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Friday: Ground Zero Workers Reach Settlement; Obama to Delay Asia Trip

New York City fireman at Ground Zero

More than 10,000 Ground Zero rescue workers made ill by dust and other contaminants left by the collapse of the World Trade Center could receive as much as $657.5 million in damages under a settlement reached with the city of New York on Thursday.

The bulk of the payouts would come from a $1 billion grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If both sides agree to the deal, which still needs the approval of a judge and the workers themselves, it would conclude a years-long legal battle that as the New York Times notes, “has pitted angry victims against city officials, who questioned the validity of some claims and argued that the city should be immune from liability.”

In a statement, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the settlement “a fair and reasonable resolution to a complex set of circumstances.”

Obama Will Delay Overseas Trip to Work on Health Care

President Barack Obama will delay his trip to Asia next week to focus on completing a deal on health care reform, the Associated Press is reporting.

The president had been scheduled to leave for Indonesia, Guam and Australia on March 18, but will instead depart on March 24.

We’ll have more on the president’s decision later.

Report: Lehman Misled Auditors, Engaged in ‘Manipulation’

A blistering report from a U.S. bankruptcy court has concluded Lehman Bros. made regular use of “materially misleading” accounting gimmicks that ultimately led to its own collapse and sparked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

According to the 2,200 page report, Lehman executives not only chose to “disregard or overrule the firm’s risk controls on a regular basis,” but also engaged in “actionable balance sheet manipulation” and “nonculpable errors of business judgment.”

Suicide Bombers Kill 39 in Pakistan

A pair of suicide bombers in Lahore, Pakistan, have killed at least 39 people and wounded another 95. The twin blasts, which occurred within seconds of one another, took place near Pakistani army and security agency offices in a bustling residential and shopping district.

Friday’s bombing is just the latest in a stepped up campaign by militants in Pakistan in recent months. “It is a clear statement from the militants who are under threat from Pakistani troops massing on the Waziristan border – they are alive and well and can strike back,” according to BBC correspondent Syed Shoaib Hasan.

50 Dead in Somali Clashes

The mayor Mogadishu on Friday warned residents to flee the Somali capital as fighting between rebels and government troops entered a third day. Officials say at least 50 people have been killed and nearly 150 more wounded by the violence, the worst in nearly a year.

Israel Seals Off West Bank

Israel has sealed off the West Bank for 48 hours in an attempt to quell heightening unrest with Palestinians in recent weeks, following Jerusalem’s decision to include two West Bank shrines on a list of national heritage sites.

Separately on Friday, Israel moved to revamp its planning of sensitive political decisions following the diplomatic flap over the building of 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem announced this week during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden. The change would require a representative from the prime minister’s office to be involved in the approval process of any new settlements.

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