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The Senate has approved the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, setting the stage for another House vote after its initial defeat earlier this week. The Senate version includes higher government insurance on bank deposits and some $150 billion in personal and corporate tax cuts. It also proposes a change in accounting rules that would have companies report the market price of their assets even if they don’t plan to sell them. The final vote was 74-to-25. The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said both sides had overcome partisan politics.
Sen. Harry Reid: "The Senate came together tonight in a bipartisan fashion to address one of the most critical economic challenges this country has ever faced. And we’ve sent a clear message to America, to all America: that we will not let this economy fail. This is not a perfect bill, by any means. We all know that. But it’s much improved from what we got originally, and it’s been improved because we have worked together. This is not a Democratic bill. It’s not a Republican bill. It’s our bill."
Senators Barack Obama, John McCain and Joe Biden returned to Washington from the campaign trail for the vote. Speaking on the Senate floor, Obama urged passage of the bailout.
Sen. Barack Obama: "Potentially, we could see thousands of businesses close. Millions of jobs could be lost. And a long and painful recession could follow. In other words, this is not just a Wall Street crisis, it’s an American crisis. And it’s the American economy that needs this rescue plan."
Before he head back to the Capitol, McCain promised supporters in Missouri he would crack down on Wall Street.
bq.Sen. John McCain: "As president, I will also act immediately with reforms to restore fairness, integrity and financial sanity to the institutions that have failed us on Wall Street. We will apply new rules to Wall Street to end the frenzies of speculation by people gaming the system and to make sure that this present crisis is never repeated."
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, former President Bill Clinton shook off criticism he’s only offered lukewarm support to Obama by campaigning for him in Florida.
Bill Clinton: "So, that’s my case for the people that aren’t here, for the people that are still undecided. You do not have to say one bad word about Senator Obama’s opponent. You just have to go out and tell them the truth. The job of the next president is to rebuild the American dream, repair the financial system, restore America’s leadership. On those issues, the Obama-Biden ticket, and particularly Senator Obama, have a better philosophy, better answers, better understanding, better advisers, a better vice-presidential candidate and a better plan for Florida."
The vice-presidential candidates, Senator Joe Biden and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, square off in St. Louis tonight in their first debate. Palin has come under increased scrutiny this week following a series of interviews with Katie Couric of CBS News. In the latest interview, Palin was stumped when asked for a Supreme Court decision she disagrees with aside from Roe v. Wade. She also could not name a single newspaper or news source that she reads daily.
Meanwhile, the environmental group Greenpeace has revealed Palin relied on so-called "experts" funded by the oil industry for an Alaskan state government study denying polar bears are threatened by global warming. The paper, entitled "Polar Bears of Western Hudson Bay and Climate Change," was widely criticized for using inaccurate data. Two of the co-authors had received funding from the oil giant Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute.
In Iraq, the US has given the Iraqi government nominal control of the armed Sunni groups it’s been paying to fight insurgents and to not attack US troops. The US has backed the Sons of Iraq, also known as the Awakening Councils, a group that includes many former insurgents. The move has been controversial out of concern it increases Iraq’s sectarian divide.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has released its quarterly report on the progress of the Iraq occupation. In surveys of Iraqis, 73 percent reported the security situation in their neighborhoods as calm — a 12 percent increase over November. But in a move highlighting Iraq’s ethnic divide, just 37 percent say they feel comfortable traveling outside their own neighborhoods. The decreased violence in Iraq has been attributed at least partly to widespread ethnic cleansing that has left less people to kill. While more than 80 percent of Iraqis expressed confidence in Iraqi troops to protect their security, just 24 percent say they have confidence in the US-led occupation.
Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan has admitted privately he believes the NATO occupation is a failure. According to a French diplomat, Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles told a meeting in Kabul earlier this month, "The American strategy is destined to fail. The coalition presence, particularly the military presence, is part of the problem, not the solution." Cowper-Coles went on to say sending more NATO troops would have "a perverse effect. It would identify us even more clearly as an occupying force and multiply the number of targets [by insurgents]." He also said the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai has such low public standing that Afghanistan would be better off in five to ten years under what he called "an acceptable dictator."
Back in Washington, the Senate has approved a measure to lift a three-decade ban on nuclear trade with India. The deal will allow India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty as other nations must. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said the agreement would encourage nuclear production worldwide, because it effectively rewards India for developing nukes outside the treaty.
Sen. Byron Dorgan: “The bill before us will almost certainly expand the production of nuclear weapons by India. And here is what is says to India: even as we take apart the basic architecture of nonproliferation efforts, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which India is one of three countries that has never signed — even as we take that nonproliferation architecture apart with this bill, we have said to India with this agreement, "You can misuse American nuclear technology and secretly develop nuclear weapons." That’s what they did.”
The House passed its version of the measure earlier this week. The vote marks a victory for the Bush administration, which has lobbied heavily for the deal.
In Maryland, state police are being accused of spying on peace groups and anti-death penalty activists earlier than they claimed. In July, Maryland was forced to admit its agents infiltrated meetings and events of the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance and the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The American Civil Liberties Union says the spying actually began in January 2005, two months before police claimed.
The State Department has reversed a controversial decision to deny two Cuban journalists entry to the United States. International media groups had denounced the decision to bar Tomás Granados Jiménez and Ilsa Rodríguez Santana, a married couple who cover the UN for Cuba’s state news agency. The pair were refused entry when they recently tried to return to New York from a trip to Cuba.
The Bush administration has approved a new $15 billion sale of advanced military fighter jets to the Israeli government. Aided by US funding, Israel will buy twenty-five Joint Strike Fighter aircraft built by the military contractor Lockheed Martin.
And a correction to a headline from Tuesday’s broadcast. The US has not suspended trade benefits to Bolivia. The Bush administration has submitted a proposal to do so, but must first win congressional approval.