WASHINGTON: Republican and Democratic House members said yesterday that the alleged $50 billion fraud involving Wall Street figure Bernard Madoff reflects deep, systemic problems at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Inspector General H. David Kotz said he is so concerned about the SEC's failure to uncover Madoff's alleged Ponzi scheme that his office is expanding the inquiry called for last month by SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. Cox had pushed the blame squarely onto the SEC's career staff for the failure to detect what Madoff was doing. At the first congressional hearing on the scandal, Rep. Spencer Bachus, a Republican from Alabama, called for Congress to create a regulatory structure "for the 21st century." The House Financial Services Committee is trying to determine how, despite warnings back to at least 1999 to SEC staff members, Madoff continued to operate his alleged scheme. "Clearly, our regulatory system ... failed miserably and we must rebuild it now," said Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, a Pennsylvania Democrat.
Md., 10 others seek common fuel standard
BOSTON: Eleven Eastern states, including Maryland, have agreed to adhere to a new fuel standard that they hope will reduce greenhouse gases. Massachusetts Energy Secretary Ian Bowles said yesterday that the states will decide on a single standard for the region. He says it will create a larger market for cleaner fuels and the development of related technology. The low-carbon fuel standard requires a reduction in average greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy. It applies to fuel for transportation and home heating. The 10 other states are Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. In December, California adopted a sweeping plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S. opens its largest embassy, in Baghdad
BAGHDAD : The United States inaugurated its largest embassy ever yesterday, a fortress-like compound in the heart of the Green Zone - and the most visible sign of what U.S. officials call a new chapter in relations between America and a more sovereign Iraq. U.S. Marines raised the American flag over the adobe-colored buildings, which sit on a 104-acre site and have space for 1,000 employees - more than 10 times the size of any other American Embassy in the world. "Iraq is in a new era and so is the Iraqi-U.S. relationship," said Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not attend yesterday's ceremony because he was traveling in Iran, a country the United States has accused of aiding and arming Iraqi militants. Explaining the opening of such a large embassy three years before the U.S. military must finish withdrawing its 146,000 troops from Iraq, Crocker said that it is vital for the United States to remain involved in nonmilitary ways.
Burris on way to take disputed Senate seat
WASHINGTON: Senate Democrats struggled to avert a showdown steeped in race and corruption yesterday as Roland Burris declared, "I'm a United States senator" and flew to the capital to claim President-elect Barack Obama's old seat in Congress. Even as he sought to pressure fellow Democrats, Burris signaled that there are limits to his defiance. "I'm not going to make a scene. I don't want to give you all a circus," he told reporters asking whether he intended to breach protocol by walking uninvited onto the Senate floor today. The 71-year-old veteran of Illinois politics was en route from his home state when Majority Leader Harry Reid said that Burris would not be permitted to take a seat when other new lawmakers are sworn in. Burris "has not been certified by the state of Illinois" Reid said, a reference to incomplete paperwork that barely begins to describe the dispute.
India gives Pakistan data on Mumbai probe
NEW DELHI, India : India handed over to Pakistan yesterday key findings from its investigations into the deadly November attacks in Mumbai and said it expected action against those named in the report "as quickly as possible." India's foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, said the evidence ties the gunmen who carried out the attacks to "elements in Pakistan" and added that Islamabad is obliged to extradite those responsible. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee called the three-day siege, in which more than 170 people were killed, an unpardonable act and urged Pakistan's government to honor its promise to crack down on groups that foment violence against India.