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EARLYBIRD

Top News

Government to take over AIG in bailout, congressional leaders agree on tax-extenders bill, voter registration lags in advance of Iraq election, Chertoff keeps watch on hurricane relief, North Korea reportedly tested missile.

• "Invoking extraordinary powers granted after the 1929 stock market crash, the government seized control of the insurance giant American International Group to preserve a crucial bulwark of the global financial system," the Washington Post reports. "The move to lend the Wall Street giant up to $85 billion in exchange for nearly 80 percent of its stock effectively nationalizes one of the central institutions in the crisis that has swept through markets this month."

• "The Environmental Protection Agency has done little to curb the export of discarded electronic products containing hazardous waste, much of which ends up in poorly regulated countries and harms the environment and public health, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report being released today," the Post reports. "The 63-page report... is a scathing critique of the EPA's failure to control the export of used electronic equipment, which often is sent to China, India and other countries to be dismantled under unsafe conditions."

 

• "The struggle to regulate guns in" Washington, D.C., "in light of a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling sparked competing legislative efforts" Tuesday "as members of Congress debated taking control of the issue and the D.C. Council implored them to leave it in local hands," the Post reports. "The council voted unanimously to ease some contentious firearms restrictions while the U.S. House of Representatives considered a more dramatic measure that would limit the city's power to regulate guns."

• "The Food and Drug Administration has issued an 'import alert' to block approximately 30 generic drugs made by two plants in India from entering the USA, officials said Tuesday," USA Today reports. "'To date, we have seen no evidence of harm to consumers from drugs produced at these facilities,' Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA, told reporters."

Congress: Leaders Agree On Tax-Extenders Bill

• "Senate leaders forged a deal on a major piece of the endgame puzzle Tuesday, making it more likely that Congress can leave town by the end of next week," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "While a lame-duck session in November remains an open question, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that they had agreed to a must-pass tax-extenders bill that has stymied the chamber all year."

 

• "House Democrats earned at least a short-term victory Tuesday on their latest veto-threatened energy strategy, which Senate Majority Leader Reid suggested might be used to start up Senate debate in the coming days," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "In what was largely a partisan war of words before the elections, House Democratic leaders, 236-189, earned enough support from conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans for their 290-page proposal."

• "Members of a bipartisan commission said Tuesday that Congress should strip the Department of Homeland Security of its lead role in protecting U.S. computer networks, as a government auditor said the department's efforts have been 'completely ineffective,'" United Press International reports. "'Our view is that any improvement in the nation's cyber security must go outside of DHS to be effective,' said James Lewis, of the Commission on Cyber-Security for the 44th Presidency, an effort to develop recommendations for the next administration on an issue increasingly seen as a vulnerability for the U.S."

• "Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is busy fending off federal charges and scrambling to retain his seat, but that hasn't affected his appetite for earmarks," The Hill reports. "Stevens has secured the most earmarks in the Senate defense appropriations bill, according to an analysis by The Hill."

• "Stevens lost a final attempt Tuesday to get his corruption indictments thrown out and end what could be a politically damaging trial before it begins in federal court next week," AP reports. "U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan refused to throw out the Stevens indictment or stop federal prosecutors from presenting evidence about his discussions with or work concerning interests of an Alaska oil pipeline services company."

 

• "Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., is asking the House ethics committee to allow him to use campaign contributions to pay a forensic auditor to investigate his tax returns and personal financial disclosures, his lawyer said Tuesday," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Crisis management experts said Rangel's legal expenses and a detailed audit could end up costing more than $100,000, which is likely to be far more than any tax penalty he is ultimately required to pay for failure to report income from his various properties."

Iraq: Voter Registration Lags In Advance Of Election

• "As Iraq's parliament haggles over an election law, election officials say they are disappointed by low voter registration ahead of provincial polling that could take place this year," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Last month, only 2.9 million out of 17 million eligible voters went to election centers during a registration drive, according to election-commission figures. That was after officials extended their deadline by a week. Just 100,000 of Iraq's internally displaced population of more than two million have applied for absentee ballots."

• "U.S. and Iraqi officials say Sunni insurgent groups, especially al-Qaeda in Iraq, are using religion, money and empty promises to persuade sometimes vulnerable women to conduct suicide attacks, highlighting the movement's desperation at a time when its influence and ranks have declined," the Washington Post reports. "Extremists say the women are acting on their own motives, including ideology and revenge, and describe the female bombers as the latest tactic in a slow-burning war."

• "Syria announced Tuesday that it had appointed an ambassador to Iraq for the first time since the early 1980s," the New York Times reports. "The ambassador, Nawaf Fares, was sworn in as the envoy before the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian state news agency reported."

Nation: Chertoff Keeps Watch On Hurricane Relief

• "Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is going to Texas Monday for his second post-Hurricane Ike trip to the state's devastated coastline," USA Today reports. "Chertoff said the government's response to Ike has gone reasonably well, but he wants to be there in case there's 'something I need to light a fire under.'"

• "An army of line crews from 31 states has converged on eastern Texas to help deal with the largest power failure in this large state's history," the New York Times reports. "Officials fear it could take weeks to restore power in some places, like Galveston and the towns near the Louisiana border, because major transmission lines have been knocked out, substations have been swamped and trees have fallen on neighborhood lines."

• "Although some residents might argue that Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick's efforts to cover up an affair with his chief of staff have cost this cash-starved city enough money, Detroit plans to spend as much as $3 million more on a special election to replace him," the New York Times reports. "The City Council voted reluctantly but unanimously on Tuesday to hold a special election in May, saying the city's charter left no other option, even though Mr. Kilpatrick's term expires at the end of 2009.

Economy: Banks Clamp Down On Lending To Each Other

• "Banks abruptly stopped lending to each other or charged exorbitantly high rates Tuesday, threatening to spread the troubles of American International Group Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. to a broad range of financial institutions and the global economy," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The breakdown came despite efforts by central bankers to keep money flowing."

• "As the Bush administration has lurched from pillar to post in the financial crisis, some lawmakers and experts were considering a longer-term legislative solution that would create a new agency to dispose of the mortgage-related assets at the core of Wall Street's woes," the New York Times reports.

• "Federal Reserve policy makers kept their benchmark lending rate unchanged at 2 percent on Tuesday, highlighting the conflicting pressures of an epic financial crisis and nagging inflation," the New York Times reports. "Although the decision initially disappointed investors, analysts said it reflected the Fed's determination to separate basic monetary policy from the specific credit and cash problems on Wall Street."

• "Just two months ago, spiking petroleum prices were emboldening confrontational oil exporters such as Venezuela, Russia and Iran, fueling inflation anxiety at the Federal Reserve, raising expectations at American biofuel producers, and crimping the budgets of airlines and ordinary households alike," the Washington Post reports. "Suddenly, the oil market's dynamic has changed. Prices have beaten a two-month retreat, confounding forecasts that many experts had just revised upward, fanning tensions within OPEC, dimming the financing prospects for alternative-fuel firms, and erasing tens of billions of dollars of value of energy stocks and oil and gas investments."

• "As the credit crisis continues to wallop the economy, one piece of good news stands out: Inflation is subsiding in the U.S. and parts of Europe and Asia," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "U.S. consumer prices fell last month for the first time in two years, the Labor Department said Tuesday, while the consumer-price index fell 0.1% in August after rising 0.8% the previous month."

World: North Korea Tested Missile, Report Says

• "North Korea has tested the engine mechanism for an intercontinental missile that might be able to hit major cities on the U.S. West Coast, according to an account published Tuesday in the South Korean press," the Washington Post reports. "A previously unknown missile launch site on the west coast of North Korea was identified last week by Jane's Defense Weekly, which cited commercial satellite images."

• "The United States' top military officer flew unexpectedly into Pakistan on Tuesday night to meet with senior officials amid a tense confrontation between the two allies over recent U.S. military incursions into Pakistan in pursuit of al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists," the Washington Post reports. "The unannounced visit by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came hours after a spokesman for Pakistan's army was reported as saying that the country's soldiers had orders to 'open fire' if U.S. forces attempt a cross-border raid similar to a Sept. 3 commando operation in which about 20 people were killed."

• "Defense Secretary Robert Gates" today "expressed 'personal regret' for recent U.S. airstrikes that killed Afghan civilians, and pledged more accurate targeting in future," AP reports. Gates spoke at a press conference "after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other senior government officials."

• "At least one car bomb targeting the U.S. Embassy hit the front gate of the compound in Yemen's capital on Wednesday, killing 10 people outside, a U.S. spokesman and a senior Yemeni security official said," AP reports. "The explosion killed six Yemeni guards assigned to sentry duty outside the embassy, as well as three Yemeni civilians and one Indian national, according to the security official."

• "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas set a late evening meeting Tuesday -- possibly their last before the Israeli leader leaves office -- making a final push for a peace agreement by the end of the year," AP reports. "The talks came a day before Mr. Olmert's Kadima Party chooses a new leader in a process that could put peace efforts on hold for several months."

Campaigns: Obama Looks For Opening

• Fresh from a record-breaking $9 million fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Barack Obama is hitting the airwaves with a new two-minute ad that lays out his case for the troubled economy. Earlybird's Campaign News section has more.

Commentary: What's Next On Wall Street?

• While supporting the government's decision to bail out AIG, fears remain about "dire regulatory failings" in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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