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EARLYBIRD

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Bush to address ailing economy in Rose Garden speech, Obama met with Iraqi leaders on troop deal, U.S. weighs alliances with Afghan tribal militias, experts predict prolonged recession, world finance ministers convene in Washington this weekend.

• "As the stock market plunged to its lowest level in five years, the White House on Thursday sought to assure anxious Americans that the United States is working aggressively to stabilize the nation's chaotic financial system," AP reports. "In a new effort to calm the crisis, President Bush will make a statement on the economy" today "in the Rose Garden."

• "Bush created a special council" Thursday "to guide the transition to a new administration, another step toward the end of Bush's eight tumultuous years in office," the Washington Post reports. "Under an executive order signed by Bush, a newly created Presidential Transition Coordinating Council will meet Wednesday to begin mapping out an orderly handoff to Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama."

 

• Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, "is looking into allegations that a U.S. spy agency improperly eavesdropped on the phone calls of hundreds of Americans overseas, including aid workers and U.S. military personnel talking to their spouses at home," the Post reports.

Congress: GOP Blames Dodd & Frank For Financial Mess

• "With federal authorities stepping up immigration enforcement raids across the country, Sens. Edward Kennedy [D] of Massachusetts and Robert Menendez [D] of New Jersey are sponsoring a bill to protect the rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents who get caught up in them," AP reports. "The Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act was introduced on Sept. 25 to push for more stringent legal procedures to be followed by authorities executing immigration-related searches and warrants."

• "During a town hall in Wisconsin on Thursday," McCain "called Senate Banking Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (Mass.) 'willing co-conspirators' in the current financial collapse," the Politico reports. "This comes as conservative talk radio hosts and an outside group aligned with the GOP accuse the duo of similar crimes against the economy, particularly an allegation that congressional Democrats blocked legislation to increase regulations and oversight for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

 

• "The Democratic leadership in Congress is 'seriously considering' a large fiscal stimulus proposal, which would send a significant amount of money to states and cities," the New York Times reports. "'We have to prop up consumption,'" Frank "said in an interview in which he revealed some of the details the party leadership is discussing. The new proposal would be far greater than the $60 billion stimulus package that the House passed in late September, Mr. Frank said."

• "Daniel Inouye [D-Hawaii], the Senate's third-most senior Democrat, testified Thursday that he trusted Sen. Ted Stevens [R-Alaska] with his life and that the two men had developed such a close friendship over four decades that the Alaska Republican's daughter called him 'Uncle Dan,'" The Hill reports. "'I can assure you his word is good; it's good enough to take to the bank,' Inouye, 84, said as his close friend sat across a crowded Washington courtroom and listened to the proceedings with an electronic hearing aid."

Iraq: Obama Tried To Persuade Leaders During Bush's Negotiations

• "At the same time the Bush administration was negotiating a still elusive agreement to keep the U.S. military in Iraq," Obama "tried to convince Iraqi leaders in private conversations that the president shouldn't be allowed to enact the deal without congressional approval. Mr. Obama's conversations with the Iraqi leaders, confirmed to The Washington Times by his campaign aides, began just two weeks after he clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in June and stirred controversy over the appropriateness of a White House candidate's contacts with foreign governments while the sitting president is conducting a war."

• "A senior lawmaker loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was fatally wounded Thursday morning in a roadside bombing in Baghdad, raising concerns about the potential for violence ahead of provincial elections expected early next year," the Washington Post reports. "Shiite lawmaker Saleh al-Auqaeili was struck shortly before 10 a.m. in the southern portion of Sadr City, a vast Shiite district in eastern Baghdad, Iraqi officials said."

 

• "Clashes between Shiite Muslim militants and U.S. and Iraqi troops erupted in east Baghdad on Thursday night when groups loyal to" al-Sadr "accused Washington of orchestrating the assassination of" al-Auqaeili, the Los Angeles Times reports.

• "Market by market, square by square, the walls are beginning to come down. The miles of hulking blast walls, ugly but effective, were installed as a central feature of the surge of American troops to stop neighbors from killing one another," the New York Times reports. "The slow dismantling of the concrete walls is the most visible sign of a fundamental change here in the Iraqi capital."

Afghanistan: U.S. Weighs Alliances With Tribal Militias

• "Confronting the prospect of failure after seven years in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is crafting a new strategy that is likely to expand the power and reach of that country's tribal militias while relying less on the increasingly troubled central government," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Under that approach, U.S. forces would scale back combat operations to focus more on training Afghan government forces and tribal militias. The plan is controversial because it could extend the influence of warlords while undermining the government of President Hamid Karzai in Kabul."

• "Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that U.S.-led forces are 'not going to be able to kill our way to victory in Pakistan and Afghanistan' and a new strategy is needed to suppress a resurgent Taliban movement before it's too late," the Washington Times reports.

• "A number of NATO countries are balking at the United States' request that their troops in Afghanistan do more to confront drug lords whose money helps bankroll the Taliban, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday," AP reports. "But he told reporters that several options are on the table for further discussion, including allowing some nations who are opposed to the plan to 'opt out' without blocking others from participating."

Nation: Detroit Reeling From Downturn

• "First it was the outsourcing of components, and then vehicle assembly. Then gasoline prices shot up, slashing demand for trucks and sport-utility vehicles," the Washington Post reports. "Now, just when things seemed as if they could not get any worse" in Detroit, "the credit crunch and the subsequent stock market meltdown have dealt powerful new blows to the nation's already reeling car industry."

• "The coast" in Galveston, Texas, "doesn't have the whitest sand or the clearest water, but to millions of Houstonians and other Texans, this is the beach. And thanks to Hurricane Ike, it's also a mess," AP reports. "Wrecked houses, rotting cattle carcasses and other debris are scattered along Galveston Island" and "in some spots, all the sand was sucked back out to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving only rocks."

• "A week after warning the Treasury Department that California might need an emergency loan of up to $7 billion, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [R] on Thursday sent another, more upbeat note expressing a 'cautiously optimistic' belief that the state could find the money it needed in the credit markets," the New York Times reports.

• "Wind is to South Dakota what forests are to Maine or beaches are to Florida: a natural bounty and a valuable inheritance," the Times reports. "Native American tribes like the Rosebud," S.D., "Sioux now seek to claim that inheritance. If they succeed in building turbine farms to harness some of the country's strongest and most reliable winds, tribal officials like Ken Haukaas believe, they could create a new economic underpinning for the 29,000 tribal members whose per capita annual income is about $7,700, less than a third the national average."

• "A little-noticed administrative change preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining a Texas driver's license has upset immigrant groups, lawmakers and Hispanic activists, who predict it will boost the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers on Texas roads," the Houston Chronicle reports. "The Texas Department of Public Safety is already enforcing the new rule in Houston, which requires noncitizens to prove they are in the country legally before they are issued a new license, renew an existing one or apply for a state identification card."

Economy: Experts Predict Prolonged Recession

• "The U.S. economy has sunk into a recession and government action is critical to stem the damage, according to economists in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.... On average, the 52 economists surveyed now expect U.S. gross domestic product to contract in the third and fourth quarters of this year, as well as the first quarter of 2009. This is the first time that survey forecasts for those periods have turned negative."

• "Fear and foreboding took hold on Wall Street" Thursday, "as the stock market again plunged and investors became convinced that the nation is on the verge of a deep and prolonged recession," the Washington Post reports. "The rout continued in Japan, where stocks plummeted in early trading today."

• "The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression is claiming another casualty: American-style capitalism," the Post reports. "The market turmoil that is draining the nation's wealth and has upended Wall Street now threatens to put the banks at the heart of the U.S. financial system at least partly in the hands of the government."

• "The Treasury Department has begun canvassing financial executives to gauge their interest in participating in a program that would inject capital into banks, highlighting how quickly officials are shifting gears as the financial turmoil deepens," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Treasury is trying to determine how to structure capital infusions into healthy banks so that the institutions can begin lending again."

• "Banks are supposed to lend money, but they aren't doing very much of it these days. That is not the only cause of the global recession that is unfolding, but it is hard to see how economies can begin to recover without functioning financial systems," the New York Times reports.

• "One of the biggest showdowns on Wall Street ended with a whimper Thursday when Citigroup walked away from efforts to block a deal between Wachovia and Wells Fargo, paving the way for a merger that would concentrate power within the American banking industry to just a few firms," the Times reports.

• "Oil tumbled more than $5 a barrel, heading for its biggest weekly drop since 2004 and pacing a slump in commodities, on concern the deepening financial crisis will push the global economy into a recession," Bloomberg News reports. "Oil in New York fell to its lowest price in a year."

World: World Finance Ministers Convene In Washington This Weekend

• "They'll be in the same room, but the world's finance ministers and central bankers will be under intense pressure to show they are on the same page this weekend in Washington as the financial crisis continues to claim victims and cause havoc around the globe," the Washington Times reports. Paulson "hosts a meeting of the Group of Seven finance ministers" today, "and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank hold their annual meetings starting Saturday in an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear not seen on world markets in decades."

• Europe "has in the" last "20 days awakened to discover that its financial system is so interwoven with that of the United States and the rest of the world -- and so vulnerable to shaky assets -- that the virus in New York swiftly spread through the European banking network," the Washington Post reports. "In so doing, it revealed that Europe's leaders face challenges just as difficult as those bedeviling Washington and exposed the limits of the European Union's much-heralded economic integration."

• "China's leaders began an annual policy-setting meeting Thursday, turning their attention from the global financial crisis to the economic issues facing the nation's 730 million farmers," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The decision to focus the high-level Communist Party conclave on rural matters shows how China's relative insulation from the credit crunch is allowing it to continue working on a crucial long-term issue. It also shows the gravity of the situation in the countryside."

• "North Korea and the United States are near a deal on verifying Pyongyang's claims about its nuclear program, which would prompt Washington to soon remove the state from its terrorism blacklist, South Korean media said" today, the Washington Times reports. "U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill, who went to Pyongyang last week to save a crumbling disarmament deal, reached a fresh verification proposal there that the Bush administration has finished reviewing, a South Korean news report quoted government sources as saying."

• "International nuclear inspectors are investigating whether a Russian scientist helped Iran conduct complex experiments on how to detonate a nuclear weapon, according to European and American officials," the New York Times reports. "As part of the investigation, inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency are seeking information from the scientist, who they believe acted on his own as an adviser on experiments described in a lengthy document obtained by the agency, the officials said."

• "In the midst of a seemingly unending series of suicide bomb attacks across the country, the public debate over terrorism appears to be taking on a new sense of urgency," the Washington Post reports. "On Thursday, Pakistani lawmakers met for a second day with the country's top security officials in a rare, closed-door parliamentary session devoted to the violence that has gripped the country."

• "Thousands of voters waited in snaking lines in the pouring rain Wednesday to vote in the Maldives' first democratic presidential election, even as opposition officials complained of widespread voting irregularities," AP reports. "The election has been seen as a referendum on President Mamoun Abdul Gayoom, Asia's longest-serving ruler, who won six previous polls as the only candidate on the ballot."

• "NATO agreed Thursday to send ships soon to protect vessels off Somalia's coast as bandits holding a Ukrainian ship laden with weapons softened their ransom demands in response to mounting international pressure," CNN reports. "Momentum has been growing for coordinated international action against the increasing pirate menace after the seizure late last month of the Ukrainian MV Faina, which was carrying dozens of tanks and other heavy weapons."

Campaigns: McCain Losing Key Voting Bloc

• Latinos are jumping to Barack Obama in record numbers, despite John McCain's proposed immigration reform in 2007. Earlybird's Campaign News section has more.

Commentary: Are Past Connections Fair Game?

• One commentator asserts such relationships are noteworthy while an editorialist slams the media for covering the topic with blatant bias in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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