Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

The Smithsonian has a new chief executive A year after a financial scandal shook the august Smithsonian to it's rafters, a new leader has been selected. On Saturday the organization announced that G. Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Tech, would be the new leader of the museum affectionately known as "America's Attic."

Alaska's lone Representative draws a primary challenger
Alaska's Lt. Governor Sean Parnell shocked the Alaskan political establishment on Friday when he announced to a crowd at the state Republican convention that he intended to challenge the embattled Young in the primary, telling the cheering crowd "I just think it's about restoring trust to government." Young was in attendance when Parnell made his announcement, and responded with the standard false bravado answer: "Bring it on." Parnell did. He immediately collected the endorsement of the Governor, who ran on a platform of "Hey! I'm not one of those greedy old bastards. I have a moral core," and waltzed to office.

Wingin' it Ben Bernanke has argued long and hard that the Fed should base it's actions on solid, understood, consistent principles over seat-of-the-pants judgment. But when reality rears it's ugly head, it's all academic, and Big Ben finds himself making it up as he goes along. “Modern monetary policy-making puts a lot of weight on rules, but there is no rule book for an economic crisis,” said Douglas W. Elmendorf of the Brookings Institution and a former economist for the Fed. The rules flew out the window entirely on Friday when the fed bailed out Bear Strearns, hopefully preventing a chain reaction of failures.

Tibet remains defiant
Thousands of Buddhist monks and ordinary Tibetans clashed with riot police on Saturday as rioting spread to a second city. There is nothing that unusual about Tibetans acting defiant toward China - but the Olympics are coming to Beijing this summer, and that means the eyes of the world are watching how the Chinese government deals with it this time.

Salute for the fallen On Saturday the DoD announced the death of Maryland National Guard Staff Sergeant Collin J. Bowen, 38, of Millersville, MD. SSG Bowen passed away on March 14 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. His family was with him at the time of his passing. SSG Bowen died of wounds sustained on January 2, 2008 when his vehicle was hit by an IED. At the time he was injured, Bowen was two weeks from closing out his fourth activation since the terror attacks of September 11 and deploying back home. SSG Bowen is the seventh Maryland Guardsman to die in the "war on terror" and the first to die as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Contaminated Heparin Update An FDA probe is underway into the contaminated Heparin that has been implicated in the deaths of 19 patients in US hospitals and prompted a nationwide recall of Heparin distributed by Baxter. The investigation is very close to identifying the mysterious ingredient that mimicked the real drug, but caused massive allergic reactions in over 800 patients. The probe is now focusing on where in the supply chain the contamination occurred - a daunting task, as it is possible that biological components were contaminated before they reached the processing facility.

Branching Out Terrorists have been blowing themselves up all over Pakistan for a year, but Saturday a tactical shift took place - foreigners were targeted for the first time, and detonated a bomb in a busy restaurant. A Turkish woman was killed, and five Americans were wounded, including embassy employees. "The target was Americans," said a former Pakistani military officer who was present at the scene. "It happened on the lawn. There is a crater. Plastic explosives, you could tell from the smoke."

Border War
On the southern border of the United States, a war is raging, but the victims aren't Americans, so it goes unnoticed, or has this far. Mexican President Phillipe Calderon has deployed 20,000 Federales and military personnel to the border to combat the private armies of rival drug cartels. "The situation is deteriorating," Victor Clark, a Tijuana human rights activist and drug expert, said in an interview. "Drug traffickers are waging a terror campaign. The security of the nation is at stake."

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