Congress Works on Stimulus Package

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Among the latest headlines, lawmakers in Washington stayed up late hammering out the details of a possible plan to jump-start the faltering economy. Proposals include a tax rebate of at least $350 for every wage earner.

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

(Soundbite of music)


Thanks, Alison. Good morning, everyone.

Negotiators for both parties in Congress and the White House had a late night last night trying to hammer out details of a possible economic stimulus package. Both sides ended up making some concessions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to drop increases in food stamp and unemployment benefits in exchange for securing a rebate of at least $300 for every person who earns a paycheck, including low-income earners who make too little to pay income taxes.

Under the tentative plan, families would receive an additional of 300 bucks per child, with a cap of $1,200. There's still an agreement on what kind of tax break businesses should get.

More details about the stimulus package are expected to emerge today.

There's a new peace deal in Congo. Now, whether or not it will bring peace is an entirely different issue. Warring rebels and militias in eastern Democratic - oh, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo signed a cease-fire deal yesterday. It's an effort to end the conflict that's been at the center of the world's most deadly humanitarian disaster.

The peace pact was signed by Tutsi rebels loyal to General Lauren Nkunda and the government of President Joseph Kabila and several militia groups as well. Foreign observers praised the deal, but did so skeptically. Congo has seen such cease-fire agreements before, and they are never fully implemented.

Contractors who oversaw design and construction of Boston's Big Dig highway project have agreed to pay more than $450 million. Why would they do such a thing, you ask? To settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts.

NPR's Tovia Smith has details.

TOVIA SMITH: After years of cost overruns, delays and troubles, like massive water leaks and falling rocks, the $15-billion Big Dig hit a new low two years ago when a concrete tunnel ceiling collapsed and killed a passing motorist. Attorney General Martha Coakley blames Bechtel-Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium hired to oversee design and construction.

Attorney General MARTHA COAKLEY (State of Massachusetts): There was sloppiness and lack of oversight. And in terms of the ceiling tunnel collapse, they've acknowledged that they failed to do things.

SMITH: The settlement allows the firms to avoid criminal charges. Firm officials say they take responsibility for their work, and quote, "Deeply regret the tragic death of Milena Del Valle." The firms are still facing civil suits from Del Valle's family.

MARTIN: NPR's Tovia Smith.

And everyone wants a piece of the social networking pie, even Auntie Beeb, it looks like. Reports say the commercial arm of the British Broadcasting Corporation, you know it as the BBC, will be partnering up with MySpace. The announcement is expected today under the deal the Beeb will make some of its content available on MySpace in an effort to broaden its audience in younger demographics.

The BBC content will be available anywhere in the world on MySpace's 23 regional sites. MySpace, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, says this will be its first global agreement with a major broadcaster.

That is the news. It is always online at

WOLFF: This is NPR.

MARTIN: Alison and Toure.

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