Washington

After locking up GOP race, McCain gets Bush’s backing

John McCain got a White House embrace from President Bush yesterday, along with the party perks that go with sewing up the Republican nomination. The endorsement has baggage, though, reminding voters of the drawn-out Iraq war and the nation’s economic woes under an unpopular GOP president.

Bush, who defeated McCain in a bitter 2000 primary campaign before winning the presidency, said the Arizona senator’s “incredible courage and strength of character and perseverance” carried him to the nomination this time.

Those characteristics, Bush said, are what the nation needs in a president: “somebody that can handle the tough decisions, somebody who won’t flinch in the face of danger.”

Jerusalem

Rice convinces Palestine to resume talks with Israel

The moderate Palestinian leadership agreed under heavy U.S. pressure yesterday to resume peace talks with Israel, dropping a demand that Israel first reach a truce with Islamic Hamas militants acting as spoilers.

The announcement gave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a modest accomplishment for a brief troubleshooting mission. It left open the question of how both sides will eventually confront Hamas militants in charge of the 1.4 million Palestinians – nearly half the population – living in the sealed-off Gaza Strip.

“The peace process is a strategic choice and we have the intention of resuming the peace process,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said. He did not say when talks would restart, but U.S. and other officials predicted it would be in about a week.

Lansing

Michigan’s jobless rate drops in December

Michigan’s unemployment rate improved in January.

The state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 7.1 percent, or three-tenths of a percentage point from 7.4 percent.

December’s rate originally was higher but was revised downward, state officials said yesterday. Michigan’s December rate was the highest in the nation. The national jobless rate in January was 4.9 percent.

State officials say January was a relatively stable month for the labor market. Total employment rose by 33,000 and unemployment fell by 19,000.

FBI admits to improperly accessing records

The FBI acknowledged yesterday it improperly accessed Americans’ telephone records, credit reports and Internet traffic in 2006, the fourth straight year of privacy abuses resulting from investigations aimed at tracking terrorists and spies.

The breach occurred before the FBI enacted broad new reforms in March 2007 to prevent future lapses, FBI Director Robert Mueller said. And it was caused, in part, by banks, telecommunication companies and other private businesses giving the FBI more personal client data than was requested.

An audit by the inspector general last year found the FBI demanded personal records without official authorization or otherwise collected more data than allowed in dozens of cases between 2003 and 2005.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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