Tales from the Trail

The First Draft, Tuesday Dec. 30

Israel’s military operations in Gaza continue to dominate front pages of major newspapers and morning talk shows. Wall Street is looking for a positive start as oil and gold prices ease back from the price spikes that followed the onset of the Israeli strikes against Hamas.USA-OBAMA/

President George W. Bush remains at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, while President-elect Barack Obama continues his vacation in Hawaii.

GMAC said it will resume financing auto loans following a $5 billion investment from the U.S. Treasury. The latest financial rescue also included a $1 billion loan to General Motors to purchase equity in GMAC.

Extreme weather and the weak economy also taking top spots in holiday week news cycles. A dismal shopping season could take down some malls struggling to service their debt.

Congress will take a closer look at what went wrong on Wall Street beginning next week with a hearing on financier Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud. Meanwhile, the Washington Post takes a close look at why insurance giant AIG needed so much government bailout money.

The First Draft, Monday Dec. 29

WASHINGTON – Israeli air attacks in Gaza dominate morning talk shows and front pages of major U.S. newspapers. The attacks pushed up oil prices by more than $3 a barrel to over $40. Gold prices also moved higher. Nevertheless, U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street in what is expected to be a light trading.tanks2

President-elect Barack Obama remains in Hawaii and President George W. Bush is at his ranch in Texas.

Winter weather extremes and dismal holiday shopping season featured on morning talk shows.

The First Draft, Friday, Dec. 26

President George W. Bush heads to his Texas ranch for a holiday break Friday.
 
President-elect Barack Obama is already on vacation in Hawaii, where he paid a USA-OBAMA/visit to Marines on Christmas Day.
 
Congress is in recess until after Jan. 1.
 
With the politicians away from Washington, the morning TV shows focused on other news, including the ailing economy’s performance during the holiday shopping season.
 
Retail sales, minus gasoline, were down 2 percent from the previous year in November and 4 percent in the Dec. 1-Dec. 24 period, MasterCard Advisor’s SpendingPulse reported.
 
Some retailers generate up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday period, which typically runs from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.
 
Retailer hopes are now pinned on the post-Christmas sales, which began Friday. USA/

Retailers on the only ones hurting from the bad economy. A drop in revenues is forcing forcing states to cut back on Medicaid, the government’s health insurance program for the poor, the Washington Post said.
 
States are cutting payments to hospitals and nursing homes, eliminating discretionary programs like physical therapy, eyeglasses and hearing aids or forcing the poor to pick up a larger share of the tab, the Post said.
 
The Washington Times reported Friday that a power struggle over the future leadership of the Republican party has broken out into the open.
 
Several members of the Republican National Committee’s governing body are working to call an extra meeting to hear from the six candidates for national chairman, the Times said.
 
The move is seen as a backlash against control of the RNC by Bush, his allies and their Washington-based consulting firms, it said.
 
The extra meeting is seen as giving the six candidates for chairman an equal shot at the job, rather than favoring the current chairman, Robert M. “Mike” Duncan, the Times said.
 
Stock futures were up on Friday, pointing to a higher open on Wall Street amid moves to turn General Moter’s financing arm into a bank holding company.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit/Hugh Gentry (Obama shares a laugh with U.S. Marine Col. Robert Rice during a visit with Marines on Christmas Day); Reuters/Fred Prouser (Sales signs at a shoe store in Losangeles Dec. 24)