Unlikely messenger. Former professional basketball star Dennis Rodman, who visited North Korea last week, said the communist nation’s leader, Kim Jung Un, wants President Barack Obama to call him. But this was no invitation for substantive dialog. Kim supposedly wants to talk to President Obama about basketball—something they can agree on. It’s possible, of course, the message may have gotten garbled. Rodman described Kim as “honest” and “awesome,” despite his country’s record of human rights abuses. And he said he was impressed by the North Koreans’ respect for Kim and his family, denying they are coerced to slavish devotion. So, consider the messenger when evaluating the message.
Filling out the Cabinet. President Barack Obama named three new appointees to his second-term Cabinet today, giving climate change activists much to hope for in the next four years. Environmental Protection Agency veteran Gina McCarthy will head that agency, if confirmed. But she could face a tough road in the Senate, where Republicans likely will grill her over policies that cost jobs. The president also appointed MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to take over as Energy secretary. And he named Sylvia Mathews Burwell, head of the Walmart Foundation, to become director of the White House budget office.
Coffee klatch. The College of Cardinals met for the first time today in pre-conclave meetings to get to know one another better before they sit down to elect a new pope. The group of 103 cardinals met in “congregations,” prayed together, and talked over coffee. They won’t actually start the conclave until the 12 missing cardinals arrive in Rome.
The rich got richer. Despite the world economy’s continued troubles, a few among us are doing a little more than OK. The Forbes list of billionaires, released today, grew by 16 percent over last year. So did their bank accounts. The average net worth of the 1,426 people on the list grew to $3.8 billion, a 3 percent increase over last year.
Royal health watch. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II left the hospital today, walking on her own and smiling at the press gaggle waiting for her release. The queen, 86, was admitted on Sunday and treated for gastroenteritis.