By John Whitesides WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eight months before the November 4 elections, Republicans have expanded the number of competitive races for U.S. Senate seats and have a growing chance of gaining control of that chamber and stalling Democratic President Barack Obama's second-term agenda. Public dissatisfaction with the president, concerns about his healthcare overhaul and a sluggish economy, and a series of retirements by key Democratic senators in conservative states have made a rugged year for Democrats even more so, analysts and strategists in both parties say. Republicans, who are widely expected to retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, need a net gain of six seats to take back the 100-member Senate. Although the primary season is just starting and the candidates in many races are not set, polls suggest Republicans have boosted their odds of gaining additional Senate seats by becoming competitive in politically divided states such as Michigan and Colorado, where a year ago they were given little chance of winning.
The economy may have created 175,000 jobs in February, according to the Labor Department, but at the same time, an additional 203,000 people joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed, having been out of work for 27 weeks or more. This means that they are not just jobless, but that the vast majority of them have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits. The likelihood of the long-term unemployed seeing any relief soon dimmed Friday, when an aide to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that none of the options to renew a federal extension of unemployment benefits being considered by the Senate – even a new proposal being advanced by Republicans – would be acceptable to the Speaker. Last week, an aide to Boehner told The Fiscal Times, “The Speaker has said multiple times that he’s open to discussing an extension of emergency unemployment benefits as long as it is paid for and includes measures to actually help create new jobs.” However, he added, “Thus far, the president or Senate Democrats have failed to offer such a plan.”
By Peter Apps and Jim Finkle LONDON/BOSTON (Reuters) - A sophisticated piece of spyware has been quietly infecting hundreds of government computers across Europe and the United States in one of the most complex cyber espionage programs uncovered to date. Several security researchers and Western intelligence officers say they believe the malware, widely known as Turla, is the work of the Russian government and linked to the same software used to launch a massive breach on the U.S. military uncovered in 2008.