Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "2009 Books Issue," July 4, 2009

Not much, when you think about it. But livestock are getting more scrutiny from climate change activists, who point out that a cow can release 200 to 400 pounds of methane a year. Worried the EPA might leverage the Clean Air Act to regulate cattle farms as sources of pollution, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association earlier this month warned that fines or lawsuits could run many farmers out of business.

Leaving Guantanamo

Federal marshals whisked Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Ghailani out of Cuba June 9 and jetted him to New York where he made a brief appearance in a Manhattan courtroom for his arraignment on charges related to a pair of U.S. embassy bombings in 1998. Authorities allege that Ghailani, who pled not guilty to the charges, helped buy a truck and assemble explosives before the attacks in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As the first Gitmo detainee to stand trial on American soil, Ghailani will serve as a test case for President Obama's plan to try other detainees in the United States with the intent of eventually shuttering the infamous prison.

In Bermuda hundreds of protesters called for Premier Ewart Brown to step down over Guantanamo. The leader allowed four of Guantanamo's infamous Chinese Uighur detainees to be settled on the Atlantic island.

Rules of the road

In a move to rein in a "culture of irresponsibility" in the financial sector, President Obama announced new proposals for increased financial regulations. The plan represents perhaps the broadest change made to financial regulation since the Depression-induced passage of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1933, which set many of the rules for banking that are still in place today.

"We do not want to stifle innovation," the president said, "but I'm convinced that by setting out clear rules of the road and ensuring transparency and fair dealings, we will actually promote a more vibrant market."

The plan expands the power of government arms like the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The Federal Reserve will be given stronger oversight of firms that are "too big to fail," and will have authority to manage capital crises at these firms, in theory to prevent taxpayer bailouts.

But the administration's 85-page proposal must pass Congress and will face hurdles there, where lawmakers question the Fed's role in allowing the runaway finance crisis last year. Critics also point out that the president made no mention in his new plan of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored home mortgage giants that Cato Institute analyst Mark Calabria calls "the single largest source of liquidity for the subprime market during its height." Calabria noted in an online post June 17, "Any reform plan that leaves out Fannie and Freddie does not merit being taken seriously."

Wall Street reacted too with stock markets taking a quick downturn upon the president's announcement of more curbs ahead. "It feels pretty aggressive. It's very much this move to control and reduce people's ability to take risk," said Trent Hudson, an investments analyst in New York. "That to me is pretty scary. The reason that there's growth is that people take risk."

Riotous champs

Kobe Bryant and his Lakers teammates were busy hoisting their NBA championship trophy in Orlando June 14, but fans on the other side of the country set to hoisting police cars. Hundreds of rowdy celebrants stormed the streets of Los Angeles, setting fires and looting businesses. Eight members of the LAPD suffered injuries in the fracas as fans chucked everything from rocks to bottles to roadside flares.

Police declared the melee an unlawful assembly but it continued for several more hours, damaging 12 squad cars, a sheriff's vehicle, and six Metro buses. The LAPD placed about 25 people under arrest.

Law enforcement officials anticipated a repeat of the rioting in 2000 when the Lakers won a championship for the first time in 12 years. But fresh memories of the Lakers' three consecutive championships this decade may have mitigated the fervor. The Lakers have now captured 15 NBA titles, just two shy of the league-leading Boston Celtics.

Lazy days of summer

Americans may work hardest but they take summer school vacation more seriously than most, according The Economist, the Brit-based newsweekly.

School year on average
South Korea: 220 days
East Asia average: 200+ days
Germany: 200 days
Europe average: 195 days
U.S.: 180 days

Over the course of a 12-year education, 15 extra days in the school year adds up to one more year of schooling.

Taliban

As Taliban forces in Pakistan have sought back-door exits from government-led offensives that have chased them from Swat valley, hardship has spread to more remote, landlocked areas of Pakistan. In Chitral, residents face a prolonged military curfew that has cut off the valley from food and medicine. Road blockades also have kept out supplies in an area where heavy winter rains and snowstorms destroyed crops. Residents demanded C-130 supply flights be allowed into the northwest tribal regions ahead of a planned Pakistan military strike this month to continue to force out Taliban forces.

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