- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2010

FEDERAL RESERVE

Emergency loan rate for banks up

The Federal Reserve is boosting the rate banks pay for emergency loans. The move won’t affect borrowing costs for millions of Americans, but it brings the Fed’s crisis-lending program closer to normal.

The Fed has agreed to bump up that rate by one-quarter point to 0.75 percent. The increase takes effect Friday.

The central bank said the move should not be viewed as a signal that it will soon boost interest rates for consumers and businesses. Record-low borrowing costs are still needed to foster the recovery.

USDA

Settlement reached with black farmers

The Obama administration has reached a deal with black farmers that could end a years-long stalemate over alleged racial discrimination by the Agriculture Department.

The agency said the administration is planning to announce a $1.25 billion fund Thursday to compensate blacks who say they were unfairly denied assistance from USDA.

President Obama requested the same amount in his budget last year, but the funding stalled in Congress as settlement talks continued.

If approved by Congress, it would be the second round of damages stemming from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999. The new money is intended for people who were denied earlier payments, often over missed deadlines.

AIR SAFETY

Fewer planes crashed; more passengers died

Fewer airliners crashed around the world last year, but more people died in the accidents, an industry group said Thursday.

The number of deaths rose to 685 from 502 the previous year, the International Air Transport Association said. Yet the number of deadly accidents dropped to 18 from 23 the year before, a major-accident rate that was the second-lowest on record, the association said.

The good news is that the accident rate is half of what it was in the 1990s, a safety expert said. Better warning systems help keep pilots from flying planes into the ground and help them turn to avoid in-flight collisions, said Jim Burin, director of technical programs at the Flight Safety Foundation.

The bad news is that the accident rate improved mainly in the first half of the last decade, Mr. Burin said.

“The last half, we basically haven’t improved at all,” he said. “It’s been pretty static.”

The annual number of deaths has fluctuated over the past decade, peaking in 2005 at 1,035, the association said.

ICE

Ex-agent gets 2 years in drug case

MIAMI | A federal judge in Miami has handed a two-year prison sentence to a retired U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who admitted leaking law enforcement information to drug traffickers.

The sentence was imposed Thursday on 57-year-old Richard Padilla Cramer of Green Valley, Ariz. Cramer pleaded guilty in December to obstruction of justice.

U.S. District Judge Paul Huck cited Cramer’s Vietnam military service and three-decade law enforcement career as reasons for imposing a relatively light sentence.

Authorities say Cramer helped drug smugglers discover if there was an informant in their ranks. Cramer was originally accused of investing in a 660-pound cocaine load, but those charges were dropped as part of a plea deal.

HOUSE

Toyota president agrees to testify

Toyota President Akio Toyoda says he will testify at a congressional hearing next week on the automaker’s recalls.

Mr. Toyoda said in a statement he looks “forward to speaking directly with Congress and the American people.”

Mr. Toyoda is the grandson of the Japanese automaker’s founder. He had said he wasn’t planning to attend the hearings, but would consider appearing before Congress if invited.

Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally to address problems with accelerator pedals and brakes. The executive’s appearance before Congress is expected to raise the profile of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, scheduled for Wednesday.

TELEVISION

Fey’s ‘SNL’ return as Palin is likely

NEW YORK | Tina Fey tells the Associated Press that she’ll probably reprise her impression of Sarah Palin when she hosts “Saturday Night Live” in April.

Miss Fey said this week that “it’s inevitable that we’ll try it, at least.” She says “we’ll see if it makes it to air.”

Officials at the NBC show aren’t talking. “SNL” generally doesn’t discuss upcoming sketches because plans change often.

Miss Fey’s performances as the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate were an icon of the 2008 campaign and drew huge ratings for “SNL.” They also helped earn her the title of 2008 AP Entertainer of the Year.

Miss Fey also stars on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock.” She says the “SNL” hoopla was “the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

WHITE HOUSE

First lady gives students pep talk

First lady Michelle Obama has given a pep talk to visiting students from England, saying they have shown they aren’t afraid of hard work that will take them somewhere in life.

Mrs. Obama met with the group of 10 students at the White House on Thursday. They are from schools across the London borough of Islington and were rewarded with the trip to the U.S. for winning a Black History Month essay competition.

She urged them to make the most of this time. She called it “practice for the rest of your life.”

One girl is a student at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington. Mrs. Obama spoke at the school during a visit to London last April.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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