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News Briefs

Russia Hails New ‘Market-Economy’

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MOSCOW

Russia welcomed the news Thursday that the United States has designated it a “market economy,” a move that should help Russian exports and ease the country’s entrance to the World Trade Organization.

“This is of principal importance for moving Russian goods into American markets,” said German O. Gref, Russia’s minister of economic development and President Vladimir V. Putin’s economic guru.

“We will be getting the same possibilities to protect our rights in the United States as any other U.S. trade partner,” he said on Russian television.

Putin learned of the decision from President Bush, who phoned him Thursday afternoon.

According to Gref, the lack of free-market status had allowed U.S. regulators to impose tariffs and other sanctions without Moscow being fully able to defend itself because Russia was considered a state-controlled economy. The change will especially affect the nation’s steel and chemical fertilizer industries, he said.

Senate Puts Anti-Terror Bill On Track for Approval

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

The Senate cleared the way Thursday for approval of more in anti-terror spending this year after rejecting a series of proposals to strip out specific projects and bring the measure more in line with President Bush’s less costly request.

After several days of partisan squabbling over the bill, the Senate voted 87-10 to limit debate and put the legislation on track for approval by the week’s end.

The new spending, which comes on top of substantial increases in counter-terrorism funding for this year, includes $14 billion for military operations, $5.8 billion for domestic security and $5.5 billion to help New York recover from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It’s designed to cover any increase in governmental costs for the remaining four months of the 2002 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Funds are targeted for a wide array of activities, including increased security for airports, seaports, nuclear facilities, food supplies and water systems, and to assist local law enforcement, firefighting and medical response efforts.

NYSE Proposes New Rules To Restore Investor Confidence

THE WASHINGTON POST -- NEW YORK

The New York Stock Exchange on Thursday proposed a comprehensive set of new rules for its 2,800 listed companies intended to improve corporate governance following the collapse of Enron Corp. and other recent scandals that have shaken investor confidence.

The rules would require that companies listed on the exchange maintain corporate boards that include a majority of independent directors -- people who have no material relationship with the firm. They would require that board audit and compensation committees consist entirely of independent directors, and that the audit committee be responsible for hiring and firing a company’s outside auditing firm.

Another provision, requiring listed companies to allow shareholders to vote on any stock option compensation plan, is already being criticized by some corporate lobbyists.

In announcing the proposed rules, exchange chairman Dick Grasso said they’d help reassure anxious investors who have fled the market in droves. “There are periodic moments of madness,” he said of the current rash of scandals and major bankruptcy filings. “But bad people and bad practices will be rid from the system.”