U.S. officials said Tuesday that a North Korean ship has turned around and is headed back toward the north where it came from, after being tracked for more than a week by American Navy vessels on suspicion of carrying illegal weapons.
The move keeps the U.S. and the rest of the international community guessing: Where is the Kang Nam going? Does its cargo include materials banned by a new U.N. anti-proliferation resolution?
The ship left a North Korean port of Nampo on June 17 and is the first vessel monitored under U.N. sanctions that ban the regime from selling arms and nuclear-related material.
The Navy has been watching it â€” at times following it from a distance. It traveled south and southwest for more than a week; then, on Sunday, it turned around and headed back north, two U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.
Democrat Al Franken, a satirist turned politician, was declared the winner of a Senate seat in Minnesota on Tuesday, clearing the way for President Barack Obama's party to secure a critical 60-seat majority in the Senate.
Ending one of the longest Senate races ever, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously rejected each of Republican Norm Coleman's five legal arguments that an earlier recount of the November 4 vote had been unfair. Coleman quickly conceded.
Franken will become the 58th Senate Democrat, the most the party has had since 1981. Two independents routinely vote with the Democrats, giving the party the 60 votes needed to clear Republican procedural hurdles known as filibusters.
Stocks fell sharply in midday trading Tuesday after a private research group said consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in June.
Investors had been expecting the Conference Board's measure of consumer sentiment to hold steady following big jumps in April and May. Consumer confidence is closely watched because spending from consumers accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
The latest data on the troubled housing sector provided no help to the market.
The number of homeowners at least two months behind or in foreclosure jumped in the first quarter from the previous quarter, a Treasury Department report said Tuesday. And much of the increase came from borrowers who had good credit.
U.S. consumer confidence took an unexpectedly steep slide in June, figures released on Tuesday showed, suggesting the 18-month-long recession had yet to loosen its grip on the economy.
A separate report on April house prices in major cities offered some encouraging signs that the worst of the housing slump may be over, but that was not enough to lift investors' spirits. Another crop of economic data showed business activity in New York City and the Midwest remained weak, while retail chains slogged through a rough June.
To go through the 9,800 word profile/excoriation of Sarah Palin by Todd Purdum in Vanity Fair and Fisk it line by line would take an enormous amount of time and space, and probably more time than youâ€™re willing to devote to reading it. So for now, the low-lights:
Lefty journalist Todd Purdum has a hit piece in the new Vanity Fair on Sarah Palin. You donâ€™t have to be a big Palin fan to recognize the article is full of dubious claims, and is dependent on self-serving stories provided on background by some of the people who ran the McCain campaign into the ground.
Meanwhile, on the day Purdumâ€™s piece hit the web (today), a journalist who had expressed suspicions in the past that elements of the McCain campaign had undercut Palin suddenly got a friendly e-mail from top McCain-Palin campaign strategist Steve Schmidt. This journalist hadnâ€™t heard from Schmidt in months. Perhaps Steve was nervous someone would finger him for the Purdum piece.
Many people will dissect Todd Purdum's 9,800-word opus on the rise, fall, and continuing journey of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, but perhaps readers ought to be a bit wary when they encounter sentences like this:
Palin herself often sounds tired and resentful these days, as if wondering whether she should have blinked and just said no to John McCain.
Telepathy is a great and rare gift, and I envy reporters who have been granted it through genetic mutation.
Can she be simultaneously tired, resentful, and thinking she shouldn't have run for vice-president, and at the same time, nostalgic for the campaign trail, eager to return to national issues and focused on Washington D.C. beltway politics?
Or is it that Sarah Palin is now a blank slate, upon which national magazine writers project whatever negative narrative they prefer?
I assume that everybody has read the hit piece that will be published in the August edition of Vanity Fair. The Castroesque article is written by liberal writer Todd Purdam, the husband of former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers. Bill Clinton actually doesn't think too highly of Purdam, notwithstanding his marriage to Myers:
There was a time earlier this year when Republican Pat Toomey was the skunk at the Republican establishment party, a conservative gadfly whose prospective primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter seemed to jeopardize GOP control of the seat.
Even after Specter switched to the Democratic Party in April, party leaders continued to dismiss Toomeyâ€™s chances and looked elsewhere for a 2010 nominee.
Today, however, the party is gradually falling in line behind his bid, setting aside reservations about his electability and getting accustomed to the idea of the former Club for Growth president as the GOP Senate nominee.
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered that Democrat Al Franken be certified as the winner of the state's long-running Senate race.
The high court rejected a legal challenge from Republican Norm Coleman, whose options for regaining the Senate seat are dwindling.
Justices said Franken is entitled to the election certificate he needs to assume office. With Franken and the usual backing of two independents, Democrats will have a big enough majority to overcome Republican filibusters.
Despite her disastrous performance in the 2008 election, Sarah Palin is still the sexiest brand in Republican politics, with a lucrative book contract for her story. But what Alaskaâ€™s charismatic governor wants the public to know about herself doesnâ€™t always jibe with reality. As John McCainâ€™s top campaign officials talk more candidly than ever before about the meltdown of his vice-presidential pick, the author tracks the signsâ€”political and personalâ€”that Palin was big trouble, and checks the forecast for her future.
A blockbuster Vanity Fair piece by Todd Purdum quotes many senior members of John McCain's presidential campaign team trashing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).
"They can't quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be."
Said one aide: "I think, as I've evaluated it, I think some of my worst fears… the after-election events have confirmed that her more negative aspects my have been there… I saw her as a raw talent. Raw, but a talent. I hoped she could become better."
President Obama's Iran policy is incoherent and obsolete. Maybe David Axelrod should take note.
On Sunday, Mr. Obama's consigliere was asked about Iran by ABC's George Stephanopoulos and NBC's David Gregory. Mr. Gregory asked whether there "should be consequences" for the regime's violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations. "The consequences, I think, will unfold over time in Iran," answered Mr. Axelrod.
Mr. Stephanopoulos quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that "this time, the Iranian nation's reply will be harsh and more decisive to make the West regret its meddlesome stance." Said Mr. Axelrod, "I'm not going to entertain his bloviations that are politically motivated." As for whether the administration wasn't selling short the demonstrators, Mr. Axelrod could only say that "the president's sense of solicitude with those young people has been very, very clear."
The Health and Human Services Department Monday rescinded three controversial Bush administration regulations governing Medicaid and said it would postpone and possibly change or rescind a fourth.
The regulations were among seven that President George W. Bush â€™s administration tried to implement in 2007 and 2008 that sent health care providers, state governments and advocates for the poor into a lobbying frenzy. Critics charged that the administration was trying to shift to the states, from the federal government, the burden for about $19.6 billion in Medicaid spending over five years. Medicaid, a health insurance entitlement program for the poor, is a shared federal-state program, and there is constant tension between the two over costs.
North Korea appears to be enriching uranium, potentially giving the state that has twice tested a plutonium-based nuclear device another path to making atomic weapons, South Korea's defense minister said on Tuesday.
"It is clear that they are moving forward with it," Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee told a parliamentary hearing, adding such a programme was far easier to hide than the North's current plutonium-based activities.
North Korea earlier this month responded to U.N. punishment for its most recent nuclear test in May by saying it would start enriching uranium for a light-water reactor.
Experts said destitute North Korea lacks the technology and resources to build such a costly civilian reactor but may use the programme as a cover to enrich uranium for weapons.
North Korea, which has ample supplies of natural uranium, would be able to conduct an enrichment programme in underground or undisclosed facilities and away from the prying eyes of U.S. spy satellites.
The last time Indiana missed its deadline for passing a budget and had to shut down the government was during the Civil War.
But on Monday, as lawmakers raced to hammer out an agreement over school funding, state agencies began preparing 31,000 workers to be temporarily out of a job. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has warned residents that most of the state's services — including its parks, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and state-regulated casinos — would be shuttered unless a budget is passed today.
Indiana is one of five states — along with Arizona, California, Mississippi and Pennsylvania — bracing for possible shutdowns this week as time runs out for lawmakers to close billion-dollar gaps in their fiscal 2010 budgets.
Of the 46 states whose fiscal year ends today, 32 did not have budgets passed and approved by their governors as of Monday afternoon, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Monday that he is considering running for governor in 2010.
Appearing on CNNâ€™s â€œAmerican Morning,â€ Giuliani insisted that â€œI donâ€™t know if I am or if Iâ€™m notâ€ running for governor. But pushed further, the former Republican presidential candidate conceded that he is indeed â€œthinking about it.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m at the point of seriously considering it,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a little too early.â€
According to a June Quinnipiac University poll, Giuliani holds a 52 percent to 34 percent advantage over the unpopular Democratic Gov. David Paterson in a potential general election matchup.
Giulianiâ€™s chances, however, are less promising against a stronger Democratic opponent. In a potential general election matchup against Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the same poll shows Giuliani trailing 51 percent to 39 percent.