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Mukasey given clean bill of health

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey was given a clean bill of health Friday after collapsing during a speaking engagement, the Justice Department said.

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Doctors at George Washington Medical Center "expect him to be released in the next couple of hours," department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said.

Mukasey was expected to "be back at the department" Friday afternoon, she said.

Mukasey underwent several tests, including a stress test in which doctors said "he basically beat the machine," Talamona said.

Mukasey apparently suffered a fainting spell, not a stroke or other heart-related episode, she said.

The attorney general had an "uneventful night" after being admitted to the hospital following his collapse during a speech Thursday at the Federalist Society's 2008 National Lawyers Convention dinner at a Washington hotel. Videotape aired by CNN showed Mukasey slurring his words before slumping over the podium.

President George Bush called Mukasey before leaving to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Lima, Peru.

Power was never transferred because of the medical incident, she said.

"Basically," Talamona said, "the same guy who's in charge today was in charge yesterday and the day before."

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Obama raised half-billion online

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- President-elect Barack Obama raised more than $500 million online in his 21-month campaign for the White House, aides said in an interview.

Members of Triple O, Obama's online operation, told The Washington Post in an exclusive breakdown that 3 million donors, in a total of 6.5 million donations, pledged more than $500 million as they ushered in a new digital era in presidential fundraising. The average online donation was $80.

Aides said Obama also raised millions from traditional campaign bundlers but the bulk came through the Internet.

His single biggest month of fundraising came in September when Obama amassed more than 65 percent of his record-shattering haul, $100 million of the $150 million total, from online donations, aides said.

Obama's e-mail list contains nearly 13 million addresses, aides told the Post. Over the course of the campaign, more than 7,000 messages were sent, many targeted to specific donation levels, and topping 1 billion e-mails in all.

One million people signed up for Obama's text-messaging program.


Bush signs jobless benefits extension

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A measure to extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks was signed into law Friday by U.S. President George Bush.

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The measure provides additional payments to workers who have exhausted their 13 weeks of unemployment compensation, Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.

The bill also creates a second tier of 13 weeks of compensation for people living in states with unemployment rates above 6 percent.

With the national unemployment rate at 6.5 percent, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday extending jobless benefits was "the responsible thing to do" to "help job seekers over this hump" until they find work.


Putin cuts taxes to meet crisis

MOSCOW, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, recalling financial crises of the past two decades, vowed his nation will weather the current storm, officials say.

After proposing economic remedies in a keynote address to the governing party congress in Moscow Friday, Putin announced tax cuts to spur the Russian economy and increased spending on social programs, The New York Times reported.

The Russian economy has slowed considerably with the steep fall in world oil prices and stocks in recent months.

Putin pledged to work to "prevent a repetition of the collapses of past years in our country" and avoid "the shocks of 1991 and 1998."

He was referring to the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the financial crisis of 1998, when Russia defaulted on its debt and drastically devalued the ruble.

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Putin, as president, has prided himself on bringing stability and strong growth to the country.


Report: CIA held back plane downing info

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The CIA withheld critical information about agents' possible criminal behavior in the 2001 downing of a missionary plane in Peru, an internal probe revealed.

The report by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general could prompt the U.S. Justice Department to reopen its investigation into the incident, focusing on whether senior CIA officials obstructed justice or lied to Congress about the matter, The New York Times reported Friday.

In 2001, a CIA surveillance aircraft wrongly identified the small plane as a drug smuggling aircraft, and a Peruvian military jet shot it down, killing an American missionary and her 7-month-old daughter. The Justice Department declined to prosecute agency officials and closed its investigation in 2005.

John Helgerson's report, completed in August and partially released Thursday, said Justice Department investigators and Congress were denied access to internal reviews. The report said the spy agency often authorized interceptions of suspected drug planes "without adequate safeguards to protect against the loss of innocent life" in its drug battle in Peru, the Times said.

"This is about as ugly as it gets," said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, D-Mich., the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who released unclassified portions of the report. The missionary family aboard the aircraft were from Hoekstra's district. The woman's husband, James Bowers, and their son survived the crash, along with the pilot.

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CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said Helgerson's report was delivered to the Justice Department, and that CIA Director Hayden hasn't decided what actions to take.


Fiery meteorite wows Western Canada

EDMONTON, Alberta, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- An intensely bright and colorful meteorite lit up the skies over the western Canadian province of Alberta and sparked hundreds of emergency calls to police.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and local forces all began receiving calls around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and some reports were called in from Manitoba to the east, the Edmonton Sun reported

Various people described the object as orange, green, yellow, purple or blue, the Edmonton Journal said.

Farmer Marcellin Gobeil told the Sun there wasn't just a visual display in the dark sky.

"I did hear a boom," he said. "It came down pretty fast, but it lasted a long time, a lot longer than I've ever seen it."

Chris Herd, an associate professor in the University of Alberta's department of earth and atmospheric sciences and curator of the university's meteorite collection, told the newspaper he hoped someone would find an impact site.

"The question now that remains is whether anything made it to the ground," Herd said. "This thing was so bright it indicates that it's a pretty good-sized piece of space rock."

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