What a Sunday in sports and terror: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer fought to the death in a Grand Slam final, and so did the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. Best Super Bowl I've ever seen. Best display of tennis skills I've ever seen.
Now that those matches are over, let the real games begin.
Sorry, Cardinal fans, but the worst news Sunday was the latest fight to the death in Afghanistan — yet another suicide bombing by the Taliban:
A man wrapped in explosives walked into a compound filled with Afghan police officers Monday morning and detonated his payload, killing 21 officers and himself, the Interior Ministry said.
The attacker struck in Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province, a mountainous area where the government's authority is being contested by the Taliban. Oruzgan is the birthplace of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban movement.
This is ominous news, and not because of the location. Here's some context missing from the New York Times story quoted above. The BBC (yes, it uses a different spelling for the Taliban) explains:
The Taleban have changed tactics since facing foreign troops in open battles two years ago, says the BBC's Ian Pannell in Kabul.
The tactics of insurgents in Iraq are being duplicated, with more suicide bombings, roadside bombs and hit-and-run ambushes, our correspondent says.
Just another reason to rue the Bush regime's unjustified invasion of Iraq. Taliban fanatics were able to hone their killing skills by adopting a strategy perfected by other fanatics in Iraq. Once again, we're reminded of George W. Bush's most enduring legacy, his accidentally truth-telling words from 2004:
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
One could argue that the scary increase in suicide bombings in Afghanistan probably wouldn't be happening if not for the Bush-Cheney regime's vital contribution of spreading the "war on terror" to Iraq and thus giving fanatics the chance to think of new ways to commit suicide/homicide.
Question: what happens if you lose vast amounts of other people's money? Answer: you get a big gift from the federal government -- but the president says some very harsh things about you before forking over the cash.
Am I being unfair? I hope so. But right now that's what seems to be happening.
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the Obama administration's plan to support jobs and output with a large, temporary rise in federal spending, which is very much the right thing to do. I'm talking, instead, about the administration's plans for a banking system rescue -- plans that are shaping up as a classic exercise in "lemon socialism": taxpayers bear the cost if things go wrong, but stockholders and executives get the benefits if things go right.
When I read recent remarks on financial policy by top Obama administration officials, I feel as if I've entered a time warp -- as if it's still 2005, Alan Greenspan is still the Maestro, and bankers are still heroes of capitalism.
The White House is expected to impose tougher restrictions on executive compensation at firms that get substantial government aid, as part of an effort to improve public perception of the $700 billion financial bailout.
President Obama watched last night's Super Bowl with a few political pals - and a couple of foes.
Obama, a Steeler fan, had 11 Democrats and four Republicans over -- including Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, who once warned electing Obama would spark "dancing in the streets among the terrorists of the world."
Here's a bottom line to keep you up at night: The economy is falling faster than Washington can get moving. President Obama says his stimulus plan will save or create four million jobs in two years. In the last four months of 2008 alone, employment fell by 1.9 million. Do the math....
What are Americans still buying? Big Macs, Campbell's soup, Hershey's chocolate and Spam -- the four food groups of the apocalypse.
Just when it started to look as if The New York Times Co. had found a way to dig itself out from under its massive debt load, the beleaguered newspaper company may be on the verge of getting knocked down again.
The cash-strapped publisher last week reported that its pension plan was facing a $625 million shortfall at the end of 2008, compared with a deficit of $48 million a year earlier....
More than $1 billion in debt is looming over the ad-starved company, which was forced to get a $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim at a steep 14 percent interest rate, to put its stake in the Boston Red Sox up for sale and to negotiate the sale of part of its brand-new Eighth Avenue headquarters.
Now, the company is getting socked again by the financial crisis and subsequent market turmoil as it wreaks havoc on its pension plan. To be sure, the Times doesn't owe billions in retirement benefits like the Big Three automakers, but it's one of hundreds of US companies suffering from a severe pension squeeze.
Last week was a painful one for magazines, as Condé Nast decided to shutter Domino and Readers Digest's parent laid off a chunk of its staff. While advertising pages are down across the board, there are a number of mags that are fighting for their survival.
The Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps quickly acknowledged his poor judgment after a photograph showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe was published Sunday in a British newspaper. Although his admission is unlikely to effect his swimming eligibility, it could affect the millions of dollars he has secured in endorsement deals....
Since his record-breaking performance in Beijing, Phelps has added Kellogg's, Mazda and Subway, among others, to an endorsement portfolio that already included Visa and AT&T. In a 60 Minutes interview that aired in December, Phelps's agent...said that Phelps could earn more than $100 million over his lifetime.
On his weekly radio show this just-past Motzoei Shabbos, Assemblyman Dov Hikind revealed that according to his information, [confirmed by VIN News] another victim has come forward with allegations that he was abused by the disgraced former principal of Elite High School of Brooklyn.
On the show, Mr. Hikind also discussed the accused principal's admission of guilt.
Most significantly, Hikind announced a major yom tefilah to be held on March 1, 2009 in front of the Borough Park "Y" on 48th Street to demonstrate a communal request for forgiveness from Hashem for not doing enough to protect our children from, and inform our community of, heinous crimes that have been occurring over the past decades in which we turned a blind eye to abuse victims.
Mr. Hikind said that he would continue his crusade, and said "those who are upset with what I do, I ask them: 'Take over what I do.' I even offered one of the biggest Chasidic institutions many months ago, when they were upset at my work, to take over--and I never heard back from them."
From the conservative, Jewish-establishment magazine Commentary:
...Perhaps this will set off a war of scarcity between Jewish groups fighting over the money of those who are still giving, but the initial indications are that cooperation may prevail over chaos.
Representatives of thirty-five of the largest Jewish foundations in the country met in New York on December 23, 2008, to coordinate their responses to the crisis and agreed to offer millions of dollars in loans to not-for-profits victimized by Madoff--a heartening display of a community banding together in a time of crisis.
But the real problem facing specifically Jewish charitable organizations is not a scarcity of dollars to be spread among rival Jewish causes, but rather competition from secular groups that have also been injured by the economic crisis.
An assimilated Jewish donor who feels the charitable impulse but has fewer dollars to contribute might feel a greater sense of affinity and cause with an environmentalist group or an arts organization, and focus his reduced power on them instead. Just as the openness of American society has made it less likely for Jews to marry other Jews, so, too, it is less likely that Jews will give primarily to Jewish causes....
The long-term threat for Jewish philanthropy, then, isn't Bernard Madoff but rather the overall threat facing the larger Jewish community in the United States--what came to be known, nearly two decades ago, as the "continuity crisis."
When the 1990 National Jewish Population Study reported alarming rates of intermarriage, numbers that offered the terrifying prospect of the eventual withering away of the Jewish population in the United States, a debate began in the organized Jewish world about how to address the approaching demographic disaster.
Peter Madoff's role in the scam, if any, remains unclear. But timing of the homestead exemption requests raises questions as to who knew what and when....
CBS News has learned that [Bernard] Madoff and his brother, along with their wives, took steps two years ago -- around the time that federal regulators started probing Madoff's business activities -- that could help prevent their Florida homes from being taken away from them, something possible under Florida state law.
"Florida has very unique laws and has been described by some as a debtor's haven," said John Pankauski, a Florida estate attorney. "People who may want to protect their property will seek the protection of Florida laws."
Florida's "homestead" laws, which are unlike what any other state has, in part allow homeowners facing legal judgments (or other financial issues) to protect their primary residence fully -- keeping it out of the hands of potential creditors. One of the key steps in qualifying for the home-protection is seeking "homestead exemption," which provides homeowners with a tax break.
On May 10, 2001, Peter Madoff bought the home at 200 Algoma Road in Palm Beach, Fla., along with his wife Marion. Both were listed as owners at the time.
Five years later, on Nov. 8, 2006, Peter transferred the title to Marion making her the sole legal owner of the home....
A bumbling New York Post reporter was busted Saturday after he tried to sweet-talk his way into Bernie Madoff's upper East Side penthouse, police said.
Josh Saul, 25, claimed to be a real-estate broker when he entered the Ponzi scheme swindler's building at 133 E. 64th St. around 1 p.m., police said. "He misrepresented himself," a police source said.
Saul was escorted upstairs by a doorman and was near the front door of the $50 billion scam artist's $7 million duplex when he was unmasked, cops said.
The hapless hack's weekend at Bernie's did not end with the exclusive interview he was angling for. Instead, he was arrested, charged with trespassing and issued a summons.
Saul, 25, of Greenwich Village, has been working at the Post for about a year. He is also the dubious star of a Web site that includes photos of him dancing in his underwear, chugging beer from a keg, wearing a woman's wig and balancing objects on his head.
Reached Saturday night, he referred all questions to his newspaper.
Post spokesman Howard Rubinstein declined to comment.
The fact-challenged tabloid quoted an anonymous source on Friday as saying that brokers have been invited by the trustee of Madoff's firm to assess the disgraced investor's apartment.
Hard times force hard choices on everyone. But that does not require bad decisions too. At Brandeis University, President Jehuda Reinharz has made hard times worse by deciding to close the university's Rose Art Museum and sell off more than 6,000 works in its collection....
The Madoff scandal and its effects on some of Brandeis's major donors have made new fund-raising possibilities especially bleak.
Selling the university's art collection would help plug its financial gap, but it would create a gaping hole in Brandeis's mission and its reputation. It would default on one of the great collections of contemporary art in New England, one built early on with extraordinary artistic acumen. The core works were acquired by the museum's founding director from such young artists (at young artist prices) as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.