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Obama planning ways to rein in budget deficit

WASHINGTON: Slowing tax revenue and a historic bailout of the U.S. financial system will send the budget deficit soaring toward $1 trillion this year, President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday, and the red ink stands to get substantially deeper if Obama wins approval of a giant economic stimulus plan. Even if the package of spending and tax cuts helps restore the nation's immediate economic health, Obama said, the government is likely to be left with "trillion-dollar deficits for years to come" unless policymakers "make a change in the way that Washington does business." An economic adviser said the president-elect plans to unveil "major initiatives" designed to eventually bring the deficit under control as part of his first budget proposal.

Richardson donor also gave to Obama

WASHINGTON: A prominent businessman whose political donations ended New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's hopes of a place in the Obama administration also was a supporter of the president-elect. David Rubin gave $26,200 to the Democratic Party on Sept. 19 and $2,300 to Barack Obama's campaign on Sept. 30, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission. In February, Rubin gave an additional $1,000 to Obama's campaign. Rubin and his company donated $100,000 in 2003 and 2004 to the political committees of Richardson. The contributions came both before and after Rubin's company won a state contract in New Mexico to help finance $1.4 billion for highway and transportation projects. On Sunday, Richardson withdrew from consideration as commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation of the donations.

Indian statement on attack rankles Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Pakistan forcefully denied yesterday a suggestion by India's prime minister that official Pakistani agencies were involved in November's attacks in Mumbai and said that leveling such accusations posed "grave risks" to the region. In the weeks since the three-day rampage by gunmen in India's commercial capital, the two sides have made alternately conciliatory and bellicose comments. Yesterday's statement by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the closest India has come to accusing the Pakistani government of links to the attacks, which the Indians blame on a Pakistan-based militant group.

Member of Iraqi leader's political party slain

BAGHDAD: Gunmen have killed a member of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's political party in a drive-by shooting in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police officials said yesterday. Subhi Hassan, who handled political relations for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and a bodyguard were killed Monday after unidentified gunmen chased down their car after it passed through a checkpoint, said Police Brigadier Ahmed Hawandi. The shooting is the latest in a spate of killings that appear to be politically motivated and come in advance of nationwide provincial elections set for Jan. 31.

Not-guilty pleas from 5 Blackwater guards

WASHINGTON: Five former Blackwater Worldwide security guards pleaded not guilty yesterday afternoon in federal court to charges they unleashed an unprovoked salvo of bullets and grenades in a busy Baghdad square in 2007, killing at least 14 Iraqi civilians and injuring 20 others. A federal judge set a trial date for January of next year in the shooting. The guards did not speak during the brief arraignment on 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 20 counts of attempting to commit manslaughter and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. They could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison on the firearms charge.

Venezuela's oil earnings fall, squeezing Chavez

CARACAS, Venezuela : Venezuela's slumping oil earnings are starting to squeeze President Hugo Chavez's spending spree and diminish the aid he uses to counter U.S. influence. Accounting for nearly 94 percent of exports and half the national budget, oil pays for everything from subsidized food to free universities. It has also bankrolled an international aid bonanza in which Chavez showers allies with cheap fuel and cash. In 2007 alone, Venezuela pledged more than $8.8 billion in aid, financing and energy funding abroad. But oil prices have fallen 67 percent since their July peak, and oil prices are below the $60 a barrel Venezuela budgeted for this year.

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