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  • Greenspan Continues to Chip Away at His Legacy

    In his testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission this morning, Alan Greenspan masterfully blamed everyone but the Federal Reserve for their role in the blossoming of the subprime mortgage market and the ensuing financial collapse. It was an amazing performance in the technique of covering your ass....
  • Promiscuous Bacteria Gone Wild: Why Sushi Gives More Energy to the Japanese

    Any Westerners who have thought to themselves, gee, Japanese people sure seem to get a lot more out of sushi than I do, are more right than they probably guessed. A new study finds that bacteria living in the intestines of Japanese but not North American people harbor genes for digesting red algae (a.k.a. seaweed, or nori) of the kind typically wrapped around sushi. The genes digest carbohydrates (or to be perfectly precise, polysaccharides) in the seaweed. As a result, Japanese people can extract energy out of the seaweed, but Americans derive no nutritional benefit....
  • GOP Sen. Coburn Extends Olive Branch of the Year

    Remember the charges last summer that civility in Washington is dead? Not so. Just ask GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, who at a town-hall meeting over the weekend in Oklahoma had some choice words for the Foxerati. After a woman explained her fear of being thrown in the slammer if she didn’t buy health insurance, Coburn took her and his gossip-spreading partisans to task. “The intention is not to put any one in jail,” he said. “That makes for good TV news on Fox but that isn’t the intention.” Taking a jab at Fox in front of a conservative audience is risky—even political suicide to get on the behemoth network’s bad side—but Coburn kept going. Not only is Fox at times inaccurate, but Nancy Pelosi, the person Republicans have spent the most time vilifying, is actually “a nice person.” Huh? “How many of you all have met her?” he asked the crowd that we can only imagine had its jaws on the floor.No word yet on how GOP Central will handle Coburn’s remarks. On the one hand, it's hard to argue...
  • Representative Pothole

    Remember those Hillary Clinton ads with the Batphone ringing that demanded to know who you want answering a call in the White House at 3 a.m.? (The answer you were supposed to come up with is "Someone who lived there for eight years already.") ...
  • A Response to Politico Re: Yesterday's "Odd, Lengthy Attack"

    Yesterday, I posted a column here on the Gaggle criticizing a Politico story by Carol Lee for framing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s re-election campaign as “a bellwether for how Obama fares in 2012.” Now Ben Smith, the site’s lead blogger, is linking to my post and describing it as "an odd, lengthy, attack... which rants a bit about winning the morning but doesn't ever question Lee's basic point, which is the White House's unique investment in the race." So I figured I should respond. Ben is right to say that I didn't question the White House's unique investment in the race. The reason? The White House is, in fact, uniquely invested in the race, as the first half of the Politico story clearly shows. I should’ve given Lee more credit here. Her observation was astute and her reporting was solid.  What I did question was the second half of the story, which dealt with the more controversial “theories” of “Patrick’s campaign as a dry run for 2012”...
  • Why Investment Banking Revenues Are Heading Down

    Investment banks may have wrecked the world economy in 2008, but they sure made money picking up the pieces. In 2009, the global investment-banking industry took in $311 billion in net revenue, a 50 percent jump from 2008 and only $17 billion off its 2007 peak. Profit margins last year were 24 percent, the highest ever. Leading the pack were the usual American suspects: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citi, and Bank of America. Armed with TARP cash--essentially, free money from the Fed--and facing a cleared field thanks to the demise of Lehman Bros. and Bear Stearns, i-banks took advantage of a lack of liquidity and huge spreads in credit and fixed-income markets. Trading revenues soared as leverage remained high. Those that dialed back on risk, like Morgan Stanley, came to regret it. For the most part 2009 was easy money. But that party is over. A recent Boston Consulting Group report forecasts an 11 percent drop in industry revenues in 2010. Even as the economy recovers and traditional...
  • Will West Virginia Mine Disaster Affect National Energy Debate?

    As the scene in West Virginia becomes more dire—and as the death toll, now at 25, continues to rise—Washington has taken note. Dozens of lawmakers have offered condolences and West Virgina Rep. Nick Rahall has called for a full investigation into what happened. This morning, at a post-Easter prayer breakfast, President Obama offered the state any assistance the federal government could offer. It’s a relevant topic on Capitol Hill, which stands ready to take up energy security next on its docket. But that raises the question: will such a fresh reminder of the dangers of coal mining influence the nation's energy debate, underscoring the imperative to move beyond coal?The answer is probably not. "This is a mining accident," says Bill Wicker, communications director for the Senate Energy Committee. "This issue involves the health and safety of our miners, not our energy future." Coal is the one fuel that powers most of what we do. It accounts for about 45 perce...
  • Van Hollen: 2010 Won't Be Like 1994

    Unlike his flamboyant predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, the current chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen has all 10 fingers and doesn’t curse as much. His style is so markedly different, and low-key, that any profile of him inevitably wonders whether such a nice guy can finish first in the rough scrum of politics. Asked by a reporter why he stayed on at the DCCC for another cycle, after successfully adding seats to the Democratic majority in '08, he said with a laugh, "The speaker made me an offer I couldn't refuse, as they say in The Godfather. She understood this would be a difficult cycle, not a time to bring on someone who needed training wheels.' " ...
  • Teen Birthrate Declines: Good News Nationally, Still Bad News Globally

      The teen birthrate declined 2 percent in 2008, according to new, preliminary data released by the CDC. The new number is a welcome relief for public-health officials: between 2006 and 2008, the teen birthrate had increased 4 percent, halting a decades-long trend of dropping adolescent childbearing through the 1990s and early 2000s.What caused this drop in teen births is difficult to say but will likely be subject to numerous spins in the coming days. The National Abstinence Education Association has taken it as evidence in favor of "placing a priority on the risk avoidance abstinence-centered message," whereas supporters of comprehensive sex education, which has a much stronger body of research, will likely fire back that 2008 was the year when 25 states opted out of Title V abstinence-only funding, the highest number since the program began in 1996. I suspect the explanation is more complex than any one approach to sex education can account for.It will be important to...
  • Putting the iPad Through the Mom Test

    At certain points during the run-up to the launch of the Apple iPad, it seemed like techies were more excited to buy the tablet for their mothers than for themselves. Something about the intuitive, super-simple interface just says "Mom" to a lot of people. I'm among them (although I'm also pretty eager to get one for myself). I could hardly contain my excitement when the iPad was finally released on Saturday, heading over to the nearest Apple store as soon as the lines died down to get a hands-on look at the new device. And I dragged my reluctant mother along, trying to convince her that the iPad was something she'd want to see. My mom is someone who cares little about electronic gadgets. For her, computers are strictly a means to an end. She uses a laptop primarily for basic word processing and Web-browsing tasks. Her computer is a slow first-generation MacBook with a broken optical drive and a cracked case—but it works for her (most of the time) and tha...
  • BRICs' Investment in Africa Takes Off

    Africa has garnered attention as the next hot spot for foreign investors—and it's not just the West that's looking to the continent. Despite the recession, direct investment by the BRICs has soared, and at a much faster pace than those of Europe and the U.S. A look at foreign direct investment from 2007-08 (the latest year available): Percentage increase in EU investment in Africa, to $27.3 billion Percentage increase in Brazilian, Russian, and Indian investment in Africa, to $2.35 billion Percentage increase in Chinese investment in Africa, to $5.5 billion Percentage decrease in American investment in Africa, to $3.3 billion Source: Overseas Development Institute
  • 'National Geographic' Water Issue: Emerging Problems Have Many Solutions, But Will We Act Fast Enough?

    National Geographic has a special issue out this month, devoted exclusively to our planet’s diminishing water supply. As Barbara Kingsolver writes in the opening essay: Civilization has been slow to give up on our myth of the Earth’s infinite generosity … We pumped aquifers and diverted rivers, trusting the twin lucky stars of unrestrained human expansion and endless supply. Now water tables plummet in countries harboring half the world’s population. Rather grandly, we have overdrawn our accounts. The worst consequences of that overdrawing are all around us now being realized. Some of the anecdotes Nat Geo uses to illustrate this point are familiar: glaciers retreating, freshwater fish dying off, and women in developing countries having to walk really, really far for the kind of water that most of us in the developed world wouldn’t deign to wash our laundry in, let alone drink or bathe with.  But other anecdotes are less familiar, and show just how bad things have gotten: in the...
  • Quote of the Day — Rep. Steve Cohen

    "He looked more like a captured soldier in North Vietnam than he did a United States senator. It was very sad and, I tell you, his wife Cindy, she was about ready to just drop dead."—Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, referring to Sen. John McCain's body language at a campaign rally last month that featured Sarah Palin.
  • Most Women Stop Breast-feeding by Six Months. Whose Fault Is That?

     Oh, bouncing baby boy, here comes the next round in the never-ending slugfest over the health benefits of breast-feeding: The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says ... The findings suggest that there are hundreds of deaths and many more costly illnesses each year from health problems that breast-feeding may help prevent. These include stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, juvenile diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and even childhood leukemia. That's according to an AP article, covering a new study just released by the journal Pediatrics. I bet a lot of bottle-feeding mothers are going to read that paragraph, sigh, and think: “Great. Now I’m being blamed for billions of dollars in health-care costs and 900 dead babies.”The AP writer must have anticipated such a reaction, because she goes on to quote not one but two...
  • Fat DNA Is Not Destiny

    It was enough to make people who believe they have “fat genes” give up. Among 438 adolescents who carry a form of the gene called FTO (fat mass- and obesity-associated) linked to obesity, there was no effect of physical activity on body mass index, found a 2009 study that followed them from infancy to age 15: teens who carry the obesity form of the FTO gene and exercised were no less obese than teens who carry the gene and were couch potatoes....
  • Obama, the Nationals, and the Politics of Opening Day

    Your Gaggler is here at sunny Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on Opening Day, where President Obama threw out a looping, carefully lofty first pitch, and the world-class Philadelphia Phillies are easily dismantling the capital city's (still) hapless home team. ...
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 13: Will Obama Suffer the Same Fate as Deval Patrick?

    Official White House photo by Pete Souza Publishing the least-informative inside-the-Beltway story of the week is no small feat—especially when it's only Monday morning. And yet something tells me that Politico has taken the cake, yet again, with a piece currently running near the top of its Web site (and teased in Mike Allen's Playbook newsletter as today's "Top Talker") on why Gov. Deval Patrick's reelection bid in Massachusetts will be "a bellwether for how Obama fares in 2012." ...