March 20 (Reuters) - The following were the top stories in The Wall Street Journal on Friday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
* Former Afghan warlords like Gul Agha Shirzai, now governor of Nangarhar province are again being seen as useful partners as U.S. President Barack Obama undertakes a massive overhaul of the war in Afghanistan.
* President Barack Obama appealed directly to the Iranian government and its people to forge a new relationship with the U.S. in a sign of his administration’s intensifying efforts to use diplomacy to end Tehran’s nuclear program and support of Middle East-based militant groups.
* Credit-rating companies, widely assailed for their role in fueling the financial crisis with overly rosy debt ratings, stand to make a billion-dollar windfall in the government’s latest attempt to heal the credit markets.
* The House passed legislation that would significantly curb Wall Street bonuses this year, as lawmakers from both parties echoed popular outrage over big payouts to employees of American International Group Inc (AIG.N) after the ailing insurance giant took billions of dollars in taxpayer money.
* The International Monetary Fund plans to sweeten a $100 billion lending program announced in October that didn’t attract a single borrower. The new program of less-restrictive loans is designed to boost the fund’s standing as an authority in containing the global meltdown and to assuage member countries’ concerns about borrowing from a lender often seen as heavy-handed and intrusive.
* Turkey, which has held out against negotiating a support package from the International Monetary Fund, appears to be opening the way for a deal.
* European Union leaders, meeting at a Brussels summit, rejected calls to expand their fiscal-stimulus policies, or to boost aid for struggling Eastern European countries.
* Apollo Management is in talks to take a substantial stake in Charter Communications Inc (CHTR.O) as part of the cable company’s reorganization.
* Stiefel Laboratories, a closely held pharmaceutical maker, is considering selling itself in a deal that could be worth several billion dollars.
* New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo received the identities of the 200 highest-paid bonus recipients at Merrill Lynch & Co prior to a merger with Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) on Jan. 1.
* Home builder Lennar Corp (LEN.N), which largely cashed out of one of the nation’s biggest land ventures near the top of the market, is close to a deal to pick up some of the pieces at a significant discount.
* General Electric Co (GE.N) reduced by half the projected profit for this year from its big finance arm because of growing losses in its consumer, commercial and real-estate businesses.But GE said the unit, GE Capital, would be profitable in the first quarter and should break even for the year, without requiring additional capital, under even a worst-case scenario for the U.S. economy.
* The U.S. Federal Reserve is going to extraordinary lengths to push down long-term interest rates, including home-mortgage rates. But those hoping mortgage rates will fall sharply from current levels, already historically low, may be disappointed.
* The U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to pump $1.15 trillion into the financial system aims to counter slack in the economic chain.
* Congressional Democratic leaders and the Obama White House are likely to use a parliamentary procedure to win passage this year of a national health-insurance program, people familiar with the discussions said.
* The Treasury Department announced a $5 billion program to aid struggling auto-parts suppliers, raising the likelihood the government will extend more aid to General Motors Corp (GM.N) and Chrysler LLC.
* Opposition from the U.S. banking industry and moderate senators of both parties has stalled a proposal to let judges modify mortgage terms in bankruptcy court.
* Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) agreed to pay $590 million to acquire the maker of a popular video camera, continuing the business-technology giant’s push into consumer products.
* Many U.S. bank officials were caught off-guard by the depth of public ire against Wall Street bonuses, and the passage of a bill by the House that would tax many of those bonuses by 90 percent at firms that received at least $5 billion in federal bailout funds.
* FedEx Corp (FDX.N) reported a 75 percent drop in quarterly profit, but there may be a silver lining for the global economy in the dismal performance: international shipments fell so precipitously that the company doesn’t see them getting any worse.
* Palm Inc PALM.O reported a wider quarterly loss as revenue fell more than 70 percent amid the recession and as consumers hold out for a coming device.
* Wireless phone companies scored a victory, when key lawmakers introduced legislation requiring the government to take stock of how the nation’s airwaves are used — and whether some spectrum isn’t used efficiently.
* Alibaba.com Ltd 1688.HK, which operates an online merchandise-trading site for businesses, said fourth-quarter net profit fell 57 percent, partly because of a large one-time gain a year earlier.