- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2010


Fannie Mae tightens lending standards

Battered by a tidal wave of loan defaults, mortgage-finance company Fannie Mae is tightening standards for the adjustable-rate and interest-only loans that fed the housing boom and contributed to the bust.

The company said Friday it will require mortgage lenders to consider how high a borrower’s mortgage payments might rise after teaser rates expire.

Fannie Mae also will enact tighter standards for interest-only loans that allow borrowers to avoid making principal payments for several years. To get those loans, borrowers taking out new mortgages must have a down payment of at least 30 percent and enough assets for two months of living expenses.


Democrat’s son guilty in Palin e-mail hacking

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | The son of a Democratic Tennessee lawmaker was convicted Friday on two charges in the hacking of Sarah Palin’s e-mail account while she campaigned on the Republican presidential ticket in 2008.

The federal court jury reached its verdict against David Kernell, 22, after four days of deliberation. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice and unauthorized access to a computer, but was acquitted on a charge of wire fraud.

The jury deadlocked on a charge of identify theft. Prosecutors reserve the right to have a new trial on that charge. The charge of obstructing an investigation carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and unauthorized access to a computer is a misdemeanor with a maximum one-year sentence.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips did not immediately set a sentencing date.


Republican won’t seek re-election

Four-term Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida said in a surprise announcement Friday that she won’t seek re-election to Congress, citing health concerns.

Mrs. Brown-Waite, trying to ensure that a handpicked successor can replace her, announced her decision just as candidate filing closed in Florida - leaving no time for Democrats to consider fielding a fresh candidate or for any other Republicans who might have considered running.

She simultaneously threw her support behind Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent, a Republican who filed to run for the seat just before the noon deadline.

“This past week, Rich told me he would stand in my place for election to Congress,” Mrs. Brown-Waite said in a statement. “On Monday, I will ask the secretary of state to withdraw my name from the ballot.”

The district typically votes Republican, although Democrats have at times flirted with the idea of trying to seriously contest it. Mrs. Brown-Waite won the seat with 61 percent of the vote in 2008, and Republican John McCain took 56 percent in the presidential election.


GAO: Census has computer problem

LOS ANGELES | A computer system that the Census Bureau needs to manage its door-to-door count of the U.S. population remained “buggy” and prone to crash a day before enumerators were set to begin their work, government officials said Friday.

The bureau’s Paper Based Operations Control System did not function reliably in tests and, despite hardware and software upgrades, “may not be able to perform as needed under full operational loads,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report.

“So far, it is not as stable as it needs to be,” GAO Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff said before the start of a congressional hearing on the census.

The paper-based system’s hasty design began in early 2008, after the census bureau scrapped plans to use a handheld-computer method that ended up costing more than $700 million but did not operate adequately.

The system will generate assignments for the roughly 635,000 enumerators hired to visit about 48 million homes to tally people who did not return their census forms by mail.


Obama subpoena nixed in Blago case

CHICAGO | A federal judge in Chicago has refused to issue a subpoena for President Obama to testify at former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s political-corruption trial.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel ruled Friday that attorneys for Mr. Blagojevich had not produced sufficient evidence that Mr. Obama would have anything material to say on the witness stand.

Defense attorneys claimed that the president could shed light on charges that Mr. Blagojevich schemed to sell or trade Mr. Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.

Mr. Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial is set to start June 3.


Congressmen call hearing on Gulf oil spill

NEW ORLEANS | Two congressmen will hold hearings to investigate how well companies have responded to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Bart Stupak sent letters requesting the testimony of officials from BP America, Transocean and Halliburton. BP operates the rig, which is owned by Transocean. Halliburton worked on the rig not long before the explosion.

The hearings also will look into how recovery efforts are going, and what the companies’ safety measures were before the April 20 blast that caused the spill.

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 people. The resulting oil spill is threatening the Gulf Coast’s delicate ecosystem.


New rule targets mercury emissions

The Obama administration says 5,000 deaths will be prevented each year under new rules announced Friday to limit the amount of mercury and other harmful pollutants released by industrial boilers and solid-waste incinerators.

The planned rules would reduce mercury emissions more than 50 percent by requiring steep and costly cuts from companies operating about 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters and incinerators.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the rules Friday and must seek public comment before they are made final.

Industrial boilers and heaters are the second-largest source of mercury emissions in the U.S., after coal-fired power plants. The boilers burn coal and other fuels to generate heat or electricity and are used by petroleum refiners, chemical and manufacturing plants, paper mills and even shopping malls.

The incinerators burn waste to dispose of it, and some also turn it into energy.

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