- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2008

SEC

Probe seeks halt in false information

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Sunday it is immediately opening a probe to prevent the spread of false information used to manipulate securities prices.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said the investigation is aimed at “ensuring that investors continue to get reliable, accurate information about public companies in the marketplace.”

The probe comes amid a new bout of turmoil that has gripped investors. Questions have been swirling about the financial health of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Earlier this year, a run on Bear Stearns pushed the investment bank to the brink of bankruptcy and into a takeover by JPMorgan Chase. Bear officials blamed market rumors for the run.

The investigation will be conducted by the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations as well as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and New York Stock Exchange Regulation Inc.

POLITICS

Schwarzenegger hails flip-floppers

Political flip-floppers have a fan: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In that vein, Mr. Schwarzenegger advised Republican presidential candidate John McCain to move from the right to the center for the general election - and suggested his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, move to the center from the left.

“Flip-flopping is getting a bad rap, because I think it is great,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Someone has made a mistake. I mean, someone has, for 20 or 30 years, been in the wrong place with his idea and with his ideology and says, ‘You know something? I changed my mind. I am now for this.’ As long as he’s honest or she’s honest, I think that is a wonderful thing. You can change your mind,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “I have changed my mind on things and there is nothing wrong with it.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger said Republican candidates, after securing enough delegates for the nomination, can “wander a little bit more to the left, and hopefully [Mr. McCain] will do that. And the same is with Obama, that what he has done consistently has been very much to the left and he’s now more and more going to the right.”

FALLOUT

Fiorina downplays role of surrogates

A top economic surrogate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain doesn’t think people are paying much attention to what people like her have to say.

In discussing McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm’s remarks to The Washington Times about the United States becoming a “nation of whiners” and suffering a “mental recession,” former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was dismissive of the source.

“Outside of Washington, where this is an interesting parlor game, I think most Americans are not really focused on what a bunch of surrogates are saying,” Mrs. Fiorina said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They’re focused on what the candidates are saying.”

ELECTION

McCain rebounds in Newsweek poll

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama leads Republican opponent John McCain by three percentage points in a Newsweek poll released Sunday, a marked change from the Democrat’s 15-point lead last month.

Mr. Obama captured 44 percent of respondents’ support in the poll, compared with Mr. McCain’s 41 percent, a statistically insignificant margin, the magazine said on its Web site. Fifteen percent were undecided.

A June 20 Newsweek poll showed Mr. Obama leading 51 percent to 36 percent.

Other recent polls have also shown a tight race. A Gallup daily tracking poll from Saturday showed Mr. Obama leading Mr. McCain 46 percent to 43 percent.

CHARITIES

Education group to prod candidates

An education-advocacy group will begin airing ads this week seeking to nudge Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama on ways to improve the standing of U.S. schools compared with other industrialized nations.

Strong American Schools, a nonpartisan group supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, wants the presidential candidates to focus on the condition of U.S. education at a time that the economy and gas prices are attracting the most public attention.

The $5 million in television, radio, print and online ads in seven states begin Monday. They feature a boy who hoists a line of international flags up a flagpole with the stars and stripes at the bottom.

“If jobs move to countries like Finland and South Korea,” the narrator says, “our children’s opportunities dry up and so does our economy.”

The ads will air in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Ads also will run in Minnesota closer to the Republican convention.

ENTERTAINMENT

Obama: Thumbs up for ‘Wall•E’

SAN DIEGO | Add one more name to the list of famous Chicago movie critics.

Barack Obama took his place beside Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper and the late Gene Siskel this weekend when he offered his review of the new Disney animated movie, “Wall•E.”

The Democratic presidential contender and senator from Illinois, who watched the film Saturday in Chicago with his daughters, gave it a verbal equivalent of four stars. The outing was part of a belated 10th birthday celebration for his elder daughter, Malia.

“‘Wall•E’ was great,” he told reporters aboard his campaign plane as he flew to California. “Thumbs up.”

The movie features a love-starved, trash-compacting robot, Wall•E, and his quest for an electronic love interest.

“It’s terrific. I really enjoyed it. And the girls had a great time,” Mr. Obama said.

Other movie-goers appeared to agree: “Wall•E” rolled over the competition on its debut weekend at the end of June, taking first place with $63.1 million in box office receipts.

CAPITOL

Visitor center to open Dec. 2

Three years late and at double the original cost, the vast Capitol Visitor Center now has a for-sure opening date of Dec. 2 - just in time to welcome not only tourists but also the 111th session of Congress in January, Scripps Howard News Service reports.

Construction of the three-story underground complex - which boasts a 550-seat cafeteria and two gift shops - began after Sept. 11, 2001, and was slated to be finished in January 2005 at a price tag of $265 million.

Glitches, the addition of more staff workspace, meeting rooms and security enhancements pushed the taxpayers’ presumably final bill to $621 million.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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