EU takes steps to unify banks, assist Greece
European officials Thursday took two more steps in their fight against the region's lingering debt crisis, agreeing to put big banks under the oversight of a single supervisor and releasing desperately needed loans for Greece to pay its mounting bills. The plan to have the European Central Bank supervise the eurozone's major financial institutions lays the foundation for a deeper "banking union" across the 17-nation currency bloc, or a harmonization of rules governing the finance sector. Officials say its stronger central oversight would help stave off future banking crises.
Fertility care for vets passes Senate
Wounded veterans and their spouses who want to have children could get the government to pay for fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization under legislation moving through Congress. By voice vote, the Senate passed a bill Thursday to update the Veterans Affairs Department's medical coverage for soldiers who suffer trauma to their reproductive organs. A similar bill is pending in the House. Supporters said the Senate action raises its chances of becoming law before Congress adjourns.
In surgery, Chavez had complications
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suffered bleeding during his cancer surgery in Cuba that required "corrective measures" to stanch the flow, his government said Thursday. But in the latest of a series of unusually frank reports about the president's delicate condition, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas also said Chavez has been making a "progressive and favorable" recovery after the complications of Tuesday's surgery.
Killed Russian was U.K. spy: lawyer
Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian agent-turned-Kremlin critic, was working for Britain's foreign intelligence agency when he was mysteriously poisoned, a lawyer representing his widow said at a hearing Thursday. Another lawyer said the U.K. has evidence the Russian government was behind Litvinenko's death. He died in November 2006 after drinking tea laced with the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210 at a London hotel. British officials are reopening the investigation. A public inquest is expected to start in May.
Man taking photo falls in smokestack
A man trying to take a photo from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel died Thursday after falling down a smokestack, authorities said. It took rescue crews four hours to remove Nicholas Wieme, 23, who had fallen 22 feet down a 6-foot-wide smokestack and was wedged where the chute angled before dropping 42 floors. A "confined space rescue" brought 30 companies and about 125 firefighters and paramedics to the scene. Rescuers lost contact with Wieme about two hours into the operation.
Mayor signs law on pedicab fares
Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Thursday a measure to restrict pedicab fares. A spokeswoman said Bloomberg decided it would create a reasonable fare system and increase protections for passengers in the tricycle taxis. The measure requires pedicab drivers to charge by the minute, with the timer clearly visible.