Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appeared before a Congressional committee yesterday and told lawmakers he plans to keep interest rates low, The New York Times reports. In testimony that built off his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bernanke said concerns about inflation take a back seat to returning the fragile economy to strength. Global investors agree, and give Bernanke high marks, Bloomberg reports.

Elsewhere in the nation’s capital, the head of the Obama administration’s auto task force got an earful from a House subcommittee angry about the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, reports The Washington Post. Republicans are upset about government activity in the private sector, while lawmakers from both parties have taken up the cause of the 2,000 dealerships that are slated to be closed.

Out in California, the Los Angeles Times has full coverage of the fallout from the budget deal reached this week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators. In addition to proposing deep cuts in services, the deal has made lots of people unhappy. As the LAT reports, “Los Angeles County officials moved to sue the state, a union for government workers said it might strike, and Republicans threatened to back out of the deal over a provision to cut the number of prison inmates by 27,000.” A separate story notes that state university trustees approved a 20% student fee hike, plus faculty furloughs. And a third story relays the findings of a report that expects personal income in California to drop this year for the first time since 1938.

The outlook is also still gloomy in the Hampton Roads region, reports The Virginian-Pilot. But there’s better news to be found elsewhere. The Folsom Telegraph, outside of Sacramento, reports that work on a $250 million shopping center is proceeding on schedule, despite appearances to the contrary. In Indiana, the Evansville Courier & Press reported yesterday that more than 2,400 people are at work on eighty-three road projects being funded by the federal stimulus package. And in Texas, estimates of job losses in 2009 are still large but are now declining, according to an analysis in The Dallas Morning News.

Finally, from the Los Angeles Times comes an innovative suggestion on how to help boost the economy: go bird-watching.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.