WASHINGTON (AP) - In a move that could send interest rates higher, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke ended weeks of speculation Wednesday by saying the Federal Reserve will likely slow its bond-buying program this year and end it next year because the economy is strengthening. The Fed's purchases of Treasury and mortgage bonds have helped keep long-term interest rates at record lows. A pullback in its extraordinary $85 billion-a-month program would likely mean higher rates on mortgages and other consumer and business loans.
LOS ANGELES (AP) - James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of a brutal, emotionally delicate mob boss in HBO's "The Sopranos" was the brilliant core of one of TV's greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head, died Wednesday in Italy. He was 51. Gandolfini died while on holiday in Rome, the cable channel and Gandolfini's managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders said in a joint statement. No cause of death was given.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is planning a major push using executive powers to tackle the pollution blamed for global warming in an effort to make good on promises he made at the start of his second term. "We know we have to do more - and we will do more," Obama said Wednesday in Berlin. Obama's senior energy and climate adviser, Heather Zichal, said the plan would boost energy efficiency of appliances and buildings, plus expand renewable energy. She also said the Environmental Protection Agency was preparing to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Hopes dimmed for talks aimed at ending the Afghan war when an angry President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday suspended security negotiations with the U.S. and scuttled a peace delegation to the Taliban, sending American officials scrambling to preserve the possibility of dialogue with the militants. What provoked the mercurial Karzai and infuriated many other Afghans was a move by the Taliban to cast their new office in the Gulf nation of Qatar as a rival embassy. The Taliban held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday in which they hoisted their flag and a banner with the name they used while in power more than a decade ago: "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
Bipartisan proposal on student loans circulating WASHINGTON (AP) - Students applying for financial aid for the coming school year could find some comfort in a bipartisan student loan compromise taking shape in the Senate that would prevent interest rates from doubling and set a single rate each year for undergraduate students, rich or poor. Interest rates, which would be tied to the financial markets, would rise slightly to 3.8 percent for low-income students receiving new subsidized Stafford loans this year but not double as they're scheduled to do July 1. Despite the increase, the rate is still lower than the 6.8 percent students would face absent congressional action. The current rate is 3.4 percent.
WASHINGTON (AP) - After secretive talks, key senators expressed optimism Wednesday night that they were closing in on a bipartisan agreement to toughen the border security requirements in immigration legislation that also offers a path to citizenship to millions living in the country illegally. Under the emerging compromise, the government would grant legal status to immigrants living in the United States unlawfully at the same time the additional security was being put into place. Green cards, which signify permanent residency status, would be withheld until the security steps were complete.
SAO PAULO (AP) - With massive protests by middle-class Brazilians demanding wholesale government reforms, people all over this continent-sized country have reached a verdict on the streets and online: "The giant has awakened." President Dilma Rousseff has tried to placate the crowds by supporting their right to protest, and the Sao Paulo municipal government has rescinded the 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares that sparked the demonstrations in the first place. But as the protests grow even bigger, with two major marches called for Thursday, the Brazilian government seems at a loss over how to address the sweeping demands of its people.
OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Beneath a swimming pool, under a horse farm and now a weed-grown field north of Detroit. For at least the third time in a decade, FBI agents grabbed shovels and combed through dirt and mud in the search for Jimmy Hoffa's remains or clues to the disappearance of the former Teamsters boss. Once again, the search was futile.
LOS ANGELES (AP) - James Gandolfini's fans and colleagues shared reaction to his death Wednesday: - "He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. he was my partner. ... He was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain." - David Chase, creator of "The Sopranos."