World and Nation

Shorts (right)

Grim housing choice: help today’s owners or future buyers

The unexpectedly deep plunge in home sales this summer is likely to force the Obama administration to choose between future homeowners and current ones, a predicament officials had been eager to avoid.

Over the last 18 months, the administration has rolled out just about every program it could think of to prop up the ailing housing market, using tax credits, mortgage modification programs, low interest rates, government-backed loans and other assistance intended to keep values up and delinquent borrowers out of foreclosure. The goal was to stabilize the market until a resurgent economy created new households that demanded places to live.

As the economy again sputters and potential buyers flee — July housing sales sank 26 percent from July 2009 — there is a growing sense of exhaustion with government intervention. Some economists and analysts are now urging a dose of shock therapy that would greatly shift the benefits to future homeowners: Let the housing market crash.

When prices are lower, these experts argue, buyers will pour in, creating the elusive stability the government has spent billions upon billions trying to achieve.

True to erratic form, Murray tumbles out early

The dire forecast — weather and otherwise — that were supposed to rattle the U.S. Open field seemed to pass Sunday with little of the expected doom and gloom. The wind, which had turned Saturday into a mess, calmed by Sunday afternoon, and all seemed well until Andy Murray, the tournament’s version of Eeyore, took the court.

Murray, the No. 4 seed, careened out of the tournament in the third round in his usual star-crossed fashion. Stanislas Wawrinka, the 25th seed, was the one who pounced on Murray’s weaknesses this time in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory. Wawrinka struck 13 aces and 58 winners in grabbing control of a match as Murray lost his grip on it.

For Murray, it was another failure to shake the dark cloud that seems to follow him here. Aside from 2008, when he reached the final, many of Murray’s exits looked like this one: full of dispirited play and games in which he looked as if he wanted to be just about anywhere else.

Albany district attorney faces criticism in a steroid case

As the district attorney for Albany County, P. David Soares has made a name for himself around the state by investigating top New York public officials, most recently weighing whether to prosecute Gov. David A. Paterson on perjury charges.

But now Soares is confronting questions about whether he acted improperly in his effort to prosecute the operators of a pharmacy in Florida at the center of a national steroid scandal that implicated major sports figures.

A federal judge in Florida has allowed the operators of the company, Signature Pharmacy, to proceed with a lawsuit that accuses Soares and his office of federal civil rights violations.

In denying Soares’ motion to dismiss the suit, the judge, Gregory A. Presnell, used biting language to criticize Soares, saying he had led a case riddled with flaws, including arrests that potentially were illegal, as Soares sought to attract maximum media attention.

More broadly, Presnell said he failed to understand why Soares believed he had a legal basis to pursue the investigation, noting that Signature had no offices in New York and that the people charged had never set foot in the state.

The lawsuit centers on an investigation that Soares initiated several years ago that ultimately led to a highly publicized raid on Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, Fla., which prosecutors had alleged was the supplier of at least $10 million of controlled substances sold to customers in New York.

Congressional generosity on big corporations’ tab

WASHINGTON—Rep. Joe Baca has achieved near celebrity status in his suburban Los Angeles district, as much for his record of giveaways — Thanksgiving turkeys, college scholarships, spare boots for firefighters — as for anything he has done in Congress.

That generosity is made possible by the Joe Baca Foundation, a charity his family set up three years ago to aid local organizations. It provides another benefit, too: helping the Democratic congressman run something akin to a permanent political campaign. Joe Baca T-shirts and caps are given out at the charity’s events, where banners display his name. Local newspapers mention the charity’s donations, and cable stations show appearances by Baca and his family at functions his foundation supports.

“It’s great,” said Laura Goodloe, 36, as she watched her 8-year-old son, Jordan, play at the arena in San Bernardino, Calif., where the Baca Foundation offered a free basketball clinic last month. “He is giving back to the community.”

But unlike most private foundations, little of the money comes out of Baca’s pocket. Instead, local companies and major corporations that have often turned to Baca’s Washington office for help, and usually succeed in getting it, are the chief donors.

A review by The New York Times of federal tax records and House and Senate disclosure reports found at least two dozen charities that lawmakers or their families helped create or run that routinely accept donations from businesses seeking to influence them. The sponsors — AT&T, Chevron, General Dynamics, Morgan Stanley, Eli Lilly and dozens of others — contribute millions of dollars annually in gifts ranging from token amounts to a check for $5 million.