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Morning Brief: Stimulus passes in House

Morning Brief: Stimulus passes in House

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The Democrats’ proposed $819 billion stimulus package was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. Despite last-minute lobbying by President Barack Obama, not a single Republican voted for the package. The bill includes tax breaks, aid to states, and funding for infrastructure improvements, education, Medicaid, and alternative energy projects.

A controversial “buy-American” provision in the bill would mostly bar foreign steel and iron from the infrastructure projects funded by the stimulus. Critics charge that this provision constitutes protectionism and could violate existing WTO agreements.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s version of the bill is nearing $900 billion. 

Middle East

Israel has reportedly launched an airstrike against Gaza militants in retaliation for the killing of an IDF soldier yesterday as George Mitchell arrived in the region.

The former CIA station chief in Algeria is being investigated for rape. 

Obama Administration

Obama received his first briefing from the joint chiefs of staff on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Guardian reports that team Obama is drafting a letter to Iran’s leaders as a prelude to negotiations. 

Attorney General Eric Holder was approved by the senate.

Asia

Pakistani authorities arrested three men they claim were trained by India to carry out terrorist attacks within Pakistan. 

Afghanistan’s presidential election has been delayed because of security concerns.

A pro-democracy e-mail petition is gathering steam in China.

Africa

Another tanker has been hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Liberia is under siege from crop-destroying army worms.

As Passport‘s Elizabeth Dickinson suspected, Obama urged South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to take a strong role in resolving the Zimbabwe crisis in their phone call yesterday.

Europe

A nationwide strike has shut down French trains and subways.

The Russian ruble had its biggest two-day drop in a decade.

NATO is worried about Russian plans to build a naval base in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Americas

Bolivia is looking to rebuild diplomatic ties with the U.S, says its foreign minister.

Colombia’s FARC rebels are planning to release six hostages this weekend. 

Cuba’s Raul Castro arrived in Moscow for talks.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images