World and Nation

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Obama Announces That His Grandmother Has Died

Madelyn Dunham, who watched from afar as her only grandson rapidly ascended the ranks of American politics to the brink of the presidency, did not live to see whether he was elected.

Dunham, 86, Sen. Barack Obama’s grandmother, died late Sunday evening in Hawaii after battling cancer, which Obama announced upon arriving here on Monday for a campaign stop on the eve of Election Day.

“She has gone home,” Obama said, his voice tinged with emotion as he briefly spoke of her death at a campaign rally here. “She died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side, so there’s great joy instead of tears.”

Obama learned of his grandmother’s death at 8 a.m. on Monday, aides said, but appeared at a morning rally in Florida without making an announcement. A written statement was issued around 4:30 p.m., in the name of Obama and his sister, before he spoke at an evening rally in Charlotte. The delay was intended to allow his sister, who was six hours behind in Hawaii, time to take care of a few details before news of the death became public.

Zaragoza, Beneficiary of Spain’s Heady Years, Feels the Undertow

Few places in Europe have prospered in recent years like this bustling crossroads city of 700,000, halfway between Barcelona and Madrid.

Factory employees here pulled overtime shifts. Companies hired temporary workers to satisfy growing consumer demand. A half dozen new bridges were built across the Ebro river, and office buildings were filled as fast as they could be thrown up.

The capital of Spain’s fastest-growing region, inland Zaragoza kept booming even as the overbuilt Mediterranean coast came to symbolize how real estate excess was not just an American ailment.

But just as the cold autumn wind is blowing down from the Pyrenees, Zaragoza and the surrounding region of Aragon have suddenly been hit by a sharp economic downturn. And the troubles here make clear that what had been seen as a crisis confined largely to finance and real estate is quickly spreading to more fundamental sectors of the European economy, such as manufacturing.

New Terrain for Panel on Bailout

There was a rare moment of levity at the Treasury Department on Friday as the children of government workers scampered from office to office in Halloween costumes. A few minutes later, the children were gone and the hallways were retaken by grim-faced grown-ups — handing out tricks and treats of a different sort.

The Treasury building is ground zero for the Bush administration’s $700 billion rescue of the financial system — an ambitious, increasingly embattled program that passed an early milestone last week when the government wired the first $125 billion to the nine largest banks in the United States.

Having been handed vast authority and almost no restrictions in the bailout law that Congress passed a month ago, a committee of five little-known government officials, aided by a bare-bones staff of 40, is picking winners and losers among thousands of banks, savings and loans, insurers and other institutions.

It is new and unfamiliar terrain for the officials, who are making monumental decisions — a form of industrial policy, some critics say — that contradict the free market philosophy they usually espouse.