In other news Friday, more than 100 people died in Southern Sudan after a breakaway group ended a cease-fire and carried out attacks in two towns. Southern Sudan will become an independent nation in July. In Pakistan, an American diplomat was charged with murder in connection with the shooting deaths of to Pakistanis in Lahore.
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More than 100 people have died in the last two days of fighting in Southern Sudan, a military spokesman confirmed today. The casualties came when a breakaway militia faction ended a cease-fire Wednesday and carried out attacks in two towns. No new fighting was reported today. Southern Sudan will become an independent nation in July.
In Pakistan, police charged, an American Embassy employee detained there committed cold-blooded murder. Raymond Allen Davis is in custody for shooting two Pakistanis last month in Lahore. He said they were trying to rob him. A Pakistani judge today extended his detention by two weeks, despite U.S. claims that he has diplomatic immunity.
A new protest against releasing Davis erupted today in Karachi. Hundreds of Islamist demonstrators took to the streets, calling for him to be hanged.
The Obama administration today laid out ways to get the government out of the mortgage market. They included eliminating the federal role in housing, except for the Federal Housing Administration, a federal guarantee of mortgages only when the market is in trouble, or offering government mortgage insurance that kicks in only when private insurers cannot pay.
The proposals come after the federally-backed mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be bailed out, costing $150 billion.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner summed up the challenge.
U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER:
We need to wind down Fannie and Freddie and substantially reduce the government's footprint in the housing market.
And that's a process that has to happen gradually, because they are now the dominant source of housing finance. And we want to be careful that that process happen in a way that doesn't interfere with or impede the process of repairing the housing market that still has a long way to go.
Many Republicans want to abolish Fannie and Freddie. They blame the companies for fostering reckless lending that triggered the financial meltdown in 2008.
Texas Congressman Randy Neugebauer:
REP. RANDY NEUGEBAUER (R-Texas):
The American taxpayers are tired of bailing out all of these entities. They're ready for Congress to take quick action on Freddie and Fannie and begin to show them a plan of how we are going to get the taxpayers off the hook and, at the same token, not having Americans making other Americans' house payments.
And, so, the quicker we can get the private markets active again, I think the quicker the solutions for Freddie and Fannie will become very – more clear.
Experts say, in the end, reducing the government's role in housing could mean higher interest rates and greater costs for borrowers.
Wall Street rallied today on the news from Egypt. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 44 points, to close at 12,273. The Nasdaq rose almost 19 points to close at 2,809. For the week, the Dow and the Nasdaq gained about 1.5 percent.
And oil prices slipped back under $86 a barrel today, as the events in Egypt raised hopes for stability in the Middle East.
Those are some of the day's major stories.