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Ex-Obama Fundraiser Is Convicted of Fraud

Antoin Rezko, a once-powerful fundraiser who helped propel the career of Sen. Barack Obama, was found guilty on Wednesday by a federal jury of 16 criminal counts, including fraud, money-laundering and bribery in an influence-peddling scheme that touched the highest levels of the administration of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.

Rezko, 52, was acquitted on eight additional charges, including attempted extortion. After the verdict, he surrendered to the authorities; sentencing is Sept. 3.

While Obama’s friendship with Rezko has been debated on the campaign trail, no evidence surfaced in the courtroom to suggest that Obama was involved in any wrongdoing.

In reaction to the conviction, Obama expressed disappointment and sought to make a larger point about corruption.

In a statement, Obama said that he was “saddened” by the verdict.

“This isn’t the Tony Rezko I knew,” he said, adding that the charges against Rezko “once again shine a spotlight on the need for reform.”

“I encourage the General Assembly to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent these kinds of abuses in the future,” Obama said.

India and Malaysia Risk Voters Wrath by Raising Fuel Prices

With no end in sight for high world oil prices, India and Malaysia on Wednesday became the latest Asian countries to risk the wrath of voters by raising the price of subsidized fuel. The increases are a highly unpopular measure that could further weaken both governments already made fragile by recent electoral setbacks.

The moves follow similar price increases in recent months in Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and are a recognition by governments that they can no longer shelter their populations from the global spike in energy prices.

In India, the increase was quickly condemned by political parties from all sides. The Communist Party, allies in the coalition government, promised a week of demonstrations, including blockades of roads and trains nationwide, that were due to start Wednesday, while the main opposition party, the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, said its members would also take to the streets.

Raising fuel prices was the equivalent of “economic terrorism,” said Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a BJP spokesman, who added that the move would drive the “last nail in the coffin for the common man.” Among economists and policy makers, the decision was described as painful but necessary.