Help Quash Camel Jockey Suit'

George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special Middle East troubleshooter, was chairman of a law firm that was paid about $8 million representing Dubai's ruler in connection with a child-trafficking lawsuit.

CBS: 'CIA Officer In Algeria Accused Of Rape'

N.Y. Times: 'Backers of Mayoral School Control Face Resistance'

N.Y. Post: 'BEEF AT GAY INSULT: VEGETARIAN SUES'

N.Y. Daily News: '15,000 school jobs may go: Klein'

N.Y. Times: 'Friends, Until I Delete You'

As your circle of friends on Facebook widens, you may wonder if there's an etiquette to "defriending" someone, just in case.

FOX: 'Curvy Kim Kardashian Thinks Curvy Jessica Simpson "Looks Hot"'

N.Y. Times: 'On Iraq, Obama Faces Hard Choices'

In redefining the nation's mission in Iraq, President Obama must decide between abandoning a campaign promise and risking a rupture with the military.

Wall Street Journal: 'Chinese Premier Blames Recession on U.S. Actions'

CBS: 'LA Cardinal Subject Of Federal Probe'

N.Y. Times: 'Stimulus Package's Components Vary in Speed and Efficiency'

The impact of the $819 billion economic stimulus package will be felt within weeks once the final version becomes law, but estimating its effectiveness is far more complex.

N.Y. Times: 'After the War on Terror' (Roger Cohen)

In his first White House televised interview, with the Al Arabiya news network, President Obama buried the lead: The war on terror is over.

N.Y. Times: 'Blagojevich to End Boycott of His Own Trial'

N.Y. Times: 'White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code'

N.Y. Times: 'Musicians Hear Heaven in Tully Hall's New Sound'


'JPMorgan Exited Madoff-Linked Funds Last Fall'

MADOFF WATCHFrom the Times:

...the bank suddenly began pulling its millions out of [funds that invested with Madoff] in early autumn, months before Mr. Madoff was arrested, according to accounts from Europe and New York that were subsequently confirmed by the bank. The bank did not notify investors of its move, and several of them are furious that it protected itself but left them holding notes that the bank itself now says are probably worthless.

N.Y. Post: 'MADOFF: I'M WEAKENED AT BERNIE'S'

He's "The Prisoner of Park Avenue."

Bernie Madoff is whining to anyone who'll listen that he's being held captive in his palatial penthouse and unable to traipse around the Big Apple as he did before being busted for running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, a source familiar with the scam artist told the Post.

"I'm a prisoner in my own house!" Madoff fumed. "I can't go anywhere! I'm stuck here all day!"...

In recent days, The Post has learned, private contractors have been moving at the request of federal authorities to install wiretaps on Madoff's apartment phones and computers.

"If he surfs the Web or makes a call, it's going to be tracked," a source said.

NY1: 'Queens Warehouse May Be Linked To Madoff Scheme'

Bloomberg: 'Madoff's Tactics Date to 1960s When Father-in-Law Was Recruiter'

Bloomberg: 'Ex-Madoff Worker Objects to $58,000 Bill for Boss's Mercedes'

Wall Street Journal: 'Painting the Scene of Madoff's Operation'

Forbes: 'Wells Fargo becomes the first major U.S. bank to report Madoff-related loan losses'

CNBC: 'Accused Swindler Cosmo Owed Thousands to Mob'

Where's the news? Obama's whitehouse.gov is transparent -- but not in a good way.

Check out this smarmy explanation by the Obama White House's tech crew of its new website. PRESS CLIPS

Barack Obama's version of the official presidential website, whitehouse.gov, is deeply troubling and downright scary.

So far, it's nothing more than puffery. Even under the Bush-Cheney regime, the site included not only the expected puffery but also easy-to-access news and transcripts and schedules and photos — a record of the presidency, even with George W. Bush's malaprops.

I've e-mailed the site, but have received no response. Seeking explanations elsewhere, I see that the Atlantic's Megan McArdle noted earlier this week:

You'll be pleased to know that the new site is very smart looking. Unfortunately, that sleekness has been achieved by tucking even more of that unsightly information out of the way, where it won't mar the vista.

Just where it's tucked away is unclear. The fact that it's tucked away is more than annoying; it's a creepy display of propagandizing.

It's refreshing to have a brother in the White House. But Americans didn't elect a Big Brother.

Maybe there's another site that has that basic, necessary presidential info on Obama's White House. There had better be, or all his talk about "transparency" will truly be transparent.

Memo to Obama: Spare me the site's touted "blog" and give us the damn news and info.

Moving on from the government of record to the paper of record: The New York Times is ignoring not only other papers, as usual, but is showing a bald display of excessive ass-kissing of its new sugar daddy, Mexican robber baron Carlos Slim.

Freely admitting that I'm even whinier than usual, I'll point out that it's typical of the New York Times to pretend that other media outlets don't exist: Today's piece "Correction Officers Accused of Letting Inmates Run Rikers Island Jail" is heart-rending in its saga of brutality, but my colleague Graham Rayman broke the scandal long ago in his slew of "Rikers Island Fight Club" stories.

On the other hand, the Times isn't even promoting its own past stories. The paper's radically altered coverage of its impending bailout by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim shows that the paper knows where its bread is buttered.

Back in August 2007, Eduardo Porter wrote in the Times, under the headline "Mexico's Plutocracy Thrives on Robber-Baron Concessions":

Like many a robber baron -- or Russian oligarch, or Enron executive -- Mr. Slim calls to mind the words of Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." Mr. Slim's sin, if not technically criminal, is like that of Rockefeller, the sin of the monopolist.

The very next month, September 2007, the robber baron started purchasing shares in the Times. [CORRECTION: Actually, Slim didn't start purchasing Times shares until September 2008. Thanks to reader Karl Werner-Bailey (see his comment below) for catching my error. My apologies. My careless error tarnishes, not demolishes, my point, but I have to face the facts that I'm having a bad day.]

Two months later, in December 2007, the paper's ball sack had already ascended out of view — suddenly Carlos Slim was no longer a "robber baron." In "A New Breed of Billionaire," Landon Thomas Jr. wrote:

The global wealth boom has created a new breed of billionaire in once-destitute countries, and a number of them are using their wealth to push for social changes....

Carlos Slim Helú, the telecommunications entrepreneur in Mexico who is worth more than $50 billion, has pledged billions of dollars to his two foundations that will aid health and education.

In May 2008, the Times revealed in an out-and-out puff piece that Slim isn't another reclusive robber baron but is rather a "shy" guy. From the paper's "When Shakira Calls, Even the Shy Appear":

The Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim Helú does not seem to like appearing in public, but he apparently could not resist an invitation from the Colombian pop star Shakira and about a dozen other Latin music stars.

Fast-forward to January 2009, and Carlos Slim is no longer so shy, but he's even more philanthropic: He's about to bail out the financially ailing Times itself, as Andrew Sorkin's "Billionaire Seeks Deal in Times Co." noted:

Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican billionaire, is near a deal to invest about $250 million in The New York Times Company, helping to shore up the publishing company's struggling finances...

Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Slim, who already owns 6.4 percent of the Times Company, would invest $250 million in the form of 10-year notes with warrants that are convertible into common shares, these people said.

As part of Mr. Slim's investment, which resembles a loan, he is expected to get a special annual dividend, perhaps as high as 10 percent or more on this investment, these people said.

The January 16 Times story, which didn't mention its own earlier portrayal of Slim as a "robber baron" (though other media outlets regularly still mention that critics call him that) admitted that the paper intended to keep the deal hush-hush:

It is unclear what motivated Mr. Slim's investment, first reported by the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. He approached the Times Company in November, people briefed on the discussions said, offering to make a sizable investment. He never sought a governance role and did not express interest in influencing the company's operations, these people said. The talks were intended to be private.

Yeah, the billionaire "seeks deal in Times Co." It's the Times that was desperate for a deal.

You're unlikely to see the paper refer to him as a "robber baron" or "monopolist" these days.

While I place a call to the admirable Mr. Slim to get my own bailout, click on these items...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Wall Street Journal: 'Obama to Lift Family-Planning "Gag Rule"'

Obama will restore U.S. funding for family-planning groups, but chose not to act on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

N.Y. Post: 'TOTS CRUSHED TO DEATH'

A delivery van jumped the curb on a bustling Chinatown street yesterday and plowed through a group of preschoolers as they strolled single file holding a walking rope while returning from a library - killing two of the youngsters and critically injuring another. The freak accident occurred at around 11:30 a.m., when the driver of the gray van...

N.Y. Daily News: 'New York runs out of money to pay jobless claims'

Wall Street Journal: 'Cable Rates, Phone Costs Negotiable'

...Under intense pressure from Wall Street to keep subscribers as the economy sags and competition intensifies, many carriers are bent on retaining customers even if it means offering big price breaks.

N.Y. Post: 'SEX RAP FOR BX. HS DEAN'

The dean of discipline at Cardinal Hayes HS has been arrested for allegedly fondling a 19-year-old student in his office, where he purportedly said, "I love you . . . I can take you someplace...

Law enforcement sources said the 25-year Hayes employee took the young man out of a class Jan. 13, and brought him to his office, where he allegedly unzipped the student's pants and began fondling him.

N.Y. Times: 'Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Miss World finalist has hands, feet amputated'

Wall Street Journal: 'Some Firms Boost Boss's Pension'

Some major companies are boosting the value of top executives' retirement plans by using a generous formula when converting a pension into a single payment. The practice can increase a pension's value by 10 percent to 40 percent.

Wall Street Journal: 'New York Attorney General Scrutinizes Merrill Lynch Bonuses' (Heidi N. Moore)

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating Merrill Lynch's eleventh-hour bonus payments....Merrill Lynch executives, led by John Thain, accelerated bonuses to employees before Bank of America could interfere with the payouts...

Cuomo has taken issue with Thain's actions before. Late last year, he criticized Thain's request for a $10 million bonus as "shocking" and wrote a letter of protest to Merrill Lynch's directors....

N.Y. Daily News: 'Guards plead not guilty in "nightmare" Rikers beatings'

N.Y. Post: 'Chute-For-Brains Jumper Ducks Jail'

N.Y. Post: '$TUPOR-GATE: PROBE OF SPITZER A WASTE'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Caroline's bid a disaster from the start'

N.Y. Daily News: 'Cry for help unanswered for relative of Gaza victims' (Juan Gonzalez)

Wall Street Journal: 'Thain Ousted in Clash at BofA'

John Thain agreed to step down from a top job at Bank of America after CEO Kenneth Lewis asked the former Merrill chief to resign.

N.Y. Post: 'MIKE RIPS "LAYOFF" BUDGET'

Mayor Bloomberg blasted Gov. Paterson's $121 billion budget proposal as "unfair" and "outrageous" yesterday, and said its cuts would result in tax hikes and...

Wall Street Journal: 'Demand For Reverse Mortgages Climbs'

As the credit crisis has worsened, more seniors have turned to federally insured reverse mortgages to tap home equity and, in some cases, to prevent foreclosure.

While still a very small share of the borrowing market, demand for these mortgages climbed in 2008 as credit tightened and retirement savings plunged. The market is expected to grow significantly as loan amounts increase and baby boomers with inadequate savings tap their home equity to fund retirement. Consumer groups, however, warn that fees are high and the cash sometimes is misused.

N.Y. Post: 'HITTING A "RAW" NERVE: SUSHI CHEF "SLASH RAGE"'

Here's one guy you wouldn't want to face on Iron Chef! A hot-blooded sushi chef got so mad during a road-rage incident on Staten Island Wednesday that he whipped out his...

Wall Street Journal: 'Fed to Focus on Rates, Loans'

Federal Reserve officials are likely next week to stick closely to their approach for handling the financial crisis, despite internal divisions about some of their tactics.

Wall Street Journal: 'Britain Enters Recession'

N.Y. Post: 'THE SCOOP ON WORST US FOOD'

Wall Street Journal: 'Firms Lobby as They Get TARP Cash'

N.Y. Post: 'I'M PLANE INSANE, SUICIDE SCAMMER WHINES TO POST'

Wall Street Journal: 'U.S. Raids Contractors Aided by Murtha'

Federal agents raided two small Pennsylvania defense contractors that were given millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations committee and one of the most powerful men in Congress.

Wall Street Journal: 'Times Co. Nears Deal On Building'

New York Times Co. is nearing a deal to sell a portion of its Midtown Manhattan headquarters in the latest of a string of recent efforts to reduce its debt load....

Times Co. has $1.1 billion in debt and $46 million in cash and a substantial amount of debt maturing over the next couple of years. With print advertising declines accelerating across all newspapers, Times Co. has been forced to consider a number of options to free up cash.

The company in November cut its dividend by 75% and is trying to sell its stake in the company that owns the Boston Red Sox and the team's Fenway Park. Earlier this week Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim agreed to invest $250 million in the company in return for senior unsecured notes with detachable warrants convertible into common stock.

N.Y. Post: 'LEGEND OF LEDGER LIVES ON: JOKER AT TOP OF OSCAR DECK AFTER NOMINATION ON SAD ANNIVERSARY'

Wall Street Journal: 'Troubles Mount for Chrysler, Fiat'

Chrysler and Fiat both showed signs of trouble days after announcing an alliance. Fiat said its debt soared and Chrysler disclosed costly sales incentives.

N.Y. Post: 'CROCKEFELLER EYES 5-YEAR DEAL'


'Probers Work Backward on Madoff'

MADOFF WATCHFrom the Wall Street Journal:

The unusual nature of Madoff's alleged massive fraud is complicating the SEC's investigation.

FOX News: 'Report: Larry King the Latest Big Loser in Bernie Madoff Scandal'

Bloomberg: 'Madoff Shows Banks Must Become Whistleblowers'

'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.


PRESS CLIPS

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...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

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'

N.Y. Post: 'KID PERV IN AIDS SCARE'

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

N.Y. Post: 'SLAY FESS: REALTOR SENT ME OVER EDGE'

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'

N.Y. Post: 'CAROLINE HAS "A MINUS": GOV'

Wall Street Journal: 'Wall Street Is Big Donor to Inauguration'

N.Y. Post: 'JUST LIKE OL' CRIMES: NYPD'S LETUP STIRS FEARS OF '80S FLASHBACK'

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'

N.Y. Post: 'UPSTATE "PONZI" HITS CHURCHES'

N.Y. Post: 'FORMER GOPER MIKE WANTS TO GET BACK IN'

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. Post: 'PUSH VS. TERRORIST "CELLS"'

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

N.Y. Post: 'MTA'S "GREEN" BACKS'

N.Y. Post: 'NY CIVIL WAR BONES FOUND'

Wall Street Journal: 'Hedge-Fund Middlemen Get Pinched'

N.Y. Post: 'RATTNER BLOWOUT: BOTTLENECK DEVELOPS IN POSSIBLE CAR CZAR APPOINTMENT'

N.Y. Post: 'MORTGAGE RATES DROP'

Wall Street Journal: 'Chevron Warns of Hefty Drop in Earnings'

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

N.Y. Post: 'DTV DELAY BACKED BY OBAMA'

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'


MADOFF WATCHBloomberg: 'Madoff's Three-Bedroom Riviera Retreat Belied Ponzi Scheme Role'

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

N.Y. Post: 'FINAL MADOFF PLUNDER PLAN'

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'

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

Al Jazeera reporting on the war in Gaza


PRESS CLIPSWill 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...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: 'CAR FUMES KILL LOVERS'

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.

N.Y. Post: 'MAN FATALLY STABS HIS PIT BULL'

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'

N.Y. Post: 'UNEMPLOYMENT OUTAGE'

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. Post: 'OY VEY, WHAT A 'SNATCH': GEM BANDITS USE FILM-STYLE HASID DISGUISE'

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. Post: 'YANKEE PANKY: NEW SLUGGER'S SMOOCHY COUP'

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.

N.Y. Post: '45% FAVOR CAROLINE'

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. Post: '"EX" SEX EXTORT ARREST'

N.Y. Times: 'Specter Attacks Choice for Attorney General'

N.Y. Post: 'POL BUS KILLS KID: CANDIDATE DEVASTATED'

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...


MADOFF WATCHN.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.

N.Y. Post: 'SEC GAL FIRES BACK'

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...

N.Y. Post: 'NYU "BERNED" FOR $94 MILLION'

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...


Ponzi schemer Norman Hsu claims stories about Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff are 'prejudicial'


Hot Air's Ventilators sing "Runaround Hsu."

If you hunger for a good snicker and you're somewhat of a news junkie, what's better than a concise roundup of the best Bernie Madoff news stories — the good parts, the adjectives, the apoplexy?

Look no further than a December 22 court document in the case of another Ponzi schemer and Democratic Party fundraiser, Norman Hsu.

The Clinton pal is facing trial in Manhattan Federal Court, but his lawyer is pleading for at least a 60-day delay to let the publicity about Madoff subside. Too prejudicial to Hsu, the lawyer argues.

Thanks to the Smoking Gun, you can glom the court doc, which rests under the headline "Obama and That Other Ponzi Scheme: President-elect's name may emerge in Norman Hsu fraud trial."

Hsu's lawyer has a point. As the court papers indicate, the Madoff scandal even prompted the New York Times to proclaim that the country has been "engrossed in an orgy of scandal."

Not sure whether the Times would even know an orgy if it saw one, but yes, we have been getting fucked. No, we haven't been enjoying it.

Reading about it is a lot safer than letting someone like Madoff or Hsu touch you in a "bad" place — like your wallet.

Blagojevich names Foghorn Leghorn to Obama's Senate seat

Comparing the coverage by the Times and Wall Street Journal.


Click above for a roundup of the best Blago jokes.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will name former Illinois AG Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Read the mid-afternoon versions of that breaking story in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and it's no contest.

The news is that Blago is naming some Foghorn Leghorn guy to the Senate. You gotta hand it to Gov.-not-for-long Blagojevich; he's cleverly playing the race card by replacing a black senator with another black senator. That should blunt some critics. Maybe.

The race angle is for another story. What's relevant here is the WSJ's third graf:

The choice is likely to face intense scrutiny because the governor faces federal corruption charges. The governor appears to be thumbing his nose at critics who have said the process allowing him to choose Mr. Obama's replacement should be circumvented.

Compare that with the New York Times's second graf:

Mr. Blagojevich, who faces federal corruption charges including allegations that he tried to sell Mr. Obama's former senate seat for a high-paying job or money, had not been expected to try to fill the seat. As recently as ten days ago, his lawyer, Edward Genson, said he would not attempt to make an appointment, since Senate leaders had indicated they would not accept anyone whom the beleaguered Mr. Blagojevich had appointed.

The snooty Times thumbs its nose at phrases like "thumbing his nose." The Journal consistently beats the Times at analyzing the facts and giving us the gist in colloquial — or at least lively — English that pols and other crooks use when privately figuring out ways to screw the public.

The WSJ is the best daily in the city, obviously for business news, but also for political news. That's because you don't have to read very far into its stories to get the real skinny. After all, its audience is largely those people who skirt the line between being crooks or just barely legal (according to their own lawyers) sharks.

But even if you're not a shark or otherwise scheming just to make money from money, the Journal's still a great read. Sound, detailed, lucid reporting, with plenty of human-interest angles and vivid descriptions, even of callow business people. The paper's a cheap subscription and has a well-tuned website. Besides, it offers a good way for Americans who can't afford million-dollar apartments to try to understand the nefarious activities of those who can.

Considering that the country is falling into a major depression, you commoners (who, after all, will feel the brunt of it) would be better off reading the Journal than the Times. At least you'll get a more accurate and readable measurement of how far you'll fall.

Both papers, incidentally, are likely to still be publishing a year from now. The same can't be said of other papers.

The Daily Flog: Hell freezes over; we're officially in a recession

Ten years ago, you might have thought that we'd tumble into a depression when hell freezes over.

So it's troubling news today on two fronts: Government economists confirm that, yes, we're in a recession and have been in one for quite a while.

And, contrary to what scientists once thought of a young Earth that was hot as Hades, that hell could very well have been ice-cold.

As the New York Times points out this morning in one of its regular, sweeping science stories about events millions of years ago:

Geologists now almost universally agree that by 4.2 billion years ago, the Earth was a pretty placid place, with both land and oceans. Instead of hellishly hot, it may have frozen over. Because the young Sun put out 30 percent less energy than it does today, temperatures on Earth might have been cold enough for parts of the surface to have been covered by expanses of ice.

The only American who was alive back then, Senator Robert Byrd, couldn't be reached for comment on the Times's assertions.

Adding to this morning's chill is the saga of Plaxico Burress, who mistakenly thought that happiness is a warm gun and instead found himself and his career in the chilly Tombs.

Make sure you don't shoot yourself in the foot. Keep your hands on your computer ...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

AP: 'Panel warns biological attack likely by 2013'

McClatchy: 'Economic researchers say recession started a year ago'

No kidding. What's been obvious for months became official Monday: The recession is here. In fact, it's already a year old.

ABC News: 'In New Role, Clinton's Former Experience Won't Help Much'

When running against now President-elect Obama in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton asked voters who they would want in the White House answering an emergency call at 3:00 a.m.

The voters resoundingly chose Obama to be on the receiving end of that phone call. But with her nomination Monday to become secretary of state, the Democratic senator from New York will likely be the one dialing the phone and waking the president with news of an international incident.

Clinton made an effort during the campaign to portray Obama as inexperienced on matters of foreign policy, while touting her own thin credentials during her time spent as first lady.

Washington Post: 'A National Security Team That Looks Like the Nation' (Al Kamen)

N.Y. Post: 'PLAX IN COURT AS MIKE TAKES SHOTS: DEMANDS JAIL TIME, RIPS GIANTS AND HOSP IN COVERUP "OUTRAGE" '

The Giants, the NFL and the prestigious New York-Cornell Hospital shamefully shielded Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress from cops after he shot himself in the leg with an illegal handgun at a nightclub, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD fumed yesterday.

Wall Street Journal: 'Delinquent Mortgages Set to Nearly Double in 2009'

McClatchy: 'Florida, banks halt foreclosures for 45 days'

N.Y. Times: 'When Hell Cooled Down'

Geologists now think Earth quickly became a cool place of land, seas and perhaps even life.

McClatchy: 'Obama's "team of rivals" also has some rival ideas'

Obama's future national security adviser quite possibly voted for McCain. His future secretary of state once said the United States should consider the "obliteration" of Iran, a country Obama has advocated talking to. His future defense secretary directed the military's surge in Iraq, which Obama opposed. Can Obama possibly rein in so many diverging views?

N.Y. Times: 'Officials Vow to Act Amid Forecasts of Long Recession'

Wall Street Journal: 'China Fears a Reverse Migration'

China's roaring industrial economy has been abruptly quieted by the effects of the global financial crisis. A wave of reverse migration to rural areas has the potential to shake the stability of the world's most populous nation.

Washington Post: 'Automakers Assemble Make-or-Break Case: Executives Return to Congress to Plea for $25 Billion in Loans'

McClatchy: 'Dozens killed, scores wounded in spate of Iraq attacks'

Wall Street Journal: 'Goldman Faces Loss of $2 Billion for Quarter'

Wall Street Journal: 'New Strategy Drives Obama Picks'

New Yorker: 'Hendrik Hertzberg hums a tune about the "Clinton people" '

N.Y. Post: 'BUS DRIVER SLAIN'

A deadbeat passenger who boarded a Brooklyn bus without paying became enraged when he was denied a free transfer yesterday — and then fatally stabbed the driver as horrified passengers looked on, police said. "The driver said, 'I can't [give the transfer],' and then a moment later, the guy pulled something out of his pocket and ...

N.Y. Post: 'REP. SAYS "NO THANKS" TO HILL SEAT: NITA OUT, MALONEY IN'

Shelved in fiction: 'Henry Paulson and the Toxic Assets'

The Daily Flog: Bailing on the bailout; chips take dip; we're running low on spam.

You can't blame reporters for not getting the scoop on bailout czar Henry Paulson's latest moves.

Paulson himself doesn't know from one minute to the next. We know it's a crisis, but is he reacting quickly to changing events or is he just panicky and scrambling?

The vaunted Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) — the bailout that Congress wrestled with and finally approved — is now more trouble than it's worth, as the New York Times and others report.

Paulson says the government won't go ahead as planned with the key bailout provisions that Congress approved: the purchase of Wall Street firms' junk assets.

So, the plan for spending the $700 billion is scrapped. But Paulson's going to put that money somewhere. And he's the appointee of one of America's most all-time unpopular presidents (recent polls say that).

We just had a monumental election, but right in the middle of this miserable reign delay, Paulson's rolling back the TARP. Who's on first?

It's not just Paulson. These days, any good news is accompanied by sour news, no matter what sector you're talking about. Example: There's a sharp decrease in junk mail since a major spam gang was captured, the BBC reports. At the same time, however, Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, further shook Wall Street with news that revenue (because of less demand for chips worldwide) is sharply down.

Never in the past 60 years have Americans had less confidence in a president, according to surveys, yet it's Bush's guy who is making moves — or not making moves — right and left.

This is the lame-duckiest of all lame-duck presidential situations. And we have two more months of Paulson trying to figure out how to bail out his Wall Street pals.

So ignore the grossly misleading headline on the main Times story this morning: "U.S. Shifts Focus in Credit Bailout to the Consumer."

It's not the "consumer" but the credit card companies and the like that would get direct boosts, in hopes of prying money loose from private investors to get the credit markets rolling again.

Any sympathy you might feel for Paulson's task is tempered by the fact that it was he and his fellow investment bankers whose bad decisions got the financial world into this mess in the first place.

One thing Paulson is absolutely sure about: The time's still not right for average Americans to be bailed out, despite the tone of the Times headline. As the Times notes in the last half — the meatiest half — of its story this morning:

Mr. Paulson also made it clear he did not want to use bailout money to refinance the mortgages of homeowners who are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Democratic lawmakers and the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila C. Bair, have been calling for the Treasury to spend $40 billion in a broad mortgage refinancing program.

While he flails around looking for ways to spend $700 billion on everyone but you . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

McClatchy: 'Blackwater likely to be fined millions in Iraq weapons case'

AP: 'Gay activists rally outside Mormon temple in NYC'

Bloomberg: 'German Economy Enters Worst Recession in 12 Years'

Guardian (U.K.): 'Germany slides into recession'

Germany officially slid into recession today according to economic data showing that Europe's largest economy shrank in the last quarter.

The Federal Statistics Office said GDP contracted 0.5% in the third quarter, following a 0.4% drop in the second, which corresponds to the official definition of a technical recession — two consecutive reductions in GDP.

The third-quarter contraction was much worse than expected. Analysts had predicted around 0.1%, but the slump in world trade has hit Germany, the world's leading exporter, more severely than expected.

Guardian (U.K.): 'Obama's message to the world: we will act quickly on climate change'

China Media Project (Hong Kong): ' "Guilt by blog" and the trouble with China’s universities'

As the internet has grown rapidly in China in recent years, there has been an attendant upsurge in cases where ordinary citizens, or “netizens,” are arrested, jailed or otherwise punished for things they dared to write.

The latest case to have Web users up in arms involves the alleged sacking of a substitute professor at Hubei University for Nationalities after the teacher wrote an entry on his personal weblog criticizing the school's anniversary celebrations.

Guardian (U.K.): 'Murder charge after woman dies at Ku Klux Klan-style initiation'

Register (U.K.): 'Batman sues Batman over Batman'

The mayor of Batman, Turkey, is suing Warner Bros. and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan for using the Cape Crusader's name without the city's permission.

Variety reports Huseyin Kalkan, mayor of the predominantly Kurdish town located in the Batman province of Turkey on the Batman River, is preparing to file a series of charges against Nolan and Warner Bros. for royalties from the blockbuster film.

"There is only one Batman in the world," Kalkan said. "The American producers used the name of our city without informing us."

He also hopes to pin a number of unsolved murders along with the town's female suicide rate on the psychological impact the film's success had on Batman residence, the publication said. (Why so serious?)

Guardian (U.K.): 'Half-white is an insult: The debate over how black Obama is obscures the racial reconciliation his election represents'

Guardian (U.K.): 'Paulson abandons plans to buy up America's toxic mortgage assets'

L.A. Times: 'Angrier response to Prop. 8 steps up'

Time: 'The Obama Transition: What Will Change Look Like'

N.Y. Times: 'U.S. Shifts Focus in Credit Bailout to the Consumer'

L.A. Times: 'Congress isn't waiting for Obama'
"Lawmakers are unveiling plans to expand health coverage and curb global warming. And Democratic leaders have called a lame-duck session next week to discuss an auto industry bailout."

The Age (Australia): 'G20 leaders must wait for Obama meeting'

L.A. Times: 'Suicide bomber hits American military convoy in Afghanistan'

Bloomberg: 'Asian Stocks Tumble, Extend Global Rout, on U.S. Treasury Shift'

BBC: 'Spam plummets as gang leaves net'

N.Y. Post: 'PAULA FANATIC SUIC"IDOL": OBSESSED SHOW REJECT KILLS HERSELF OUTSIDE ABDUL'S LA MANSION'

A two-time loser on American Idol who was obsessed with Paula Abdul — and was mercilessly ripped by judges after a 2005 tryout — died in an apparent suicide outside the star's LA mansion, officials said yesterday.

Scotsman (U.K.): 'Happy birthday, Nessie – the legend lives on'

SWATHED in mist, the grainy image depicts the brooding water of Loch Ness and captures the exact moment the Nessie legend was born.

It is 75 years since the mysterious shape was first photographed and more than 1,000 people have been spurred on by the iconic picture, claiming to have caught a glimpse of the world's most elusive monster.

Register (U.K.): 'DHS robotic airport missile-patrol plan to be shelved: Droid dazzler overwatch ploy too pricey'

N.Y. Times: 'Bush, Out of Office, Could Oppose Inquiries'

Register (U.K.): 'GooFlu searches for sickness: Google tells you when to get sick'

BBC: 'Colombians riot over pyramid scam'

Register (U.K.): 'Mankind to detect alien life "by 2025" '

China Media Project (Hong Kong): 'Taxi strikes in China highlight changing press controls'

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