[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/06/obama.turkey/art.obama.turkey.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama and Turkish President Abdullah Gul hold a joint news conference Monday."]
F. Stephen Larrabee, RAND
President Obama's visit to Ankara this week highlights Turkey's growing strategic importance to the United States - and a high stakes dilemma for the President and for U.S. strategic interests.
Turkey today plays an increasingly important role in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, and its cooperation is critical to achieving U.S. objectives in all three areas. Turkey also enjoys strong ties to Iran and Syria, which could be helpful as Washington seeks to establish a dialogue with both countries.
Turkish cooperation could be important in facilitating the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and promoting stability once they leave. Turkey is even emerging as an important transit route for the transport of Caspian oil and gas.
The Christian Science Monitor
Four Oakland, Calif., police officers shot down. An Alabama man strolling a small town with a rifle, looking for victims. Seven elderly people shot dead at a North Carolina nursing home. And on Sunday, six people, including four kids, died in an apparent murder-suicide in an upscale neighborhood in Santa Clara, Calif.
The details in all these cases are still emerging. In most, the exact motive has yet to be determined – or may never be fully understood.
On a broader level, however, such incidents may be happening more often because an increasing number of Americans feel desperate pressure from job losses and other economic hardship, criminologists say.
"Most of these mass killings are precipitated by some catastrophic loss, and when the economy goes south, there are simply more of these losses," says Jack Levin, a noted criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/04/06/amanpour.north.korea.rocket/art.northkorea.kimjongil.rocket.team.kns.afp.gi.jpg caption="Picture released by North Korean state news agency shows Kim Jong Il, center, with staff from the rocket team."]
CNN Chief International Correspondent
After a three-hour emergency session Sunday, the United Nations Security Council failed to come to any agreement on how to deal with North Korea's rocket launch over the weekend. Deliberations will continue Monday.
Sources say China, Russia Libya and Vietnam are blocking any resolution or punitive measures. They call for caution and restraint while the U.S. is calling for a strong and unified response. Officials believe the most that could happen would be a Security Council presidential statement condemning the launch and a possible attempt to reaffirm existing U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang. They do not expect new sanctions to be imposed.
U.S. Northern Command and other intelligence sources are portraying North Korea's launch of what they say was a Taepodong-2 missile as a failure. "Stage one of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan. The remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean. No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan," according to a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Northern Command.
CNN Financial News Producer
In the wake of the Obama Administration’s program to rescue troubled homeowners, a number of federal agencies are teaming up to fight mortgage and foreclosure scams.
The administration's $75 billion effort to help as many as 9 million mortgage holders get new or refinanced loans is drawing a lot of interest from homeowners, Treasury Department officials said.
"Those who would seek to prey on the most vulnerable also seek to intensify their efforts as well," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said today. "We will aggressively pursue those involved in mortgage rescue scams."
The Treasury, the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will lead the efforts from Washington. State attorneys general will also participate.
More people in the U.S. have fallen behind on loan payments than ever before.
The Washington Post
Energy independence sounds like such a great idea. if only we could be free ... of what, exactly? The single biggest energy exporter to the U.S. is Canada. And even the petrostates we don't like have to sell us oil at whatever price the market sets. We buy lots from Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. He denounces us, we denounce him, but we happily do business together. After all, what else is he going to do with his oil, drink it?
One could make a broader argument: the United States should wean itself off oil in order to diminish its crucial importance in the world of energy. That would make states like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and Venezuela less powerful–and less able to fund militias and terrorist groups. This is a worthwhile goal, but let's be realistic. Given the demands for energy over the next few decades, oil is going to be a key part of the mix, which means that these countries will have plenty of cash. After all, Saudi Arabia was funding extremist Islamic groups in the 1990s, when oil was $20 a barrel. The Saudis were budgeting for oil at $35 until a few years ago–and still swimming in money. I would love to see a world in which radical Islam runs out of money, but I think that we will probably have to struggle against these forces for a long time. There is no quick energy fix.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/04/04/pittsburgh.officers.shot/art.pittsburgh.03.gi.jpg caption="The killings were the first police officer fatalities in Pittsburgh since 1995. "]
Richard Poplawski allegedly ambushed three Pittsburgh police officers on Saturday. Authorities say the heroes were all cut down by a coward armed with an AK-47. A friend of Poplawski said the suspect called him and said he was going to die that day. Yet he lived. They did not. They were just doing their jobs, this time responding to a routine call. How were they to know it was a death trap?
It is one of the darkest moments in the history of Pittsburgh. Within a few hours, three officers were slain in the line of duty. The first cop killings in more than a decade. The grief has overwhelmed the city. "We ask all of Pittsburgh to mourn the passing of these three heroes and to embrace and support their families and loves ones," said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
It started with what seemed like a routine call - a domestic argument sparked by a dog urinating in the house. A police complaint seeking an arrest warrant for Poplawski, 22, says his mother called 9-1-1 around 7 a.m. Saturday to report her son was "giving her a hard time."
Demographers are already salivating ahead of the upcoming U.S. Census, which will no doubt show just how different 2010 America is from 2000 America. When it comes to the religious breakdown of the country, though, the waiting game is over. Try this pop quiz:
What is the fastest-growing religious group in our country?
A. Southern Baptists.
B. Roman Catholics.
C. Non-denominational Christians.
D. None. As in, no religion at all.
The answer is D, but fear not. This isn't the end of the world or of religiosity in America.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
First lady Michelle Obama’s easy charm is so infectious that she melted the famously stiff and formal Queen of England. During a G-20 reception last week, Elizabeth even embraced Mrs. Obama with a demure, hand-on-the-back gesture.
“It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman said, adding that he couldn’t remember the last time the queen had so publicly departed from the royals’ no-touching protocol.
Back on this side of the Atlantic, Michelle Obama has also won rave reviews from a once-skeptical public, with a recent Gallup poll giving her a 72 percent favorability rating, slightly higher than the president’s. Though detractors still occasionally pan her fashion choices or cluck prudishly over her athletic bare arms, Americans clearly have taken to their new first lady.