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December 3, 2008

Richardson Receives Nod From Obama

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) received the nomination from President-Elect Barack Obama as Secretary of Commerce on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

Obama has been criticized for giving Richardson the position after choosing Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. “Commerce secretary is a pretty good job,? Obama responded.

Richardson has an extensive history with previous presidential administrations, including as energy secretary and U.N. ambassador during former President Bill Clinton's administration. Lt. Gov. Diane Danish will serve as the interim governor for New Mexico, the BBC reported.

November 11, 2008

Obamas Meet Bushes at White House

Top aides were not allowed in the meeting between current President George W. Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama, as the two met for the first time at the White House on Monday.

The hour-long meeting, held in the Oval Office, focused on the recent $700 billion economic bailout and other economic issues, ABC News reported.

Although Obama's two-year campaign called for changes from the Bush Administration, both he and Bush called the meeting a success and spoke kindly of one another.

While the two spoke in private, First Lady Laura Bush and First Lady-in-waiting Michelle Obama toured the living quarters of the White House before Obama left to tour schools for the couple's two daughters, the L.A. Times reported.

November 8, 2008

Police arrest 8-year-old in double murder

Arizona police arrested an 8-year-old boy in connection with the murder of his father and another man at their home on Wednesday.

Authorities said the child had confessed to the murders, saying he used a .22-caliber rifle, the BBC reported.

The judge in the case has agreed that there was probable cause to charge the boy with two counts of premeditated murder, though he has ordered a psychological evaluation of the boy, CNN reported.

Community members in the small town of St. Johns, where the boy lived, have expressed shock over the murders.

"Who would think an 8-year-old kid could kill two adults?" said St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnic.

October 21, 2008

Stevens Questioned Over Gifts

Alaskan Republican Sen. Ted Stevens faced questions over whether his acceptance of over $250,000 in gifts violated Senate ethics rules, CNN reported.

Stevens received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations over a seven year period, which he did not disclose in accordance to Senate rules.

The longest-serving senator is facing seven felony counts in the alleged concealment of the gifts. Both Steve and his wife told prosecutors they paid contractors $160,000, which they thought covered the costs of the massive renovations to their Alaskan home, The New York Times reported.

October 18, 2008

Grandfather Held in Kidnapping Case

Police arrested the grandfather of a kidnapped 6-year-old Nevada boy, saying they believe the kidnapping is tied in with the man's drug connections with Mexican nationals, according to MSNBC News.

51-year-old Clemons F. Tinnemeyer was apprehended by police in Riverside, California. It is suspected that he stole millions of dollars from the drug traffickers, although it is not clear what role he played, ABC News reported.

Police say three men posed as police officers and broke into the boy's home and tied up his mother and her fiance. After searching the house, they then took 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger, CNN reported.

October 10, 2008

Stocks Continue to Plummet; Bush Vows Resolution

After eight consecutive days of falling stocks, the Dow Jones industrial average has lost 2,400 points, although the dollar gained on the yen, CNN reported.

The market has suffered from fears of a global recession, following the federal buyout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two largest mortgage companies in the U.S., and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, leading to massive reforms within the private banking sector.

President Bush, speaking at a press conference at the White House Rose Garden, defended the $700 billion bailout act and vowed he would work with other nations to stabilize the global economy.

"We are a prosperous nation with immense resources and a wide range of tools at our disposal," he said. "We are using these tools aggressively."

"Fellow citizens: We can solve this crisis, and we will," he added, as reported by the BBC.

A delegation of top finance ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan will meet in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, according to The New York Times.

September 23, 2008

Bank Bailout Faces Challenges

Congressional members expressed concerns about the $700 billion bailout for collapsed banks at a hearing Tuesday.

"I won't give a check for $700 billion...without safeguards built in," Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) told CNN in an interview. The Senate's Banking Committee Chairman said it would be the "height of irresponsibility" to approve the bill so close to the November presidential election.

However, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke have urged lawmakers to pass the bill quickly.

"We must now take further, decisive action to fundamentally and comprehensively address the root cause of this turmoil," Paulson said. "When the financial system doesn't work as it should, Americans' personal savings, and the ability of consumers and businesses to finance spending, investment and job creation are threatened."

The bill would give major banking institutions the option to sell bad debts to the Treasury fund, the BBC reported. The fund would then sell the assets once the economy has stabilized and their value is greater.

Dodd called the plan "stunning and unprecedented in its scope and lack of detail," and would give Paulson "absolute impunity" in managing the Treasury fund, as reported by The New York Times.

The Bush administration has urged Congress to pass the bill this week.

September 15, 2008

Lehman Bros Announces Bankruptcy

One of the largest investment banks in the country filed for bankruptcy protection, sending stocks plummeting Monday.

The announcement from Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank in the US, came after the company lost billions of dollars from the recent mortgage crisis that crippled much of the market in previous months, according to the BBC.

Lehman, which had $639 billion in assets and $613 billion of debt, crumpled due nearly $60 billion in "soured" real estate investments, according to Forbes. The collapse is the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson cited "past excesses" as a source for the recent turmoil on Wall Street, but encouraged confidence "in the soundness and the resilience of our financial system.?

“As I’ve long said, the housing correction is at the root of the challenges facing our markets and our financial institutions," Paulson said. "I believe that we’ve taken very important steps with respect to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and they’re amongst the most important actions we can take to work through this turmoil.?

Following the announcement by Lehman, Merrill Lynch also announced the wealth-management company would be purchased by Bank of America in a $50 billion deal. Merrill Lynch closed flat on the day, while Bank of America dropped by 21 percent, according to The New York Times.

Investors are not certain about Bank of America's decision to purchase Merrill Lynch, Marc Pado, a U.S. market strategist for Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., told Yahoo News. "There's some concern they might have bit off more than they could chew," said Pado.

The takeover means that three of the five top U.S. investment banks have collapsed following the mortgage crisis, less than six months after the crisis began, the BBC reported. There are also growing fears that American International Group (AIG), a major insurer, will collapse as well, as the company recently sought $40 billion in loans from the government.

September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike Approaches Texas

Texas residents have been told to evacuate or "face certain death" as Hurricane Ike approaches Galveston and Houston.

The National Weather Service issued mandatory evacuations for several counties, saying the hurricane could strengthen to a Category Three by Saturday morning, when it is expected to make landfall. The evacuation orders were issued after officials found some people were ignoring the previous warnings, according to the BBC.

In Galveston, waves have already breached the 17-foot-high seawall, destroying a fishing pier and flooding downtown. County and city officials are encouraging citizens to evacuate low-lying areas. The National Hurricane Center is projecting surges over 22 feet high.

“Our biggest concern is getting every human being out of the storm surge area,? Harris County judge Ed Emmet told The New York Times. About 60 percent of the island's population has followed evacuation orders, according to city officials.

The storm has already left 80 people dead after sweeping through Cuba and Haiti, the latter still recovering from three other hurricanes (Fay, Gustav and Hanna).

Although Ike is expected to reach a Category Three hurricane by landfall, with winds peaking at over 120 mph, the storm surges are expected reach levels only seen in Category Five hurricanes, considered the most rare and powerful storms, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Discovery Channel cited the combination of shallow coastal waters and Ike's unusually large size as "a good recipe for surge," said Benton McGee, supervisory hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. "We're already seeing water being piled up in the Gulf. On top of that you're going to have water forced into the bays along the coast."

This is not the first hurricane to devastate Galveston. In 1900, the deadliest hurricane in US history struck the island, leaving 6,000 dead.