Lights dimmed around the world yesterday for the second annual Earth Hour. Some 4,000 cities in 88 countries participated at 8:30 PM in their respective time zones in a bid to highlight the threat of climate change.
** GENERAL MOTORS C.E.O. OUT ON EVE OF OBAMA RESCUE PLAN. On Sunday night in Washington comes word that General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner has been told to resign in advance of President Barack Obama’s Monday announcement of a federal rescue plan for the beleaguered U.S. auto industry. GM has been run absolutely into the ground in recent years, sticking vociferously to the old ways of doing business that haven’t worked in the present, much less in the future, and running up incredible losses.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM? AFTER WINNING TWO AFGHAN WARS IN A QUARTER-CENTURY, AMERICA TRIES TO MAKE SOMETHING STICK. (This will come after the Moscow conference this weekend and before the Netherlands conference on Tuesday.)
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama returns from Camp David to the White House this afternoon. He has no scheduled public events.
Obama appeared on the CBS News program Face The Nation today, airing at different times in different markets. He said that US automakers, for whom he will announce a new rescue program tomorrow, need to make major concessions and changes in their operations.
He also said that the Iraq pull-out will continue on the announced schedule, despite signs of new improvements there, and that the US will not send troops into Pakistan to pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban cadre without consulting with the Pakistani government.
Obama announces the new plan for the Detroit-based auto industry on Monday.
Later in the week, he begins a lengthy round of international meetings that will take him to London for the G-20 (group of 20 advanced economies summit), Strasbourg, France and Kehl, Germany for the 60th annual NATO summit, Prague in the Czech Republic for a European Union summit (Obama will deliver a major address on nuclear proliferation there) and Ankara, Turkey to meet with Turkish leaders (Turkey will be a key ally in the Obama Administration) and a roundtable discussion with Turkish student.
Having just announced the new strategy for the Afghan War and on the verge of a momentous European trip, President Barack Obama’s weekend video/radio address is about the disastrous flooding in the Midwest.
** WATCHMEN MAKES IT PAST $100 MILLION. Though it’s certainly not the next comic book movie blockbuster many had anticipated, Watchmen passed the $100 million mark in domestic box office on Thursday, its 21st day of release. Which certainly makes it a hit. But at the rate it’s going, it will be doing well to end up around $110 million in domestic box office, just double its big opening weekend. A far cry from The Dark Knight‘s $533.3 million, or Iron Man‘s $318.4 million. The film was too long, dark, and obscure for the super-mass audience.
** F1 RETURNS. The world’s greatest motorsport, Formula 1 racing, returns tonight with the Australian Grand Prix. The race in Melbourne – which you can watch at 10:30 PM Pacific live on the Speed channel – is the first of 17 races over seven months in the globe-spanning circuit, concluding November 1st with the first-ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. F1, along with soccer (known as football pretty much everywhere outside the US), which I’m not a particular fan of, is one of the two most popular sports in the world.
The last two season’s F1 world driving championships have come down to the final race, and this year may be the same.
What’s not the same is that this very expensive sport has had some cutbacks due to global recession. One big team, Japan’s Honda, dropped out, corporate sponsorships have been cut back, less money will be spent on prepping the engines and cars, and a couple of races – including the U.S. and French Grand Prixs – have dropped from the schedule.
** OBAMA’S BRACKETOLOGY. President Barack Obama went on ESPN last week to unveil his picks in the NCAA basketball tournament. He was very downbeat about California schools, and the Pacific 10 Conference in general, picking all four California teams and five of six Pac-10 teams to lose in the first round.
He was wrong about a lot of that, as two of the four California schools, USC and UCLA, won, as did five of the six Pac-10 teams.
After that Obama’s picks proved more accurate, with 14 of the 16 teams he picked to make the Sweet Sixteen round actually making it. This weekend, we’re down to the four regional finals around the country, the so-called Elite Eight. The last Pac-10 team, Arizona, went down by nearly 40 points at the hand of Louisville. UCLA was blown out in the previous round, while surprise Pac-10 champ USC lost it at the end.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama is in the Maryland mountains this weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha.
On Sunday, he appears on the CBS News program Face The Nation.
Obama is preparing the announcement of a new plan to revive the US auto industry, which will come on Monday.
He is also prepping for his big European trip next week. The president will be at the G-20 (group of 20 advanced economies) summit in London, the European Union leaders meeting in Prague, and the 60th anniversary summit of NATO in Strasbourg.
And, having announced the new US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan yesterday, Obama is monitoring international reaction, which in the form of statements is good. The big international conference on Afghanistan is next week at the Hague in the Netherlands. Another conference on Afghanistan, that of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is happening now in Moscow. The US and Iran are participating in each conference.
Vice President Joe Biden is signaling a fresh US interest in Latin America. He’s in Chile and Costa Rica through the weekend.
Sydney, Australia was the first major city on the planet to participate in the second annual Earth Hour, a dramatization of the fight against global climate change by turning off lights at 8:30 PM on March 28th.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no public events this weekend.
Schwarzenegger is on vacation next week.
** PRIME TIME O: HOW THE OMNIPRESENT PRESIDENT IS DOING. We can’t afford to go back, and things are on course. That’s the meta-message from six days of very high-profile appearances by President Barack Obama, culminating with Tuesday night’s prime time news conference.
“We can’t afford to go back,” as in, “We can’t afford not to transform this economy as we revive it.”
Stanch the hemorrhaging of our personal and governmental financial base on health care by reforming it. Transform our resource base by shifting from non-renewable energy sources dominated by countries we can’t count on to new, greener technologies that curtail the greenhouse effect, create jobs, and position America for leadership in new industries. Recreate our knowledge base by improving a slumping education system. Revive our physical base by investing in infrastructure.
As for the “things being on course” part of the message, what struck me most about Obama’s prime time news conference, the second of his young presidency — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did only four apiece during the 16 years they served — was how routine it felt.
While the nation’s media culture seems only slightly less hysterical, Tuesday night’s White House event had little of the crisis-ridden atmospherics of Obama’s first prime time presser. …
** OBAMA’S RUGGED WEEK. President Barack Obama faces a rugged week with multiple challenges on the economy and in geopolitics. … Is this another bailout to Wall Street? Or is it needed pragmatism to work with a deeply troubled, farcically entitled though still necessary private financial sector? … Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy review, expected to be completed last week, now apparently won’t be released until next week, when an international conference on the troubled nation convenes in the Netherlands at The Hague. …
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: THE ARNOLD ALLIANCE AND MORE. President Barack Obama is back in the East after a whirlwind visit to California which pointed up his strengths and suggested some things he can do differently.
Polling shows that Obama, who crushed John McCain here last November, 61% to 37%, is the only really popular politician in California now. The state is wracked by the recession, which took hold here earlier than most other places, and hampered by a largely dysfunctional state Capitol.
As important as Obama is for California, so, too, is California for Obama. …
** CNBC CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM ITS HOUSE, AND OTHER FIN DE SIECLE FOLLIES. CNBC can see Russia from its house. It’s just one example of a fin de siecle folly, albeit one of the the most recent and dramatic.This is clearly end-of-an-era time, but some of the old era standbys haven’t gotten the memo. Or been able to read it. …From my March 16th column.
** OUR MAN IN KABUL: BACKBITING ON THE EVE OF THE NEW OBAMA STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN. With the Obama Administration’s strategic review of the Afghanistan crisis nearly complete — the report should be out sometime next week — the Afghan government seems pretty unhappy.
And not just about the situation in the country, which is not good, with successful Taliban attacks taking place even in the capital city of Kabul.
The current government, under the Bush/Cheney Administration’s choice for president, Hamid Karzai, seems disgruntled about a likely change in direction under President Barack Obama.
Publicly, Karzai supports Obama. But some of his top officials this week undermined likely key elements in the new strategy. …
** OBAMA’S DARING TOUR D’HORIZON: THE NEW PRESIDENT ENGAGES MULTIPLE CRISES AND PROBES FOR OPPORTUNITY. In the midst of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, President Barack Obama is making major moves elsewhere. That doesn’t mean he’s not focused on the domestic economy; quite the contrary. To follow the conventional media, he’s doing little else. What it does mean is he pursuing a big agenda in geopolitics.
If the economic crisis were not so grave and the conventional media so insular, any one of these moves would be big news. …
** WHITHER WATCHMEN? IS THIS BIG, DARK, GEEKY, LEFTY MOVIE THE NEXT COMIC BOOK BLOCKBUSTER? … From my March 9th column.
** THE TROUBLE WITH TWITTER: WHY “TWEETS” ARE LIKE “BLIPVERTS.” … From my March 5th column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial.
Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included.
Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil closed on Friday at $52.38 per barrel. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up about $18 a barrel since enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, on anticipation of increased economic activity down the line, and on increased implementation of already agreed upon OPEC production cutbacks to support the price.
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