- - Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Rangel seeks ethics settlement

Former committee Chairman Rep. Charles B. Rangel attempted to make a last-minute plea deal Tuesday to head off a House ethics trial that could embarrass him and damage Democrats facing potentially severe election losses.

The talks between Mr. Rangel’s attorney and the House ethics committee’s nonpartisan attorneys were confirmed by ethics panel Chairman Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat. She said she is not involved in the talks, adding that the committee’s lawmakers have always accepted the professional staff’s recommendations in previous plea bargains.

New York’s Mr. Rangel, the former Ways and Means Committee chairman, would have to admit multiple, substantial ethics violations unless ethics lawyers dramatically changed their negotiating stance.

Earlier negotiations broke down when Mr. Rangel would admit only to some allegations, but not enough to satisfy the ethics committee attorneys, according to people familiar with the talks but not authorized to be quoted by name.


Fallin wins primary; Coburn re-nominated

Rep. Mary Fallin Tuesday night won the Republican nomination for governor of Oklahoma, while conservative Sen. Tom Coburn was easily re-nominated for a second term in the GOP senatorial primary.

Democratic Gov. Brad Henry is term-limited and cannot seek another term, which set off a series of political dominoes in the state. The two Democrats seeking to succeed him — Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Lt. Gov. Jari Askins — were locked in a tight contest late Tuesday evening.

Mrs. Fallin, a second-term congresswoman from Oklahoma City, defeated a strong challenge from the right from state Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso to win the primary. Oklahoma was the only state holding a primary this week.


U.S. says Mariposa hacker in custody

The FBI said Tuesday that international law enforcement authorities have arrested the computer hacker responsible for creating the malicious computer code that infected about 12 million computers and invaded major corporations worldwide.

The suspected mastermind is a 23-year-old Slovenian whose Internet nickname is Iserdo. The FBI says he was arrested in Slovenia after a lengthy investigation by police there, along with FBI and Spanish authorities.

His arrest comes about five months after Spanish police arrested three hackers in the cyberscam who operated the so-called Mariposa botnet, stealing credit cards and online banking credentials. A botnet is a network of infected computers. The Mariposa botnet appeared in December 2008.


Comment sought on adopting rules

The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that the agency will seek input from businesses and the public before proposing new rules to oversee Wall Street and financial companies.

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said the agency will take public comment before proposing its nearly 100 new rules under the financial regulatory law, even though the law does not require it to do so. The law gives the SEC new powers to oversee hedge funds, derivatives and other aspects of the financial industry.

“We need to have a process that does not stifle communication of important information from the public,” Ms. Schapiro said in remarks at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

She said the agency staff will make an effort to meet with interested parties who wish to comment on the new rules. It will also read e-mails and comments on the agency’s website.

Lobbying by businesses and financial interests that opposed the regulatory overhaul is expected to be intense. Even though President Obama last week signed the most sweeping changes for Wall Street since the Great Depression, Congress left much of the new rules to the discretion of regulators.


Biden touts stimulus projects at canyon

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK | Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. brought his daughter to the Grand Canyon for her first visit Tuesday, touting its awe-inspiring beauty and the work being done to preserve it for future generations.

Mr. Biden stood at Hopi Point, on the west end of the South Rim overlooking a 5,000-foot drop to the Colorado River, as he outlined stimulus-funded projects that include rehabilitating historic trails and structures. Some $750 million in stimulus money has funded about 800 national park projects that helped create jobs in tough times, he said.

The world is blessed to have reserves of beauty, history and culture like the Grand Canyon, he said, but the national parks have been neglected for too long.


Conference to discuss Fannie and Freddie

The Obama administration, which has been under fire for not developing a concrete plan for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, says it will hold a conference next month to discuss their future.

The administration said Tuesday the event will be held Aug. 17 at the Treasury Department.

The financial overhaul signed by President Obama didn’t address their future, despite protest from Republicans that the reform was incomplete without a plan for the two companies. The Obama administration has said it wants to wait until next year to determine the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

So far, stabilizing the pair of mortgage buyers has cost taxpayers $145 billion.

The government created the two companies as a hybrid of private company and federal agency to help make mortgages available. They buy home loans from lenders, package them into bonds with a guarantee against default and sell them to investors.

They own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, or nearly 31 million home loans worth at least $5 trillion.


Director defends monitoring rules

The FBI is vigorously defending its domestic surveillance guidelines, which are under fire from civil liberties and Muslim groups arguing that people not involved in crime or terrorism could be unfairly targeted for investigation.

On the eve of congressional testimony by FBI Director Robert Mueller, the bureau says that its procedures are designed to ensure that FBI probes don’t zero in on anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or the exercise of any other constitutional right.

The FBI says its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide equips agents with lawful and appropriate tools so the agency can transform itself into an intelligence-driven organization that investigates genuine criminal and national security threats.


Obama urges OK of business boost

President Obama is calling on Congress to pass legislation that he says will help small businesses grow and hire again.

A measure emerging in the Senate would create a new lending fund to help community banks offer loans. Mr. Obama urged lawmakers not to block the initiative and hold the public hostage to Washington politics.

The president spoke in the Rose Garden after a meeting with congressional leaders of both parties at the White House. Among those present was House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, who has ratcheted up his criticism of Mr. Obama in recent weeks, accusing the president of stooping to partisan attacks and saying Mr. Obama cannot sell his economic plan.

Mr. Obama has argued that Mr. Boehner and Republicans are trying to advance the same agenda that led the country into the recession.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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