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  1. #1
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    House Democrats propose $410B spending bill

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democrats unveiled a $410 billion spending bill on Monday to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year, setting up the second political struggle over federal funds in less than a month with Republicans.

    The measure includes thousands of earmarks, the pet projects favored by lawmakers but often criticized by the public in opinion polls. There was no official total of the bill's earmarks, which accounted for at least $3.8 billion.
    The legislation, which includes an increase of roughly 8 percent over spending in the last fiscal year, is expected to clear the House later in the week.
    Democrats defended the spending increases, saying they were needed to make up for cuts enacted in recent years or proposed a year ago by then-President George W. Bush in health, education, energy and other programs.
    Republicans countered that the spending in the bill far outpaced inflation, and amounted to much higher increases when combined with spending in the stimulus legislation that President Barack Obama signed last week. In a letter to top Democratic leaders, the GOP leadership called for a spending freeze, a step they said would point toward a "new standard of fiscal discipline."
    Either way, the bill advanced less than one week after Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that all Republicans in Congress opposed except for three moderate GOP senators.
    Apart from spending, the legislation provides Democrats in Congress and Obama an opportunity to reverse Bush-era policy on selected issues.
    It loosens restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as the sale of food and medicine to the communist island-nation.
    In another change, the legislation bans Mexican-licensed trucks from operating outside commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters Union, which supported Obama's election last year, hailed the move.
    The Bush administration backed a pilot program to permit up to 500 trucks from 100 Mexican motor carriers access to U.S. roads.
    The legislation covers programs for numerous Cabinet-level and other agencies, and takes the place of regular annual spending bills that did not pass last year as a result of a deadlock between the Bush administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress.
    Congressional expenses are included. The bill provides $500,000 for what is described as a Senate "pilot program" that will defray the cost of mass mail postcards to households notifying them of a nearby town meeting to be attended by any senator.

  2. #2
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    BEIJING A special Chinese tour group is heading to the United States later this month to go bargain hunting for houses at foreclosure prices.

    More than 40 affluent house hunters from across China will begin a trip to Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles on Feb. 24 in search of cheap homes to buy. Their goal: to find investment property and housing their children could use when they go to the USA to study or work. Their budget: $300,000 to $800,000 apiece.

    "U.S. house prices are lower now, and we'll also be looking at low-price houses auctioned off by the courts," says Zhao Xinyu, a manager at Soufun.com, China's leading real estate website and the trip's organizer.

    Cash-rich China, whose purchases of U.S. Treasury notes help prop up the federal government, is looking to recession-stricken America for more than just houses at the right price.

    Chinese companies are on the ground looking for U.S. firms on the skids, says David Putnam, head of Asia for Houlihan Lokey, a Los Angeles-based investment bank that specializes in financial restructuring. They're looking for people, too.

  4. #4
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    SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM

    "It's a great life. You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If your honest , your poor your whole life. And , In the end , you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star."
    -Ex-Sheriff Martin Howe to Will Kane in "High Noon"

    Far from being a handicap to command, compassion is the measure of it. For unless one values the lives of his soldiers and is tormented by their ordeals , he is unfit to command.
    -General Omar Bradley, United States Army

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