CNN Senior Editor Mideast Affairs
A 28-year-old pregnant woman is stabbed to death by her own brother in Jordan. Just another case of honor killing where a family member murders a female– sister, daughter, mother or cousin– under the pretext of cleansing the family’s honor. Just like many other honor killings before it, this one is based on “suspicion” of “wrongdoing.”
From the little information available to us, we understand that after an argument with her husband the woman moved back with her family 6 months ago. Her brother suspected that she was seeing other men and decided to kill her to save his family’s honor. The man turned himself in on Sunday and admitted to killing his sister, he was charged with murder.
CNN Financial News Producer
Citigroup surprised Wall Street today by delivering its first profit in more that a year… well, sort of anyway. The company reported net income of $1.6 billion during the first quarter, up from a loss of $5.1 billion a year ago.
But here’s where it gets confusing: after you factor out an accounting change and factor in dividend payments made to the government on preferred stock related to the banking bailout, Citigroup actually posted a loss of $966 million.
Since the credit markets began to unravel in late 2007, the company has posted net losses of nearly $30 billion. That led the government to take a $45 billion stake in Citigroup in the form of preferred shares and warrants to help stabilize the bank.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Once again living up to the paradox of its name, The Department of Homeland Security is making Americans feel nervous again with its recent report that said right-wing extremism may be on the rise. Just like the January report said left-wing extremism may be on the rise. And presumably just like the report in June that will say moderate-extremism is rising too.
The cornerstone of this latest worry is the idea that economic troubles, the election of President Barack Obama, and worldwide criticism of the United States is igniting some sort of right-wing Panzer force of recruitment and radicalization. The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the nation’s longest standing trackers of hate groups, agrees that there has been some steady growth on this front although they stop short of calling it dramatic.
Part of the problem lies in our definition of “extremists.” Arguably anyone who wants to blow something up, barricade a building, or talk in the movies can be considered an extremist of some sort. But when you examine solely a person’s political views, it gets trickier.
Is the outspoken advocate of gay rights with a bullhorn an extremist, or is it the opponent with his own loudspeaker across the street? Or is it neither? Are the people who protested against taxes this past week working the extremist fringe, or are they exercising the mainstream right to free speech?
In practical DC politics, the definition goes something like this: Anyone whom I agree with, is merely enthusiastic no matter what he does short of wanton destruction while anyone I disagree with is an extremist, even if the only thing he does is say I am wrong. That pretty much sums it up.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/16/torture.cia.immunity/art.cuffs.gi.jpg caption="The Obama administration declassified and released torture documents."]
Michael Hayden and Michael B. Mukasey
The Wall Street Journal
The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.
The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.
Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/17/pm.pirates/art.bainbridge.afp.gi.jpg caption="The USS Bainbridge tows a lifeboat in which the captain of the Maersk Alabama was held hostage."]
The New Republic
At first blush, in hijacking the U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama and taking its American captain hostage (leading, of course, to a dramatic Navy SEAL rescue staged from an American destroyer), Somali pirates seemed finally to have overreached. Over the past couple of years, the sneering audacity of Somali pirates has become a constant in international affairs. More than 150 ships were attacked off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in 2008. But have Somali pirates spelled their doom by finally awakening a sleeping, or at least distracted, giant in the United States? Perhaps not. Even with this new level of outlaw insolence, it isn't clear that greater attention and more resources from the U.S. Navy–by far the world's most powerful–and its estimable maritime partners will stop the Somali pirates.
Like anti-drug forces in Latin America, anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean confront the so-called balloon effect, which refers to how when you squeeze a balloon in one place, you'll merely send the air to another. When security forces eradicate coca crops or crack down on cocaine processing in one area, drug cartels simply relocate operations.
The New York Times
Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, sees “green shoots.” President Obama sees “glimmers of hope.” And the stock market has been on a tear.
So is it time to sound the all clear? Here are four reasons to be cautious about the economic outlook.
1. Things are still getting worse. Industrial production just hit a 10-year low. Housing starts remain incredibly weak. Foreclosures, which dipped as mortgage companies waited for details of the Obama administration’s housing plans, are surging again.
The most you can say is that there are scattered signs that things are getting worse more slowly — that the economy isn’t plunging quite as fast as it was. And I do mean scattered: the latest edition of the Beige Book, the Fed’s periodic survey of business conditions, reports that “five of the twelve Districts noted a moderation in the pace of decline.” Whoopee.
2. Some of the good news isn’t convincing. The biggest positive news in recent days has come from banks, which have been announcing surprisingly good earnings. But some of those earnings reports look a little ... funny.
Wells Fargo, for example, announced its best quarterly earnings ever. But a bank’s reported earnings aren’t a hard number, like sales; for example, they depend a lot on the amount the bank sets aside to cover expected future losses on its loans. And some analysts expressed considerable doubt about Wells Fargo’s assumptions, as well as other accounting issues.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs announced a huge jump in profits from fourth-quarter 2008 to first-quarter 2009. But as analysts quickly noticed, Goldman changed its definition of “quarter” (in response to a change in its legal status), so that — I kid you not — the month of December, which happened to be a bad one for the bank, disappeared from this comparison.
I don’t want to go overboard here. Maybe the banks really have swung from deep losses to hefty profits in record time. But skepticism comes naturally in this age of Madoff.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/04/17/susan.boyle/art.boyle.am.cnn.jpg caption="Susan Boyle, the breakout star from 'Britain's Got Talent' continues to wow."]
The Daily Beast
Admit it, when you first started watching the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle standing on the stage of the U.K. TV show Britain’s Got Talent, a smile came over your face. Not, I suspect, a smile of expectant pleasure that you were about to hear the second Elaine Paige, who Susan declared was her hero. But a smile of expectant horror and amusement at what I think most of us assumed would be about to happen—that, let’s face it, Susan’s singing might be rather more akin to that of a noise made when a lobster is being slowly boiled alive.
As one of the three judges on that show (I also judge America’s Got Talent), I can remember the moment like it was yesterday.
We were at a big theater in Glasgow, Scotland, back in January.
It had been a long, hard day at the audition coalface, with very little talent on display.
Then Susan bounced on stage, full of tartan bonhomie, and the reaction was instantaneous: 3,000 people laughed their heads off, me and my co-judges, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden, stifled a chuckle, and the clear message from our collective expressions was "This is going to be a car-crash performance of epic proportions."
And then Susan Boyle began to sing.