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Friday, December 29, 2017

Almost two months into it, Saudi Arabia's crackdown on corruption is yielding at least some of the $100 billion the kingdom is targeting. Dozens of former officials and businessmen have exchanged part of their wealth for freedom.

But in the increasingly drawn-out case of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the public face of the Saudi royal family to many foreign executives and investors, there's more at stake than taking over his global business empire and talks on a settlement have hit an impasse.

The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is about to enter a crucial few months that will show his true motives and the scope of his power. How the case unfolds will help investors and diplomats answer a question puzzling them since the nightly raids of Nov. 4: Whether the purge is an effort to root out graft before selling shares in the country's oil giant, or simply a shakedown to boost state coffers while he asserts himself at home and abroad. read more


Thursday, December 28, 2017

President Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, have at least one thing in common: identical approval and disapproval ratings in one national poll after their first year in office. Rasmussen Reports' latest poll showed Thursday that Trump had a 46 percent approval rating compared to a 53 percent disapproval figure, which were near the same percentages Obama received at the end of 2009. Obama polled at 46 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval in Rasmussen's December 31, 2009, results, according to its historical index of the 44th president's ratings. However, only 24 percent of respondents strongly approved of Obama's work at the time, and 42 percent strongly disapproved. read more


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

For this viewer, the meaning of the Trump show began to change with last week's tax bill. Republicans' performance at last week's White House in celebration of the party-line tax bill may have been bombastic and obsequious, but the party placed its bet on a growing economy.

Every bit as hysterical, excessive and embarrassing was the countershow put on by Democrats. But they put themselves on the side of bad things happening. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and their junior shadows danced around the maypole, lighted candles, burned effigies -- in hope that you will lose your job in 2018, see your hours cut, fail to get an expected raise. This probably is an ill-advised bet by Democrats.

The world's major economies are in a synchronized upswing. The world's central banks are using the window to withdraw their histrionic and destabilizing monetary accommodations of the past decade. To the extent that "it's the economy, stupid" still trumps, the GOP will benefit. read more


Saturday, December 23, 2017

The United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Friday that significantly choke off new fuel supplies and order North Koreans working overseas to return home within two years, in what may prove the last test of whether any amount of economic pressure can force it to reverse course on its nuclear program. The sanctions, adopted by a vote of 15 to 0, were the third imposed this year in an escalating effort to force the North into negotiations. China and Russia joined in the resolution, though American officials have charged that in recent months the Russians have secretly been opening new links to the North, including new internet connections that give the country an alternative to communicating primarily through China. read more


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

To the young male actors in his retinue in Santa Barbara in the 1970s, Gary Goddard was an exalted figure. A successful former theater prodigy, Goddard returned through his 20s to direct and mentor child actors in his hometown, vowing to bring the most talented with him to Hollywood. He attracted a constant orbit of devoted boys others referred to as the "Goddardites." But the seemingly idyllic setting of privilege and promise had a dark edge for several members of the theater group. Four decades later, many of them say they have been haunted by their encounters with Goddard. Since actor Anthony Edwards wrote in an online essay last month that Goddard sexually abused him as a pubescent actor in Santa Barbara, seven others from the theater group told the Los Angeles Times that their former mentor molested or attempted to molest them as boys. read more


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