- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, on the government taking control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae: Congratulations, or perhaps condolences, fellow taxpayers. On Sunday we all became mortgage bankers.

Plunging confidence in the housing and financial markets forced the federal government to seize control of its quasi-public mortgage agencies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The takeover will keep them from going under and pulling much of the financial world down with them.

Taxpayers assume all the risks to reassure the world that the United States remains a safe place to invest. The alternative is unthinkable. …

A major flaw in the model was the accurate assumption that the companies that handled half the nation’s mortgages were too big to be allowed to fail. The implied federal guarantee led to risky innovations. Both stockholders and taxpayers went along, not knowing that the roof was about to fall.

James B. Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, now in charge of Freddie and Fannie, says the executives running the mortgage giants “did not create the inherent conflict and flawed business model embedded in the enterprises’ structure.”

Maybe not, but no one can say they did a good job of protecting either their stockholders or the public interest. …

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson promises a new philosophy. The companies “will no longer be managed with a strategy to maximize common shareholder returns.”

That’s no big surprise. The new shareholders are no one important, just common taxpayers.

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The Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind., on obesity and buffets:

Americans and buffet restaurants go together like popcorn shrimp and apple cobbler. Who doesn’t love the chance to choose from among dozens of tantalizing offerings arranged in colorful displays in shiny stainless buffet trays?

But a new study makes a connection between certain behaviors at buffet restaurants and obesity, suggesting that help-yourself patrons might want to think about how they approach these all-you-can-eat feeding opportunities.

Study participants were divided into an overweight group and a normal group, based on body mass index – a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

The heavy customers sat an average of 14 feet closer to the food stations and were twice as likely to sit facing the food.

The heavy people also began filling their plates more quickly, while the normal-weight customers circled the buffet and evaluated the food choices before serving themselves.

The heavy people chewed their food fewer times, indicating they ate faster. The normal-weight people were more likely to choose a smaller plate.

The takeaway lesson from this study is that those who want to exercise more control over their buffet eating habits are advised to sit far away from the food without facing it, use a smaller plate and chew slower.

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The (New York) Watertown Daily Times on troop withdrawal in Iraq:

Last week, the United States handed over responsibility for security in Anbar province to the Iraq government. Two years ago, the province was the scene of some of the bloodiest battles in the war.

Americans were dying there nearly every day. But in the past two years, insurgent attacks have dropped by 90 percent. The transfer of authority puts 11 of Iraq’s 18 provinces in the hands of Iraq authorities.

It is this success that cannot be jeopardized by a too-rapid withdrawal of American forces as conditions improve. And for that reason, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus has recommended slowing down troop withdrawals planned for later this year.

The commander has advised President Bush to maintain the 146,000 troops, including 15 combat brigades and support forces, now in the country through the end of his presidency in January. After that, a combat brigade of about 3,500 would be brought home in February with another 3,500 troops from other services and units bringing the total reduction to 7,000.

The recommendation is reportedly a compromise by Gen. Petraeus, who had considered maintaining current troop levels in Iraq through June. …

But conditions outside U.S. control can change quickly. One apparent reason for a slower reduction was the war in Georgia, which forced it to bring home about 2,000 of its soldiers to defend against the Russian invasion. …

Gen. Petraeus’s recommendations still allow for the troop reduction schedule to be modified as political and military conditions permit.

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The (La.) Town Talk on learning from Louisiana‘s storms:

Hurricane Ike’s track and timing in the wake of Hurricane Gustav are eerily reminiscent of the devastating one-two punch delivered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita just three short years ago.

Katrina and Rita, which landed in late August and late September 2005, respectively, knocked Louisiana for a loop and forced the state to acknowledge that it had to get much more serious about the business of dealing with storms.

The good news is it appears Louisiana is beginning to understand that hurricane preparedness requires year-round plans and vigilance. …

Fortunately, the state has a champion in front of that strategic mind-set.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who took office in January, understands the importance of preparedness, solid fundamentals and precision execution. His comprehensive understanding of capabilities and aggressive leadership style have given the state the push it needs. …

Central to the development of a new statewide strategy is a formal recognition that Louisiana does not begin and end with New Orleans and Orleans Parish. That region, along with the other Gulf Coast parishes, holds a vital role in the state and its future. …

As with all key initiatives…hurricane planning demands a statewide perspective, comprehensive strategic and operating plans, integrated response plans and meaningful follow-up. …

While Hurricane Ike makes up its mind about where to land, Louisiana residents must be prepared for a direct hit or a glancing blow. With luck, the state won’t get either, and Ike will serve only as a reminder of the work the state still must do.

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The (Israel) Jerusalem Post on anti-Semitism in Paris:

Though it boasts a popular science museum, a pleasant park and crisscrossing canals, relatively few casual tourists make it to the 19th arrondissement in northeast Paris.

This mostly working-class district of 180,000 has seen an influx of North African and sub-Saharan Africans who now live alongside a community of roughly 15,000 Jews.

In the past 10 years, petty harassment has become so frequent as to be almost unremarkable. Jewish schoolchildren have learned which streets - dominated by Muslim anti-Semites - to avoid.

But when the hooligans go on the prowl, trouble is unavoidable. …

In June, another kippa-wearing 17-year-old was attacked nearby by another mob of African youths. And recently a neighborhood store drew attention for selling T-shirts with the slogan “Jews are forbidden to enter the park” in German and Polish.

The revolting reference was to a prohibition imposed on Jews in Lodz, Poland, in the early 1940s against visiting a public park. Young Jews in the arrondissement got the hint: Muslim and African gangs were warning them to stay away from the neighborhood’s Belleville Park.

What are those of us outside France to make of this latest incident? …

At a time like this, we in Israel should not be sowing panic. Instead, a fitting Zionist message to our French Jewish brethren is that they are not alone; that Israel was founded not only as a haven from anti-Semitism, but as a homeland where - when we Israelis are at our best - Jewish life can be lived to its fullest.

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