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G-20 meeting to commence in D.C., Democrats set agenda for lame-duck session, Iraqi interior minister pushes security pact, three cities ask Paulson for bailout help, Pakistan & U.S. unite in Afghan border fight.

• "World leaders converging" in Washington "this weekend will try to reverse the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, amid a change in the White House that leaves a key player on the sidelines," USA Today reports. "The agenda for the meeting of 20 top economies -- among the most important summits of its kind since World War II -- includes discussions of how to stimulate the slumping economy, impose more government control over lending and create more transparency within financial markets."

• "Nine weeks before leaving office, President George W. Bush has little to gain from a weekend summit to rally a coordinated international response to the global economic mess," according to an AP analysis. "European leaders seek aggressive financial reforms that the U.S. is hesitant to embrace. China, India Brazil and Russia demand a bigger voice in international finance. And the man who really matters, President-elect Barack Obama, isn't even going to be there."


• "Employing unusually vivid religious imagery for the secular United Nations, President Bush on Thursday praised the 'transformative and uplifting power of faith' and said religious belief 'leads us to common values,'" the Washington Post reports. "Addressing a two-day interfaith conference that has prompted mixed reactions from other leaders, Bush... suggested faith can transform relations between nations and cultures."

• "A Transportation Department investigation has concluded that Federal Aviation Administration officials covered up safety errors at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the second such admonishment in the past three years," AP reports. "A spokeswoman for the department's inspector general said a report of the investigation's findings should be released" today.

• "The Environmental Protection Agency's scientific advisers have warned the agency that it should delay final action on its decision not to set a federal drinking-water standard for perchlorate, a chemical in rocket fuel, because the computer model underlying the decision may have flaws," the Washington Post reports.


• "The federal government began the new budget year with a record deficit of $237.2 billion, reflecting the billions of dollars the government has started to pay out to rescue the financial system," AP reports. "The Treasury Department said Thursday that the deficit for the first month in the new budget year was the highest monthly imbalance on record."

Congress: Democrats Set Agenda For Lame-Duck Session

• "Senate Democrats are putting the finishing touches on next week's legislative agenda, which will be dominated by an economic stimulus plan," The Hill reports. "Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to move a package with four or five components, including $25 billion in loans for the auto industry, aid to states struggling with Medicaid-caused budget deficits, increased infrastructure spending and possible additional spending on food stamps."

• Meanwhile, "House Democratic leaders are still unsure how -- or even whether -- next week's anticipated lame-duck session will play out," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "Sen. Chris Dodd [D-Conn.], chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, warned Thursday that the chamber lacks Republican votes needed to move along a rescue package for American car manufacturers," The Hill reports.


• "Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell [Ky.] signaled Thursday that the quickest -- and perhaps only -- viable path for Congress to help the auto industry this year would be to loosen restrictions on a previously approved $25 billion loan package so that the money can be more readily available to distressed companies," the Politico reports.

• "Already battling a felony conviction, Alaska's legendary Republican Sen. Ted Stevens faces a tough week that places his 40-year Senate career in more immediate jeopardy," USA Today reports. "Next week, Stevens' GOP colleagues in the Senate may consider whether to kick the Senate's longest-serving Republican out of their caucus."

• "Retiring Rep. Rick Renzi [R-Ariz.] was indicted Thursday on federal racketeering charges related to previous charges that he funded his campaign with money he embezzled and used his position in Congress to commit extortion," the Washington Times reports.

Iraq: Interior Minister Pushes Lawmakers On Security Pact

• "CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said" Thursday "that al-Qaeda remains the single greatest threat to the United States but that Iraq is no longer the central front in the broader war on terrorism," the Washington Post reports.

• "Iraq's interior minister has criticized the country's politicians for not approving an agreement that would allow U.S. troops to operate in Iraq after the end of the year, and called their continued presence crucial," the Post also reports. "'The security agreement is important for Iraq to ban and stop foreign influence and interference,' minister Jawad al-Bolani said in an interview Wednesday."

• "Light, portable and easy to lay, sticky bombs are tucked quickly under the bumper of a car or into a chink in a blast wall. Since they are detonated remotely, they rarely harm the person who lays them," the New York Times reports. "And as security in Baghdad has improved, the small and furtive bomb -- though less lethal than entire cars or even thick suicide belts packed with explosive -- is fast becoming the device of choice for a range of insurgent groups."

• "Tucked away in the heart of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, a U.S. style university with bold plans to attract the country's top talent has quickly found a following among young Iraqis," AP reports. "The American University in Iraq, which threw open its doors to students last January, has seen its enrollment soar almost sixfold in its second academic year."

Nation: Three Cities Ask Paulson For Emergency Funds

• "Philadelphia, Phoenix and Atlanta will seek at least $50 billion in emergency financing" today "from the federal Treasury to help with infrastructure renewal, pension costs and short-term borrowing, which have all been curtailed by the credit crisis," the New York Times reports. "The cities are calling on Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. to release the money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program authorized by Congress to bail out banks and financial institutions."

• "The fate of scores of new coal-burning power plants is now in limbo over whether to regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gases," AP reports. "The uncertainty resulted when an Environmental Protection Agency appeals panel on Thursday rejected a federal permit for a Utah plant, leaving the issue for the Obama administration to resolve."

• "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's star-turn news conference here at the Republican Governors Association meeting quickly got very crowded, as 12 of her colleagues joined her onstage," the Washington Post reports. "It sent an unmistakable message: that if the nation's GOP governors are going to take the lead in their dispirited party, there is going to be more than one voice at the head of the pack."

• "Federal investigators on Thursday placed the blame for last year's deadly Minnesota bridge collapse on engineering design flaws that led steel plates to buckle under the weight of construction equipment and supplies, rather than on corrosion or a lack of upkeep," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The testimony came on the first day of a National Transportation Safety Board hearing in Washington, after more than a year of investigation into the Aug. 1, 2007, tragedy."

• "From its humble beginning 33 years ago at Fort Sill, Okla., the career of Ann E. Dunwoody is ascending to a peak never before reached by a woman in the U.S. military: four-star general," AP reports. "At a Pentagon promotion ceremony" today, "Dunwoody was adding a fourth star and later, at Fort Belvoir, Va., -- her birthplace -- being sworn in as commander of the Army Materiel Command."

• "Firefighters were racing early" today "to push back a wind-whipped wildfire that destroyed about 80 homes and a college dormitory in the tony community of Montecito, injured four people and forced thousands to flee the longtime celebrity hideaway," AP reports.

• "A little more of the universe has been pried out of the shadows. Two groups of astronomers have taken the first pictures of what they say -- and other astronomers agree -- are most likely planets going around other stars," the New York Times reports.

Economy: Rescue Plan Short On Results

• "Officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." on Thursday "detailed a plan to prevent 1.5 million foreclosures in the next year by offering financial incentives to companies that agree to sharply reduce monthly payments on mortgage loans," the Washington Post reports. "The proposal, which has the support of leading congressional Democrats, would considerably expand the scope and force of the government's efforts to stem foreclosures."

• "As the government's financial rescue enters a new phase, Wall Street and many ordinary Americans are wondering the same thing: Is any of this working?" the New York Times reports. "The short answer is not nearly as much, or as fast, as many had hoped."

• "Some of the world's top-earning hedge fund managers told Congress on Thursday that they broadly agreed that largely unregulated financial vehicles ought to be subject to greater disclosure, though they warned of excessive regulation," the Financial Times reports. "The statements by George Soros and others suggested that hedge fund executives and lawmakers were reaching a consensus in the wake of the credit crisis that the status quo, in which the funds largely escape scrutiny, was no longer tenable."

• "The first of the Bush administration's major financial takeovers, the seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is poised to get more expensive and some analysts are warning that it may ultimately cost more than the government has suggested," the Washington Post reports. "Mounting troubles in the financial and housing markets have further undermined the health of the companies."

• "Sales at U.S. retailers probably fell in October by the most since the 2001 recession, pushing the economy toward the worst slump in decades, economists said before a report today. Purchases fell 2.1 percent, the fourth consecutive decrease and the biggest since November 2001, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey."

• "Drivers are breathing a sigh of relief as gasoline prices plunge across the country," the New York Times reports. "But even as worry about gas prices fades, it is being replaced by fear about the broader economy. Each 10-cent drop in gasoline prices puts $12 billion a year back in consumers' pockets. Instead of spending that cash, people are trying to save it or cut their debt."

World: U.S. & Pakistan Unite In Border Fight

• "Buoyed by a groundswell of global good feeling after the election of Barack Obama, current and former U.S. diplomats see a new chance to advance American interests if the next president keeps his promises to devote more resources to the diplomatic corps and foreign aid. In e-mails to The Washington Times, diplomats from four continents said good will toward the United States has increased dramatically since Mr. Obama's election and is already making a difference in their daily work."

• "U.S. forces have begun working with Pakistan's military to take on Taliban and al Qaeda fighters along the Afghan border, a development American officials say reflects Islamabad's new willingness to go after Islamist militants," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The U.S. and Pakistan are waging a coordinated military campaign known as Operation Lionheart, which involves American strikes on insurgent targets in the Kunar region of Afghanistan and a full-scale Pakistani campaign in the tribal areas of Bajaur, a longtime extremist stronghold."

• "As the European Union prepares to restart talks on cooperation with Russia, the United States is warning that the move could undermine Western attempts to rein in the Kremlin's aggressive foreign policy," AP reports. "The EU diplomacy with Moscow comes as U.S.-Russian tensions have flared."

• "President Alexander Lukashenko is in talks with Moscow about placing in Belarus advanced Iskander missiles that could hit targets deep inside Europe," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The talks raise the ante in the debate over a U.S. plan to deploy missile defense in Europe. They also complicate Western hopes for warmer ties with Belarus, which some in the U.S. and Europe hope could help to counterbalance an increasingly hostile Kremlin."

• "Much of Gaza City fell into darkness Thursday night after an Israeli blockade, tightened in response to Palestinian hostilities, caused the city's electricity plant to run critically low on fuel and shut down," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Israel also barred 30 truckloads of relief supplies from entering the Gaza Strip, leaving a United Nations agency without food to distribute to needy families that make up half the Palestinian territory's 1.5 million people."

• "A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations," the New York Times reports.

• "For decades, the steamy Pearl River Delta area of" China's "southern Guangdong Province served as a primary engine for China's astounding economic growth," the Times also reports. "But an export slowdown that began earlier this year and that has been magnified by the global financial crisis of recent months is contributing to the shutdown of tens of thousands of small and mid-size factories here and in other coastal regions, forcing laborers to scramble for other jobs or return home to the countryside."

• "The go-go outlook that propelled Brazil onto the world stage in recent years has crashed into hard economic realities," the Washington Post reports. "The financial meltdown that began in the United States has pummeled the stock exchange, battered commodity prices, weakened the local currency and squeezed credit, putting large-scale private and public projects on hold in the world's 10th-largest economy."

• "For months, North Korea watchers have played a frustrating guessing game: Is leader Kim Jong Il healthy? Incapacitated? Or even dead?" the Los Angeles Times reports. "The question of Kim's whereabouts underscores the difficulty of knowing anything conclusive about what goes on in North Korea, an isolated society with somewhat primitive technology and an obsession with forbidding any information -- even the price of rice -- to escape its borders."

Transition: Hot Ticket

• Inauguration tickets have been banned from eBay, and even Hollywood A-listers are struggling to nab a spot at the Jan. 20 event. Earlybird's Transition News section has more.

Commentary: A Thought Or Two For The G-20

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, editorial boards lament the timing of Saturday's meeting of world leaders but offer advice on what it could accomplish.

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