World News Brief, Friday February 13

US congress agree $789b stimulus plan; North Korea gears up for another missile test; Australian police detain pair over bushfires; Pakistan admits involvement in Mumbai bombings; and more

TOP OF THE AGENDA: Deal Reached on Stimulus

Congressional leaders have reached agreement on a compromise stimulus package that, while smaller than previous versions, will nonetheless pump $789 billion into the troubled U.S. economy and create or save as many as 3.5 million jobs (CSMonitor). The measure, which now heads to the House and Senate for final up-or-down votes, is expected to be signed by President Obama by his deadline of Monday. If enacted it will shower hundreds of billions of dollars in tax relief on businesses and individuals, and launch an infrastructure building boom reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

President Obama immediately praised Congress for forging an agreement. In a statement he said the plan will mean "immediate tax relief to families and businesses," and increase spending on "health care, education, energy, and infrastructure that will grow our economy once more."

Yet amid promises from the White House and Capitol Hill came predictions the deal may mean less near-term support for the economy, and raise prospects that the U.S. recession drags on into next year (WSJ). The compromise is also expected to create fewer than the four million jobs once promised, and reduce the amount of aid offered to states and local governments. According to the New York Times, the deal represents a calculated gamble by the Obama administration-necessary to win Republican votes, but considerably leaner than what many economists say is now needed to jolt the economy.

Background :
- Among the compromises made was the Senate's softening of a so-called "buy American" provision in the stimulus package. Experts debate the pros and cons of such a measure at the New York Times Room For Debate blog.
- Read the Senate version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 here.
- The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget details the differences between the House and Senate bills here.


PACIFIC RIM: North Korean Missile Test Imminent

South Korean officials have told the Yonhap news agency it appears North Korea is gearing up for another long-range missile test (AP). The North has in recent weeks announced plans to scrap peace agreements with the South, and South Korean and Japanese media reported last week intelligence officials had spotted transport of a long, cylinder-shaped object toward a known launch site in the North.

Australian Fires: Police have detained two suspects in connection to a bushfire in the Yea region of Victoria believed to have been deliberately set, authorities say. At least 181 people died in blazes that swept across southern Australia last weekend (The Australian).



Pakistan Admits Attack Link.
Lost US Weapons in Taliban Hands.
Venezuela Cuts Oil Exports.

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