World and Nation

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Former Kennedy Aide Will Fill His Senate Seat

Gov. Deval Patrick today named Paul G. Kirk Jr., a former aide and longtime confidant of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to Kennedy’s seat.

“He shares the sense of service that so distinguished Senator Kennedy,” Patrick, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Boston. “The interests of the commonwealth have never been more vital or at stake in the Congress today.”

Kirk, a longtime friend of the Kennedy family and onetime special assistant to Kennedy, is scheduled to take the oath of office on Friday and serve until a special election on Jan. 19; he has pledged not to run in the election. He said on Thursday that he would keep the late senator’s staff in place.

Kirk was the favorite of the late senator’s wife and two sons, as well as some officials in President Barack Obama’s administration, according to people familiar with the matter. The president issued a statement after the appointment was announced.

“I am pleased that Massachusetts will have its full representation in the United States Senate in the coming months, as important issues such as health care, financial reform and energy will be debated,” Obama said. “Paul Kirk is a distinguished leader whose long collaboration with Senator Kennedy makes him an excellent interim choice to carry on his work until the voters make their choice in January.”

Investors Are Skittish Over Slowing Home Sales

The housing market, a source of so many of the country’s economic problems, caused more headaches for Wall Street on Thursday.

Stocks fell after a real estate group reported that sales of existing homes dropped 2.7 percent in August. The figures disappointed economists and investors, who had been expecting a fifth consecutive month of gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 41.11 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 9,707.44. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index lost 10.09 points, or 1 percent, to 1,050.78, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 23.81 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,107.61.

The selling ran through many sectors of the market. Big banks and regional lenders that offer mortgages and construction loans were down. Shares of major home builders sank, as did big industrial companies that make the materials used to build homes and offices.

Energy companies like Chevron and Marathon Oil fell as the price of crude oil slid $3.08, to $65.89 a barrel, the lowest in more than a month. Oil prices have swung between $65 and $70 a barrel for much of the summer as traders have tried to determine whether a strong rebound will spur demand for oil, or whether a faltering one will keep consumption low.

For many investors, the dip in sales of existing homes reflected broader worries about how the economy would perform as some support programs from the government slowly wind down.

This Time, Feds’ Terror Probe May Have Real Thing

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, senior government officials have announced dozens of terrorism cases that on closer examination seemed to diminish as legitimate threats. The accumulating evidence against a Denver airport shuttle driver suggests he may be different, with some investigators calling his case the most serious in years.

Documents filed in Brooklyn against the driver, Najibullah Zazi, contend that in purchasing chemicals needed to build a bomb — hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric acid — Zazi took a critical step made by few other terror suspects.

While many important facts remain unknown, those allegations alone would distinguish Zazi from nearly all the defendants in U.S. terror cases in recent years. More often than not the earlier suspects emerged as angry young men, inflamed by the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden or his associates. Some were serious in intent. More than a few seemed to be malcontents without the organization, technical skills and financing to be much of a threat. In two unrelated cases in which charges were announced on Thursday, in fact, the subjects dealt extensively with undercover agents.

WGBH Deal May Spark a Radio Battle

Boston radio is about to get hit with a heavier dose of daily news, but will enough listeners tune in?

WGBH plans to convert to a news format on 89.7 FM, which could mean a head-on fight for listeners, pitting WGBH against two veteran all news and talk stations, WBZ and WBUR. Similar efforts in other major metropolitan areas have met with success and failure, depending on the city and its appetite for news, but some analysts say Boston could support three all news radio stations because of its size and abundance of colleges and universities that bring an intellectually curious population to the city.

“In a market like Boston, you’ve got people interested in the world beyond them,” said industry consultant Scott Fybush, who publishes the newsletter Northeast Radio Watch. “You’ve got people from all over the world who are there and not getting exactly what they want from commercial news.”

WGBH said Monday it plans to buy classical music station WCRB-FM, a deal estimated at $14 million. The move will allow the station to continue offering classical music and let WBGH change the format at its flagship station, 89.7 FM, to all news and talk. Jeanne Hopkins, a WGBH spokeswoman, offered new details Tuesday about the proposed programming changes for 89.7, changes that still must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.