1. Brent crude traded at nearly $120 per barrel earlier this morning. Worries about reduced supplies from Libya and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East have caused the world’s oil benchmark to jump nearly $17 this week.
2. The wave of popular discontent that is roiling North Africa and the Middle East has diminished the influence of Saudi Arabia and enhanced Iran. The Iranian regime expects to emerge from the regional turmoil “entrenched and emboldened.”
3. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah offered a $36 billion benefits package for Saudi citizens in a bid to short-circuit rising political discontent in “his” country.
4. China’s leadership is not taking the calls for a “Jasmine Revolution” lightly. Panicked that what is happening in the Middle East might happen at home, Chinese leaders are cracking down hard on “dissidents” and human rights activists.
5. Pakistan’s ISI spy agency is ready to split with the CIA, according to an internal document obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with U.S. and Pakistani officials. The Washington Post continues its coverage of the collapse of U.S.-Pakistani relations.
6. An astonishing 12 per cent of U.S. banks remain at risk of failure. Overall the U.S. banking industry was profitable in 2010 (for the first time since 2007).
7. Illinois got its $3.7 billion bond deal done (to meet pension obligations). But the deal came at a high price.
9. New Jersey Chris Christie is waging an aggressive public relations campaign, declaring himself the leading governor on the front-lines of fiscal sanity. He was at The New York Times yesterday.
10. President Obama initially rushed into the battle of Madison, Wisconsin, aligning himself (and his field organisation) with the unions. Then he just as quickly disappeared from view. Why? It wasn’t working with independent voters, whose support President Obama needs to carry Wisconsin in 2012.
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