Good morning! Here’s what you need to know:
1. President Obama today will announce his newly configured national security team. CIA Director Leon Panetta will become the new Secretary of defence. General David Petraeus will become the new CIA Director. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will become the new US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Marine General John Allen will assume the duties of Mr. Petraeus in the AfPak region.
2. The appointment of Mr. Panetta to the Department of defence is seen by many as a harbinger of future budget cuts.
3. President Obama was born in Hawaii. That’s what his “long-form” birth certificate shows. Donald Trump, who had raised questions about the president’s place of birth, declared himself “honored” to have played “such an important role” in “forcing” the release of this new information. Meanwhile, true birthers smell a rat.
4. The Federal Reserve raised its inflation forecast for this year above its stated goal, but chairman Ben Bernanke said in a first-ever official news conference that the rise in prices would be “transitory”.
5. Fed Chairman Bernanke signaled two key policy decisions yesterday at his news conference: (1) QE2 will indeed end on 30 June of this year, and (2) interest rates will remain low to promote economic growth.
6. Meanwhile, the dollar continued its grim slide on international currency markets. The value of the USD is near record lows.
7. Democrats see Medicare as a winning issue for them in the 2012 elections. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he would bring the “Ryan Plan” to a vote on the Senate floor, to force GOP Senators to vote in favour of its controversial “transformation” of Medicare.
8. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka warned Wednesday that the state is on track to end its fiscal year June 30 with $8.3 billion in unpaid obligations.”
9. The State of New Jersey’s credit rating was downgraded, again, by Moody’s Investor Services. “Recovery will be unlikely in the medium term,” the ratings agency said.
10. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) yesterday proposed injecting new competition into the public-education system by making empty slots in every school district available to any student in the state. The Wall Street Journal reports that Gov. Snyder hopes to have enabling legislation passed and signed into law by 4 July of this year.
11. Middle Eastern leaders have apparently decided that brutal repression, even if it tears a country apart, is better than losing one’s job.
12. Fatah and Hamas, rival Palestinian political organisations, yesterday announced an agreement in principle to end years of bitter rivalry and hatred. The move may reconfigure the diplomatic landscape in the Middle East.
13. The US would like to maintain a military presence in Iraq, for obvious reasons (Iran being the most obvious). Iraq’s political elite can’t decide if they want the US military to stay or go. Time is running out. A decision needs to be made shortly.
14. Gun sales in the United States are back up, sharply. Year-over-year data collected shows double-digit gains in US gun ownership.