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Pentagon to recommend more troops in Afghanistan, housing bill set to pass after Bush withdraws veto threat, Iraqi presidential council rejects election law, oil spill closes Mississippi River, Fed report shows tough times lingering.

• "The Bush administration plans to shift nearly $230 million in aid to Pakistan from counterterrorism programs to upgrading that country's aging F-16 attack planes, which Pakistan prizes more for their contribution to its military rivalry with India than for fighting insurgents along its Afghan border," the New York Times reports. "Some members of Congress have greeted the proposal with dismay and anger, and may block the move."

• "Top Pentagon leaders are expected to recommend soon that Defense Secretary Robert Gates order hundreds of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next month or so, according to a senior military official," AP reports. "The units are likely to be small and could include engineers, ordnance disposal troops and other support forces needed to shore up fighting needs and the training of Afghan forces." Another possibility is "a larger, brigade-sized unit" that could be diverted from an Iraq deployment or moved from elsewhere.


• "The Navy wants to curtail plans for a series of high-tech destroyers in the latest sign that budget pressures are reining in some of the defense industry's most ambitious weapons systems," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Lawmakers chided Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Wednesday for claiming national security concerns in opposing legislation that would allow reporters to protect the identities of confidential sources," AP reports. "Mukasey, who once successfully represented the New York Daily News in a libel case, said he was open to considering compromises. But he said current laws limiting the government's ability to force reporters to reveal their sources are adequate."

Congress: Housing Bill Set To Pass After Bush Withdraws Veto Threat

• "The House" Wednesday "easily approved legislation that seeks to slow the steepest slide in house prices in a generation, rescue hundreds of thousands of homeowners at risk of foreclosure and reassure global markets that mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not be allowed to fail," the Washington Post reports. "The Senate plans to vote on the bill within days and send it to President Bush. The White House announced that Bush would sign the measure."


• "The Bush administration's capitulation... left House Republican leaders and conservatives at a loss," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "GOP leaders had been whipping against the bill Tuesday and told reporters they had enough votes to sustain Bush's repeatedly threatened veto, restated yet again as recently as Monday. But then they got the call Tuesday night that the White House was caving."

• "Democrats are marching through their legislative agenda as they near the fall election season, scoring several key victories and forcing President Bush to abandon his veto threats," The Hill reports.

• "House Democrats today are optimistic about moving a bill taking oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but Wednesday appeared to be the beginning of the end for Senate debate over curbing oil market speculation," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The Senate bill looks irreversibly stymied as Majority Leader" Harry Reid, D-Nev., "filed cloture on the measure Wednesday amid disagreement with Republican leaders over how many amendments could be offered."

• "Democrats and Republicans lambasted Elaine Donnelly, the president of the Center for Military Readiness, during a hearing on Wednesday that focused on the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," The Hill reports. "Three of the five witnesses testifying favored the repeal of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, but Donnelly got the most attention as her statements infuriated all but a few of the members present at the hearing."


• "The governors of the 50 states and Puerto Rico urged congressional leaders Wednesday to act on a stalled package of renewable energy and efficiency incentives, which are attached to a larger tax bill embroiled in a fight over revenue-raising offsets," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "A resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives asking China to end human rights abuses and its support for tainted governments in Sudan and Myanmar in line with 'Olympic traditions of freedom and openness,'" Agence France-Presse reports. "The resolution, proposed Wednesday by the Democratic head of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, Howard Berman [D-Calif.], is to be discussed and possibly voted on" today "before it is sent to the House floor."

• "Senators on Wednesday called for more federal money to study the safety of levees after dozens of breaches contributed to heavy flooding across the Midwest last month," AP reports. "At least 41 levees were topped in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri during the near-record flooding that gripped the region, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most levees that failed were not federal projects."

• "House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) acknowledged" Wednesday "that he hoped his personal entreaties to foundations and corporations would bring in donations to an academic center that bears his name," the Washington Post reports. "In a letter to the House ethics committee, Rangel confirmed that he sent at least 150 letters on congressional stationery to philanthropic and business leaders as part of his efforts to support the new Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York."

Iraq: Presidential Council Rejects Election Law

• "Iraq's presidential council on Wednesday rejected a draft provincial elections law and sent it back to parliament for reworking -- a major blow to U.S. hopes that the vote can be held this year," AP reports. "U.S. officials have pushed hard for the polls, which had been due by Oct. 1, as a key step toward repairing Iraq's sectarian divisions."

• "Al-Qaida's foreign fighters who have for years bedeviled Iraq are increasingly going to Afghanistan to fight instead, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States said Wednesday," AP reports. "'We have heard reports recently that many of the foreign fighters that were in Iraq have left, either back to their homeland or going to fight in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now seeming to be more suitable for al-Qaida fighters,' said Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie."

• "Responding to a request by four Senate Democrats, the State Department's inspector general has announced an inquiry into the department's policy on western oil company contracts in Iraq," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "An IG spokesman said the documents gathered for the committee offer a starting point for the new probe, which will address several questions from the senators. The spokesman said the review is not yet a formal investigation."

• "The Turkish military has said its warplanes have attacked Kurdish separatist targets in northern Iraq," BBC News reports. "The military, in a statement on its website, said 13 targets were 'successfully hit' in the raids."

Nation: Oil Spill Closes Mississippi River

• "The U.S. Coast Guard closed 98 miles of the Mississippi River from New Orleans, Louisiana, southward after a fuel barge and a tanker collided early Wednesday, spilling more than 400,000 gallons of fuel oil," CNN reports. "The closure -- on what is a major shipping route between the Midwest and the Gulf of Mexico -- could last days, and the cleanup could take weeks, said Capt. Lincoln Stroh, the Coast Guard chief in New Orleans."

• "Dozens of U.S. cities will see cuts in the anti-terror money they receive from the government this year, due to spending decisions to be announced Friday by the Homeland Security Department. According to an early copy of the list obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, 43 cities will get slightly less money in 2008 than they did the previous year."

• "Like most of the country's more than 18,000 local law enforcement agencies, the Providence," R.I., "Police Department went to war against terror after Sept. 11, embracing a fundamental shift in its national security role," the New York Times reports. "But much has changed. Now, police officials here express doubts about whether the imperative to protect domestic security has blinded federal authorities to other priorities. The department is battling homicides, robberies and gang shootings that the police in a number of cities say are as serious a threat as terrorism."

• "Hurricane Dolly slammed ashore and then loitered over deep south Texas as a tropical storm, dumping as much as a foot of rain in places and ripping roofs off buildings with 100 mph winds," AP reports. "Emergency managers waited for Dolly to move on late into the night Wednesday and hoped to begin assessing the storm's damage" today "even as they began to rescue people from flooded or damaged homes."

• "New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates said" Wednesday "that they will together provide $500 million to fight tobacco use around the world, especially in developing countries where smoking rates are rising," the Washington Post reports.

• "After years of false starts, a new industry selling motor fuel made from waste is getting a big push in the United States, with the first commercial sales possible within months," the New York Times reports. "Many companies have announced plans to build plants that would take in material like wood chips, garbage or crop waste and turn out motor fuels."

• A triple murder in San Francisco "immediately sparked public outrage, which only intensified when authorities revealed that" the shooter, Edwin Ramos, 21, "is an illegal immigrant who had managed to avoid deportation despite previous brushes with the law," AP reports. "The case has put San Francisco's liberal politics to the test, igniting a nationwide debate over its sanctuary law that shields undocumented immigrants from deportation."

Economy: Fed Report Shows No Relief

• "The economy has continued slowing this summer across most of the nation as prices keep rising sharply, according to a report by the Federal Reserve, indicating that the squeeze that has made times tough for Americans throughout 2008 shows no sign of letting up," the Washington Post reports. Wednesday's "'beige book,' a compilation of anecdotal information from businesses around the country published eight times a year by the Fed, gives a portrait of an economy that continues to experience deep stresses from many sides."

• "The stumbling U.S. economy is forcing states to slash spending and cut jobs in order to close a projected $40 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "That gap -- identified Wednesday in a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures -- is more than triple the size of the previous year's. It is the result of broad economic weakness at the state and local levels that could cause pain throughout this year and into 2010."

• "Cash-strapped homebuyers and borrowers facing foreclosure will get some relief from a housing bill passed by the House on Wednesday but the bill won't solve the deep-rooted ills of the U.S. housing market," AP reports. "The bill was widely praised by real estate industry groups but doubts remain about how much real-world impact it will have for consumers."

• "About 2 million Americans get a raise" today "as the federal minimum wage rises 70 cents," AP reports. "The bad news: Higher gas and food prices are swallowing it up, and some small businesses will pass the cost of the wage hike to consumers."

• "The Arctic may contain as much as a fifth of the world's yet to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves, the United States Geological Survey said Wednesday as it unveiled the largest-ever survey of petroleum resources north of the Arctic Circle," the New York Times reports.

• "Microsoft revealed its disarray in the aftermath of its failed bid for Yahoo on Wednesday, announcing a major reorganisation and the unexpected departure of the executive who oversaw its offer," the Financial Times reports. "The company said Kevin Johnson, a 16-year veteran and one of three divisional presidents under chief executive Steve Ballmer, was leaving the company and his Platform and Services division was being split in two."

World: Karadzic Arrest Gives Hague A Second Chance

• "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday urged North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun to quickly accept a U.S. plan for verifying Pyongyang's recent nuclear declaration, saying that during their talks 'the spirit was good' and there 'wasn't a standoff,'" the Washington Times reports.

• "The arrest of Radovan Karadzic has given Hague Tribunal prosecutors the chance to win a landmark case against a man accused of orchestrating the horrors of the Bosnian war," BBC News reports. "The tribunal has already jailed generals, warlords and paramilitary thugs in cases that have revolutionised international justice, but it has yet to convict one of the masterminds."

• "The Chinese government will permit public protests inside three designated city parks during next month's Olympic Games, but demonstrators must first obtain permits from the local police and also abide by Chinese laws that usually make it nearly impossible to legally picket over politically charged issues," the New York Times reports.

• "There were backroom deals. There were wads of cash waved about as alleged evidence of bribery. There were six lawmakers on hand who had just been sprung from jail so they could cast their ballots. So it went on the floor of India's Parliament this week during a historic vote on whether to back the government and its controversial nuclear deal with the United States," the Washington Post reports.

• "Rwanda has warned that it will withdraw its 3,000 peacekeepers from a U.N.-backed mission in the Darfur region of Sudan if the United Nations refuses to retain an alleged Rwandan war criminal as its second-highest-ranking commander there, according to U.S. and U.N. officials," the Washington Post reports. "The United Nations has sought to persuade the Rwandan government to replace Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Karake Karenzi, the deputy force commander of a joint African Union and U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur" after "a Spanish judge indicted Karenzi and 39 other Rwandan officers in February for alleged war crimes in Rwanda in the mid-1990s."

• "Sudan's diplomatic offensive against the International Criminal Court is gaining momentum in Africa, but faces stiff odds before the U.N. Security Council," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The government of Sudan has been waging a high-profile political campaign since the court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, last week filed charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against the country's leader" President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir.

• "When" Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's "'green bombers' walk the streets, they know that everyone else is afraid of them. But what everyone else doesn't realize is that the green bombers are frightened of them too," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The youth militias are so notorious here that they can seem like cartoon bad guys -- one-dimensional and evil. But the ordinary face of evil is much more human, and more menacing."

Campaigns: Holy Land Vow

Barack Obama pledged his support for Israel on Wednesday in a continued effort to secure the American Jewish vote. Earlybird's Campaign News section has details.

Commentary: Pickens' Pull

• Commentators commend oilman T. Boone Pickens for his call to find bipartisan remedies for high gasoline prices in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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