World and Nation

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Romney, Eye on Evangelicals, Defends His Faith

Mitt Romney asked the nation on Thursday not to reject his presidential candidacy because of his religion, assuring evangelical Christians and other religious voters that his values matched theirs in a speech that used the word Mormon only once.

The only passing mention of his Mormonism in his 20-minute speech here at the George Bush Presidential Library underscored just how touchy the issue of Romney’s faith has been since he began running for the Republican nomination. He and his aides had agonized for months over whether even to give the speech. Those arguing against it said there was no need because he was doing so well in early voting states, advisers said.

But suddenly Romney’s former dominance of the Republican field in Iowa was faltering as evangelical voters have been drawn to Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, in these final weeks before the state’s caucuses. Evangelical Christians, who make up a crucial voting bloc in the Republican Party, consider Mormonism to be heretical, and polls have indicated a significant number of Americans are less likely to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate.

Some Airlines to Offer In-Flight Internet Service

Passengers may soon hear a new in-flight announcement: “You can now log on.”

Starting next week and over the next few months, several American airlines will begin testing Internet service on their planes.

On Tuesday, JetBlue Airways will begin offering a free e-mail and instant messaging service on one aircraft, while American Airlines, Virgin America, and Alaska Airlines plan to offer a broader Web experience in the coming months, probably at a cost of around $10 a flight.

“I think 2008 is the year when we will finally start to see in-flight Internet access become available, but I suspect the rollout domestically will take place in a very measured way,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research. “In a few years’ time, if you get on a flight that doesn’t have Internet access, it will be like walking into a hotel room that doesn’t have TV.”

On Mortgage Relief, Who Gains the Most?

At least one thing is clear about President Bush’s plan to help people trapped by the mortgage meltdown: It is an industry-led plan, not a government bailout.

Although Bush unveiled the plan at the White House on Thursday, its terms were set by the mortgage industry and Wall Street firms. The effort is voluntary and it leaves plenty of wiggle room for lenders. Moreover, it would affect only a small number of subprime borrowers.

The plan was the target of criticism from consumer advocates who said its scope was too narrow, and from investment firms, who said it went too far. Others warned that the plan, by letting some stretched homeowners off the hook, could encourage more reckless borrowing in the future.

“The approach announced today is not a silver bullet,” said Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who hammered out the agreement. “We face a difficult problem for which there is no perfect solution.”