Tales from the Trail

Obama picks Kansas in college basketball bracket

It’s March Madness time again and everybody with basketball savvy or a wee bit of Irish luck is filling out their NCAA college basketball brackets. OBAMA/

Participants in this annual craze have several ways of deciding who to pick: They pay close attention to what teams are up or down, they crib from their unsuspecting friends’ brackets, or they like the color of a particular team’s uniform or their nickname. Like the Georgetown Hoyas, whatever a Hoya might be.

Which brings us to President Obama, a passionate fan of basketball who is still young enough, 48, that he can play a pick-up game with his pals and not worry overly much about blowing out a knee. Who honestly is going to foul the president, for instance?

Obama filled out his NCAA bracket and his Final Four are Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Villanova. He picks the Kansas Jayhawks to win the national championship game. (Is Kansas, a typically Republican state, in play in 2012? Just asking.)

Anyway, it looks like Obama wrestled a bit in deciding between Villanova and Duke to get to the Final Four. It looks like Duke was scratched out in favor of Nova.

First draft: Obama slips into Iraq

OBAMA-TURKEY/After calling for Middle East peace and saying he believed in a dialogue with Islam, President Barack Obama ended his first international tour with a surprise trip to Iraq.

Obama took off from Istanbul and, instead of heading home to Washington, traveled to Iraq for a quick visit. He was due to meet U.S. commanders and troops and will speak to Iraqi leaders by telephone. Poor weather in the area caused him to scratch plans to take a helicopter to meet Iraqi leaders in person.

The White House said Obama — who won strong support during the presidential campaign for vowing to wind down the unpopular war in Iraq — would tell Iraqi leaders that there are political solutions to their challenges.

First Draft: Monday’s blue mood — AIG outrage

It’s on front pages, news shows and all over the Web: outrage at the bailout of AIG, AIG/ the troubled insurance giant that — so far — has gotten $173 billion in U.S. taxpayer money and has given out $165 million in bonuses to the very executives who brought the company to its knees.

A quick Web search of “AIG outrage” for March 2009 gets 190,000 hits, ranging from Al Jazeera (“Outrage against AIG set to mount”) to USA Today (“AIG bonus outrage plays Treasury officials for saps”). Part of the outrage stems from the Obama team’s contention that there’s nothing they can legally do to stop these bonus payments.

Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee, came up with a plan in an interview on NBC’s “Today”: AIG’s execs can keep their bonuses but they don’t have to keep their jobs. “These people may have a right to their bonuses but they don’t have a right to their jobs foever,” is how Frank put it.

Obama picks his basketball Final Four

  CHARLESTON, W.Va. – For many U.S. sports fans, March is the time to obsess over men’s college basketball and the science of “bracketology,” in which fans predict the winner of each game in the 64-team, end-of-season tournament. 
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For others, of course, bracketology remains a mystery.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama released his “brackets” on Thursday, reinforcing his credentials as a regular, sports-lovin’ guy who shoots hoops in his spare time on the campaign trail as he runs for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president.

According to Obama, expect North Carolina, Kansas, Pittsburgh and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to reach the final four as semi-finalists.