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Mar 9, 2011
via MediaFile

Looking beyond Schiller’s signoff from NPR

Here we go again. In February, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a budget that would eliminate federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That event tells you everything you need to know about the resignation this morning of NPR president and chief executive office Vivian Schiller. Yes, her underling Robert Schiller (no relation) embarrassed the organization by making some politically inexpedient remarks about the Tea Party, Republicans,and some more arcane issues, all captured on tape by conservative activists.

But at the average media organization, the “gotcha” video moment would likely have passed without the CEO’s resignation. Public radio is not the average media organization. It is held to an almost certainly unobtainable standard of objectivity, while commercial radio has thrived in recent decades by cultivating the most extreme political voices. It has a significantly larger audience than public television, yet receives a much smaller amount of public funding. And in order to further survival in its current form, it’s forced to regularly appeal to a relatively small number of legislators whose animosity toward it is deep and very public.

Feb 16, 2011
via MediaFile

Will my local Borders store close?

In filing for bankruptcy protection today, Borders Group Inc. said that it plans to close 200 of its 500 superstores nationwide. This has left many book fans wondering: Is my local Borders store going to close?

Here is a map of all the planned closings:

A complete list of planned Borders closures can be found here: Borders Store Closings

Jan 21, 2011
via Davos Notebook

What’s threatening the world?

Ian Bremmer discusses the World Economic Forum’s global risk report:

Jan 14, 2011
via The Great Debate

What caused Ike to criticize the “military-industrial complex”?

The following is an excerpt from James Ledbetter’s new book, “Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex.”

The 50th anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 farewell speech, which introduced the concept of a “military-industrial complex,” has caused many to ask: What was the context? Why did a president who had been a five-star general, and had commandeered what was probably the largest military force amassed in the history of mankind to win World War II, seemingly change direction and warn against excessive military influence?

Jan 14, 2011
via Davos Notebook

Three-and-a-half questions for the Davos gurus

For the last several years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has published an annual report on global risk, as part of the run-up to the storied annual meeting in Davos. The 50-page report makes for gloomy reading: it is a dense collection of some of the major threats to the world’s security — from asset price collapse to weapons of mass destruction — and the interconnections between them. And they’re all carefully mapped in terms of their perceived likelihood and perceived economic impact.

You’ve got hand it to WEF: their report is thorough and sobering, and makes a great reference tool for later in the year. Last year’s report said that “there is a rising risk of sovereign defaults,” and that proved more accurate and expensive than anyone wished.

Dec 27, 2010
via Global Investing

The best stocks of 2010


For all the doom and gloom associated with the broader economy—historic unemployment in the United States, debt woes and mandated austerity in Europe—it’s been a remarkably positive year for the stock market. As we enter the last week of 2010, the S&P 500 index is up nearly 13 percent for the year. That’s far from a record (1954 witnessed a breakneck 45 percent rise), but at least the index this year climbed above the level hit before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in September, 2008. The stock comeback story is not unique to America, either; this week, Korea’s stocks hit their highest level in more than three years.

At one time, the gurgling stock market would have been a fairly reliable predictor for a healthy economy in the near future—and who knows, that may still be the case. More bearish observers point to artificial stimulants, like an unsustainable commodity bubble and the Fed’s quantitative easing policy.

Dec 15, 2010
via Global Investing

SantaLeaks: The NP cables revealed

Perhaps it was inevitable. In the hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables revealed by the WikiLeaks Web site this month, a previously overlooked cache deal specifically with U.S. surveillance of a land almost as secretive as North Korea: the North Pole or simply, as it is known in State Department communiqués, NP. The following are excerpts, obtained exclusively by Reuters, of cable traffic concerning the North Pole. While we recognize that making such messages public runs the risk of harming delicate diplomatic relations with the North Pole, we believe that substantial public interest in North Pole activities justifies their publication. Where necessary, Reuters has redacted details that might inadvertently reveal the sources and methods used to gather information.

7/20/08: “Details of NP economic base remain sketchy: no estimates of GDP; exports believed substantially higher than imports, suggests Chinese-style currency manipulation. Dictator-style government structure: unelected ruling family led by strongman CLAUS, peasant-worker class, no active political parties. Economic sources have called into question NP productivity, noting minimal transportation activity—measured in sleigh miles per 1000 citizens—for most of the year. Regular late-year surges are presumably designed to meet annual or five-year-plan quotas.”

Nov 22, 2010
via Shop Talk

The time of two Thanksgivings

By James Ledbetter

You hear a lot these days about how much businesses dislike “uncertainty.” It’s too hard, goes the refrain, to figure out how financial reform is going to play out, or how much heath care reform is going to cost. Better to play it safe and not hire anyone.

But at least today’s businesses are reasonably assured of a stable calendar. During the latter years of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, this was not the case.  In August of 1939, President Roosevelt was taking a brief summer fishing trip on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, just over the border from southeastern Maine.  A handful of journalists were gathered in the living room of the red cottage that had belonged to the president’s mother. After some discussion of the tensions in Europe—this was August 14, less than three weeks before the German invasion of Poland—FDR said to the newsmen: “Oh! I will give you a story I had entirely forgotten. I have been having from a great many people, for the last six years, complaints that Thanksgiving Day came too close to Christmas. Now this sounds silly.” But the president went on to explain that the tradition that had begun with Abraham Lincoln of annually celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November created a time window between Labor Day and Thanksgiving that was too long without a holiday, and a time window between Thanksgiving and Christmas that was too short.

Nov 10, 2010
via Breakingviews

Bush still shows blind eye for financial crisis

By James Ledbetter

During his presidency, George W. Bush was not known as an overly reflective man, or as someone with a powerful thirst for economic knowledge (despite being the only president with a Harvard MBA). It is thus unsurprising that his memoir is not overly reflective about the causes of the financial meltdown that closed out his presidency, nor even very generous with details about what it was like to preside over. Anyone who opens his new memoir, “Decision Points,” intent on unearthing Bush’s heretofore buried financial insights will be disappointed.

Still, there is some value in glimpsing how Bush perceives the crisis, in part because his economic perspective is so widely shared in the newly resurgent Republican Party. In the chapter devoted to the financial crisis, Bush paints an economic picture using almost exclusively his favorite primary color: tax cuts. Tax cuts, in his view, got America out of the recession that began shortly after he took office. Tax cuts provided another critical boost in 2007. Tax cuts are beautiful because they take money out of the government’s hands and place it into citizens’ hands; that is all Bush knows, and all he thinks he needs to know, about the economy.

Nov 9, 2010
via MediaFile

Laugh graph: Conan and the ratings race


The debut of Conan on TBS won its time slot against more established late-night comedy shows. But can the former Tonight Show host keep up the momentum? Reuters is keeping daily track of how O’Brien performs against his rivals; tune in every day for an update.

Related stories:
Conan O’Brien’s new show draws fans, not critics
Conan O’Brien returns to TV in downsized role
“War for Late Night” lifts lid on NBC turmoil

    • About James

      "James Ledbetter is the former op-ed editor of Reuters. He is the author, most recently, of "Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex," published in January 2011."
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