World and Nation

Shorts (left)

FDIC Says Banks Lost $3.7 Billion In 2nd Quarter

Even though financial stocks have rallied nearly 70 percent since the end of March, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued another grim quarterly report Thursday on the health of the nation’s banks.

The agency reported that the banking industry lost $3.7 billion in the second quarter amid a surge in bad loans made to home builders, commercial real estate developers and small and midsize businesses. Its deposit insurance fund dropped 20 percent, to $10.4 billion, its lowest level in nearly 16 years. And the number of “problem banks” increased to 416, from 305 in the first quarter, and is expected to remain high.

Indeed, federal officials warned that while the economy and financial markets were showing signs of improvement, the banking sector was unlikely to rebound soon.

“These credit problems will at least outlast the recession by a couple of quarters,” said Sheila C. Bair, the FDIC chairwoman. “Cleaning up balance sheets is a painful process that does take time, but it is absolutely necessary to the industry’s sustained profitability.”

The dismal report shows how the industry’s problems have spread. A handful of the biggest banks were among the first to suffer big losses nearly two years ago from complex mortgage assets and other securities, but have posted strong trading profits in the last two quarters.

China Announces a System for Voluntary Organ Donors

China has inaugurated a voluntary organ donor program, hoping to overhaul a system that now harvests a vast majority of its organs from black-market sellers and executed prisoners and leaves millions of ailing people without hope of getting transplants.

The new program, run by the national Red Cross Society with help from China’s Health Ministry, was reported by the state-run English-language newspaper China Daily on Wednesday. The newspaper quoted the vice minister of health, Huang Jiefu, as saying the goal was to create an organ donation system that “will benefit patients regardless of social status and wealth.”

At least 1 million people in China need organ transplants each year, but only about 10,000 receive them, according to government statistics. Huang said that most of those organs — as high as 65 percent, by some estimates — were taken from death-row inmates after their executions.

Study Finds Radiation Risk for Patients

At least 4 million Americans under age 65 are exposed to high doses of radiation each year from medical imaging tests, according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

About 400,000 of those patients receive very high doses, more than the maximum annual exposure allowed for nuclear power plant employees or anyone else who works with radioactive material.

The paper, being published on Thursday, was based on a survey from 2005 to 2007 covering almost 1 million patients insured by UnitedHealthcare.

It did not estimate the number of cancer cases that the radiation might cause over the next several decades.

The radioactive tests are given for hundreds of purposes. In the last two decades, they have become especially common in cardiology, where physicians use them to check for the buildup of plaque in the arteries and the heart’s ability to pump blood.