Overhaul of financial rules not much help, experts say

The most sweeping changes to financial rules since the Great Depression might not prevent another crisis.

Experts say the financial regulatory bill approved by the Senate last week, and a similar bill that passed the House, include loopholes and gaps that weaken their impact. Many provisions depend on the effectiveness of regulatory agencies – the same agencies that failed to foresee the last crisis.

A big reason for the bill’s limitations is that banks and industry groups lobbied against rules they felt would reduce their profit-making ability.

The financial sector’s influence in Washington reflects its enormous donations and lobbying. Over the past two decades, it’s given $2.3 billion to federal candidates. It’s outdone every other industry in lobbying since 1998, having spent $3.8 billion.

Plane’s black box foundafter runway crash kills 158

As crash investigators pulled the black box from the charred, twisted wreckage of an Air India plane Sunday, Koolikkunnu Krishnan marveled that he escaped the crash alive. Of the 166 passengers and crew aboard when the plane overshot a hilltop runway and plunged over a cliff at dawn Saturday, 158 were dead. Krishnan and just seven others survived.

“I’ve been thinking, ‘Why me? Why me?’ And I can only think that God wanted to give me a second life,” he said from his hospital bed in Mangalore.

Investigators and aviation officials combed through the wreckage of the Boeing 737-800 strewn across a hillside to try to determine the cause of India’s worst air disaster in more than a decade. They recovered the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, which they hope will give them important clues, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

A four-member U.S. forensic team also arrived in India to help in the investigation, said Harpreet Singh, an Air India spokeswoman.

By Sunday evening, 146 of the 158 bodies had been identified and were being turned over to grieving relatives for burial, said Arvind Jadhav, Air India’s chairman and managing director.

KABUL, Afghanistan
Taliban claims responsibility for attack at NATO base

The Taliban claimed responsibility Sunday for a nighttime assault on Kandahar Air Base that wounded a number of coalition soldiers and civilian employees at the biggest NATO base in southern Afghanistan.

Also Sunday, a government official confirmed that a three-day conference to discuss peace prospects with the Taliban has been postponed from next Saturday until June 2. It was the second delay for the conference, known as a “peace jirga,” which is expected to roll out government incentives for insurgents who agree to give up the war.

The Saturday night attack against Kandahar base was the third ground assault on a major NATO installation last week. Officials said a number of soldiers and civilians were wounded but gave no figures. They said there were no confirmed deaths among the more than 20,000 people who live and work at the base.

Militants unleashed rockets and mortars about 8 p.m. and then tried unsuccessfully to storm the northern perimeter of the base, about 300 miles southwest of Kabul. One of the rockets hit a shop-lined boardwalk where soldiers socialize in the evenings.

Shuttle Atlantis splits from space station, heads home

After a week of flying together, shuttle Atlantis undocked from a larger and virtually completed International Space Station on Sunday and headed for home on its final voyage.

“Have a safe trip back and godspeed to you,” radioed the space station’s skipper, Oleg Kotov.

Atlantis isn’t due to land until Wednesday. Today, the six crewmen will conduct one last safety inspection of their ship.

“We’ll see you all on the surface of planet Earth again soon,” Atlantis’ commander, Kenneth Ham, called out.

The two spacecraft parted company 220 miles above the Indian Ocean. Before the hatches closed between them, the commanding officers shook hands twice and laughed, then embraced. Their crewmates – representing the United States, Russia and Japan – followed suit.

State of emergency declared as violence wracks slums

Masked men torched a police station and traded gunfire with security forces in a patchwork of barricaded slums in Jamaica’s capital Sunday, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency.

Sporadic gunshots rang out in gritty West Kingston where defiant supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a Jamaican “don” sought by the U.S. on drug and arms trafficking charges, turned his Tivoli Gardens neighborhood and other areas into a virtual fortress with trashed cars and barbed wire.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force reported one wounded Sunday: a police officer hit in the hand by gunfire. According to law enforcement officials, the attacks by gangsters roaming the streets with high-powered guns and improvised weapons were unprovoked.

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