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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Wednesday January 30 2008 - (813)

Wednesday January 30 2008 edition
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IMF Cuts Global Economic Growth Projections
2008-01-30 01:00:37

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Tuesday night cut its forecast for global growth this year as it warned of a possible chain reaction from the six-month-old credit crunch rippling through the global economy.

Predicting the weakest expansion since 2003, the IMF said tougher lending standards imposed as a result of the sub-prime meltdown in the U.S. threatened to curb consumer spending in the west, leading to a knock-on effect on the export-dependent economies of Asia.

"The financial market strains originating in the U.S. sub-prime sector have intensified, while the recent steep sell-off in global equity markets was symptomatic of rising uncertainty," it said. The IMF forecasts came as the Federal Reserve, America's central bank, prepared to announce whether it would follow last week's emergency cut in interest rates of 0.75 percentage points with a further reduction in the cost of borrowing.

Despite news Tuesday that higher military spending and aircraft orders led to a 5.2% annual increase in durable goods orders in December, Wall Street was convinced Tuesday night that the Fed would cut interest rates by 0.5 points to 3%. Figures released Tuesday from the 10 biggest metropolitan districts in the U.S. showed house prices falling by a record 8.4% in the year to November.

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A Visit To A Gaza Rocket Factory
2008-01-30 01:00:01

No matter what Israel does, the rockets from the Gaza Strip just keep coming. Young men like Abdul are the reason why. He studies by day, but at night he builds bombs for the Islamic Jihad. He and his fellow militants can produce up to 100 per night.

The young man pulls the door of the taxi closed. He is wet. There is a light drizzle in the Gaza Strip. He turns around and greets the passengers in the back seat with a quick handshake. "Are you ready?" he asks them. "As of this moment, we could be going to paradise at any time." The other people in the car don't respond, and the driver of the Mercedes hits the gas. "I should have phoned my wife," he says after a while. "She should start to keep an eye out for a new husband."

It's a long journey through the pitch-dark night as the taxi heads towards the secret rocket factory in the Gaza Strip. Since Abdul* and his two friends got in, it has become a life-threatening trip. The young men produce rockets for the Islamic Jihad. Day after day, their rudimentary bombs land on Israeli villages, fields and kibbutzim. Israel responds by using air strikes to kill the Qassam commandos. The attacks mostly target cars that carry the militants to their missions - cars like the one we are traveling in this evening.
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Cosmetic Firms To Stop Using Shark Liver Oil In Face Creams
2008-01-30 00:59:09

Leading cosmetic companies have stopped using shark liver oil as a moisturizing base because of concerns over the survival of the deep-sea predators.

In a development welcomed by marine conservationists yesterday, L'Oreal said it had started switching to plant sources for the compound squalene, which is used in creams, lotions and glosses.

Unilever said it had stopped using shark oil in high street brands such as Pond's and Dove some years ago and was now ensuring that beauty spas the firm owns in Spain do likewise. Boots and Clarins have either made similar decisions or never used shark sources in the first place, according to information gathered by the campaign group Oceana. Boots told the Guardian it had never sold shark squalene.

Oceana wants consumers to ask cosmetic retailers about squalene sources and only buy products free of shark oil, while encouraging manufacturers using plant alternatives such as olive oil to make that clear on their products. The group is campaigning for a total ban on deep-sea shark fishing in the northeast Atlantic, which it said has contributed to dramatic declines in shark numbers.

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Huge Asteroid In Close Fly-By Of Earth
2008-01-30 00:57:31
Stargazers took their best look at a huge asteroid as it as it zoomed past Earth Wednesday at a little more than half a million kilometers distance.

“I can confirm it came the closest to Earth ... and it's on its way, away from Earth,” said D.C. Agle, a spokesman for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory after the asteroid 2007 TU24 flew by.

Agle said Earth was never in danger of being struck by the asteroid of roughly 250 meters (750 feet) in diameter as it passed within 538,000 kilometers of our planet, or 1.4 times the Moon's distance from Earth.

If ever an object of that size should strike our planet, it would inflict devastating regional damage, said NASA.

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Special Counsel Accuses Justice Dept. Of Blocking Gonzales Investigation
2008-01-29 16:08:44
The government agency that enforces one of the principal laws aimed at keeping politics out of the civil service has accused the Justice Department of blocking its investigation into alleged politicizing of the department under former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales.

Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, wrote Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey last week that the department had repeatedly "impeded" his investigation by refusing to share documents and provide answers to written questions, according to a copy of Bloch's letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The Justice Department wants Bloch to wait until its own internal investigation is completed. A department official signaled recently that the investigation is examining the possibility of criminal charges.

But that, the regulator wrote, could take until the last months of the Bush administration, "when there is little hope of any corrective measures or discipline possible" being taken by his office.
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Commentary: Impeach Bush And Cheney
2008-01-29 16:08:06
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman and appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer's edition for Sunday, January 27, 2008. Ms. Holtzman served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1973 to 1981 and was a member of the House Judiciary Committee during proceeding toward Richard Nixon's impeachment. Her commentary follows:

Since mid-December, members of the House Judiciary Committee Robert Wexler (D., Florida), Luis Gutierrez (D., Illinois) and Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisconsin) have called for hearings on the impeachment of Vice President Cheney.

This should not be surprising, given the strength of the case for impeachment. What's surprising is that it took so long for members of this committee, normally tasked with holding impeachment proceedings, to call for them.

They face huge political resistance on Capitol Hill. But they aren't alone. Other Democratic members are joining them. Former senator and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern recently published an op-ed demanding impeachment proceedings for both Bush and Cheney. Bruce Fein, a Republican who served in the Reagan Justice Department, and many other constitutional scholars also argue for impeachment.

There is more than ample justification for impeachment. The Constitution specifies the grounds as treason, bribery or "high crimes and misdemeanors," a term that means "great and dangerous offenses that subvert the Constitution." As the House Judiciary Committee determined during Watergate, impeachment is warranted when a president puts himself above the law and gravely abuses power.

Have Bush and Cheney done that?

Yes. With the vice president's participation, President Bush repeatedly violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court approval for presidential wiretaps. Former President Richard Nixon's illegal wiretapping was one of the offenses that led to his impeachment. FISA was enacted precisely to avoid such abuses by future presidents.

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High Turnout Expected In Florida's Republican Primary
2008-01-29 16:07:13

Republican candidates made last minute appearances to rally supporters in the hotly contested Florida primary on Tuesday morning, as voters trooped to the polls under sunny skies.

The campaigns all predicted a high turnout, and noted that besides the important Republican primary, there is a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot to overhaul property taxes, which has generated great interest.

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the Florida Department of State, said that it would not be possible to gauge turnout until later Tuesday evening. Weather in Florida is expected to be good throughout the day, with sun and temperatures in the 60s and 70s, according to forecasters at Penn State University.

State election officials said roughly 6,900 polling places were open, and Ivey said no problems had been reported with machines.

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President Bush 2008 State of the Union Address
2008-01-29 03:20:19
Intellpuke: Following is the full text of President Bush's State of the Union address. The text was prepared by Congressional Quarterly Transcripts and provided to various news organizations. President Bush's address follows:

BUSH: Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum. In that time, our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined. We faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens.

These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it's fair to say we've answered the call.


Yet history will record that, amid our differences, we acted with purpose. And together we showed the world the power and resilience of American self-government.

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Editorial: The State Of The Union
2008-01-29 03:19:45
Intellpuke: The following editorial appears in the New York Times edition for Tuesday, January 29, 2008.

Six years ago, President Bush began his State of the Union address with two powerful sentences: “As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.”

Monday night, after six years of promises unkept or insincerely made and blunders of historic proportions, the United States is now fighting two wars, the economy is veering toward recession, the civilized world still faces horrifying dangers - and it has far less sympathy and respect for the United States.

The nation is splintered over the war in Iraq, cleaved by ruthless partisan politics, bubbling with economic fear and mired in debate over virtually all of the issues Mr. Bush faced in 2002. And the best Mr. Bush could offer was a call to individual empowerment - a noble idea, but in Mr. Bush’s hands just another excuse to abdicate government responsibility.

Monday night’s address made us think what a different speech it might have been if Mr. Bush had capitalized on the unity that followed the 9/11 attacks to draw the nation together, rather than to arrogate ever more power and launch his misadventure in Iraq. How different it might have been if Mr. Bush meant what he said about compassionate conservatism or even followed the fiscal discipline of old-fashioned conservatism. How different if he had made a real effort to reach for the bipartisanship he promised in 2002 and so many times since.

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Snowstorms Kill At Least 24 In China
2008-01-29 03:19:12
Severe snowstorms over broad swaths of eastern and central China have wreaked havoc on traffic throughout the country, creating gigantic passenger backups, spawning accidents and leaving at least 24 people dead, according to state news reports.

In many areas, where snow has continued falling for several days, the accumulation has been described as the heaviest in as many as five decades. The impact of the severe weather was complicated by the timing of the storms, which arrived just before the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, when Chinese return to their family homes by the hundreds of millions.

On Monday, the government announced a severe weather warning for the days ahead, as forecasts suggested that the snowfall would continue in many areas, including Shanghai, which is unaccustomed to severe winter weather.

“Due to the rain, snow and frost, plus increased winter use of coal and electricity and the peak travel season, the job of ensuring coal, electricity and oil supplies and adequate transportation has become quite severe,” Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said in a statement issued late Sunday.

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Kennedy's Support For Obama Alters Democrat Campaigns
2008-01-29 03:17:40
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy delivered a highly prized endorsement for Sen. Barack Obama Monday as well as a pointed rebuttal to the main lines of attack used against him by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton. 

In a clear reference to the criticism repeated by the Democratic senator from New York and the former president that Obama (D-Illinois) does not have the experience for the White House, Kennedy - borrowing one of the Clintons' favorite phrases - said Obama is "ready to be president on Day One."

He also rebutted their contention that Obama has been inconsistent in his opposition to the war in Iraq and said Obama represents a new era and a rejection of "old politics."

"From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And let no one deny that truth,'' said Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).

Kennedy praised Hillary Clinton and the third candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, former senator John Edwards, of North Carolina, describing them as "friends" and declaring he would support the party's nominee.

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Commentary: The Three Myths Of The U.S. Election Campaign
2008-01-30 01:00:24
Intellpuke: The following commentary was written by Gabor Steingart, reporting from Washington, D.C., and appeared in his "West Wing" column in Spiegel Online's edition for Tuesday, January 29, 2008. Mr. Steingart's commentary follows:

"Change" is the buzzword in the U.S. election campaign. Hoping to emulate Barack Obama's popular success, candidates from both parties are suddenly jumping on the change bandwagon. But some of the things they want to change are in fact sacrosanct - like the Constitution.

At first sight, the candidates in this year's presidential primaries couldn't be more different: a Vietnam veteran, a former first lady, a Baptist preacher, a business executive, a wealthy trial lawyer championing the poor and an African-American senator from Illinois.

"What a selection!" some might exclaim enthusiastically. Truly, democracy at its best! What else could you want?

But the differences aren't as great as they seem, and because of this lack of diversity in their views, the candidates are trying to outdo one another in a contest to determine who is the most willing to bring about real change. "Change" is the buzzword of the season. Suddenly everyone wants to change everything, especially the way politics is conducted today.

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E.U. Leaders Order Banks To Tighten Regulatory Regime
2008-01-30 00:59:35

A meeting of European Union (E.U.) leaders chaired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London Tuesday night warned banks and other financial institutions to reform in order to retain confidence in free markets and avert any prospect of the return of protectionism.

In Brown's first big European initiative since becoming prime minister, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, German chancellor Angela Merkel, acting Italian prime minister Romano Prodi and E.U. president Jose Manuel Barroso joined him for talks in Downing Street to demand increased transparency and regulation in the face of the global credit crunch.

In a short, good-natured press conference held between talks and dinner at the Foreign Office, the leaders voiced similar opinions. "There is nothing fatalistic about what is happening now," Sarkozy told reporters in more direct language than the other leaders.

"What has happened in certain countries has not been to do with the kind of market economy and our sense of what competition really means. If we do not want a return to protectionism we have to show transparency."

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Over 1 Million U.K. Homeowners At Risk
2008-01-30 00:58:19
Economic slowdown would leave many home owners vulnerable says Financial Services Authority.

More than a million homeowners could be at risk of serious financial difficulty and possibly losing their homes in an economic slowdown, the City regulator warned Tuesday. (Editor's note: The "City" is to the U.K. what "Wall Street" is to the U.S.)

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is preparing for a tougher climate of rising inflation and a slower economy. It fears that many homeowners with large mortgages who have borrowed three and a half times their salaries or more could be at risk.

The warning comes as surveyors predict that 123 homes a day will be repossessed this year. The FSA cites three warning signs on mortgages:

-- The loan was taken out for longer than 25 years.

-- It is worth more than 90% of the home.

-- The amount borrowed is 3.5 times or greater than income.

Over a third of all mortgages sold between April 2005 and September 2007 fall into one or more of these categories. This suggests that more than 2 million of the 5.7 million mortgages written during this period are of potential concern.

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Newsblog: McCain Beats Romney In Florida, Giuliani Expected To Drop Out
2008-01-29 23:26:59

Sen. John McCain won a crucial victory over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney Tuesday in Florida's Republican primary, a second straight win that cements the Arizona senator as the front-runner for his party's nomination.

With 80 percent of the vote on the Republican side counted, McCain led Romney, 36 percent to 31 percent. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had staked his entire campaign on a strong showing in Florida, trailed with 15 percent. Former governor Mike Huckabee (Arkansas) ran fourth with 13 percent.

"Our victory might not have reached landslide proportions, but it's sweet nonetheless," McCain told supporters in Miami Tuesday night.

The results were a major disappointment for Giuliani, who had said he needed a strong showing in the state to build momentum for the nearly two dozen states set to vote on Feb. 5.

"You don't always win but you can try to do it right," Giuliani said in a speech to supporters in Orlando. He gave no indication about his plans, but a senior Giuliani aide said that it's "very, very likely" the former mayor will drop out of the race Wednesday and endorse McCain.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) won a largely symbolic primary victory.

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Fifth Circuit Court To Consider Jurisdiction Over Contractors In Iraq
2008-01-29 16:08:27

A year after Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers tore down the towering statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Firdous Square, a few dozen American civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq climbed into a row of camouflage tractor-trailers and awaited instructions. Earlier that morning, the drivers, employees of Houston-based Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR), had been told that the roads outside Camp Anaconda, about 70 miles north of Baghdad, were labeled Code Red - off limits. That wasn't a big surprise. Local radio and Armed Forces television had been reporting for days that U.S. military units and civilian contractors were under heavy attack. Weeks earlier, four security guards working for Blackwater USA had been shot, burned, dismembered and strung from a bridge in Fallujah; that city was now in chaos. Still, here inside "the wire," as the drivers called the well-guarded camp, civilian truckers counted on KBR for their safety.

Around 10 a.m., the KBR security adviser announced a change in status. The roads were now Code Amber, he said - open for traffic. If the men were concerned about the last-minute change, or worried about driving unarmored military vehicles instead of the white trucks they usually drove to distinguish them as civilians, there was nothing they could do about it: KBR employees must follow the instructions of their convoy commanders.

Things would only get stranger. As the trucks lined up at the gate to leave, the drivers were told that their destination had changed. Instead of Camp Webster, where they'd originally been assigned to go, they'd be delivering fuel to Baghdad International Airport. Most had never been to the airport before; some had never even been outside the secured camp. None knew the route or was given a map.

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French 'Rogue Trader' Says His Bosses Knew
2008-01-29 16:07:27
The trader accused of causing about $7 billion in losses at Societe Generale told investigators that he believes his bosses were aware of his massive risk-taking on markets but turned a blind eye as long as he earned money, a judicial official said Tuesday.

Societe Generale, which said last week that Kerviel's actions cost it nearly 5 billion euros, quickly accused Kerviel of lying. In another twist to the multifaceted case, France's financial markets authority opened an investigation into the bank, France's second-largest.

Kerviel, a 31-year-old junior trader, told investigators of efforts to mask his massive transactions, but said the bank must nonetheless have noticed something suspicious, according to excerpts of his police testimony published in Le Monde newspaper. Kerviel's remarks were confirmed by Isabelle Montagne, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office.

"I can't believe that my superiors were not aware of the amounts I was committing, it is impossible to generate such profits with small positions," said Kerviel, according to the account confirmed by Montagne.

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California's Salmon Population Declines - Near Record Low
2008-01-29 16:06:53
The number of chinook salmon returning to California's Central Valley has reached a near-record low, pointing to an ''unprecedented collapse'' that could lead to severe restrictions on West Coast salmon fishing this year, according to federal fishery regulators.

The sharp drop in chinook or ''king'' salmon returning from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries this past fall is part of broader decline in wild salmon runs in rivers across the West.

The population dropped more than 88 percent from its all-time high five years ago, according to an internal memo sent to members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and obtained by the Associated Press.

Regulators are still trying to understand the reasons for the shrinking number of spawners; some scientists believe it could be related to changes in the ocean linked to global warming.

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News Analysis: Bush's State Of The Union Focused On Past Achievements
2008-01-29 03:19:58
Gone were the grand dreams of remaking Social Security, immigration law or the tax code. In their place were modest initiatives, such as hiring preferences for military spouses. The economic package targeted tax breaks to low- and middle-class workers. And the foreign policy stressed Middle East peacemaking and diplomacy with rogue nations.

President Bush took office with so much derision for the outgoing president that critics defined his attitude toward governing as ABC - "anything but Clinton". He would not play "small ball," he declared, nor would he coddle North Korea or waste time mediating between the Israelis and Arabs. But as he delivered his final State of the Union address last night, Bush increasingly appeared to be adopting some of his predecessor's approach.

Turning the corner into his last year in office with the nation already voting on who might succeed him, Bush is recalibrating what remains possible in a Congress controlled by the opposition and rethinking the most effective way to get what he wants on the international front. While aides insist he is not dwelling on his legacy, the "unfinished business" agenda he outlined seemed geared toward consolidating past achievements and focusing strategically on where he can win a few more.

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Cough, Cold Medicines Put 7,000 Children A Year In Emergency Rooms
2008-01-29 03:19:28
More than 7,000 children get rushed to emergency rooms each year after suffering adverse reactions to cough and cold medicines, according to the first national estimate of the risks posed by the widely used remedies.

Most of the problems occur in children ages 2 to 5 who get into the medications on their own, researchers said. They based their conclusions on an analysis of data from a nationally representative sample of 63 emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005.

"Anytime a child ends up in the emergency department because they had access to a bottle of medication, that is a problem that could be prevented," said Daniel S. Budnitz of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  which conducted the research.

The report comes as the Food and Drug Administratrion (FDA) considers whether to further restrict the use of the products because of concern about their risks and questions about their effectiveness. Critics and supporters of the products seized on the new report to support their positions.

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Acrimony Reigns On Eve Of Florida Republican Vote
2008-01-29 03:18:29
The Republican contest for Florida ended in acrimony on Monday as the two leading candidates traded attacks, aggressively courting voters across the Florida peninsula in a primary battle that could produce a clear front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination before a virtual national primary next week.

The sparring, between Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain, of Arizona, came as polls showed the race a statistical tie between them, with Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, lagging.

Giuliani, former New York mayor, pledged that he would participate in a Republican presidential debate in California on Wednesday regardless of where he finished in Tuesday’s voting here. Still, if Florida is not his last stand, it remains the place where he has all but staked his campaign. As the hours before voting waned, that campaign had none of the feel of imminent victory. Though his organization chartered a Boeing 727 for a day of barnstorming on the eve of the primary, none of the rallies at airports in Sanford, Clearwater, Fort Myers or Fort Lauderdale drew even 100 supporters.

Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, began attacking at dawn, accusing McCain of allying himself with liberal Democrats in the Senate and betraying conservative principles on legislation involving immigration, the environment and campaign finance.

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U.S. Senate Reveals Its Own Economic Stimulus Bill
2008-01-29 03:16:34

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Monday unveiled a rival plan to stimulate the economy, offering a $500 check to virtually every American - including low-income seniors and rich financiers - in a direct challenge to the bipartisan deal reached last week by President Bush and House leaders.

The $156 billion measure by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), which will be drafted by the committee Wednesday, also would extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless by 13 weeks, a proposal that had been rejected by Bush and House Republican leaders as they crafted their $150 billion stimulus package.

That delicate compromise, unveiled last week, proposed to cap eligibility for somewhat larger tax rebates at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples.

With the strong backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada), the package that emerges from the Finance Committee is likely to pass the Senate, forcing House-Senate negotiations that Bush and House leaders had hoped to avoid. The House is expected to approve its stimulus plan Tuesday.

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