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The Daily Need

Wednesday morning round-up


Former President Jimmy Carter will fly to North Korea in the next several days to seek the release of an American imprisoned there for illegally entering the country, South Korean media and Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday. The State Department would neither confirm nor deny the reports, but hinted that such a mission would be a “humanitarian” one, and that Carter would go as a private citizen. The U.S. has already sent a secret team of negotiators to Pyongyang to secure the release of the American, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, but made little progress.


The Obama administration said on Tuesday that it would appeal a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block funding for embryonic stem cell research. The administration set new guidelines allowing the research last year, but U.S. District Judge Roy Lamberth said two plaintiffs who had sued to scrap the rules could move forward with their suit, and ordered a temporary injunction. The leader of the National Institues of Health said he was “stunned” by the ruling. But the judge in the case is apparently no stranger to controversy.


Housing sales plummeted to their lowest point in a decade last month, sending ripples of worry through the stock market and stoking fears of a double dip recession. Home sales in July fell a staggering 27% from the previous month, due in large part to the end of a popular government stimulus program that provided tax credits for homebuyers. In its report on the figures, however, the National Association of Realtors pointed out a bright spot: existing home prices actually rose slightly. But others warn that the drop in housing sales simply presages a drop in home prices.


The dire predictions of oil companies who opposed the Obama administration’s temporary moratorium on offshore drilling after the oil spill in the Gulf seem not to have come true after all. Even the government’s own predictions of the costs of temporarily banning drilling — the loss of 23,000 jobs and $10.2 billion in revenue — now seem overly pessimistic. Meanwhile, the environmental toll of the spill remains uncertain. But there are at least small causes for optimism: An oil-gobbling microbe seems to have helped cleaned up the oil in the Gulf at a faster rate than expected.


“The Hurt Locker” is coming to television. The cable channel G4 has ordered ten episodes of a new reality show inspired by the Academy Award-winning film. The show, called “Bomb Squad: Afghanistan,” will follow a Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit as it trains in the U.S. and deploys to Afghanistan. “This is a rare opportunity to showcase the work of the courageous men and women on the front lines and share with our viewers all the real-life drama, teamwork, danger and triumph that goes along with this specialized job,” G4 President Neal Tiles told The Hollywood Reporter.


Rick Scott, a millionaire former health executive who faced scrutiny over payments his company had made to settle Medicare fraud charges, won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Florida Tuesday evening, besting the state’s attorney general, Bill McCollum, and surprising observers. Scott invested $39 million into his campaign and pummeled McCollum with attack ads. Overall, the primaries on Tuesday delivered a mixed result for wealthy, self-financed candidates. A Democratic billionaire lost his bid for the party’s Senate nomination in Florida. He was defeated by Rep. Kendrick Meek, who will now face independent Gov. Charlie Christ and the Republican nominee, Marco Rubio, in November.