2 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 15, 2005
House passes bankruptcy reform NEws INrBRIEF
WASHINGTON (AP) - Tens of thousands of
people who want to wipe out their debts in bankruptcy
court would have to work out repayment plans instead
under legislation Congress approved yesterday.
A 302-126 vote by the House sent the legislation to
President Bush, who is eager to sign the biggest rewrite
of the bankruptcy code in a quarter-century. It marks
the second major change in law to benefit business since
Republicans increased their House and Senate majori-
ties in last fall's elections.
Debate in the House was acrimonious as Democratic
opponents warned that the measure would hurt the eco-
After eight years of strenuous efforts by congres-
sional backers, banks and credit card companies, the
legislation was catapulted toward enactment starting
earlier this year. The legislation, which garnered some
Democratic votes, cleared the Senate last month on a
The measure would require people with incomes
above a certain level to pay credit-card charges, medi-
cal bills and other obligations under a court-ordered
Opponents say the change would fall especially
hard on low-income working people, single mothers,
minorities and the elderly and would remove a safety
net for those who have lost their jobs or face crushing
The legislation "protects the credit industry at the
expense of the consumer," Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.)
declared in House debate. "It will drive more Ameri-
cans deeper into financial crisis and weaken the nation's
economy and social structure."
But backers in Congress and the financial services
industry argue that bankruptcy frequently is the last
refuge of gamblers, impulsive shoppers, divorced or
separated fathers avoiding child support, and multi-
millionaires - often celebrities - who buy mansions
in states with liberal homestead exemptions to shelter
assets from creditors.
Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) said the legislation
would save American families an average $400 a year
in higher interest rates now charged to consumers to
recoup losses from those who abuse bankruptcy pro-
In a bitter scene on the House floor, Democrats -
most of whom opposed the legislation - used an array
of parliamentary maneuvers to delay the final vote,
forcing an unsuccessful roll call vote on adjourning the
session and lining up one by one to register their objec-
tions in brief, biting statements.
Democrats were furious that the GOP leadership
allowed none of the 35 amendments they had proposed
earlier to be voted on. They particularly wanted pro-
visions that would exempt from the new bankruptcy
requirements military personnel returning from Iraq
and Afghanistan, and people whose indebtedness is the
result of financial identity theft.
Between 30,000 and 210,000 people - from 3.5 per-
cent to 20 percent of those who dissolve their debts in
bankruptcy each year in exchange for forfeiting some
assets - would be disqualified from doing so under
the legislation, according to the American Bankruptcy
Taking effect six months from enactment, the mea-
sure would set up an income-based test for measuring
a debtor's ability to repay debts. Those with insufficient
assets or income could still file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy,
which, if approved by a judge, erases debts entirely after
certain assets are forfeited. Those with income above
the state's median income who can pay at least $6,000
over five years - $100 a month - would be forced into
Chapter 13, where a judge would then order a repay-
The legislation also would require people in bank-
ruptcy to pay for credit counseling.
Underscoring the issue's political sensitivity, the lib-
eral group MoveOn was beginning a campaign of radio
ads this week against House lawmakers of both parties
who support the legislation.
"We're going to call the Republican agenda what it
truly is: a war on the middle class," said Tom Matzzie,
the Washington director of MoveOn's political action
Car bombing kills
18 in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Two car
bombs ripped through a crowded street
in front of the Interior Ministry in central
Baghdad yesterday, killing 18 people and
wounding three dozen others. Al-Qaida
in Iraq said it carried out the attack, the
bloodiest in more than a month.
In a statement posted on the Internet,
the group, headed by Jordanian-born
militant Abu Musab al-Zargawi, said the
attack targeted a patrol outside the office
of Interior Minister Falah al-Nagib, who is
in charge of the nation's police. The claim
could not be independently verified.
Al-Nagib was in his office at the time
of the explosions, but was not injured.
He came out afterward to examine the
scorched road and blackened rubble left
by the blast. The ministry building, built
by Saddam Hussein's government to sur-
vive major attacks, was not damaged.
Meanwhile, a new video broadcast on
al-Jazeera television showed a man who
identified himself as a Pakistani diplomat
kidnapped last weekend in Baghdad. The
Arab satellite station said the man, who
was wearing a white skull cap, urged the
Pakistani government and international
community to intervene and secure his
The station said the kidnappers,
identified as being from the previously
unknown group Amuriya Brigade, made
no demands for his release.
Malik Mohammed Javed, deputy
charge d'affaires at the Pakistani mis-
sion in Baghdad, was last seen Saturday
leaving his home for prayers at a mosque.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry earlier
said the Omar bin Khattab group claimed
responsibility and demanded money for
his release. The video broadcast yester-
day couldn't be independently verified
and the discrepancy between the groups'
names couldn't be explained.
The death toll from yesterday's car
bombs was the highest from an explosion
since March 10, when a suicide bomber
blew himself up at a Shiite mosque dur-
ing a funeral, killing 47 people.
The force of yesterday's attack threw
people to the ground and sent thick black
smoke billowing over the city.
Ali Ahmed, 28, said he was selling ice
cream when he heard an explosion, fol-
lowed by gunfire and another explosion.
"My stall was partially destroyed
because of this terrorist act," he said.
"Some people have lost their lives. As
for me, I have now lost my source of
Abdullah Hussein Zamel was clean-
ing tables at a restaurant near the heavily
fortified Green Zone when the blast shat-
tered the windows.
"I went outside and saw dead and
injured people," he, said. "After .that, I
heard police open heavy fire on a second
Panicked students from a nearby sec-
ondary school and university gathered in
the street, some weeping.
FBI was slow to act on Nichols tip
The FBI initially dismissed a tip that convicted bomber Terry Nichols had hid-
den explosives and they might be used for an attack this month coinciding with the
anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.
While the FBI has found no evidence supporting the idea that an attack is
in the works for the April 19 tenth anniversary, the information that explo-
sives had been hidden in Nichols's former home in Herington, Kan., turned
out to be true.
The tip came from imprisoned mobster Gregory Scarpa, 53, a law enforce-
ment official said this week. Scarps is an inmate in the same maximum-secu-
rity federal prison in Florence, Colo., where Nichols is serving life sentences
for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah federal building that
killed 168 people.
Timothy McVeigh was convicted of federal conspiracy and murder charges in
the bombing and executed in 2001.
Scarpa learned about the explosives from Nichols, mainly through notes
passed between them, said Stephen Dresch, a Michigan man who is Scarpa's
Four indicted for oil-for-food corruption
Four more people were charged yesterday in the scandal surrounding the U.N.
oil-for-food program, including a Texas oil executive and a South Korean business-
man who was at the center of a 1970s corruption case involving Congress.
The indictment also suggested that money skimmed from the oil program might
have ended up in the hands of two U.N. officials. Their names were not released.
The oil-for-food program was created in 1996 to help Iraqis cope with a U.N.
embargo imposed on Saddam Hussein's regime. The program let Saddam's govern-
ment sell oil, provided the proceeds were used to buy food and medicine for Iraqis.
But authorities allege that the program was rife with corruption.
U.S. Attorney David Kelley called the new charges "two more pieces in the oil-
for-food puzzle" and said the investigation is not over.
"We're going to wring the towel dry," he said.
One of the indictments announced yesterday charges a Texas oil company
owner and two oil traders with paying millions in secret kickbacks to Saddam's
regime to secure oil deals, thus cheating the program out of money for humani-
Virus outbreak forces extreme precautions
Fearful of a deadly virus that has killed at least 210 people, inhabitants of
this northern Angolan town have given up their tradition of greeting friends and
acquaintances with a hug.
Instead, they tap right legs - avoiding all skin contact - a new custom devised
to help check the spread of the Marburg virus, which is passed by contact with
bodily fluids and has no known cure.
An elderly woman visiting Uige's main market yesterday, where there was plenty
of produce but few shoppers, said she had little hope of surviving the outbreak.
"We don't know if (the virus) was sent by God or the devil, but we're help-
less either way," she told The Associated Press, conveying the deep sense of
Motorcycle bomber destroys bazaar
An explosion apparently set off by a bomber on a motorcycle hit a tour group
shopping in a historic bazaar yesterday, killing at least two people and wounding
20 - the first attack targeting foreign tourists in the Egyptian capital in more than
The dead included a French woman, and 1'1 Egyptians and nine foreigners were
wounded, said Brig. Gen. Nabil al-Azabi, head of security in Cairo. He said the
second person killed may have been the bomber.
Many of the wounded had severe wounds from nails packed in the bomb, doc-
tors said. Among the wounded foreigners-were three-A4pe4icans, four-Freachrand
a Turk, the Interior Ministry said.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports
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A car bomb explodes, detonated by U.S. troops after it was discov-
ered at the scene of the double car bombing in Baghdad Thursday.
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