NATION IN BRIEF: Congress passes big overhaul of financial system

Photo by Alex Brandon

Photo by Alex Brandon

Congress passes big overhaul of financial system

WASHINGTON -- Congress on Thursday passed the stiffest restrictions on banks and Wall Street since the Great Depression, clamping down on lending practices and expanding consumer protections to prevent a repeat of the 2008 meltdown that knocked the economy to its knees.

A year in the making and 22 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a worldwide panic in credit and other markets, the bill cleared its final hurdle with a 60-39 Senate vote. It now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature, expected as early as Wednesday.

The law will give the government new powers to break up companies that threaten the economy, create a new agency to guard consumers in their financial transactions and shine a light into shadow financial markets that escaped the oversight of regulators. The vote came on the same day that Goldman Sachs & Co. agreed to pay a record $550 million to settle charges that it misled buyers of mortgage-related investments.

State, BLM move to block auction of Grand Teton

RAWLINS, Wyo. -- Wyoming and federal officials expect to draft proposals soon to prevent the auction of two square miles of state land inside Grand Teton National Park.

Wyoming has tried for years to get the federal government to buy or trade mineral rights or royalties for the land. Recently, Gov. Dave Freudenthal threatened to auction off the land if an agreement can't be reached.

Freudenthal and the director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Bob Abbey, said Wednesday they expect state and federal officials to agree to specific proposals within a month.

The ideas would then go before Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Congress.

Homes lost to foreclosure on way to 1M in 2010

LOS ANGELES -- Rosalyn Dalebout rents out space in her home to three tenants, has cut off her phone service and canceled her earthquake and life insurance -- all to pay her mortgage every month.

So far, she's one of the lucky ones.

More than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year, as lenders work their way through a huge backlog of borrowers who have fallen behind on their loans.

Nearly 528,000 homes were taken over by lenders in the first six months of the year. If foreclosures continue at that rate, the yearly number would eclipse the more than 900,000 homes repossessed in 2009, RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing service, said Thursday.

Obama touts jobs at Mich. battery plant

HOLLAND, Mich. -- Searching for an economic success story that can resonate with the public, President Barack Obama put his hopes Thursday in the fledgling electric vehicle battery industry, a sector with a promising but uncertain future.

Obama's quick trip to Michigan underscored the White House's efforts to spur job creation with the help of public money. Speaking at a muddy construction site where work will soon begin on a plant producing batteries for Chevrolet and Ford electric cars, Obama said U.S. manufacturing is poised for a comeback.

''When you buy one of these vehicles, the battery could be stamped ''Made in America'' -- just like the car,'' he said.

3 counselors at camp for disabled die in crash

ROOSEVELT, N.Y. -- A car carrying counselors to work at a camp for the disabled crashed into a tree alongside a Long Island parkway Thursday, killing three, injuring two others and overwhelming campers who possessed varying abilities to process the tragedy.

The counselors were driving on the Meadowbrook Parkway en route to Camp Anchor, a town-run seaside camp for about 600 adults and children with disabilities ranging from quadriplegia to autism to Down syndrome, said Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray. Two of the victims were sisters.

Ariz. immigration law hearing ends with no ruling

PHOENIX -- Arizona's impending immigration law went before a federal judge for the first time Thursday, and attorneys for both sides sparred over who had the right to enforce immigration law: local officials or the federal government.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton didn't rule on whether to block the law from taking effect July 29, or whether to dismiss the lawsuit, one of seven. Hearings in two other lawsuits -- including one filed by the federal government -- are set for July 22, and the judge has been careful to give no hints on who she might favor.