In brief: IMF’s new chief leans on Congress

Jackson Hole, Wyo. – The new head of the International Monetary Fund urged U.S. policymakers to take more aggressive steps to stimulate the economy and ease the housing crisis.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, speaking at an economic conference in Jackson Hole on Saturday, said the United States should reach a “credible” plan to control government debts in the future but push for stronger economic growth now.

If the economy stagnates, she said, plans to cut government spending in the future will lose credibility.

“Who will believe that commitments to cut spending can survive a lengthy stagnation with prolonged unemployment and social dissatisfaction?” she said.

Her comments echoed those of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who in a speech here Friday urged Congress to do more to help the ailing U.S. economy.

Medicaid charges probed in Texas

Dallas – Federal auditors are examining Medicaid charges for dental braces for Texas children after a television station found the state spent as much on orthodontic services last year as all 49 other U.S. states combined.

Texas spent $184 million on orthodontic treatment for children under Medicaid last year – nine times more than California spent during the same time period, according to state records obtained by WFAA-TV during a six-month investigation.

The state says the federal-state program for the elderly, poor and disabled is not supposed to pay for children to get braces for cosmetic reasons, though some dentists and orthodontists told WFAA that does happen. The state attributes at least some of the difference between what Texas and other states are spending to a 2007 court ruling that found Texas children needed improved access to health care under Medicaid.

ACS/Texas Medicaid & Healthcare Partnership, a private contractor in Austin, authorizes orthodontic treatments that are paid for by Medicaid in Texas.

Gibson has deal with ex-girlfriend

Los Angeles – After sparring for more than a year, Mel Gibson and his ex-girlfriend have reached a financial and custody settlement. Their bitter dispute spawned a criminal case and left the Academy Award winner’s reputation damaged.

Los Angeles Superior Court officials said in a statement late Friday that Gibson and Russian musician Oksana Grigorieva had reached an agreement after days of negotiation. Terms and conditions of the settlement were not announced, but a hearing will be held Wednesday to discuss the financial terms.

The two have an infant daughter.

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