Hot Docs: The Next President's Top 10 Global Economic Challenges, State Budgets, and the Crisis

Today's selection of timely reports.

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Top 10 Global Economic Challenges Facing the Next President: The next president will face a host of economic challenges beyond simply restoring financial stability, according to a report from experts at the Brookings Institution. The No. 1 challenge is "restoring financial stability," followed by "setting the right green agenda." Other top challenges for the 44th president include "navigating China's rise," "deciphering 'Russia, Inc.,' " and "revitalizing ties to Latin America."

The Economic Crisis and State Budgets: The current economic crisis could be "the biggest threat to states' fiscal health in 25 years." In an article for the Pew Research Center, Stephen Fehr of Stateline.org notes that state budgets were tight even before the recent "meltdown" because of "the housing slump, rising unemployment, and a slowdown in consumer spending." He outlines the approaches some states are taking to address the fiscal crisis, from freezing contracts (Arizona) to laying off employees and cutting the governor's pay (Virginia). West Virginia is even considering a lawsuit against firms like AIG "to recoup losses in its investments." Fehr notes that, while some states may have difficulty financing projects, others, including Montana, will have a "very different policy dilemma"—what to do with an estimated $1 billion surplus from "high oil and commodity prices."

House Oversight Committee Criticizes White House on Executive Privilege: The House Oversight Committee calls the Bush administration to task for its expansive use of executive privilege, calling it "legally unprecedented" and "inappropriate." A draft report criticizes the Bush White House in particular for claiming privilege in two cases, including to prevent the release of Vice President Cheney's statement in the investigation into the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. The committee finds "no precedent" for executive privilege to extend to the vice president's interview with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. In another case, Bush invoked executive privilege to withhold thousands of pages of documents pertaining to the administration of the Clean Air Act. Despite subpoenas, the White House "has stymied the committee's investigation" into whether the executive branch had a hand in changing ozone and emissions standards.

Global Hunger Index 2008: Countries are making "slow progress" at reducing world hunger, a new report finds. The worldwide "global hunger index" has decreased nearly 20 percent since 1990, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, which studies countries and areas "facing the greatest risk in the current context of high food prices." Although worldwide hunger remains a severe problem, some individual areas have improved their ratings over the years, particularly Latin America.

A Different Kind of U.S. Power: A new, unified electrical power grid "will let cheap power chase high demand around the clock and across the country," according to a report from the Manhattan Institute's Center for Energy Policy and the Environment. The report, by Senior Fellow Peter Huber, advocates the creation of such a grid to replace the current four-sectioned grid.