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Bernanke backs a new stimulus bill

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday he supports a new economic stimulus package to improve the availability of credit.

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In a prepared testimony for the House Budget Committee, Bernanke said "consideration of a fiscal package by the Congress at this juncture seems appropriate."

But, Bernanke said timing the spending to a "period in which economic activity would otherwise be expected to be weak," would get the most effect for the dollars spent.

"Any fiscal package should be well-targeted," he said. The program should also be designed "to limit longer-term effects on the federal government's structural budget deficit," he said.

A fiscal stimulus package should be targeted "to help improve access to credit by consumers, homebuyers, businesses and other borrowers," he said.

"Such actions might be particularly effective at promoting economic growth and job creation," Bernanke said.


Chrysler and GM seek help with merger

DETROIT, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. auto giants Chrysler and General Motors are looking for government help in financing a merger, unnamed sources close to the discussions said.

Details of the talks have remained under wraps, but sources said the companies are pointing out the size of the new company, which would command 36 percent of the U.S. auto market, and the repercussions if one or both of the companies should fail as justification for federal intervention, USA Today reported Monday.

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The newspaper said talks are pivoting on GMAC, General Motors' financial subsidiary. Cerberus Capital Management, which owns Chrysler, owns more than 50 percent of GMAC and is negotiating for 100 percent. But, General Motors is reluctant to give up its share, the newspaper said.


Report: Health of nominees tough to assess

NEW YORK, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The medical health of the two major-party U.S. presidential nominees can't be fully judged because of their refusals to release information, a physician says.

In a break from past presidential campaigns, neither U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., nor Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is willing to release their medical records, making a true assessment of their health nearly impossible, presidential health expert Dr. Lawrence Altman wrote Monday in The New York Times.

"There may be no serious problems with the health of any of the nominees. But absent fuller disclosure, there is no way for the electorate to know," Altman wrote.

Atman said even though McCain, 72, released nearly 1,200 pages of medical information in May, the documents were restricted and inconsistencies within them left unanswered questions about his melanoma cancer.

Obama, 47, has an admitted problem with smoking and is chewing nicotine gum to control it. But the only medical information his campaign had released until last week was a one-page, undated letter from his personal physician stating that Obama was in "excellent" health.

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Since then, standard lab tests from checkups in 2001, 2004 and 2007 have been released, with the findings normal, the Times said.


Iraqis slay alleged al-Qaida leader

BAGHDAD, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Iraqi military officials say they have killed an Al-Qaida In Iraq leader who was preparing to carry out a suicide bombing in Baghdad.

Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Askari said that a Saudi-born suspected al-Qaida member known as Abu Ubaida was killed in the northeastern Baghdad neighborhood of Fatimiyat, al-Sumaria said Monday.

Askari said Abu Ubaida was wearing an explosives belt and was killed before he was able to detonate it, the broadcaster reported.

Iraqi officials also reported that members of an anti-al-Qaida Sunni Arab Awakening group uncovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 11 people allegedly kidnapped by al-Qaida last year.


Man gets life for killing, eating victim

LONDON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- A British judge sentenced a former Mr. Gay winner and chef to life in prison for killing his companion, then cooking and eating a portion of flesh.

Anthony Morley, 36, of Leeds was sentenced after being convicted of killing Damian Oldfield with a knife, then cutting sections of flesh from the victim's body, The Daily Telegraph reported.

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Sentencing Judge James Stewart called the slaying "one of the most gruesome murders" he had encountered.

"Not only did you murder your victim by cutting his throat and stabbing him but you cut him up, cooked him and ate part of him," Stewart said. "Before this case I had associated cannibalism with eras long gone, with the tale of Robinson Crusoe. No longer."

After Morley killed Oldfield, Stewart said Morley "cut chunks from his body and cooked it, using your skill as a chef, with oil and herbs, sliced it as if a steak and tried to eat it."

Morley apparently didn't like the taste because he tossed it in the trash, the judge said.

During the trial, Morley said he couldn't remember killing Oldfield, the British newspaper said, denying he committed murder on the grounds of provocation or diminished responsibility.

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