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A joint investigation by NPR and ProPublica has rustled up some disquieting trading practices on the part of Freddie Mac that suggest the taxpayer-run mortgage company hasn't exactly done its darndest to help struggling Americans hold on to their homes -- in fact, the opposite may be more the case.

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At long last, a little good news from the real estate market: The National Association of Realtors reported a 10 percent rise in existing home sales in September, but buyers are still skittish about foreclosures and the country's job problems figure into the long-term prognosis as well.

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Credit card reform is great and all, but there's another problem that legislation can't exactly remedy: Americans' supersized spending habits. Oh, and since Congress gave banks nine months of lead time before enacting the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, those wily financial institutions were ready with a set of new tricks to part customers with their hard-earned cash.

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Those credit card holders who pride themselves on paying their bills on time, and who have enjoyed rewards in the past for so doing, are in for an unpleasant surprise: They may soon be targeted by the very companies that used to ply them with perks.

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Do a quick Google search and you'll find that God, as worshipped by Jews, Christians and Muslims, has some strong feelings about interest charges -- or usury, as it's known in the Hebrew Bible. Here's a doozy from Ezekiel: "Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him." Ouch.

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The United States spent much of the 20th century lecturing the world about how to run an economy. Clearly, we've lost some credibility in that area. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wants Islamic banks, with their abhorrence of interest and gambling, to fill the void.

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Ben Bernanke and his squad of rate setters are expected to cut interest by as much as three-quarters of a point on Tuesday. With rates already at 1 percent, we mortals are left wondering what the Fed chief plans to do when he runs out of rates to cut. Update

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