The head of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve are planning the biggest financial bailout in United States history, senior aides in Congress reported Thursday. The plan, which is likely to authorize the government to buy distressed mortgages from banks and other institutions at enormous discounts, comes as a response to what Treasury officials call the worst financial crisis they have ever seen. Lawmakers hope to complete the legislation before Congress adjourns next week.

According to an aggregate of various polls, Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Barack Obama has regained a slim lead in national surveys over his opponent, Republican candidate and U.S. Senator John McCain. Obama trailed McCain for two weeks after the Republican convention, following a speech by vice-presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin that many perceived to have energized the party’s base. McCain still retains his lead in several key swing states, among them Ohio and Florida.

Grammy-winning songwriter, producer and arranger Norman Whitfield, who became famous for writing the Motown classics “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” died on Tuesday of kidney and heart failure. In his lifetime, he wrote and released over 450 songs, many of them recorded by such musical luminaries as Bruce Springsteen and The Temptations. In 2004, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The I-35W bridge reopened in Minneapolis on Thursday, a little more than a year after it collapsed over the Mississippi River. The new bridge opens with a long list of added safety features, including sensors, which measure how the bridge handles loads, and cameras, which record data on traffic flow. Legislators say that its construction, which finished at a time when budgetary earmarks dominated general election coverage, deserves plaudits for its efficiency.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged to a 410-point gain on Thursday, nearly erasing the 449-point loss on Wednesday that sent shockwaves of panic across Wall Street. The gain reflected a series of protective actions, among them a tightening of loans and an increased reliance on Treasury bills, that investors have taken in the wake of the credit crisis. Many analysts also cited to the prospect of federal action as an important spur for the economy.

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