USA

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled to the Senate Banking Committee Thursday that the central bank is prepared to keep on lowering a key intereste rate to address a deteriorating economic outlook. Meanwhile, in an encouraging development, the Commerce Department reported that the US trade deficit fell 6.2 percent in 2007 to $711.6 billion after setting records for five straight years.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people in more than 500 trailer and mobile homes used for emergency housing in Louisiana and Mississippi should be evacuated as soon as possible because of high levels of formaldehyde fumes. The units were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Justice Department for the first time publicly said Wednesday that waterboarding "under any circumstances" has been dropped as a legal interrogation technique since being used on three terror suspects.

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The third and final spacewalk of astronauts aboard the linked shuttle-station complex is scheduled for Friday to attach a pair of science experiments to the outside of Europe's new Columbus lab. Atlantis will remain at the International Space Station until Monday, NASA said, with touchdown now set for Feb. 20.

Looking to surmount wartime recruiting challenges, the US Army has introduced a program of graduated incentives that makes enlistees who serve for five years eligible for up to $40,000 toward a home or a start-up business upon completing their commitment. The pilot program, which offers lesser amounts for shorter stints, is being tested for the next six to nine months in a handful of cities.

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a way to generate small amounts of electrical power via the natural stretching of clothing fabric, according to Thursday's edition of the journal Nature. The technology uses microscopic wires covering individual fibers to achieve the piezoelectric effect, in which electricity is generated when pressure is applied to certain materials.

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