Religion

Worth Reading

Beneficiaries of tax breaks from the "Homeland Investment Act" did anything but. Countrywide's former CEO is charged with insider trading. Morgan Stanley says the rise in rates is "fully driven by a rise in the inflation premium." Digg is letting users vote on the site's advertising. Why do men have more followers on Twitter? --Zubin Jelveh

Insta-meshal

Joe Klein happened to interview the Hamas leader an hour after Obama's Cairo speech. Meshal wasn't impressed: "Undoubtedly Obama speaks a new language," he told me. "His speech was cleverly designed... The essence of the speech was to improve the U.S. image and to placate the Muslims. We don't mind either objective, but we are looking for more than just mere words. If the United States wishes to open a new page, we definitely would welcome this. We are keen to contribute to this. But we [believe that can not happen] merely with words.

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Prophet Motive

This year, Nouriel Roubini, the economist known to the general public as Dr. Doom, Prophet of the Financial Apocalypse, spent the early hours of Mardi Gras on the floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. It was only 11 a.m., but the party was rollicking. Traders careened around the floor, hooting and honking, dressed as dragons and devils and convicts. Rock music roared overhead, and no one seemed to care that, by the bye, the market had tanked.

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Back Pak

Earlier this spring, Nawaz Sharif threatened to topple Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's government. Since taking power in September, Zardari had been promising to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court, whom Pervez Musharraf had sacked on March 9, 2007. But Zardari, who feared that Chaudhry would try to either curb executive power or dredge up corruption cases, balked repeatedly. This annoyed Sharif--and many of his fellow countrymen--to no end.

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Michael Kinsley's definitive, witty takedown of Newsweek's relaunch is a must-read, but the magazine comes out swinging this week with a lengthy, entertaining takedown of Oprah Winfrey. Somehow I do not think the old Newsweek would have published this piece, let alone put it on the cover. Those of us who pretend not to do not watch Opah have long had the unfounded speculation that the cult surrounding her is vaguely sinister. Weston Kosova's and Pat Wingert's piece does much to further this impression.

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1. Gail Collins has a fun, readable take on student loan reform, an issue near and dear to my heart: The White House estimates that it could save about $94 billion over 10 years if it cut out all the middlemen. And it has the basis of a system in place, since the Department of Education already makes a lot of direct loans to students. How many people out there think that there’s going to be some reason that this turns out to be extremely controversial? Can I see a show of hands? “Senator Nelson is for the system as it is now,” said a spokesman for Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska.

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One line from Cheney's AEI speech Thursday has stuck with me. Pooh-poohing the assertion of, among others, John McCain that torture "serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us" (as Obama cleverly referenced in his speech), Cheney sniffed: This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately, including from the president himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do.  Of course it does not. It doesn't excuse anybody anything.

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Standards

 Ah, the Weekly Standard parody, quintessence of comedy: President Barack Obama has announced that June will be officially designated Gay Awareness Month in the White House....

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I actually like this Pope, not that my likes and dislikes in this matter count very much. And, as that truly wonderful New York Times reporter Rachel Donadio tells us from Jerusalem today, Benedict XVI also wants a homeland for the Palestinians. Actually, the Holy Father's views on Palestine aren't of great importance, although perhaps a bit more than those of the Archbishop of Canterbury who has even less divisions than the Pope (Stalin's cruel metaphor for Vatican power) and is one of those modern clerical goofies, besides.

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Okay, so thanks to a final, heroic burst of leaks, we have a pretty good idea of who stands where, stress-test wise: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and GMAC all need $10-billion-plus increases in common equity, which is just ordinary stock ($34 billion in BofA's case). Citigroup needs another $5 billion--this on top of up to $45 billion in bailout money it's already converting from preferred shares to equity.

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