Good morning! Here’s what you need to know:
1. defence Secretary Robert Gates continues his candid assessment of the future of US national defence. He is terrified that the best young officers will leave the service(s).
2. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and two prominent Republican Senators called on the Obama Administration to “look into” the establishment of a “no-fly zone” over Libya. Secretary Gates, in testimony to Congress last week, said: “Let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down. But that’s the way it starts.”
3. The US spends $110 billion annually to bolster thoroughly corrupt regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tom Friedman asks whether some of that money might be better spent on supporting the democracy movement across the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
4. The US State Department upgraded its travel warning for Yemen, saying the embassy’s ability to assist in the event of a crisis was “very limited.” Officials described the security threat as “extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.”
5. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the U.S. is urging protesters from Bahrain to Morocco to work with existing rulers toward what some officials and diplomats are now calling “regime alteration.”” Really. Not kidding. Mickey Kaus offers up some better slogans.
6. Federal Reserve officials are, as ever, cautiously optimistic that a self-sustaining economic recovery is “taking root” in the US, but they say that this particular self-sustaining economic recovery still needs stimulus support.
7. Public pension systems did a bit better in 2010, according to a study conducted by Wilshire Associates. The study found that the assets-to-liabilities ratio improved slightly.
8. Moody’s today slashed Greece’s credit rating by three notches. The credit rating agency said it soon might cut it even further, dragging the European sovereign deeper into junk-grade territory.
9. The Financial Times joined those calling on Portugal to seek a bail-out. Portugal’s fiscal condition is viewed by most observers as hopeless.
10. The leader of France’s far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, leads French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a new national poll. The results surprised many French political observers.
11. The European Union is pleading with Germany to be “flexible” in dealing with the basket cases that are Ireland and Greece (and Portugal). German public opinion is firmly opposed to any such flexibility.
12. Mitt Romney is hoping that his record of executive success (in business and government) will allow him to stand apart from his fellow 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Mr. Romney is focusing this phase of his campaign on job creation.
13. Wisconsin Democratic state Senators are planning to return to Madison this week. When they do, the bill that caused them to flee the state in the first place will pass.
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