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EARLYBIRD

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At housing conference, administration predicts future role for government in mortgages. But Frank calls for replacing Frannie and Freddie.

Economy: Ongoing Government Role In Mortgages Foreseen

• "Panelists at an Obama administration conference to determine the future of the nation's housing finance system agreed" Tuesday "the federal government should continue to play a role in the $11 trillion sector, though with differences over how extensive that support should be," CongressDaily (subscription) reports. "Congress is expected to tackle the issue next year as lawmakers grapple over how to revamp Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which were taken over by the federal government in September 2008."

• Fannie and Freddie "should be abolished rather than reformed," Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, "chairman of the House Financial Services committee, said on Tuesday," Reuters reports. "The Federal Housing Administration should be fully self-financing and Freddie and Fannie should be replaced with a new mechanism to help subsidize housing, Frank said in the interview" with Fox Business.

 

• "Federal housing policy offers the wealthiest Americans billions in tax breaks without delivering much bang for the buck in increased homeownership, critics told government policymakers Tuesday," USA Today reports. "The government spent $230 billion last year to promote homeownership through tax breaks and spending programs."

• "Federal and local governments are trying once again to persuade some of the 17 million U.S. adults who rely on check-cashing services to open their own bank accounts," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. approved a pilot program last week to encourage banks to create simple, low-cost deposit accounts. Meanwhile, the Treasury... is seeking $50 million from Congress to create a 'Bank On USA' program to extend local initiatives that encourage people to set up bank accounts."

Congress: Lawmakers Give The Unemployed A Tough Choice On COBRA

• "With the economy still struggling and layoffs continuing, hundreds of thousands of Americans may face a tough decision: Pay high COBRA premiums or drop coverage if they can't get cheaper individual policies," USA Today reports. "Deficit-conscious lawmakers have not renewed a subsidy that helped many jobless Americans afford health benefits," meaning that "people who started on COBRA before May 31 can still get the aid. But those who had exhausted the 15-month subsidy, and the newly unemployed, aren't eligible."

 

• "Whistleblowers have long been revered on Capitol Hill, but when it comes to protecting congressional employees who tell on lawmakers, Congress is dragging its feet," Politico reports.

White House: Warren Met With Bank Lobbyists

• "Elizabeth Warren, a top candidate to lead the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, met quietly last week with some of her sharpest critics: big bank lobbyists," the Washington Post reports. "Before the Harvard law professor visited the White House on Thursday to talk with Obama advisers about the consumer bureau job, she spent an hour just down Pennsylvania Avenue at the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents the nation's largest financial firms, said people familiar with the meeting."

• "A passenger aboard a float plane headed for Lake Washington says it violated the airspace around Air Force One while President Obama was in Seattle," AP reports. "That caused the military to scramble fighter jets. Sonic booms from the Air National Guard F-15s startled many people throughout the Puget Sound area."

• "The Obama administration decided Tuesday to support the creation of a United Nations commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma, a sign of a tougher U.S. policy against a regime long accused of murdering and raping its political foes," the Washington Post reports. "U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also said the administration is considering tightening financial sanctions against the regime."

 

Politics: Blagojevich Convicted On One Of 24 Counts

• "After 14 days of deliberations," a "six-man, six-woman jury convicted" former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) "on just one of the 24 felony counts he faced -- a charge that he had lied to FBI agents about his intense involvement in campaign fundraising," the Chicago Tribune reports. "Prosecutors made it clear they intend to quickly retry Blagojevich on the 23 counts on which the jury deadlocked."

• "News Corp.'s $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association isn't business as usual -- in either size or style," Politico reports. "Political analysts said it was highly unusual for the company not to make a comparable contribution to Democrats, in the way most corporate givers (including News Corp.) usually give -- both to hedge their bets and to maintain a sense of even-handedness."

• In Washington state, "twice-defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi will face Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in a November contest that could prove critical to GOP chances of winning a Senate majority," Politico reports. "Murray finished first in Washington state's unique top-two primary, capturing 46 percent of the vote" while "Rossi came in second with 34 percent" and "former NFL tight end Clint Didier finished a distant third with 12 percent despite tea party support and an endorsement from Sarah Palin."

• "In last night's marquee House primary matchup, ex-state Rep. Denny Heck (D) and state Rep. Jaime Herrera (R) earned the right to face off for retiring Rep. Brian Baird's (D-WA 03) seat," Hotline On Call reports. It's "the most evenly divided CD in the state -- and indeed one of the most evenly matched in the nation -- and will be closely watched as a bellwether for the fall's race for the House."

Health Care: Free Birth Control Expanded In Wisconsin

• "Wisconsin is pushing to expand a controversial program that uses federal Medicaid funds to provide free birth-control pills, vasectomies and other forms of contraception to low-income people, an effort made possible by the federal health-care overhaul," the Wall Street Journal reports. "It and 26 other states already provide free contraception and other reproductive-health services through a Medicaid pilot project to lower-earning women who otherwise wouldn't qualify."

Energy & Environment: Toxic Levels Of Oil Found In Gulf

• "Scientists have found evidence that oil has become toxic to marine organisms in a section of the Gulf of Mexico that supports the spawning grounds of commercially important fish species," McClatchy Newspapers reports.

• "The oil industry, its reputation soiled by the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, will stage rallies across the country in the coming weeks aimed at whipping up opposition to proposed drilling regulations," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, announced Tuesday that the industry trade group will take the lead in organizing the advocacy campaign, starting with three rallies in Texas on Sept. 1."

• "Fueled by anti-Obama rhetoric and news articles purportedly showing scientists manipulating their own data, Republicans running for the House, Senate and governor's mansions have gotten bolder in stating their doubts over the well-established link between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and global warming," Politico reports. "Ron Johnson, running against Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D), is the latest in a line of Republicans to take a shot at the validity of global warming."

• "Former Vice President" Al Gore "is calling for major rallies to protest congressional inaction on climate change," The Hill reports. "In a post on his personal blog headlined 'The Movement We Need,' Gore linked to and quoted from an Australian wire service report that 'tens of thousands of protesters... have taken to the streets across Australia to urge the major political parties to take action on climate change.'"

Technology: Spain Sues Google

• "A judge in Spain opened an investigation into whether Google unlawfully collected data from unsecured wireless networks while gathering photographs for Google's photo-mapping service Street View," the New York Times reports. "The judge, Raquel Fernandino, has ordered a representative from Google to appear before her in early October over a lawsuit filed by a Spanish association of Internet users. The summons was issued last month, but made public only this week."

• "Indian officials and Research In Motion, the maker of popular BlackBerry devices, appear to be making progress," the New York Times reports. "R.I.M.... has indicated that it will provide a way to monitor BlackBerry Messenger chats by the government-mandated deadline, said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, a trade group. For corporate e-mail, R.I.M. would not directly provide the government with messages but would identify corporations whose servers hold readable, or unencrypted, versions of messages, Mr. Mathews said. Indian authorities could then seek access to the messages from the corporation through a court order or other legal processes."

• "Criticism over Thailand's efforts to curb political debate online is mounting as the government restricts thousands of websites following deadly protest clashes earlier this year," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Thai authorities say they have blocked at least 40,000 Web pages this year, according to the government's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, which monitors the Internet. Free-speech activists say authorities are blocking at least 110,000 sites, based on government disclosures and spot checks online."

National Security: Security Concerns Worsen In Pakistan

• "Staggered by the scale of destruction from this summer's catastrophic floods, Pakistani officials have begun to acknowledge that the country's security could be gravely affected if more international aid does not arrive soon," the Washington Post reports.

• "Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to do away with" 52 private security firms that "employ more than 24,000 guards" whom he calls "thieves by day, terrorists by night," and he "has set a four-month timeline to dissolve the companies and bring their workload under his government's control," the Washington Post reports. "If Karzai gets his way," the firms' leaders predict "transit routes will be impassable, foreign companies will leave Afghanistan, the economy will suffer, and -- perhaps most ominously -- unemployed security guards will turn to the insurgency."

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