The Dow Jones industrial average briefly fell below 10,000 in the opening minutes of trading before bouncing back midday, reported the AP, just days after the major indexes posted their biggest declines in more than a year. Traders’ worries about how Europe is handling its debt crisis, as stronger countries like Germany and France will be saddled with heavy debt to help weaker EU countries, has raised concerns that the global financial recovery could be stalled.
Germany has agreed to join a 750 billion euro ($938 billion) rescue deal to stabilize the Euro, reported the BBC, agreeing to contribute 148 billion euros. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced widespread opposition to the decision at home, but warned that the euro would be “in danger” if strong action was not taken. The Bundestag, or German lower house, voted by 319 votes to 73 in favor of Germany’s participation in the bail-out. There were 195 abstentions.
An EU task force of finance ministers plans to meet in Brussels later, and are expected to propose changes to EU budget rules to tighten up financial regulations and avoid a repeat of the economic crisis in Greece. European markets also fell just after opening on Friday amid worries that the crisis will spread.
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As the federal government sends water and soil samples to labs to determine liability claims against BP for the growing oil spill, some people fear possible conflicts of interest, reported The New York Times. Most samples are being sent to a laboratory in Texas whose biggest clients are oil firms, including BP. Taylor Kirschenfeld, an environmental official for Escambia County, Florida, sent his water samples to a local laboratory instead, rebuffing instructions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to send them to the Texas lab. Kirschenfeld also said local animal rescue workers volunteered to help treat birds affected by the oil slick and collect data that will be used to calculate penalties for BP, but were told by federal officials that the work could only be done by a company hired by BP.
“Everywhere you look, if you look, you start seeing these conflicts of interest in how this disaster is getting handled,” Kirschenfeld said. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but there is just too much overlap between these people.”
Meanwhile, reported MSNBC, the Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul called President Obama’s criticism of BP following the Gulf oil spill ” really un-American.”
A House panel has dealt the Obama administration’s plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay a major hit, reported The Washington Independent, casting doubts on whether the facility can be closed this year – if at all. Buried at the bottom of an extensive report released Friday by the House Armed Services Committee is a prohibition on using any Defense Department money to buy a new detention facility, such as the Thomson Correction Center in Illinois, which Pentagon officials were planning to use to house detainees after the closing of Guantanamo. The bill now requires Defense Secretary Robert Gates to give Congress a report which “adequately justifies any proposal to build or modify such a facility” to move forward toward any post-Guantanamo housing plan.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon urged the US to reinstate its ban on assault weapons, reported Democracy Now!, saying violence has spiked in Mexico since the ban ended in 2004. The flow of weapons to Mexico from the US has been highlighted as a major problem in the escalating, violent drug war in Mexico. During a joint session of Congress, Calderon also reiterated his criticism of Arizona’s recent anti-immigrant bill.
Scientists have created the world’s first synthetic life form, reported The Guardian UK, in a feat that may pave the way for designer organisms that are built rather than evolved. The experiment occupied 20 scientists for more than ten years, and has an estimated price tag of $40 million. The pioneering US geneticist behind the experiment, Craig Center, said the technology could be used to make bacteria that churn out bio-fuels, manufacture vaccines and soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The new organism is based on an existing bacterium, but at its core is an entirely synthetic genome built from chemicals in the laboratory. One researcher described it as “a defining moment in biology.”