USA

The $700 billion government rescue program will not be used to purchase troubled assets as originally planned, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Wednesday. He said the administration is exploring other options, including possibly injecting more capital into banks on a matching basis.

Possible aid to the ailing US auto industry has received increasing attention in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she wants Congress to consider "emergency and limited financial assistance." White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the Bush administration had gone as far as it can go with the authority Congress has given it, but that the president was open to helping automakers.

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River watershed, connected more than a century ago, need to be separated to stop the transfer of some species, such as the Asian carp, the Alliance for the Great Lakes said in a study released Wednesday. The carp, which are within 50 miles of Lake Michigan, can grow to more than 4 feet long and eat all the food available to other species.

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President-elect Obama has opened the door for lobbyists, under limited conditions, to work for him. Although he campaigned against lobbyists' influence, he said Tuesday they work in his transition if they stop their advocacy efforts and avoid working in any field they lobbied on in the last year. They also must not lobby the Obama administration for a year after leaving its service.

Alaska election workers spent Wednesday counting an estimated 90,000 early, absentee, or questionable ballots that will determine if convicted US Sen. Ted Stevens (R) remains in office. Alaska always lags in such tabulations because of the difficulties in gathering the votes from far-flung communities.

If California lawmakers don't take bold action, the state will face $22 billion deficits each year from 2010 to 2014, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said Tuesday. To address the situation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed a 1-1/2 cent sales-tax increase and $4.4 billion in across-the-board spending cuts.

Connecticut finalized a judgment Wednesday that makes it the only state besides Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage. The unions were legal in California until a statewide referendum banned them last week.

In his first interview since conceding the presidential election, John McCain dismissed anonymous criticism from within his campaign of running mate Sarah Palin on NBC's "Tonight Show." "She inspired people, she still does. I couldn't be happier with Sarah Palin," he said, calling her a "great reformer."

Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants was selected the Cy Young Award winner Tuesday as the National League's best pitcher this past season by baseball writers.

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