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EARLYBIRD

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New memos show WH explicitly backed torture, banks given no choice in Fed's plan, Christians flee Mosul as attacks mount, foreign fighters choosing Afghanistan over Iraq, Syria recognizes Lebanon.

• "The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public," the Washington Post reports.

President Bush "asserted on Tuesday that he had the executive power to bypass several parts of two bills: a military authorization act and a measure giving inspectors general greater independence from White House control," the New York Times reports. "Mr. Bush signed the two measures into law. But he then issued a so-called signing statement in which he instructed the executive branch to view parts of each as unconstitutional constraints on presidential power."

 

• "In announcing plans to partly nationalize nine major banks yesterday, President Bush found himself in the unusual position of having to reassure Americans that he was not, in fact, opposed to capitalism," the Washington Post reports. "The ongoing global financial crisis has prompted a series of unlikely decisions by Bush, an avowed advocate of laissez-faire economics who has nonetheless approved dramatic government interventions over the last month."

• "In times of national stress, Americans usually turn to the White House for reassurance. But President Bush's attempts to provide it haven't registered because he does not inspire trust," AP reports.

• "The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for Troy Anthony Davis' execution, declining to enter a contentious debate as to whether the condemned inmate was the real killer of a Savannah police officer in 1989," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "The court, without explanation, refused to hear his appeal even though seven of nine key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony since the 1991 trial."

 

• "The Supreme Court returned Tuesday to the question of how to take account of race in drawing election districts, hearing arguments in a case that is likely to resolve a question the court has left open five times: Must a minority group constitute a majority in a given district before an important protection of the federal Voting Rights Act kicks in?" the New York Times reports.

• "The U.S. Justice Department has withdrawn a series of allegations made in federal court that tie Binyam Mohammed, a British resident held at Guantanamo Bay, to a plot to explode a radioactive 'dirty bomb' in the United States, blow up apartment buildings here and release cyanide gas in nightclubs," the Washington Post reports. "Defense lawyers said the decision should force the Pentagon to drop charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism against Mohammed."

Congress: Mixed Reaction Among Lawmakers To Treasury's Plan

• "A dramatic shift in the Bush administration's economic rescue to purchase preferred stock in the nation's banks has received cautious approval from congressional leaders while sparking anger among some conservatives," The Hill reports. "Democratic leaders praised Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's newest plan, which resembled an idea circulated on Capitol Hill earlier this month by billionaire financier George Soros."

• "As Treasury's financial rescue plan accelerates, the chances are increasing that Congress could face another vote this year on releasing the second half of the $700 billion authorized by lawmakers earlier this month," the Politico reports.

 

• "Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said Tuesday that the Senate will likely return for its November lame-duck session to consider an economic stimulus package and other proposals to tighten lending regulations," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "In an afternoon press conference, Dodd told reporters that he had just wrapped up a meeting with" Paulson "and was looking to draft legislation that would protect consumers against predatory lending and prevent future home foreclosures."

• "Democratic Party operatives are cutting Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) loose in the wake of allegations of an extra-marital affair that has significantly hurt his reelection prospects," The Hill reports. "Before the controversy erupted, Mahoney's party had already pulled resources from his district and decided against purchasing more television advertisements in the final three-weeks of the campaign."

• Mahoney "was having an affair with a second woman around the same time, a person close to his campaign told the Associated Press on Tuesday."

• "Defense attorneys for" Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, "say they have only a handful of witnesses left to call at his corruption trial. The question now is, will their client be among them?" AP reports. "Though the veteran Republican lawmaker's name appears on the latest list of possible defense witnesses, his attorneys remained noncommittal Tuesday about their plans."

Iraq: Christians Flee Mosul As Attacks Mount

• "A church in the northern city of Mosul was bombed Tuesday as Christians continued to leave the city to escape recent violence that has been directed at them," the New York Times reports. "Several church leaders accused the Iraqi government of trying to cover up the extent of the problems facing Christians there and of overstating its success in improving security in Mosul, one of the country's most volatile cities."

• The Los Angeles Times reports a "rise in Iraq of fanatical cults devoted to Imam Mahdi, the Shiites' 12th imam.... The Shiite faithful believe that in the world's darkest hour, Imam Mahdi will return and bring justice and calm. But where mainstream Shiite believers wait patiently for that day, groups such as the one that tried to enlist Iman are convinced that they can hasten his reappearance by spreading chaos."

• "Pipelines vital to Iraq's oil industry are in such poor condition they could rupture at any time, choking off the supply of oil from the region and devastating the country's economy, according to the US State Department. A previously undisclosed notification to the US Congress, obtained by the Financial Times, says the ageing underwater pipelines, which link storage facilities near Basra to offshore tanker fuelling terminals, are in urgent need of back-up or repair."

Afghanistan: Foreign Fighters Choose Afghanistan Over Iraq

• "American military successes in Iraq have prompted growing numbers of well-trained 'foreign fighters' to join the insurgency in Afghanistan instead, the Afghan defense minister said on Tuesday," the New York Times reports. "The minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, said at a news conference that the increased flow of insurgents from outside Afghanistan had contributed to the heightened intensity of the fighting here this year."

• "The top U.N. representative for Afghanistan warned Tuesday that Taliban insurgents in the country are likely to step up attacks in coming weeks, before the onset of winter, but he also praised the government's progress in curtailing opium cultivation and said the country is not doomed to failure," the Washington Post reports. "Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, told the U.N. Security Council that the Taliban has made significant strides in recent months."

• "At least 18 Taleban militants have been killed while attacking a police checkpoint in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, officials say," BBC News reports. "Police say dozens of insurgents took part in the attack -- the second major assault on Lashkar Gah this week."

Nation: Drug Courts Catch On To Handle Narcotics Cases

• "In Seattle, as in drug courts across the country, the stern face of criminal justice is being redrawn, and emotions are often on the surface," the New York Times reports. "Experts say drug courts have been the country's fastest-spreading innovation in criminal justice, giving arrested addicts a chance to avoid prison by agreeing to stringent oversight and addiction treatment."

• "In the midst of historic volatility on Wall Street there is a continuing trend of blacks saving and investing less than whites, according to a survey released Wednesday," AP reports. "The difference is attributed to various social and cultural reasons such as getting less exposure to personal finance concepts and advice."

• "The children of Coretta Scott King and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. faced off in an Atlanta courtroom Tuesday in a dispute over their mother's personal papers that could derail a lucrative book deal," AP reports. "The Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King III and Dexter King have looked more like adversaries than siblings in recent months."

• Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) "today is expected to announce that state revenues will decline this year by as much as $1.5 billion," the Boston Globe reports. "The growing size of the revenue shortfall, pegged just two weeks ago at $400 million, is in large part a result of plummeting amounts collected in taxes on capital gains."

• "Bobby Maxwell kept a close eye on the oil industry for more than 20 years as a government auditor. But he said the federal agency he worked for is now a 'cult of corruption' -- a claim backed up by a recent government report," CNN reports. "Maxwell is referring to a tiny agency within the Department of the Interior called the Minerals Management Service, which manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on federal lands."

Economy: Banks Given No Choice In Rescue Bid

• "The Bank of New York Mellon has been selected as the lead contractor in the government's efforts to buy up toxic securities that have spawned fear in the financial markets, a mammoth task considered a key to the Treasury Department's plan to restart the nation's credit markets," the Washington Post reports. "Under the contract announced yesterday, the bank will run the auctions used by the government to acquire the assets, including many linked to troubled mortgages."

• "The euphoria that swept Wall Street on Monday gave way to a sober reality on Tuesday: a recession, perhaps the deepest one in decades, may be unavoidable," the New York Times reports. "A day after the stock market staged one of its biggest rallies in history, buoyed by the government's plan to rescue banks, investors retreated once again."

• "The chief executives of the nine largest banks in the United States trooped into a gilded conference room at the Treasury Department at 3 p.m. Monday," the Times reports. "To their astonishment, they were each handed a one-page document that said they agreed to sell shares to the government, then" Paulson "said they must sign it before they left."

• "Paulson persuaded nine major U.S. banks to accept $125 billion in government investment. Getting them to lend it out may prove a tougher sell," Bloomberg News reports. "The equity stakes the government is purchasing in Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and seven other big institutions come with no guarantee that the investments will spur lending and unfreeze credit markets."

• "Community banking executives around the country responded with anger yesterday to the Bush administration's strategy of investing $250 billion in financial firms, saying they don't need the money, resent the intrusion and feel it's unfair to rescue companies from their own mistakes," the Washington Post reports.

• "The Treasury Department's rescue plan for the U.S. financial industry doesn't directly address the root cause of the crisis: falling home prices," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Many economists say additional measures are needed to stimulate demand for homes and to reduce mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures."

World: Syria Formally Recognizes Lebanon

• "Syria formally recognized Lebanon for the first time Tuesday by establishing diplomatic relations with its neighbor -- meeting a U.S. demand to do more for regional stability even as Damascus pursues indirect peace talks with Israel," AP reports. "Lebanon and Syria have not had formal diplomatic ties since both gained independence from France in the 1940s, thus the move by President Bashar Assad ends six decades of nonrecognition."

• "Frustration" among Jewish settlers in the West Bank "has been growing in recent months, and the result has been a pronounced rise in settler attacks on Palestinians, according to military officials, human rights groups and settler organizations," the Washington Post reports. "While only a small proportion of settlers are involved, the attacks reflect a deep-felt anxiety that Israel may be nearing a decision to abandon some of its West Bank settlements, much in the same way it withdrew from its Gaza Strip settlements three years ago."

• "Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was returned to power in national elections Tuesday, strengthening his Conservative Party's position in Parliament but still falling just short of an absolute majority," the Post reports. "The result seemed to guarantee another period of political instability for Canada, and it made a new election likely before the incoming government's four-year term is up."

• "Georgian and Russian officials have begun their first direct talks since the conflict over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia in August," BBC News reports. "The talks in Geneva -- which are be mediated by the UN, the EU and the OSCE -- are aimed at encouraging stability and security in the Caucasus."

• "Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao on Wednesday as he looks to Islamabad's loyal ally for crucial financial and nuclear energy investments," Agence France-Presse reports.

• "A funny thing happened on the way to the Third Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee, where China's Communist Party leaders were expected to finally enact a bold land reform program allowing farmers eventually to buy, sell or lease their fields," the Los Angeles Times reports. "By the time the closed-door meeting wrapped up Sunday, the issue had all but disappeared from public view."

• "Zimbabwe's military commanders have pressed President Robert Mugabe to shield them from prosecution for the violent crackdown on his political foes this year, senior government officials say, and his response is threatening to derail a power-sharing deal that was supposed to halt the country's dizzying downward economic spiral," the New York Times reports.

• "A decision by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France not to extradite a former member of the Red Brigades, the group that terrorized Italy throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, has provoked outrage in Italy and stirred dormant tensions between the countries," the Times reports. "The decision also raised questions about the role played by the first lady of France, Carla Sarkozy, who had visited the former member, Marina Petrella, last week and personally assured her that she would not be extradited."

Campaigns: Obama Tries to Put Out ACORN Fire

• Despite Republican attempts to link him to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Barack Obama said the activist group isn't advising his campaign. Earlybird's Campaign News section has more.

Commentary: The Fed's Bailout Bill

• How much taxpayer money is really wrapped up in the financial crisis? Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section has some projections, as well as opinion on a possible stimulus package No. 2.

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