Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Happy Thanksgiving

dinnerHappy Thanksgiving! Washington Extra will return on Monday.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

U.S. vows unified response to North Korea, eyes restraint

The U.S. urged restraint following a North Korean artillery attack on South Korea and vowed to forge a “measured and unified” response with major powers including China.

For more of this story by Phil Stewart and Andrew Quinn, read here.

N.Korea pulls U.S. back to a “land of lousy options”

North Korea‘s artillery attack on South Korea poses the second test in three days of Washington’s vow that it will not reward what it deems bad behavior with diplomatic gestures, and underscores that options are limited without serious help from China.

For more of this analysis by Paul Eckert, read here.

Bernanke’s plea for fiscal help goes unanswered

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s unusually blunt plea for fiscal help will probably go unanswered, leaving the economy too limp to put people back to work any time soon. Bernanke has warned that the country is on an economic trajectory that will leave millions unemployed or underemployed for many years, and he said there were limits to what the central bank alone could do to help.

For more of this analysis by Emily Kaiser and Andy Sullivan, read here.

Fed pondered radical steps amid weaker outlook

A weaker economic outlook prompted Federal Reserve officials to consider more radical steps before settling on $600 billion in bond purchases. According to meeting minutes that showed a resolute but divided central bank, policymakers sharply revised down their forecasts for economic growth next year, and saw unemployment at significantly higher levels than they had in their last forecasts in June.

For more of this story by Pedro da Costa and Mark Felsenthal, read here.

For a factbox on Fed staff forecasts, click here.

IRS holds key to preventing tax hikes on Jan 1

If lawmakers fail to renew Bush-era tax cuts before the end of the year, the IRS could offer millions of Americans an immediate respite from higher taxes.

State Dept seeks new ally vs. North Korea: PETA

North Korea — you have been warned.

The State Department on Monday held out the possibility that the isolated Stalinist state’s belligerent rumblings could earn it a powerful new foe on the world stage:  animal rights activist group PETA.

RTRFRGY_CompAsked at a news briefing about North Korea’s latest move, which saw it fire a barrage of artillery shells into the ocean near South Korea, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was blunt:

“Well, I’m sure it resulted in a lot of dead fish.  And we certainly hope that PETA will protest,” he said.

from Global News Journal:

How Ill is Kim Jong-il?

Photo:A compilation by Reuters of pool photographs and images provided by North Korea's KCNA news agency showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from 2004 to 2009. The photograph in the lower right was released this week by KCNA

By Jon Herskovitz

The image the world once had of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, with a trademark paunch, platform shoes and a bouffant hair-do, is gone and may never come back. He has now become a gaunt figure with thinning hair who has trouble walking in normal shoes, let alone ones with heels 8-10 centimetres (3-4 inches) high like he used to wear.

A look at photographs the North’s official media has released of Kim over the past few months indicate he is not a healthy man. There has been an enormous amount of speculation about what is wrong with Kim, 67, including a report from South Korean TV network YTN this week that he has life-threatening pancreatic cancer.

The First Draft: Obama recipe – take crisis-filled agenda, add one Iran

There is a new crisis on the agenda for President Barack Obama.

While trying to revitalize a nosediving economy, rebuild the collapsing auto industry, rein in North Korea’s unpredictable Kim Jong-il and overhaul the costly healthcare system, Obama now can ponder his response to an Iran reeling from a disputed election and the biggest street protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Several leading Republicans have hammered Obama for what they say is a too cautious approach to the disputed vote that gave hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a big win over former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi. Obama said on Monday he was “deeply troubled” by the post-election violence but it was up to the Iranians to work out who their leaders will be.

Republicans say that is not good enough.

“He should speak out that this is a corrupt, fraud, sham of an election.  The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights,” Senator John McCain said on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday.