FUBAR

The doctor is out

Medicine’s frontline of defense — the primary care physicians, the family doctors, if you will — is crumbling. And no national health-care reform plan is likely to succeed unless that critical problem is solved.

Stimulus projects come in under budget

President Barack Obama said on Monday that thousands of major infrastructure projects being undertaken as part of his economic stimulus plan were ahead of schedule and under budget.

Obama, who plans to deliver what the White House called a "major" speech on the economy on Tuesday, said 2,000 new projects to rebuild U.S. highways and bridges already had been approved under the $787 billion stimulus plan that became law in February.

Taxpayers more frugal with refunds

Most people say they plan to use this year’s tax refund to pay bills, deciding in this sour economy to be more frugal with their annual windfall.

Fifty-four percent of those receiving refunds said they intend to pay off credit card, utility, housing and other bills, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Monday. That compares with 35 percent who said the same thing a year ago.

Only 5 percent, about the same as a year ago, said they planned to go on a shopping spree.

March budget defict sets record

The Treasury Department said Friday that the budget deficit increased by $192.3 billion in March, and is near $1 trillion just halfway through the budget year, as costs of the financial bailout and recession mount.

Last month’s deficit, a record for March, was significantly higher than the $150 billion that economists expected.

The deficit already totals $956.8 billion for the first six months of the budget year, also a record for that period. The Obama administration projects the deficit for the entire year will hit $1.75 trillion.

Panetta: No more secret CIA prisons

The CIA is "no longer" operating secret prisons used by the intelligence agency to interrogate terror suspects, and plans to shut all remaining "black sites," the spy agency’s director said Thursday.

The statement by the Central Intelligence Agency provided confirmation the spy service was carrying out an order from President Barack Obama to shut down the secret prisons that have been condemned at home and abroad as a flagrant violation of human rights.

Lawyers, judges fed up with Obama’s Gitmo delays

Lawyers and judges working on Guantanamo Bay legal cases are showing signs of exasperation at President Barack Obama’s administration, which they accuse of slowing federal judicial procedures for detainees.

Two federal judges tasked with examining cases by five Guantanamo prisoners contesting their detention — a right to habeas corpus granted by the Supreme Court in June 2008 — have made a rare public row of their impatience with government prosecutors.

US military might no match for pirates

The seizure of an American crew and cargo demonstrates the limits of U.S. military power in an international cops-and-robbers chase along a huge, lawless stretch of African coastline.

The outcome for the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama and its crew off the coast of Somalia was still unclear early Thursday. The crew had retaken control of the cargo ship from a band of pirates, but the captain was still held by the attackers in one of the ship’s lifeboats.

Making necessary changes in the defense budget

More important than the weapons systems he might cut or modify in his new military budget is Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ determination to reform the Pentagon’s woefully expensive and inefficient procurement process.

The urgency of this was underscored by a Government Accountability Office report that said 96 of the Defense Department’s biggest weapons systems were over budget by $296 billion — which is well over half the $534 billion Gates is proposing for the entire department for all of 2010.

Sometimes, pressure actually works

Bravo to the human rights activists around the world who muscled up in unison to obliterate one of the most backward laws passed by any country in recent times.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai recently signed into law a bill that approved of marital rape, stipulated that the wife "is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires," barred wives from "leaving the house without the permission of the husband" unless in a medical or other emergency and approved child marriage with girls legally able to marry once they began to menstruate.