World and Nation

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As gay marriage gains, New Hampshire may revoke its law

As same-sex marriage supporters celebrate victories in Washington and Maryland this month, they are keeping a wary eye on New Hampshire, where lawmakers may soon vote to repeal the state’s 2-year-old law allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.

A repeal bill appears to have a good chance of passing in the state House and Senate, which are both controlled by Republicans. The bigger question is whether they can muster enough votes to overcome a promised veto from Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

Based on party lines, House and Senate Republicans both have veto-proof majorities. But this is an issue where party allegiance gets muddy.

In a state whose “Live Free or Die” motto figures into many a policy decision, even many opponents of same-sex marriage wish the issue would just disappear.

Republican lawmakers with libertarian leanings, a sizable group, seem especially unhappy to be facing a repeal vote, as well as those who maintain that cutting spending should be the Legislature’s sole concern. Both groups appear worried about a backlash from their constituents.

Rep. Andrew Manuse, a Republican, said in an email that he would support a repeal because he objected to government “using its power to redefine a religious, social and societal institution.” But he added, “I really am not focusing on this issue.”

Should the repeal pass, New Hampshire would be the first state in which a legislature has reversed itself on the issue of same-sex marriage.

—Abby Goodnough, The New York Times

Yahoo warns Facebook over potential patent infringement

Yahoo is seeking to force Facebook into licensing 10 to 20 patents over technologies that include advertising, the personalization of websites, social networking and messaging, people briefed on the matter said.

The two companies met Monday to discuss the issue, with Yahoo contending that Facebook was infringing on the patents, according to these people, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Yahoo has told Facebook to pay licensing fees or risk a possible lawsuit.

“Yahoo has a responsibility to its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders to protect its intellectual property,” a Yahoo spokesman said in a statement. “We must insist that Facebook either enter into a licensing agreement or we will be compelled to move forward unilaterally to protect our rights.”

Barry Schnitt, a spokesman for Facebook, said in a statement: “We haven’t had the opportunity to fully evaluate their claims.”

Patent fights are nothing new in Silicon Valley, with smartphones technology becoming the most visible battleground. Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility last year largely to get access to intellectual property. And a consortium of companies led by Apple and Microsoft paid $4.5 billion for more than 6,000 patents held by Nortel, the defunct communications equipment maker.

—Michael J. De La Merced, The New York Times

Fannie and Freddie pressed to reduce principal on some loans

California’s attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, on Monday ratcheted up the pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to allow debt reduction on their home loans by asking the mortgage finance giants to halt foreclosures in the state.

In a letter to Edward J. DeMarco, the regulator who controls Fannie and Freddie, Harris asked that foreclosures be suspended until his agency, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, completes a promised review of its policy forbidding debt reduction for delinquent homeowners who owe more than their home is worth.

Her letter, which was sent on Friday and disclosed on Monday, requests “a thorough, transparent analysis of whether principal reduction is in the best interest of struggling homeowners as well as taxpayers.”

DeMarco has come under increasing pressure to allow debt forgiveness, also called principal reduction, since the announcement of a multibillion-dollar foreclosure abuse settlement that requires banks to write down mortgage debt for some eligible homeowners. Loans backed by Fannie and Freddie — more than half of all outstanding mortgage loans — are not eligible for relief under the settlement.

—Shaila Dewan, The New York Times

Era of low-cost borrowing benefits US government

WASHINGTON — These are the best of times for the world’s most ravenous borrower, the United States of America.

A combination of unusual and unsustainable forces has pushed the cost of borrowing as low as it has ever been, so low that many investors effectively are paying to lend money to the government.

Investors buying five-year federal debt are accepting such low interest rates that inflation is on pace to reduce the value of their investments by more than 1 percent each year.

Yet demand for U.S. Treasuries remains much greater than the supply.

The glut of cheap money has allowed the government to keep its annual deficits much smaller than it had expected, holding down the growth of the federal debt.

The Treasury Department, seeking to milk the moment, may start issuing debt with negative interest rates, making investors pay for the privilege of lending money to the government.

But a wide range of experts agrees that the bubble will eventually pop. The question, they say, is not if but when.

There are signs that the era of low borrowing costs may be approaching its end, as the domestic economy shows signs of strength and Europe pulls back from economic immolation.

—Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times