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    Rebecca Stefansky

    by Rebecca Stefansky

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    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he opposes President Barack Obama's proposal for legislation letting Congress vote quick approval of trade deals with other countries. A day earlier, Obama used his State of the Union address to urge lawmakers to approve such a measure, which would prevent lawmakers from amending treaties. The president says increasing trade with Europe and Asia will boost sales of U.S. products and protect American jobs. Many Democrats join with labor unions in opposing lowered trade barriers, which they worry will cost jobs due to increased competition.
    President Barack Obama's renewed pitch for legislation to wind down mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is unlikely to break a political log-jam that threatens to put the goal out of reach - at least while he's in office. Obama made the case in his State of the Union address on Tuesday for reforms that would make the mortgage market rely less on the government, but many in Congress fear revamping the decades old system could undermine access to the long-term, fixed-rate loans that are a cornerstone of the housing sector.
    Syrian peace talk negotiators say after days of deadlock and dispute, discussions appeared to inch forward on Wednesday, when the subject of a transitional government was discussed for the first time. But the senior United Nations diplomat mediating the talks said both sides remained far apart. Lakhdar Brahimi, the special envoy for Syria, told reporters on Wednesday that he expected little progress in the final few days of talks, and that negotiators would decide before the conclusion on Friday when the next round would take place.
    Tunisia's new caretaker government formally took office on Wednesday, replacing the Islamist party which came to power after a 2011 uprising but stepped down in a deal intended to help the country embrace democracy. Former premier Ali Larayedh, an Islamist who spent years in prison under Ben Ali, formally handed over to Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, a technocrat who asked for support to bring stability to the country that started the Arab Spring. In a transition widely praised as a model, the ruling Islamist party Ennahda and its secular opposition set aside differences to allow Jomaa's caretaker government to lead until the elections.‮‮‮‮ ‬‬‬‬‬‬