USA

Bank of America injected $2 billion into bedeviled US mortgage lender Countrywide. The bank's investment to help Countrywide Financial Corp. shore up its finances lifted shares of financial and mortgage companies, which have felt the brunt of recent credit market turmoil.

Fewer people signed up for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that businesses aren't cutting back their workforces amid a soft housing market and the woes of subprime lenders. The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications filed for unemployment insurance dropped by 2,000 to 322,000 for the week ending Aug. 18.

British Airways pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of conspiracy and was fined $300 million for conspiring with Virgin Atlantic over fuel surcharges on international flights.

The federal deficit for 2007 will be slightly lower than it was a year ago "but the budget outlook for the long term remains daunting," the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday. Higher-than-expected tax revenues are cited for the improved numbers.

In an effort to uncover possible links to terror organizations, the United States plans to screen thousands of individuals working for aid organizations that receive funds from the US Agency for International Development, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The program requires for the first time that nongovernmental organizations file information on key employees who apply for or manage funds distributed by the US aid agency.

A US Army major and two of his family members, accused of accepting bribes from Defense Department contractors in 2004 and 2005, were indicted Wednesday in federal court. Maj. John Cockerham, a contract officer, and his wife, Melissa Cockerham, are charged in connection with taking at least $9.6 million in bribes while Cockerham was stationed in Kuwait and handling contracts for Defense Department services, including bottled water for military personnel in Kuwait and Iraq.

Parents topped the list of heroes for young people, according to a recent survey by the Associated Press and MTV. Twenty-nine percent chose their mothers as their heroes, 21 percent named their fathers, and 16 percent picked their parents without specifying which one. Permitted to choose as many heroes as they'd like, almost half mentioned at least one of their parents.

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