From baseball to hardball: George Mitchell lands in Mideast to probe the deadliest beanball war — Jews vs. Arabs


The Wall Street Journal, reporting from Davos, asks (gulp), “Is Capitalism, as We Know It, Dead?”

Pumped up from his experience as chief investigator of steroids abuse in baseball, George Mitchell is now in for some really heavy lifting: the testosterone-laden, rage-filled Arab-Jew death dance in the Middle East.

No coincidence that Mitchell’s arrival in the region as President Barack Obama’s peacemaker was accompanied by a flareup of violence.

In the former Maine senator’s baseball probe, few of the players would even talk to him, so he relied heavily on former Mets batboy Kirk Radomski.

This time, however, he’ll be dealing with some people who throw serious heat — rocks, rockets, white phosphorus — and everybody will be talking all at once. Whether they’ll listen to him is another thing.

But he has experience in cutting in on partners locked in death dances: Mitchell won praise a decade ago for helping to hammer out an accord in Northern Ireland.

If he has any success at all in the Middle East, Mitchell will get more than just a feather in his cap. He would indeed replace James G. Blaine in the history books as the plumed knight from Maine.

Meanwhile, in other business…


Village Voice: ‘What Cooked the World’s Economy? It wasn’t your overdue mortgage.’ (James Lieber)

Time: ‘Is California the State Closest to Economic Ruin?’


Wall Street Journal: ‘Unemployment Rises in Every State: Joblessness Is Worst Where Housing, Manufacturing Are in Trouble, but Spreading Fast’


Bloomberg: ‘Pfizer’s Wyeth Purchase Puts New Jersey Town’s Jobs, Taxes, Deli in Peril’

Pfizer Inc.’s agreement to buy Wyeth has Main Street in Madison, New Jersey, toting up potential damage.

Time: ‘The GOP Grapples with Obama’s Charm Offensive’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Taxpayers’ running tab on Yankee Stadium parkland’

Taxpayers will get socked for nearly $194 million to replace parkland gobbled up by the new Yankee Stadium – almost 70% more than first estimates.


N.Y. Times: ‘Iranian Leader Demands U.S. Apology’

A day after President Obama struck a conciliatory tone toward Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Washington on Wednesday to apologize for its actions toward his country for the past 60 years and said it was unclear whether the new American administration was merely shifting tactics or wanted real change.

But, in a speech in the western city of Kermanshah, he did not explicitly rebuff the American president’s gesture.

Time: ‘How Al-Arabiya Got the Obama Interview’


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Top execs still living like kings’ (Juan Gonzalez)

How much longer will Congress use billions in public money to bail out the nation’s biggest banks, then let the top executives remain in charge?

New Yorker: ‘Ms. Kennedy Regrets: Why Caroline Kennedy dropped out’

N.Y. Times: ‘Rove Subpoenaed on U.S. Attorneys’


Harper’s: ‘Weekly Review’

…Former vice president Dick Cheney attended the inauguration in a wheelchair, Senator Edward Kennedy had a seizure, Aretha Franklin‘s voice cracked, and Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill performed with the aid of a backing track….

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Blabbering Blagojevich turns to puppy talk’

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich cranked up his Manhattan media blitz Tuesday as FBI tapes detailing alleged pay-to-play deals were featured at his impeachment trial back home.

Bloomberg: ‘Bankruptcy Lawyers Seek $18.50 a Minute as Creditors’ Recoveries Shrink’

Lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, home to former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, are asking as much as $1,110 an hour for bankruptcy work while creditors are recovering less of their loans through company restructurings.


N.Y. Daily News: ‘Blowfish testicles poison diners’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Novartis Posts 70% Rise in Net’

…The company said it expects record results in 2009, but also warned that the market and economic environment is becoming increasingly challenging.

Novartis, based in Basel, also reported a small pipeline setback, saying it will file meningitis vaccine Menveo for approval for use in infants in 2011, which is later than planned. This comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked to test the vaccine on an additional 1,500 infants.

Bloomberg: ‘Obama Broadband Plan Is Too Small, Has Too Many Conditions, Companies Say’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Flare-Up Tests Mideast Truce as Mitchell Arrives’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Medics Say They Were Blocked from Hard-Hit Gaza Village’

Bloomberg: ‘Pakistani Crackdown on Mumbai Attack Suspects Leaves Imams Preaching Jihad’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Illinois Senators Hear Blagojevich’s Taped Conversations’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Times Square hotel tops list of dirtiest hotels in America’

The Hotel Carter was named the dirtiest hotel in America Tuesday by, marking the third time in four years that the W. 43rd St. dump has topped the list.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Barclays Chiefs Join Growing List of Davos No-Shows’

Two top executives from Barclays PLC of the U.K. became the latest prominent bankers to decide against going to global capitalism’s big annual conference, as the financial crisis takes its toll on the major finance houses.

Bloomberg: ‘Schwarzman Pledges “Wonderful Time” for Buyouts as Wealth Drops $7 Billion’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Defendant hurls human feces at jury’

Bloomberg: ‘Olympic Bailout Puts Vancouver Taxpayers on Alert for a Montreal “Big Owe”‘

The athletes’ village rising in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics is casting a shadow over the city’s finances.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Davos: Is Capitalism, as We Know It, Dead?’

Bloomberg: ‘TARP Bank Shares Index Losses Are Four Times the S&P 500’s’

Since the U.S. Treasury began investing in banks through its Capital Purchase Program, a gauge of participating companies’ share prices has lost four times as much as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Bloomberg: ‘Mack Tells Wife He May “Lose” Morgan Stanley Before Staking All on Brokers’

It was early September, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 15 percent for the year. The credit squeeze was grinding on. Deals were few. Morgan Stanley’s John Mack, a chief executive officer who loves a prank, sent three of his deputies small, gray electronic blood pressure machines with Velcro wristbands….

Wall Street Journal: ‘Bill Clinton Speech Fees Topped $4.7 Million in ’08’

Wall Street Journal: ‘High Priest of Sex and Suburbia’

‘Gay vs. Madoff’

Tommy De Seno‘s Jersey Shore Blog offers a math lesson:

Brothers Lawrence and Kenneth Gay are facing a plea bargained sentence of 11 years in prison for stealing $13,000 from a poker game in Brick, New Jersey.

That’s one year in jail for each $1,181.00 stolen.

By that math, Bernie Madoff, who stole $50 billion, should be sentenced to 43 million years in prison.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Perjury Charges Being Considered: SEC Officials Believe Madoff Lied to Them During Past Examinations’

Securities Docket: ‘Testimony of SEC’s Linda Thomsen Before Senate Banking Committee (Madoff Matter)’

Bloomberg: ‘Madoff Enablers Winked at Suspected Front-Running’

Wall Street Journal: ‘In Echoes Of Madoff, Ponzi Cases Proliferate’