December 7, 2009 in Nation/World

In brief: Bailout estimate being slashed

From Wire Reports

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration plans to cut its estimate of the projected costs of the government bailout program by more than $200 billion, a Treasury official said Sunday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the administration’s new projection has not been presented to Congress, said the reduced cost estimate reflected faster repayments by big banks and less spending on some of the programs.

The administration’s estimate that the $700 billion financial rescue program will cost at most $141 billion is down sharply from the estimate of $341 billion made in the administration’s mid-session budget review in August.

The official said the new estimate will become part of the administration’s new budget, which President Barack Obama will present to Congress in February.

The $700 billion financial rescue program, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was passed by Congress in October 2008 at the height of the worst financial crisis to hit the country since the 1930s.

Russian club fire kills at least 112

PERM, Russia – Grieving relatives on Sunday began to bury the victims of a nightclub fire that left at least 112 people dead, as four people were ordered held pending an investigation into the country’s worst blaze in decades.

About 130 people remained hospitalized with injuries from the early Saturday blaze, which witnesses said was sparked by onstage fireworks that shot into the decorative twig ceiling of the Lame Horse club in the industrial city of Perm.

The federal Investigative Committee said the suspects – the club’s owner, the executive director, the artistic director and a businessman hired to install pyrotechnics on the night of the blaze – were ordered taken into custody Sunday by Leninsky District Court. The committee’s Web site said they were suspected of negligence causing multiple deaths and violating fire safety rules causing multiple deaths.

Iran cracks down on eve of rallies

TEHRAN, Iran – Government opponents shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “Death to the Dictator” from Tehran’s rooftops in the pouring rain on the eve of student demonstrations planned for today. Authorities choked off Internet access and warned journalists working for foreign media to stick to their offices for the next three days.

The measures were aimed at depriving the opposition of its key means of mobilizing the masses as Iran’s clerical rulers keep a tight lid on dissent. Government opponents are seeking, nonetheless, to get large numbers of demonstrators to turn out today and show their movement still has momentum.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi threw his support behind the student demonstrations and declared that his movement is still alive. A statement posted on his Web site said the clerical establishment cannot silence students and was losing legitimacy in the Iranian people’s minds.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, accused the opposition Sunday of exposing divisions in the country and creating opportunities for Iran’s enemies.

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