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  • Is the SEC Opening the Floodgates?

    The civil suit brought against Goldman Sachs by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday involved just a single transaction and a single executive, and in a conference call with reporters, SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami refused to say how widespread his investigation is. But that doesn't make the case any less significant. Securities-fraud charges related to the subprime debacle have been few and far between until now (plenty of mortgage originators have been indicted, but Wall Street has remained mostly unscathed). By naming the most prestigious firm on Wall Street and a world-famous hedge fund—Paulson & Co.—known for making some of the biggest profits by shorting subprimes, the SEC has signaled that there may be a lot more indictments to come. ...
  • Goldman Sachs Sued for Fraud

    Just when Americans thought Wall Street had escaped any repercussions for helping to cause the financial crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission shows it has a pulse! ...
  • Should Libel Laws Apply To the Web?

    London is the capital of many things--England, financial services. And slapping people with libel lawsuits. Plaintiffs from around the globe--or "libel tourists"--flock to Britain to take advantage of its pro-litigant libel laws that make suing for defamation nearly a guaranteed win. But now those laws--first laid out hundreds of years ago to protect the reputations of "respectable" English gentlemen--are on a collision course with 21st-century technology. With the proliferation of blogs and other social-networking Web sites that enable everyone to voice their opinions, a fight is brewing over online freedom of speech in Britain, with profound implications for the Internet's international free exchange of ideas. ...
  • Obama's Visitation Rights Order: A Turning Point on Gay Rights?

    The White House caught pretty much everyone off guard last night with an executive order intended to ensure visitation rights for gay couples in hospitals. The order asks Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, to allow people both to visit their partners and make medical decisions for them. Hospitals that don't comply stand to lose federal funding. Wrote Obama: ...
  • Elena Kagan's Achilles Heel: Incessant Recusal

    Solicitor General Elena Kagan remains high on the list to replace John Paul Stevens, a White House official admitted earlier in the week. An excellent legal résumé and experience arguing before the Supreme Court qualifies her over other candidates, some of whom have too little bench experience, others with too many declared positions. But it’s precisely Kagan’s strength that is also her weakness. Kagan has taken part in dozens of cases (either in oral argument or in briefs) since taking office last January. That means that over the next two to three years, Kagan would have to recuse herself from as many as half of the cases heard by the court—a number extraordinarily higher than normal for freshmen top jurists. The court's majority, then, would shift to 5-3—a tough hurdle to mount, especially for the left wing of the court, which will have lost its most consistent member. The best example of what Kagan's appointment would look like is her former boss, Thurgood Marshall, f...
  • The Hidden Costs of Extra-Value Meals

    See Golden Arches, save less? No, not because we shell out $7.99 for meals we could make at home for $3, but because of how our environment subliminally affects our behavior....
  • Money Talks—and It's Saying Palin Doesn't Want to Be President

    As my fellow Gaggler Liz White reported yesterday, Sarah Palin has raked in a cool $12 million in personal income since quitting the Juneau Statehouse last July. But the more interesting number, at least as it pertains to politics, is how much she has given out—or rather, how little. Typically, White House hopefuls form political action committees (PACs) so they can travel around the country raising money for, and donating money to, other members of their party. The point is to amass political capital and gather chits that could help them in future campaigns. But of the $400,000 Palin's SarahPac raised from individual donors in the last three months, only $9,500—or 2.4 percent—went to current Republican candidates: $2,500 for Sean Duffy in Wisconsin; $1,000 for Allen West in Florida; $1,000 for Adam Kinzinger in Illinois; $2,000 for Rand Paul in Kentucky; and $1,000 for Vaughn Ward in Idaho. In contrast, Palin spent $243,000 on consultants, $16,000 on hotels, and $14,000 to de...
  • Quote of the Day: Michael Steele

    "I work every day in this job, as I like to put it, to turn the elephant. Now, I don't know if you ever had to turn an elephant, but the end you have to start with is not necessarily the best place to start."—RNC Chairman Michael Steele, describing his attempts to make amends between the Republican Party and the black community.
  • Why America's Tax Code Is the Least Progressive in the Industrialized World

    On Tax Day, amidst all the right-wing rhetoric about how the poor are undertaxed, and liberal arguments about how the rich should pay more, we should take a second just to go over how the U.S. tax structure works. Americans fund a lot of their essential social services, public schools, for example, primarily at the state and local level. Consequently, relative to other industrialized democracies, we have a tax burden that falls more heavily at the state and local level and less at the national level. ...
  • By The Numbers: Health-Care Woes

    China's ever-widening wealth gap has been pegged as a major source of the country's domestic instability, but a new study from Beijing-based Horizon Research shows that inequality is the least of China's worries: 14.7Percentage of Chinese who cited the wealth gap as their biggest concern in 2009. 28.5Percentage who cited real-estate and housing prices. 31.5Percentage who cited layoffs and employment. 34.8Percentage who cited health-care reform and costs.
  • Obama and Biden Reach Out to Poland

    Just one week after visiting Europe to sign a treaty, it's now official that President Obama will head to Poland on Saturday for the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria Kaczynska, who were killed in a plane crash a week ago. The rationale for the trip seems clear: it's just the right thing to do for a fallen head of state. But in a grander sense, the White House may have in mind one of Obama's more unverifiable campaign promises: to reintroduce the world to a more compassionate U.S. after anti-American sentiments rose over the past decade. (See Obama's other promises, and his progress, here.) Back in Washington, Joe Biden visited the Polish Embassy late Wednesday to pay his respects and to sign a condolence book for Kaczynski and the 94 other victims. Here was his inscription:
  • Quote of the Day: Robert Gibbs

    "A lot of Republicans get to church; very few of them have made it to the altar." —Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, describing Senate Democrats' efforts to reach a deal with several successive Republican counterparts on financial regulatory reform.
  • Get Ready for a Replay of Health Care

    After months of awkward bipartisan feelers over financial reform, it’s bench-clearing time at last. That’s pretty much what’s happened over the last few days, especially since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell launched the GOP’s strategic assault on Democratic reform bills by calling them bailouts of Wall Street—eagerly parroting the line put out by GOP pollster Frank Luntz—and Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd responded by saying his patience is at an end. On another front, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, appeared to end her own efforts at compromise with Republican Saxby Chambliss over the regulation of derivatives; she wrote a letter (read it here) assuring progressive Democratic colleagues, Maria Cantwell, Byron Dorgan, and Dianne Feinstein (along with moderate GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe) that she was fully behind a tough bill, one that excludes most exemptions for derivatives “end users.”...
  • Sarah Palin: No Hockey Mom

    Although she lost the election, Sarah Palin has certainly come out ahead. ABC News reported Tuesday that the governor turned media star had raked in more than $12 million since July from various speaking engagements, television contracts, and her book, Going Rogue. Several hours later, California state Sen. Leland Yee revealed pages believed to be from Palin’s speech contract with the California State University’s Stanislaus Foundation (where Palin will speak at a gala this summer) that were found in a Dumpster by several students. Palin’s high cost, and her high demands, have concerned lawmakers in a state struggling with sweeping budget cuts. ...
  • In Western China Earthquake, Ghosts of Sichuan Loom

    At least 400 people are dead after six earthquakes struck this morning in western China's Yushu County, a barren and mountainous area of Qinghai province mostly populated by ethnic Tibetans. In Jiegu, the county seat, about 90 percent of houses were destroyed. The Chinese government is rushing coats, blankets, and temporary housing to the region, where nighttime temperatures reach below freezing, but transport of equipment and materials is proving difficult. Under normal circumstances in Yushu, goat tracks are more common than major highways. Now, with the road to the nearest airport badly damaged, rescuers have taken to digging through the rubble with their hands.
  • Introducing 'Race for the Robe'

    To mark this, the season of shortlisting, we at NEWSWEEK are proud to introduce a new feature on the Gaggle capturing the daily horse race to fill an emptying Supreme Court seat—based on news, and not just Beltway buzz. Can Elena Kagan, who leads the pack, withstand the vetting? Is the White House floating a dark horse to appease an interest group? We break down the names—and how they rank—each morning, here.
  • Newly Passed 'Fetal Pain' Bill in Nebraska Is a Big Deal

    The Nebraska Legislature has passed a law barring abortions after 20 weeks because of the possibility that the fetus could feel pain. The law, approved by the state legislature earlier today and expected to be signed by Gov. Dave Heineman, is a landmark in that it directly challenges one of the key tenets of Roe v. Wade: the viability standard. In Roe, the Supreme Court recognized viability—the point at which the fetus can live outside the womb—as the point at which states have the right to ban abortion (with exceptions made for the woman's life and health). That was the "compelling" point at which to allow abortion bans, Justice Harry Blackmun opined, "because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb." Therefore, he continued, "If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the...
  • Quote of the Day: Nuclear-Security Summit

    “Just the smallest amount of plutonium—about the size of an apple—could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it.” —President Obama at the full plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit on Tuesday, to leaders from 47 countries.
  • Michelle Obama Makes First Solo Trip—and First Surprise Visit—on the Same Day

    En route to her first solo diplomatic mission in Mexico this week, Michelle Obama made a surprise visit today to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, to survey the recovery efforts in the island country hit with a massive 7.0 earthquake in January. Along with Jill Biden, Obama took a helicopter tour of the city and met with top government officials in the capital city, where more than a million people remain homeless. ...
  • Quote of the Day: John Boehner

    "They got everything else in the entire bureaucracy that they need to control our health-care system ... with the signing of this bill. That's why repealing this bill has to be our No. 1 priority." —Rep. John Boehner during a radio interview today
  • Nuclear Summit: What Success Will Look Like

    For two days, the Washington press corps has been inundated with news of all the big names in town and the staged photo ops that are customary between visiting leaders and their host. Usually, the conversation is a cursory exchange of issues important in the relationship of both leaders. Rarely do bilateral handshakes get terribly deep.But the reason for everyone in town this week is a fairly deep topic: keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. In what is the biggest collection of world leaders since the 1945 conference that founded the United Nations, top officials from 47 countries—all with nuclear arsenals or some sort of access to fissile material—will sit around tables late Monday and Tuesday to discuss securing their stocks. On that point, there’s general agreement. Most world leaders understand the imperative of preventing terrorist groups like Al Qaeda from obtaining weapons. But there are still some rifts, like who will monitor the international effort, and...
  • The New Health-Care Fight: Abortion Coverage in State Exchanges

    While the congressional fight over health-care reform has wrapped up and legislators moved on, a new, state-level battle over abortion coverage has just begun. The fight comes courtesy of Section 1303 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (page 779 here), which reiterates states’ rights to regulate abortion coverage among their insurers. The key sentence: “A state may elect to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an Exchange in such State if such State enacts a law to provide for such a prohibition.”This provision actually does not give states any rights they didn’t have before. As Nick Baumann over at Mother Jones recently, and astutely, pointed out, “states have had the right to pass laws regulating insurance, including banning abortion” for over six decades now. Five states (Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma) already do so, only allowing insurers to cover abortion if the life of the mother is endangered (the Oklahoma...
  • Congress Plays Politics With Unemployment Insurance

    Congress is back from vacation and scheduled to vote Monday afternoon on extending unemployment insurance benefits for an extra four weeks, primarily for people who have been out of work for several months. ...
  • Britain's New Kingmaker

    When Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed last year to take part in Britain's first-ever televised election debates, which begin next week, the result seemed certain. The fluent and youthful Conservative leader David Cameron, then enjoying a commanding lead in the polls, would easily outperform the dogged prime minister, usually a lackluster speaker....
  • At the Masters, Phil Mickelson's Win Takes Tiger off the Table

    When Tiger Woods scored a hole in one on the seventh hole at the Masters this Sunday, he threw his hands up in a small celebration. For an instant, the strained look he’d been wearing for most of the tournament passed, but even though that shot put him back in the running for the green jacket, he didn’t seem jubilant. His demonstration seemed, like most of Woods’s play this weekend, forced and rote.Compare that with the sheer joy on Phil Mickelson’s face when he took home the top prize later that day, and the long embrace he shared with his wife, Amy. Mickelson’s game had been off for about 11 months—about the same amount of time Amy has been treated for breast cancer. She was on the course today, watching her husband play brilliant, enthusiastic golf. A few other comparisons: Mickelson created a heartwarming photo op earlier in the week when he invited his wife’s doctor to caddie a few holes during the Houston Open; Woods had security in place at the Masters to prevent any...
  • A Coup and a Close Call In Kyrgyzstan

    The violence that gripped Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, last week quickly turned into a dictator's worst nightmare when the snowballing riots forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee for his life. But by week's end most pundits agreed that the biggest loser was the United States. Kyrgyzstan is home to the Manas air base, a logistical hub for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan. Ever since Bakiyev came to power in his own 2005 coup, the U.S. has plied him with money and access to keep the runways at Manas open. That support, which came despite allegations of the regime's endemic corruption and human-rights abuses, did not endear Washington to the opposition leaders who have now seized power....
  • The Death of Poland's President: A Danger to the Region?

    The crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the senior command of the Polish Army is without doubt a national tragedy for Poland. But the disaster is unlikely to have many regional or strategic ramifications. Poland is a parliamentary republic whose president is largely ceremonial—much as in Germany and Italy. Kaczynski’s political role was limited to representing Poland abroad, with policymaking in the hands of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The two men had clashed several times over the last few months over a growing rapprochement between Poland and Russia favored by Tusk. The most recent public rift came last week, when Tusk and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre of Polish officers by Stalin’s secret police side by side. Putin, like his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, called the massacre a “terrible tragedy” but emphasized that it should become a “focus of reconciliation” between the Russian and Polish peoples....
  • Quote of the Day: John Roberts

    "I suspect it's like people look at their families.... It's a tremendous sense of loss." —Chief Justice John Roberts on what it's like when a justice leaves the Supreme Court.
  • New Poll Finds Tea Partiers Have More Racist Attitudes

    Are tea partiers racist? That question has triggered a flood of impassioned commentary in recent months. Opponents depict the movement as a band of cranky old white people brimming with racial resentment, as evidenced by the inflammatory signs that pop up at their rallies and coded language about "taking our country back." Supporters say the movement is motivated quite simply by resistance to big government and that the occasional flashes of racism are overhyped by the media and representative of only a small fringe. As Gallup's Frank Newport recently wrote, "Each side of the political spectrum appears to have a vested interest in portraying the Tea Party movement in the specific way that best fits their ideological positioning." Yet neither side has had much empirical data to draw on.  ...
  • Actually, John Paul Stevens Is a Conservative

    When a Supreme Court justice announces his retirement—as John Paul Stevens did earlier today—the press immediately launches into its "first rough draft of history" mode, filing endless reams of elegant, elegiac prose on Who He Was and What He Meant. This, of course, is understandable. Most of the content produced to fill the gaping maw of today's 24/7 news cycle is small. The retirement of a Supreme Court justice, on the other hand, is big. Reporters want to rise to the occasion. But while the media usually manage to commit plenty of good journalism in moments like these, their affect in the aggregate is probably to compress rather than expand our sense of the outgoing justice's legacy. Readers don't have a lot of time or interest, so amid the flood of retrospectives, they tend to latch onto whichever shorthand, cheat-sheet label gets repeated most frequently. Sandra Day O'Connor was the pioneering moderate. William Rehnquist was the Western federalist....
  • John Paul Stevens's Legacy in Five Cases

    It's a funny thing about Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced today he's stepping down. Despite serving on the court for 35 years—that's 12 years longer than this Gaggler's even been alive—many observers agree that he came into his jurisprudential own in the last 10 to 15 years. A few key decisions are likely to be remembered as his most important ones. We called some observers to get their input, and combined their lists to produce this one. Among those contributing ideas: Doug Kendall, president of the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center; Brina Milikowsky, legal counsel at the liberal Alliance for Justice; the liberal People for the American Way; and Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute....
  • John Paul Stevens and Diversity on the High Court

    In the artfully balanced world of the Supreme Court, the liberal versus conservative divide takes precedence when one justice leaves and another is cued up to fill the slot. John Paul Stevens timed his resignation to insure that President Obama could replace him with another liberal-minded jurist. But there is another less talked-about balance that Stevens brought to the court, and that’s his Midwestern upbringing and education. Like so many reporters researching the Internet to learn more about Stevens in the wake of his announced resignation, I found a post by a senior at Northwestern University pointing out that Stevens attended the University of Chicago and Northwestern Law School making him the only one of the nine sitting justices who got his law degree from a non-East Coast Ivy League law school. By this student’s account, four current justices received their law degrees from Harvard, three from Yale and one from Columbia—and that’s because Ruth Bader Ginsburg transferred to...
  • Newsverse: Gone With the Windbags

    By Jerry AdlerNOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens—Proclamation by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.Now I don’t know what country Bob McDonnell thinks he’s from.The one that I was born in fought, in 1861,A war for its survival, when Virginia tried to bolt.And only barely won it, thanks to Grant and Samuel Colt.I’m sure that Bob McDonnell is a patriotic sortWho wouldn’t ever be accused of wanting to consortWith enemies who hate us and our sacred way of livingNo terrorist should count on Bob McDonnell for forgiving.Except, of course, for those who fought, away back in the dayIn service of secession and against the USA.Now I’m not one for waving flags, but can we set some ground rules?It isn’t love of country that’s the last refuge of scoundrels. It’s sentimental longing for a mythic past of bravery(Careful to avoid the part that has to...
  • What if the RNC Held a Parade, and Nobody Came?

    By Justin VogtRepublican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has vexed GOPers ever since winning the post last year and promising that, as the first African-American chairman, he would be able to expand the GOP's appeal by introducing its principles to "hip-hop settings." This would be accomplished through an "off the hook" rebranding effort. Steele pledged that the PR campaign would be unlike anything either political party had done before. "It will be avant garde, technically," he explained to The Washington Times.Indeed, his tenure has frequently seemed like an exercise in performance art—technically and otherwise.  Perhaps Steele was aiming for a sort of Brechtian alienation effect when it was revealed that the RNC had funded a night out for young GOP donors at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub in Los Angeles that bills itself as a "destination for provocative revelry."Conservatives, at least, were provoked. The...
  • 'Protecting' Your iPad

    Just because something isn't broken, doesn't mean it can't be, right? Hey, the idea isn't exactly an old adage, but software firm Intego thinks it might be a moneymaking move. The company, which only produces security products for Macs, is offering VirusBarrier X6 10.6.5 to keep your iPad free of malware. The software is really an updated version of the anti-malware tool they designed for Mac computers and iPhones. It runs on a user's main computer and scans the iPad for malicious files whenever a person plugs it in. The software won't load on the iPad because Apple doesn't currently allow multitasking, making it difficult for stuff like antivirus software to run in the background. In other words, this is not what you might call a shroud of protection.Theoretically, Apple deals with possible virus vulnerabilities by only running Apple-approved apps on its systems. So then why bother developing an antivirus software for this device? Intego spokesman...
  • The Beef in Kyrgyzstan, Vol. II: Russian Edition

    After a day of bloody riots and chaotic looting, the dust seems to have settled in Kyrgyzstan today. That's not to say the fat lady has sung; ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the BBC that he was still in southern Kyrgyzstan and had "no plans" to leave. But even he admits that he doesn't "have any real levers of power." In the meantime, city-service employees in Bishkek are going about the business of cleaning the capital, while residents stroll through the city surveying the clutter; it's a scene almost eerie in its mundane similarity to Times Square on New Year's Day.But while the capital may be settled, Russia's role in the whole affair is most certainly not. "Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev," Omurbek Tekebayev, an opposition leader working in the new transitional government, told Reuters. "You've seen the level of Russia's joy when they saw Bakiyev gone." Such ecstasy in Moscow...
  • Unsurprisingly, Stupak Won't Seek Reelection

    Earlier this morning, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder broke news that Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak will retire, which has since been confirmed by the Associated Press. As followers of the health-care debate now know well, Stupak was the representative who pushed for stringent abortion language in the health-care bill. His departure comes in the face of entreaties from Democrat leaders, including Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), encouraging the nine-term Democrat to have another go at it. Stupak’s departure does not really surprise me. By time the final vote rolled around, the Michigan Democrat had essentially driven himself into a corner where he was certain to please no one. Stupak spent the entire health-care debate pushing for particularly restrictive language that, at the last minute, he decided wasn’t actually necessary. Recall this behind-the-scenes bit from my colleague Jonathan Alter on how the health-care debate went down: Stupak had lost his leverage after he...