Obama calls impact of government shutdown ‘heartbreakingMark Felsenthal 4 hours ago PoliticsBudget, Tax & EconomyBarack ObamaGovernment shutdownView galleryU.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Vice President Joe Biden (2nd L) talk to reporters before ordering …‘By Mark Felsenthal WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saying the U.S. government shutdown was having a „heartbreaking” impact on ordinary Americans, President Barack Obama on Saturday renewed his call on congressional Republicans to end the five-day stalemate and pass a funding bill without conditions.Republicans in the House of Representatives have held firm in their refusal to fund and reopen the government until Democrats agree to delay implementation of Obama’s landmark 2010 healthcare law, also known as Obamacare.In his weekly radio address, Obama ratcheted up the pressure on Republicans, describing the toll the shutdown was having on several people who had either lost access to government services or been temporarily displaced from their jobs.Kelly Mumper, an early education worker with three children in the military, was one of 150 workers who had to stop providing care for 770 children enrolled in an early childhood education facility in Alabama, the president said.”I am extremely concerned for the welfare of these children,” Obama quoted Mumper as saying in a letter she wrote him.Obama recounted another story about Julia Pruden, a North Dakota woman who said she wouldn’t get a loan to buy a house under a Department of Agriculture rural development program in the event of a government shutdown.”These are just a few of the many heartbreaking letters I’ve gotten from them in the past couple weeks – including more than 30,000 over the past few days,” he said. „I know that Republicans in the House of Representatives are hearing the same kinds of stories.”The standoff, which began at the start of the new fiscal year on Tuesday and shuttered all but essential government operations, is the latest in a series of budget standoffs between Obama and congressional Republicans.In the past, Republicans have insisted on spending cuts as the price for budget deals or lifting of the government debt limit. Their current stand is aimed at derailing Obamacare, which will expand insurance to millions without coverage.Republicans argue that the law is a massive government intrusion into private medicine that will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket.Obama and his fellow Democrats vow that they will make no such concessions in exchange for an agreement to reopen the government. A meeting between Obama and congressional leaders from both parties on Wednesday saw neither side budge.Republicans are also seeking concessions in exchange for raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit, which is due to be reached October 17. If the borrowing cap is not increased, the United States will go into default, with what officials and economists say would be seriously damaging consequences for the U.S. and global economies.Republicans fault the deadlock on the White House, saying the president is stubbornly refusing to compromise. The president has said that he is open to bartering over budget issues, but not under the threat of a shutdown, and that raising the debt limit – and avoiding default – is non-negotiable.The president canceled a week-long trip to Asia next week to deal with the crisis.(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Paul Simao)
U.S. government shutdown likely to drag on into next weView gallery Chris Moody, Yahoo! News 21 hours agoThere will be little if any progress toward ending the government shutdown this weekend, pushing the standoff that has idled more than 800,000 federal workers into its second week.House Republicans plan several votes over the next two days — but none that would restore funds to the entire government. Instead, they will continue passing bills to pay for individual popular programs.By Monday, the House will have voted to restore funds to natural disaster emergency recovery, nutritional assistance for children, national parks, medical research, the District of Columbia and veterans services. The body will also vote to pay members of the National Guard and Reserves. Many of those bills have already passed with support from House Democrats.Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama say they want the government fully funded before any new negotiations can take place. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to reject the piecemeal approach, Obama is promising vetoes, and the administration’s Office of Management and Budget is brushing away the GOP approach.“Consideration of appropriations bills in this fashion is not a serious or responsible way to run the United States Government,” the OMB said in a statement.View gallery.”The U.S. Capitol looms in the background of a sign on the National Mall reminding visitors of the cl …Republicans are equally dug in. On Friday morning, Republican House Speaker John Boehner met privately with members of the GOP conference and urged them to stay united on their strategy to resist calls from Democrats to pass a bill that funds the federal government.House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is predicting that Democrats will cave under the GOP strategy.“I firmly believe their position is untenable,” Cantor wrote in a memo obtained by Yahoo News. “Because their position is unsustainable and because we are willing to negotiate to find a reasonable resolution, I believe it is critical that we continue to engage and offer meaningful solutions for the American people.” „We are moving forward with our strategy,” New York Republican Rep. Peter King said after Friday’s meeting. King, who has been a staunch opponent of his fellow Republicans refusal to fund the government unless key parts of the federal health care are delayed, then paused and corrected himself. „They are moving forward with their strategy.”Republicans believe that by passing enough bills to fund crucial programs, they can put enough pressure on Democrats so they buckle. Democrats feel the same way.Unfortunately for furloughed federal workers, that means there is no foreseeable end, at least right now, to the shutdown.
Kerry calls government shutdown a brief disruptionLesley Wroughton 5 hours ago PoliticsForeign PolicyJohn KerryBarack ObamaView gallery U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) talks with Robert Wang (R), the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in …By Lesley Wroughton NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – The partial shutdown of the U.S. government, which entered its fifth day on Saturday, is a „momentary episode” and does not change the U.S. commitment to Asia or elsewhere, Secretary of State John Kerry said.Kerry is acting as stand-in for President Barack Obama who canceled a tour of Asia, including a visit to the Indonesian resort island of Bali for a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders, because of the stalemate in Washington.”Do not mistake this momentary episode in American politics as anything more than a moment of politics. This is an example of the robustness of our democracy,” Kerry said. But he added that if the shutdown were prolonged or repeated, people would question the U.S. ability to „stay the course.”In his meetings with foreign leaders in Bali, Kerry said he encountered an understanding of the problems in Washington.”In the end nothing will change with respect to the issues that bring us here, nothing will diminish our commitment to Asia, we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities and our engagement around the world and I think people are confident of that,” he said.”Everybody in the region understands … everyone sees this as a moment in politics, an unfortunate moment, but they see it for what it is,” said Kerry, a former U.S. senator and U.S. presidential candidate.The political standoff over the U.S. budget has shut down non-essential government services and appeared likely to drag on for another week or longer. Another crisis looms in two weeks when lawmakers must decide whether to increase the U.S. government’s $16.7 trillion debt borrowing limit.While Kerry dismissed any long-term impact from the shutdown, he said it would however delay payments for security assistance to Israel and funding support for a U.S.-led peacekeeping mission in the Sinai peninsula, which divides Egypt and Israel.He said the U.S. Treasury department that oversees sanctions against Iran had been forced to furlough nearly all of its staff during the shutdown. This, he said, was coming at a time when the United States was trying to reengage with Tehran to find a solution to a longstanding dispute over Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”I think it’s clear we cannot lose this opportunity to moments of politics, that deprive us of the opportunity to embrace larger and more important goals,” Kerry said of potential talks with Iran.Obama had planned to leave on Saturday for a four-nation, week-long trip. He canceled visits to Malaysia and the Philippines earlier this week because of his budget struggle in the U.S. Congress and said late on Thursday he would not attend the regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei.Kerry dismissed suggestions that the United States’ interests in the region were weakened by Obama’s absence at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.He said, however, that Obama’s absence undermined the president’s ability to have one-on-one conversations about global affairs with leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.Two of Obama’s main aims would have been to discuss the Syria crisis with Putin and to hold talks on a maritime code of conduct for disputed territories in the oil- and gas-rich South China Sea.(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Iran’s Khamenei says part of diplomatic opening in New York ‘not proper’Yeganeh Torbati 2 hours agoView gallery Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with high-ranking officials in Tehran …DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday he supported moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic opening at the U.N. General Assembly last week but that some of what occurred there was „not proper”.Khamenei did not elaborate on his objections, but he also said he did not trust the United States as a negotiating partner, hinting at some disagreement over an historic phone conversation between Rouhani and U.S. President Barack Obama.But while Khamenei’s endorsement appeared limited, it could help Rouhani parry conservative hardliners opposed to his drive for „constructive interaction” with the world to ease Tehran’s economically damaging international isolation.Khamenei – the ultimate arbiter of security and diplomatic policy under Iran’s hybrid system of clerical and republican rule – said prior to Rouhani’s trip that he supported „heroic flexibility” in diplomacy, while cautioning that the Islamic Republic must always remember who its foes are.The Rouhani-Obama phone chat, the first between presidents of the two deeply estranged countries since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, capped a week of overtures by Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to the West.The landslide election in June of Rouhani has raised hopes of a negotiated settlement to Iran’s long-running dispute with world powers over its nuclear program – though it is Khamenei who will make the final decision on the contours of any deal.”We support the government’s diplomatic movements and place importance on diplomatic efforts, and support what was in this last trip,” Khamenei said in a speech, according to the ISNA news agency. „Of course, in our opinion, some of what occurred in the New York trip was not proper.” He did not elucidate.”While we are optimistic about our government’s diplomatic staff, we are pessimistic about the Americans. The U.S. government is not trustworthy, is self-important, and breaks its promises,” Iran’s top cleric said.Rouhani also won a resounding endorsement for his conciliatory moves at the United Nations from the Iranian parliament, a significant gesture since the assembly is dominated by factions loyal to Khamenei.CRIPPLING SANCTIONSThe president and his team are hoping to secure a removal of international sanctions on Iran’s banking, energy, and shipping sector that slashed vital oil exports and hobbled the economy.The sanctions were imposed over Iran’s failure to address suspicions that it is enriching uranium to develop a nuclear arms capability. Iran says it wants only civilian atomic energy.The next round of talks between Iran and six world powers on the nuclear stand-off, which has raised fears of a new Middle East war, is to be held in Geneva on October 15-16.A diplomat based in Tehran said Khamenei’s comments were likely an effort to play down expectations from negotiations, while distancing himself from any failure in talks.”There have already been skeptical signs and in a way these comments are not that surprising,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. „The distance between Iran and the United States is very wide. It can’t just turn into smiles and friendliness. He (Khamenei) is giving it a chance, but if it doesn’t work he’ll go back to his own way.”While in New York, Rouhani emphasized a changed atmosphere between Iran and the United States, and said his goal is to resolve problems and pursue „the shared interest between the two nations.But while Rouhani’s efforts to undo some of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric on the world stage have met with cautious approval at home from conservatives, some hardliners in Iran’s complex power structure have been critical given their hostility to any thaw with the United States.Upon Rouhani’s return to Tehran last week, he was greeted at the airport by a large crowd of supporters and a smaller group of protesters, who threw eggs and shoes at his official car.And the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a pillar of the political establishment, said last week that Rouhani’s phone call with Obama was premature.Both Rouhani and Obama face domestic resistance to rapprochement from those who fear their president may be too inclined to grant concessions before the other side takes any concrete steps. This wall of mistrust has impeded negotiations.(Additional reporting by Marcus George in Dubai; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
View gallery Policemen remove tape from the entrance to the courthouse where disabled lawyer Ni Yulan, and her husband …By Sui-Lee Wee BEIJING (Reuters) – A disabled Chinese rights lawyer whose imprisonment stirred international concern said on Sunday she had been released after serving her two and a half year sentence and pledged to sue the police as well as pursue redress for her case.Ni Yulan, who is renowned for defending people evicted from their homes, was sentenced to two years and eight month in prison in April 2012 for causing a disturbance and fraud.Activists contend the charges were trumped up in an effort to silence her. In July 2012, a Chinese court threw out the fraud charge, reducing her prison time by two months.Authorities forced Ni, who is wheelchair-bound, and her husband, Dong Jiqin, to stay at a hotel in 2010 after their home was demolished in 2008. Ni had previously called it a „black jail” — an informal detention site such as a hotel or government guesthouse used to hold protesters and petitioners without resorting to legal procedures.During her trial, prosecutors alleged that Ni had „willfully occupied” the room that she was staying in.Ni said she now plans to sue the Beijing public security bureau in the Xicheng district for holding her and her husband in the hotel and cutting off the water and electricity.”It is useless to fear, since we’re already deprived of our rights,” Ni told Reuters by telephone. „If we don’t fight for rights, we will just have to wait for our death.””I want them to return my assets. They’ve torn down my home without giving any compensation, leaving us homeless.”Ni, 54, whose case is closely watched by the United States and the European Union, said her health was poor. The left side of Ni’s neck is swollen and the family believes it is a suspected neck tumor.”After the sentence, they’ve not allowed me to get my illness treated, so my physical condition has become worse,” Ni said.Beijing police could not be reached for comment.Ni said she did not suffer any physical abuse due to the international awareness of her case and regular visits by diplomats from the European Union.Security officers who held Ni in a detention center in Beijing in 2011 told her: „If you’re dead, then that’s good since all your assets will be returned to the state,” according to Ni.Ni’s husband Dong was given two years in prison in April 2012 also for „causing a disturbance”.Ni’s daughter, Dong Xuan, said about 10 supporters of Ni who greeted her mother outside the prison with a red banner were taken away by police.Ni was among dozens of rights activists who were detained in early 2011 when fears of contagion from the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests triggered a crackdown by China’s security apparatus.She was left disabled by a police beating in 2002 after filming the forced demolition of a client’s home and was then jailed. Ni was again jailed and beaten by police in 2008 for defending the rights of people evicted from their homes to make way for Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics. She was later released in April 2010.(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry)