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Good morning! Here’s what you need to know:1. Egypt is charting a new course in its foreign policy, normalizing relations with Hamas and Iran, two of Israel’s bitterest foes and two enemies of western interests and values.
2. Turkey sent a delegation to Damascus to try to convince the Assad regime to abandon its crackdown on the popular uprising and implement political reforms. Syria’s neighbours are increasingly concerned about events there. Meanwhile, US Senator urged the Obama Administration to get tougher with Syria.
3. The appointment of General David Petraeus to lead the CIA will likely increase tensions between the United States and Pakistan. Which may be one of the reasons he was appointed.
4. Who’s to blame for the rapid increase in the price of food? Goldman Sachs! Frederick Kaufman argues that the Goldman Sachs Commodities Index is the prime driver behind rising food prices.
5. ExxonMobil, the world’s largest company by market capitalisation, reported yesterday a 69 per cent jump in first-quarter earnings to $10.7bn, its best quarterly performance since 2008 when oil prices were last above $100 a barrel. Oil company profits are destined to become a political issue soon.
6. A growing number of Democrats are joining Republicans in saying that they will not vote for “lifting” the debt ceiling without “meaningful deficit reduction measures.” Among them: Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kent Conrad (D-ND).
7. The US economy grew slowly (GDP rose 1.8%) in the first quarter of this year, a fact some blamed on the weather and high oil prices. Economists, ever clueless, had been expecting this year’s growth rate to be roughly 4 per cent.
8. The sluggishness of the US economy has been especially painful for President Obama’s core constituencies. Which is one reason his re-election campaign lacks the enthusiasm and brio that it had in 2008. Ron Brownstein’s column is worth reading in full.
9. Tom Bevan notes that President Obama’s prospects for winning Pennsylvania in 2012 have dimmed, considerably. A new poll finds his approval rating and his “re-election number” down sharply.
10. President Obama hosted a pointless pander-fest yesterday at the White House, designed to make Hispanics think that the Obama Administration was fully committed to “immigration reform.” Mickey Kaus has a brief review of the Hispanic Kabuki theatre, which featured (you can’t make this stuff up) Eva Longoria and Rosario Dawson.
11. US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman returns to Washington today. There awaits him a fairly built-out presidential election campaign, complete with pollster and “strategists” and fund-raisers. Whether he will become its candidate is an open question.
12. Donald Trump campaigned in Las Vegas yesterday, a fish in water. “Obamacare,” he said, “is a disaster.” Meanwhile, NBC refused to say whether Mr. Trump had committed to another year of his television show, which airs on the Comcast-owned network.