Miscellaneous Monday (In Eleven Acts)

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1. On the economic warfare front, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson says that Russia tried to mount an attack on the United States in 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, by trying to convince China to dump its investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac just as the war with Georgia began. From Bloomberg:

The Russians made a “top-level approach” to the Chinese “that together they might sell big chunks of their GSE holdings to force the U.S. to use its emergency authorities to prop up these companies,” Paulson said, referring to the acronym for government sponsored entities. The Chinese declined, he said. . . . “The report was deeply troubling — heavy selling could create a sudden loss of confidence in the GSEs and shake the capital markets,” Paulson wrote. “I waited till I was back home and in a secure environment to inform the president.”

2. Sex offender shanty towns in Miami. You read that right. Sex offender shanty towns.

3. More from Paulson: He dry heaves when exhausted. He was worried this would worry others when he was trying to save the world, but says it is no big deal.

4. Jonathan Chait points out that Barack Obama does not have the darkest skin in this picture.

5. Jesus on a toilet door of Ikea in Glasgow, via Roger Ebert, who it must be said, is so much more than a thumb.

6. Should allowing a tax cut to expire on schedule be called a “tax increase”? The Associated Press says yes.

7. Ten Americans, who describe themselves as Baptists trying to rescue orphans, are arrested in Haiti and charged with kidnapping and child trafficking.

8. The Toyota recall gets the treatment on the New York Times front page. Two sections worth noting:

As recently as the fall, Toyota was still saying it was confident that loose floor mats were the sole cause of any sudden acceleration, issuing an advisory to millions of Toyota owners to remove them. The company said on Nov. 2 that “there is no evidence to support” any other conclusion, and added that its claim was backed up by the federal traffic safety agency. . . .

On Dec. 26, a 2008 Toyota Avalon — one of the cars under recall — crashed just outside of Dallas. A police officer in Southlake, Tex., Roderick Page, said in an interview that “for undetermined reasons, the vehicle left the main roadway, and went through a metal pipe fence, striking a tree and causing the vehicle to flip and land upside down in a pond.” All four people in the car died. “There was no evidence that they attempted to hit the brake or slow down,” he said. “Honestly, my reaction is, ‘Wow.’ ” Two weeks later, an investigator from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration visited Southlake to inspect the car, accompanied by a Toyota engineer. Mr. Page said one factor they immediately ruled out was the floor mats, which were in the trunk.

9. Steve Jobs basically calls Google evil, though it is unclear which scatological word he used to make his point.

10. Republicans plan to use Barack Obama as a weapon against his own party in 2010.

11. Norm Ornstein argues that everyone has missed the news: Barack Obama has overseen an enormously productive first year in office.