Weekly Roundup 5/9/2011

"President Obama on the mission to kill bin Laden"
CBS News, 60 Minutes, May 8, 2011

"Trail to bin Laden began with phone call"
Bob Woodward, The Washington Post, May 6, 2011

Synopsis: In his first interview since the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama tells “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft that he made the difficult decision to order the mission despite disagreements among his advisers and only a “55-45” likelihood of success. In the Washington Post, Bob Woodward recounts how U.S. intelligence agencies tracked bin Laden to his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and gives some details on the deliberations before Obama’s go-ahead order.

Takeaway: “I said to myself,” Obama told Kroft, “that if we have a good chance of not completely defeating but badly disabling al Qaeda, then it was worth both the political risks, as well as the risks to our men.”

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


"What Happened to Air France Flight 447?"
Wil S. Hylton, The New York Times Magazine, May 8, 2011

Synopsis: In June 2009, an Airbus A330 vanished about halfway between South America and Africa. Three search teams looked unsuccessfully for the wreckage on the ocean floor, but a fourth attempt, carrying sophisticated unmanned submarines, succeeded, finding not only the wreckage but also the plane’s black boxes.

Takeaway: After the data recorders inside the black boxes are analyzed, investigators may be able to solve the mysterious crash. Meanwhile, some aviation experts think the plane’s air speed indicators may have malfunctioned, ultimately sending the plane into a dive from which the pilots could not recover.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor


"The Destruction of Economic Facts"
Hernando de Soto, Bloomberg Businessweek, Apr. 28, 2011

Synopsis: Many economists and politicians argue strongly against increased government regulation of business and finance, saying that, left to themselves, markets are the best means of supplying society with virtually everything it needs, from health care to home ownership. But Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto says that much of the world economy now operates in the form of “shadow markets” cloaked in dangerous secrecy that leaves would-be buyers in near-total ignorance of the value of what’s for sale. To prevent repeated financial chaos, governments must enforce transparency and standardization in all markets, he says.

Takeaway: Over the past 30 years, “governments have allowed shadow markets to develop and reach a size beyond comprehension,” writes de Soto. “Mortgages have been granted and recorded with such inattention that homeowners and banks often don't know and can't prove who owns their homes. In a few short decades the West undercut 150 years of legal reforms that made the global economy possible.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer