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BEHIND THE NEWS: Choices

December 1, 2008 1:19:26 PM PST
Where to begin? With the naming of some high-profile folks for President-elect Obama's National Security team -- including Sen. Hillary Clinton, whom candidate Obama roundly blasted for her vote in favor of authorizing Pres. Bush to invade Iraq? Or the news that the economy has officially been in a recession since December, 2007 -- the second recession during the Pres. George W. Bush era?

Or with the latest controversy involving the talented by oh-so-troubled Plaxico Burress of the New York giants?

Three good stories - all worthy of coverage. Which to begin with? In this space, we'll start with the new announcements for the new White House. Obama dealt with the predictable questions about why, after criticizing each other over foreign policy issues, would the President-elect ask Sen. Clinton to become his Secretary of State, and why would she accept?

The heat of the campaign, and the transformation from rivals to colleagues - that's how he explained it.

It's not an inconsequential question, but it might be a moot one, at least for the moment; at least until there's some sort of public disagreement over policy. If there ever is.

The Republicans were not as forgiving as Obama and Clinton; they quickly put out more than a dozen fairly inflammatory quotes from each then-Presidential candidate, attacking the other.

No one -- no matter what their political stripe -- should forget the tensions between the two just a few months ago.

Meanwhile, the issue of who replaces Clinton as the junior U.S. Senator from New York becomes a front-and-center story. Gov. David Paterson will have to select a replacement. We'll have the latest on the appointments and the Clinton vacancy, tonight at 11.

One other note about the incoming Administration: There is much talk about how Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who is staying on in that capacity for the next White House, will deal with the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy about gays in the armed forces. Obama has described the policy that Pres. Clinton settled on -- as "counterproductive." However, don't look for the issue to be top-of-mind after the inauguration. Remember how it backfired on Bill Clinton so early on in his Presidency?

And, for the record, Gates will continue a string of Republican Defense Secretaries - dating back to William Cohen under Clinton.

The economy will also get the spotlight on our 11 p.m. newscast. We've talked in this space before about how we'll be deep into a recession before it's finally acknowledged. We've also talked about the need to re-define what a recession is; historically, it's been two consecutive quarters of negative growth (what a term!) in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The National Bureau of Economic Research is the group that "calls" this - and it has apparently changed the traditional definition. Here's the statement: "Most of the recessions identified by our procedures do consist of two or more quarters of declining real GDP, but not all of them. As an example, the last recession, in 2001, did not include two consecutive quarters of decline. As of the date of the committee's meeting, the economy had not yet experienced two consecutive quarters of decline."

As for why the bureau doesn't accept the two-quarter definition anymore - it says "we do not identify economic activity solely with real GDP, but use a range of indicators. Second, we place considerable emphasis on monthly indicators in arriving at a monthly chronology. Third, we consider the depth of the decline in economic activity. Recall that our definition includes the phrase, 'a significant decline in activity.' Fourth, in examining the behavior of domestic production, we consider not only the conventional product-side GDP estimates, but also the conceptually equivalent income-side GDI estimates. The differences between these two sets of estimates were particularly evident in 2007 and 2008."

And, right on cue, the nation's largest chicken processor, Pilgrim's Pride, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy.

The stock market was down several hundred points most of the day, before closing down about 690 points at 8149.

We'll have the latest on the economy, tonight at 11.

And then there's Plaxico Burress, who has been verbally shooting himself in the foot for years, now charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon after literally shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub over the weekend.

Burress' travails vis a vis whether he'll be kicked off the New York Giants football team - seems inconsequential to the bigger issues at play here. At play and at stake.

Mayor Bloomberg's campaign against illegal guns is now going head-to-head with the Giants wide receiver. The state legislature, at Bloomberg's bidding, passed a law that if you carry a loaded handgun and aren't permitted to - and Burress wasn't - then it's an automatic three and one-half years behind bars. "And I don't think anybody should be exempt .. and it would be an outrage if we didn't prosecute to the full extent of the law - particularly people who live in the public domain....," said the Mayor today, about the Burress shooting. (Click here to watch)

And Bloomberg was furious at Weill Cornell Medical Center for not reporting the shooting to police, even though state law requires it.

"I think it is just an outrage that the hospital didn't do what it is legally required to do," Bloomberg said today. "It's a misdemeanor, it's a chargeable offense and I think the D.A. should certainly go after the management of this hospital."

So now it's a match between two rich New York institutions - the medical center, and the Mayor, a multi-billionaire who has in the past lent his name to Weill Cornell's fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, Burress pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he would face the 42-month minimum, and a 15-year maximum.

We're also keeping a close tabs on the investigation into the terrorist attacks last week in Mumbai, India. Turns out, the Indian national leadership was just as inept this fall as the U.S. executive branch leadership intelligence forces were in 2001, before Sept. 11.

ABC News, quoting a government source, says that Indian officials were warned by foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies that Mumbai was going to be a terrorist target in the weeks prior to the assault. The warning even included identifying the Taj Mahall Hotel as a target. The government apparently took some steps - even notified some of the potential targets - but clearly it wasn't nearly enough.

There were also warnings for some time about the vulnerability of the waters -- that terrorists could exploit the lack of security there. They did.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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