Coming Up in CQ Researcher

Cost of the Iraq War
The fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq hit just as economic news in the United States turned bleak. Unemployment is growing, the home foreclosure crisis continues and the economy is either in recession or close to it. Against this backdrop, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and a federal budget expert published a book linking the economic downturn to the war in Iraq – whose eventual, total cost they calculated at $3 trillion – and maybe even more. President George W. Bush dismisses the linkage argument, arguing that the war creates employment and that Iraq war spending amounts to only a “modest fraction” of the U.S. economy. But even Republican lawmakers have been asking why taxpayers are funding the rebuilding of oil-rich Iraq while it reaps billions in record-high oil prices. For its part, the administration says Iraq is starting to bear more of the reconstruction costs.
By Peter Katel

Cyber Bullying
Child advocates say a growing epidemic of “cyber bullying” – the use of computers, cell phones, social-networking sites and other technology to threaten or humiliate others – is putting young people at risk, sometimes with deadly consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled “electronic aggression” an “emerging public-health problem.” Court precedents on school discipline and students’ First Amendment rights provide limited guidance to educators grappling with the emerging world of cyber communication, especially transmissions originating off school grounds. Nonetheless, many states and school districts are taking strong steps aimed at curbing cyber abuse. In Congress, bills to provide new funding for online-safety programs have been introduced, but conflicts have arisen over how federal money for such efforts should be spent.
By Thomas J. Billitteri

Financial Crisis
The shaky subprime mortgages creating widespread turmoil in the U.S. housing market are also feeding a worldwide credit crisis. Deploying complex computerized models, lenders have pooled credit instruments of all sorts – mortgages, credit card debt, corporate and government bonds – and sliced and diced the packages for trading in lightly regulated financial markets. The banks, investment funds and other players that trade in these markets say that “securitization” promotes economic liquidity by spreading and diversifying risk. Critics say the practices actually allow dubious loans to uncreditworthy customers to spread virus-like through worldwide financial markets. Banks in the United States and elsewhere are taking big write-offs as they are forced to revalue their holdings. The U.S. Treasury Department is proposing a major overhaul of financial markets regulation, but the sweeping plan offers little by way of immediate relief. In any event, any proposals for additional regulation will face stiff resistance from the financial community.
By Kenneth Jost