- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

REAL ESTATE LENDING

New TALF program to launch in June

The Federal Reserve announced Friday that it will launch a much-awaited program in June to bolster commercial real estate lending.

And, to help make the program more attractive to investors, the Fed will provide longer, five-year loans.

Investors would use the money to buy securities backed by commercial real estate loans.

The goal is to boost the availability of these loans, help prevent defaults on commercial properties - such as office parks and malls - and facilitate the sale of distressed properties, the Fed said.

The new commercial real estate component is part of a broader program rolled out in March that aims to jump-start lending to consumers and small businesses called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF.

It figures prominently in efforts by the Fed and the Obama administration to ease credit stresses and stabilize the financial system. Those are critical elements needed to lift the country out of recession.

TALF has the potential to generate up to $1 trillion in lending for households and businesses.

RECALL

FDA warns to stop Hydroxycut use

Government health officials warned dieters and bodybuilders Friday to immediately stop using Hydroxycut, a widely sold supplement linked to cases of serious liver damage and at least one death.

The Food and Drug Administration said the maker of the dietary supplement has agreed to recall 14 Hydroxycut products. Available in grocery stores and pharmacies, Hydroxycut is advertised as made from natural ingredients. At least 9 million packages were sold last year, the FDA said.

Dr. Linda Katz of the FDA’s food and nutrition division said the agency has received 23 reports of liver problems, including the death of a 19-year-old man in the Southwest. The teenager died in 2007, and the death was reported to the FDA in March.

Other patients experienced symptoms such as jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, and liver failure. One received a transplant, and another was placed on a list to await a new liver.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. distributor of the diet pill, Iovate Health Sciences, headquartered near Buffalo, N.Y. Made by a Canadian company, Hydroxycut is used by people trying to shed pounds and by bodybuilders to highly tone their muscles.

NUCLEAR TEST

Official expects N. Korea nuclear test

A senior Obama administration official says he expects that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon before it is forced back to international disarmament negotiations.

President Obama’s coordinator for weapons of mass destruction policy, Gary Samore, said Friday that North Korea wants to divide the five other countries in the nuclear talks.

He said at an event at the Brookings Institution that it is clear “they want to kill the six-party talks.”

North Korea has vowed to restart its atomic program in anger over the U.N. Security Council’s criticism of Pyongyang’s long-range missile launch April 5.

Asked whether he expected Pyongyang to carry out another nuclear test, Mr. Samore said it has been threatening to do it.

PRESIDENTIAL MEETING

Obama to meet with Karzai, Zardari

President Obama will host the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday at the White House, aiming to establish a “trilateral dialogue” as his administration begins its new strategy in the region.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that the Wednesday meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will be followed by separate meetings with each leader.

Mr. Gibbs said the meetings are set “in order to raise the level of the dialogue, accelerate the process of cooperation between the two countries and implement the new strategy formulated by the United States.” That plan includes providing a surge of troops to Afghanistan and giving Pakistan $1 billion in emergency aid and $1.5 billion a year in economic aid annually for five years.

The announcement comes as the administration is considering expediting the aid to Pakistan, where the situation is deteriorating.

A senior Obama administration official told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that he is “very worried” about Pakistan and that the administration would support breaking out a funding request for the country from a supplemental, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan.

VICE PRESIDENT

Biden to visit Balkan states

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will visit Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo the week of May 18, focusing on a region that so far has not been high on the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda.

“The vice president will meet with the political leadership in all three countries, as well as U.S. officials and military personnel stationed in the region,” Mr. Biden’s office said.

President Obama’s European strategy since taking office Jan. 20 has mostly concentrated on cementing ties with major allies and working to improve strained relations with Russia.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognized by at least 58 countries, including the United States and most European Union member states.

Serbia, along with its ally Moscow, had protested the Bush administration’s recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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