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Bergdahl to return to US on Friday morning, official says

WASHINGTON — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. prisoner of war freed on May 31 in exchange for five senior members of the Taliban, will return to the United States on Friday morning to begin treatment at a Texas military medical facility, a Defense Department official said.

It will be the start of a new phase in what military officials describe as a multistep healing process for Bergdahl, 28, who was held captive for nearly five years by the Taliban. Since his release to U.S. commandos in Afghanistan, he has been receiving medical treatment and counseling at a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

The process — likely to last weeks or longer — is expected to end with a carefully choreographed reunion with his parents in Hailey, Idaho. Military officials said Bergdahl has had no direct contact with them since his release.

President Barack Obama’s decision to negotiate for the release of Bergdahl in exchange for the Taliban detainees, who were being held at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, ignited anger among members of Congress and critics who equate freeing Taliban detainees with bargaining with terrorists. Lawmakers in both parties have objected to the move, saying Obama did not consult adequately with them about Bergdahl’s impending release.

Some members of his former unit, who say Bergdahl deserted by walking off his post, are also angry that lives were put at risk in the search for him.

As the uproar has continued in the United States, Bergdahl has been cloistered at the Landstuhl hospital without access to television or the Internet, officials said. But some details of his imprisonment by the Taliban have emerged, including accounts that Bergdahl was held in a cage as punishment for one or two attempts to escape.

At Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Bergdahl is expected to receive treatment the military has designed for soldiers freed from lengthy captivities. Many of the protocols the military has established to handle such patients were first developed during the Vietnam War.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

Confirmations to Fed board may strengthen Yellen’s hand

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday brought the Federal Reserve Board a little closer to full strength, confirming Lael Brainard, a former Treasury Department official, to one of the three open seats by a vote of 61-31.

The Senate also confirmed Stanley Fischer as the Fed’s vice chairman by a vote of 63-24; it had confirmed his appointment to the board last month. Jerome H. Powell, a current member of the seven-person board, was confirmed to a new term by a vote of 67-24.

Brainard is expected to be sworn into office before the scheduled meeting next week of the Fed’s policymaking committee. Brainard has given little public indication of her views on monetary policy, but analysts expect her arrival — alongside Fischer’s last month — to strengthen the hand of the Fed’s chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen, who has championed the Fed’s focus on job creation and wants to retreat slowly from its stimulus campaign.

The arrival of Fischer and Brainard also ends a period in which presidential appointees have not held a majority of votes on the powerful policy-making committee.

The 12 voters on the Federal Open Market Committee always include five presidents of the Fed’s regional banks, who are hired by those banks, while in recent months the number of Fed governors had dipped as low as three.

President Barack Obama has yet to announce nominations to the remaining vacancies on the Fed’s board, but the White House has signaled at least one of the two vacancies will be filled by someone with community banking experience.

—Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times