- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

HOUSE

Conservative ‘unconcedes’ race

ALBANY, N.Y. | Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has withdrawn his concession in a close special election for a U.S. House seat, and New York officials have begun counting paper ballots.

Mr. Hoffman’s opponent, Democrat Bill Owens, was sworn in after he was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 election. Mr. Hoffman said on Glenn Beck’s national radio show Monday that he’s “unconceding” the race.

The latest state Board of Elections results showed Mr. Owens ahead by 3,026 votes, not counting more than 7,400 absentee and military ballots. Counts on those and other paper ballots were beginning Tuesday.

In early counts from four of the 11 counties that have reported - Fulton, Hamilton, Madison and Oneida - Mr. Hoffman gained a net 214 votes over Mr. Owens, although he remains behind overall.

Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan said there’s a chance the results could be changed, but he conceded it’s “a long shot.”

TREASURY

Bank loans’ value continues to fall

The value of loans held by the giant banks that received the largest amounts of government bailout support fell for an eighth consecutive month in September, according to the Treasury Department.

Further declines in lending will act as a severe drag on the economy as it struggles to rebound from the longest recession since the 1930s, analysts said.

Critics contend that the decline proves the bailout program failed at its stated goal of boosting loans to consumers and businesses. Administration officials have argued that the lending declines at the nation’s 22 largest banks would have been even steeper without the bailout program.

SENATE

Geithner looks to global regulation

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told a Senate panel Tuesday that government efforts to strengthen Wall Street regulation to avoid future economic chaos will fall short unless accompanied by parallel moves in markets worldwide.

“For our reforms in the U.S. to be effective, they must be accompanied by stronger standards globally, otherwise, risk will just move to countries with softer, weaker regulation,” Mr. Geithner told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on efforts by the Group of 20 nations to reshape the global economy.

Mr. Geithner also seconded remarks by President Obama during his trip to Asia this week that other countries can no longer rely on American consumers to serve as the sole engine of global growth.

“China has to move to take steps away from excessive reliance on exports and toward domestic consumption-led growth,” he said.

LEGISLATION

Senate boosts veterans’ budget

The Senate on Tuesday adopted the latest in a continuing series of major budget increases to provide medical care for veterans.

The move came as the Senate passed on a rare 100-0 vote a $134 billion spending bill for veterans programs and military construction projects. Even the most ardent spending hawks and foes of the congressional practice of earmarking for pet projects voted for the legislation.

The unanimous vote reflected the unique political standing of the veterans’ budget, which has received hefty increases even as President George W. Bush sought to tamp down spending on domestic programs. Those increases have become even more significant since Democrats won control of Congress three years ago.

The pending measure awards a 9 percent increase over last year’s budget for veterans’ health care. The House passed a companion measure this summer and the bill now heads to House-Senate talks to produce a final version for President Obama to sign.

PENTAGON

Suicides to set record, Army says

Suicides in the U.S. Army will hit a new high this year, a top general said Tuesday.

The findings show the number of active-duty suicides so far in 2009 has already matched last year’s record of 140 deaths.

“We are almost certainly going to end the year higher than last year,” Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told a Pentagon briefing.

“This is horrible, and I do not want to downplay the significance of these numbers in any way.”

Another 71 soldiers committed suicide after being taken off active duty in 2009 - nearly 25 percent more than for all of 2008.

The figures applied only to the Army. Data from other branches of the armed services were not immediately available.

TESTS

High lead levels found in some toys

Children’s toys carrying the Barbie and Disney logos have turned up with high levels of lead in them, according to a California-based advocacy group.

The Center for Environmental Health tested about 250 children’s products bought at major retailers and found lead levels that exceeded federal limits in seven of them. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage.

Among those with high lead levels: a Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit and a Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace.

The group said it also found excessive lead in a Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, two pairs of children’s shoes, a boys’ belt and a children’s poncho.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sent letters to Target, Wal-Mart and the other retailers that sold the seven products, warning that children’s goods on their store shelves were found to contain illegal levels of lead and should be pulled immediately.

The findings released Tuesday come about a year after a product safety law that ushered in strict limits on the amounts of lead and chemicals allowed in products made for children 12 years and younger.

WORK

U.S. seen lagging on workers’ leave

The United States lags far behind other nations in offering paid sick days, paid parental leave and other workplace benefits, according to research released Tuesday.

The eight-year study found the most economically competitive nations offer forms of paid leave to workers that the United States does not, according to researchers at Harvard University and Canada’s McGill University.

Of the world’s 15 most competitive nations, 14 mandate paid sick leave, 13 guarantee paid maternal leave and 12 provide paid paternal leave by law, they said. Eleven provide paid leave to care for children’s health and eight provide paid leave for adult family care.

The United States legally guarantees none of these policies to workers, the authors note.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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