U.S. Congress enters crucial week in budget, debt limit battlesView gallery REFILE – ADDITIONAL CAPTION INFORMATION U.S. Park Police stand guard inside the gates of the World War II Memorial in Washington October 5, 2013, as the government shutdown continues into the weekend. Washington entered the fifth day of a partial government shutdown on Saturday with no end in sight even as another, more serious conflict over raising the nation’s borrowing authority started heating up. The National Park Service gave elderly veterans access to the barricaded National World War II Memorial, the site of a skirmish in the partisan war over the U.S. government shutdown. A total of about 500 veterans from Chicago and Missouri were visiting on Wednesday under the non-profit Honor Flight program that helps veterans visit Washington memorials. REUTERS/Mike Theiler (UNITED STATES – Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)
By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the U.S. government moved into the second week of a shutdown on Monday with no end in sight, a deadlocked U.S. Congress also confronted an October 17 deadline to increase the nation’s borrowing power or risk default.Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner vowed not to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without a „serious conversation” about what is driving the debt, while Democrats said it was irresponsible and reckless to raise the possibility of a U.S. default.The last big confrontation over the debt ceiling, in August 2011, ended with an 11th-hour agreement under pressure from shaken markets and warnings of an economic catastrophe if there was a default.A similar last-minute resolution remains a distinct possibility this time.Equities investors were unnerved by the apparent hardening of stances over the weekend, with European shares falling to a four-month low on Monday. U.S. stock futures pointed to lower open, with S&P 500 futures down nearly 1 percent.In comments on Sunday television political talk shows, neither Republicans nor Democrats offered any sign of impending agreement on either the shutdown or the debt ceiling, and both blamed the other side for the impasse.”I’m willing to sit down and have a conversation with the president,” said Boehner, speaking on ABC’s „This Week.” But, he added, U.S. President Barack Obama’s „refusal to negotiate is putting our country at risk.”On CNN’s „State of the Union” program, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said: „Congress is playing with fire,” adding that Obama would not negotiate until „Congress does its job” by reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling.China, the biggest holder of U.S. Treasuries, urged Washington to take decisive steps to avoid a crisis and ensure the safety of Chinese investments.”The United States is totally clear about China’s concerns about the fiscal cliff,” Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said in the Chinese government’s first public comment on the October 17 deadline.”We hope the United States fully understands the lessons of history,” Zhu told reporters in Beijing, referring to the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s in 2011.China held $1.277 trillion of U.S. Treasuries as of last July, according to U.S. Treasury data released month.”Who should be worrying most of a possible U.S. default?” asked Deutsche Bank analysts. „Looking at the top holders of U.S. Treasuries, recipients of U.S. social security should be most concerned, followed by the Fed and then China.”Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, whose constituency includes Wall Street and New York’s financial hub, said Boehner would be forced to act as the deadline for the nation’s debt ceiling gets closer, calling it „too dangerous” to not raise the U.S. debt limit and saying any default could lead to an economic „recession, depression or worse.””The economy could collapse. Will it? No one’s certain, but there’s a high enough chance that no one – no one – should risk it,” Schumer told CNN’s „New Day.”SHUTDOWN, DEBT CEILING ISSUES MERGED-The two issues of the Federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling started out separately in the House but have been merged by the pressure of time.Conservative Republicans in the House have resisted funding the government for the current fiscal year until they extract concessions from Obama that would delay or defund his signature healthcare law, which launched October 1.Many of the conservatives want a similar condition placed on raising the debt ceiling, but in his list of debt-ceiling demands Sunday, Boehner did not mention the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.”It’s time to talk about the spending problem,” said Boehner, including measures to rein in costs of entitlement programs such as the Social Security retirement system and Medicare, the government-run health insurance program for seniors.Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic-led Senate, is expected to decide soon on whether to try to open formal debate on a „clean” bill, without extraneous issues attached, to raise the U.S. Treasury’s borrowing authority.Passage of such a measure would require at least six of the Senate’s 46 Republicans to join its 54 Democrats in order to overcome potential procedural hurdles that opponents of Obamacare could erect.According to one Senate Democratic aide, the debt limit hike might be coupled with a new initiative to reform the U.S. tax code and achieve long-term savings in Social Security and Medicare, whose expenses have soared along with the population of retirees.Republican lawmakers have floated other ideas, such as a very short debt limit increase, which would create time for more negotiations at the expense of further market uncertainty, and repeal of a medical device tax.The tax is expected to generate some $30 billion over 10 years to help pay for healthcare insurance subsidies under Obamacare.Some Democrats favor repealing the tax, but they insist that replacement revenues be found and repeal be considered only after the government reopens and the debt limit is raised.MAJOR PROBLEMS IN HOUSE–Agreement in the Senate would send the tangle of issues back into the House, where the Republican caucus has adopted a hard line on both Obamacare and the debt ceiling.There may be enough votes in the House to pass a clean bill, according to some analysts. That would require almost all of the House’s 200 Democrats and about 20 of its 232 Republicans to vote in favor. But taking such a vote would require Boehner to violate his policy against bringing a vote on any legislation favored by less than a majority of House Republicans.Reid’s spokesman Adam Jentleson issued a statement on Monday attacking what he called „Boehner’s credibility problem,” including the speaker’s assertion that there are not enough votes in the House to pass a clean bill.”There is now a consistent pattern of Speaker Boehner saying things that fly in the face of the facts or stand at odds with his past actions,” Jentleson said. „Americans across the country are suffering because Speaker Boehner refuses to come to grips with reality.”For the moment, neither side is moving toward accommodation, and the stakes rise with the passage of time.For any deal to work, negotiators probably would have to choreograph a multipronged approach that allows all sides to declare victory, even if it is one that sets up another battle in mid-November or December.White House officials were firm on Monday that Obama will not negotiate under the threat of a default and repeated that it is up to Congress to raise the U.S. borrowing cap.While the shutdown itself is unlikely to cause major disruption in the markets, a fight over the debt ceiling could. From July 31 thru August 2 during the debt-limit standoff in 2011, the S&P 500 index lost 3 percent, and the deadlock led to a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating to AA-plus from AAA by S&P.The outlooks from Moody’s and S&P, the only agency so far to have lowered its rating on U.S. debt, are both at „stable,” but Fitch Ratings has indicated a negative outlook for the U.S. debt rating.All three agencies have said the U.S. debt profile has improved substantially over the past two years, with gross domestic product growth, while slow, proving to be persistently positive and the budget deficit trending lower.Fitch said in a note last week that the U.S. rating is at risk in the current showdown over the debt ceiling because failure to raise it sufficiently in advance of the deadline raises questions about the full faith and credit of the United States to honor its obligations.Political gridlock remains the greatest risk to the U.S. outlook, Fitch said in the note on October 1, the first day of the partial government shutdown.”This ‘faith’ is a key underpinning of the U.S. dollar’s global reserve currency status and reason why the US ‘AAA’ rating can tolerate a substantially higher level of public debt than other ‘AAA’ sovereigns,” Fitch said.(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Thomas Ferraro, Dan Burns, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Walker Simon in New York; Editing by Fred Barbash, Claudia Parsons and Vicki Allen)
ran a year or more from nuclear weapon capability: Obama7 hours ago PoliticsForeign PolicyBarack ObamaIranNuclear weaponIsraelView galleryU.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the government funding impasse at M. Luis Construction, …WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States believes Iran is a year or a more away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon, President Barack Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press released on Saturday, although he described the estimate as „conservative.””Our assessment continues to be a year or more away, and in fact, actually our estimate is probably more conservative than the estimates of Israeli intelligence services,” Obama said in reply to a question about the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.Obama has directed U.S. officials to try to work out an agreement with Iran to allay international concerns about its nuclear program, an opportunity he has said is worth exploring after the election of the relatively moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.The United States, Israel and other countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear program to try to develop the capability to produce weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful energy purposes onlyObama and Rouhani spoke by telephone a week ago, the highest-level contact between the two countries in three decades.”I think Rouhani has staked his position on the idea that he can improve relations with the rest of the world,” Obama said in the AP interview.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed Rouhani’s overtures as a ruse. Israel has warned that new Iranian uranium centrifuges could give Tehran the ability to rapidly produce bomb fuel.”If Iran decides to complete uranium enrichment, it would be able to do so within a few weeks from the moment of decision,” an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.”Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama see eye-to-eye on the need to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons,” the official said.Obama said he understands why Israel is skeptical about Iran’s diplomatic overtures, but said he wants to test whether Rouhani can „follow through.””The way the Iranian system works, he’s not the only decision maker. He’s not even the ultimate decision maker,” Obama said.Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday he supported Rouhani’s diplomatic opening at the U.N. General Assembly last week.But Khamenei, who would make final decisions on any nuclear deal, said that some of what occurred at the U.N. was „not proper” – a hint at some disagreement over Rouhani’s phone conversation with Obama.(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Vicki Allen and David Brunnstrom)
Malala Yousafzai: ‘I Was Spared for a Reason’ By ABC News | Newsmakers – 1 hr 28 mins ago In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old worldwide symbol for peace and education, details the day when a Taliban assassin shot her point-blank in the head on her way home from school.”On the day when I was shot, all of my friends’ faces were covered, except mine,” said Malala, recalling the Oct. 9, 2012, bus ride in the SWAT Valley of Pakistan.”Was that wise?” asked Sawyer. „It was brave, but was it wise?””At that time, I was not worried about myself,” said Malala. „I wanted to live my life as I want. And I said that it’s my right to be without covering my face. I was not expecting them to kill a young girl or to kill a child.”Malala was 11 years old when she took a stand against the Taliban, who had issued an edict that all girls’ schools should be closed. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, ran a girls’ school, and had been targeted for death by the Taliban. And Malala’s increasing visibility put her at risk as well.”I wasn’t scared, but I had started making sure the gate was locked at night and asking God what happens when you die,” Malala wrote in her new autobiography „I Am Malala.”Malala wrote that she considered what she would do if a terrorist jumped out and shot her.”Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him,” she wrote. „But then I’d think that if I did that, there would be no difference between me and a terrorist.””It would be better to plead, ‘Okay, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally. I just want every girl to go to school.'”The bullet narrowly missed Malala’s brain and she was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, six days after the attack. She spent nearly three months in the hospital and underwent numerous surgeries.Now Malala and her family are living in Birmingham and she is back at school. She spent her 16th birthday giving a speech at the United Nations and has become the youngest person to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.She has also founded the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates for and supports girls’ education around the world through grants and partner collaborations.Malala is dedicated to devoting her life to her cause.”It feels like this life is not my life. It’s a second life,” she said. „People have prayed to God to spare me and I was spared for a reason — to use my life for helping people.””I Am Malala” will be in bookstores Tuesday, Oct. 8. In addition to the U.S., the book will be published in 21 countries. You can see Diane Sawyer’s exclusive interview with Malala on “World News with Diane Sawyer” at 6:30 p.m. EDT on Monday Oct. 7, and a 20/20 special „Unbreakable” on Friday, Oct. 11, at 10:00 p.m. EDT.
After shipwreck, Lebanese survivors return to povertyView gallery Rana Moussaoui 4 hours agoKabiit (Lebanon) (AFP) – Assaad Assaad sold everything to escape poverty in Lebanon, but now he is back, after watching his wife and three children, and his dreams of a better life, perish at sea.The 36-year-old, who could now pass for 50, was among 18 shell-shocked Lebanese who returned on Sunday after surviving a shipwreck off Indonesia that killed dozens of impoverished migrants from the Middle East.The Lebanese aboard the Australia-bound boat mainly hailed from the northern Akkar region, where an influx of refugees from neighbouring Syria has compounded the endemic poverty of one of Lebanon’s poorest areas.”We were desperate to leave, and we had hope for a better life, because there is nothing for us here,” Assaad said as he stared ahead blankly, still reliving the tragedy.”I lost everything — my wife, my children, my home,” he says, sitting in his parents’ modest house where the crushing silence is only occasionally broken by neighbours calling in to quietly offer their condolences.In Kabiit, a village nestled beneath verdant mountains, Assaad supported his family on $13 a day before deciding to sell everything — his house, his car, his land and his cow — to pay for passage to Australia, the „Eden” to which many of his fellow villagers had gone.”I don’t want to be rich. I just want to live decently. Here we live in humiliation,” he said.Criminal networks have descended on the region to take advantage of Syrians fleeing the civil war, offering cut-rate passage to Australia via Indonesia that has encouraged poor Lebanese to try their luck as well.View gallery.”Graphic showing the area off the coast of Indonesia where 28 asylum seekers died when their Australi …”Many of those who left lead good lives now. We were not so lucky,” said Assaad, who paid $70,000 to smugglers.He describes the moment when he lost everything.”It was like an explosion. The boat just disintegrated. It was indescribable,” he said. „I would have preferred to die with my family.”Between 80 and 120 people, most of them from the Middle East, were on board the boat. Twenty-eight bodies, many of them women and children, were recovered but 22 others are still missing.Assaad wants the Lebanese state to „open its eyes” to the situation in Akkar, where residents are forced to work the land or, in his case, fell trees for charcoal.In Kabiit — three hours north of Beirut — pot-holed streets run past shuttered shops and children fill plastic bottles with water from a public tap before hauling them back to homes without plumbing.The closest hospital is 20 kilometres (12 miles) away.Even after the tragedy off Indonesia, many locals say they are still willing to try their luck on the ocean passage, fearing that if they remain they could lose even their limited livelihoods to Syrian refugees.View gallery.”Asaad Asaad (right), a Lebanese survivor of the migrant shipwreck in Indonesia last week, is welcome …Fahed Kassem, 36, says he struggles to make ends meet with the $800 a month he earns at a metallurgical plant in Beirut.”Now my boss tells me he could have four Syrians in my place,” he said. „If the opportunity presents itself, I would emigrate too.”Hussein Khodr gave similar reasons for leaving before he set off on the „ship of death” with his eight children and pregnant wife, all of whom died.”He was overwhelmed, he wanted to leave everything. He said ‘I want to live well or I want to die’,” his father Ahmad said.Lebanon, with a population of just four million, is home to 770,000 refugees, and has been without a government for six months after a political crisis caused in part by its ever-feuding political factions’ support for rival sides in Syria.The conflict has spilled over into Lebanon in the form of clashes between armed groups, rocket attacks and bombings that have raised fears of a return to civil war.Afrah Hassan, a 22-year-old who survived the shipwreck, was studying law at a university in the northern city of Tripoli, where fighting has repeatedly broken out between supporters and opponents of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.”There was shooting all the time, and sometimes we had to hide under our chairs in the classroom,” she said. „It was too much. I wanted to leave everything.”She remembers the cockroaches in the boat, five days in which she saw only sky and sea, and then the 10-metre-high (30-foot) waves that crashed into the ship, the small children floating lifeless in the churning waters.”There is no horizon in Lebanon, it’s true,” she said. „But now I tell myself I never should have left.”
By Dominic Evans BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria won foreign praise on Monday for starting to destroy its chemical arsenal, although an opposition activist said the world was merely giving President Bashar al-Assad time to kill more people with conventional weapons.An official from the international mission overseeing the stockpile’s elimination said Damascus had made an excellent start, and the United States acknowledged its rapid compliance with a U.N. resolution on destroying chemical weapons as extremely significant.The official described Sunday’s operations in which Syrian forces used cutting torches and angle grinders to render missile warheads and bombs unusable. However, he noted that this was only the start of work that is due to last until mid-2014 and requires the cooperation of all sides.”It was an excellent first day, with the stress on the word ‘first’,” the official told Reuters by telephone from Damascus, declining to be named.Assad’s government, fighting a civil war in which more than 100,000 people have died, agreed to destroy the chemical weapons after a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus killed hundreds of people in August.While the world’s worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years may not be repeated in Syria, both the rebels and Assad’s forces continue to kill with conventional weapons daily and foreign governments are desperate to end a conflict that risks spreading across much of the region.Experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), supported by the United Nations, aim to oversee destruction of the Syria’s chemical weapons production and mixing equipment by November 1, and deal with all chemical weapons materials by the end of June 2014.”There are milestones and tests that lie ahead, and we hope and expect to have continued cooperation of all parties to pass those milestones,” the official said.A GOOD BEGINNING-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday’s work was a good beginning and offered rare praise for Assad, a leader Washington insists lost legitimacy when he responded with force to protests against his rule which erupted in March 2011.”I think it is extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were already being destroyed,” Kerry told a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at an Asia-Pacific summit in Indonesia.”I think it’s also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly, as they are supposed to,” he said. „I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road, but it’s a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning.”Washington blamed Assad’s forces for the chemical attack while Assad accused rebels of carrying it out to provoke Western intervention.The United States and France threatened air strikes in response but stepped back from military action after Washington and Moscow agreed a framework last month for scrapping Syria’s estimated stockpile of 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents.Syrian rebels and activists have been dismayed by signs of what they see as U.S. reneging on its support for Assad’s opponents – by deferring any threat of military action and then reaching a deal with the Syrian president over chemical weapons.Susan Ahmad, an opposition activist in Damascus, said the chemical weapons agreement was a step back, not forward, in resolving the two-and-a-half year crisis.”It is all about giving Assad more time to kill more people. And here he is, using Scud (missiles) and recruiting fighters,” she said. „The international community is celebrating the victory of keeping Assad as president despite the fact that he has killed hundreds of thousands.”PUSHING FOR TALKS-Kerry said he and Lavrov also spoke at length about ways to bring Syria’s warring parties together for long-delayed peace talks which are now scheduled for Geneva next month.”We re-committed today very specific efforts to move the Geneva process as rapidly as possible,” he said, saying both sides would „lay the groundwork for a round of talks”.They will meet the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to finalise a date for the peace conference, he added. Brahimi said on Sunday it was not certain that the peace talks would take place in mid-November as planned.Assad’s government and the leader of the political opposition in exile have both said they are ready to attend talks but there is little sign that the differences between them could be bridged.The opposition outside Syria, already disowned by the majority of fighters on the ground, insists the talks must focus on removing Assad and installing a transitional government.Officials say the government will not go to Geneva to surrender powers to the rebels and Assad has dismissed negotiation with fighters or opponents who support foreign military or political intervention.The war in Syria has driven 2.1 million refugees to seek shelter in neighbouring countries, according to the United Nations which predicts another million will join them by the end of the year and a further 2 million next year.(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, Oliver Holmes in Beirut and Tom Miles in Geneva; editing by David Stamp)
View galleryFormer French president Nicolas Sarkozy (C) greets well-wishers as he arrives for a lunch with the Mayor …By Claude Canellas BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) – French investigators have abandoned a party funding inquiry against former president Nicolas Sarkozy, a judicial source said on Monday, in a legal case that could have scotched his chances of running for a new term.Sarkozy, who many conservatives want to see lead the centre-right in the 2017 presidential race, was being pursued with others in an investigation into his UMP party’s ties with France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.At issue were allegations that Sarkozy, 58, took advantage of the mental frailty of billionaire Bettencourt to obtain money for his 2007 presidential campaign. He has denied wrongdoing.The two magistrates in charge of the investigation decided to pursue their case against former French Budget Minister Eric Woerth and nine others in the case, said the judicial source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.Sarkozy has largely stayed out of the limelight since his defeat to Francois Hollande, but since the start of the year has fanned speculation that he is mulling a re-election bid.Some 62 percent of conservative UMP voters want to see Sarkozy run for the presidency in 2017, according to an Ifop poll published in September.But while the ruling grants Sarkozy more freedom to intervene in public life, he faces further questioning in the so-called „Karachi Affair”, a drawn-out corruption case linked to arms sales and a deadly bombing in Pakistan in 2002.A Paris appeals court last week authorized magistrates to investigate whether Sarkozy, then president, violated judicial secrecy in 2011 by publishing a statement which referred to case records that were meant to be kept secret.FILLON CHALLENGE-Legal troubles aside, Sarkozy will struggle despite his popularity with right-wing voters to impose himself as natural leader of his centre-right UMP party, which has barely recovered from a leadership struggle between two former allies.Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, once a stalwart supporter of Sarkozy and now a likely electoral rival for 2017, said this week he had no choice but to be „in conflict” with the former president.”I cannot take on all the consequences of a presidential candidacy and not be in conflict with Nicolas Sarkozy, given his state of mind,” Fillon told the JDD weekly paper. „De facto, we are in competition.”Indeed, the UMP that Sarkozy once ran as a disciplined group has splintered into factions loyal to Fillon and rival party chief Jean-Francois Cope, with some former supporters saying that Sarkozy should bow out of politics.Freshly emerged from a fund-raising drive to pay back the cost of Sarkozy’s re-election campaign, which narrowly saved the party from bankruptcy, the UMP now faces a serious electoral challenge from the far-right National Front party.The UMP candidate in a local election in southern France gathered only half as many votes as his National Front rival – a bad sign for the party’s chances of regaining territory in municipal and European elections next year.Its leadership fractured, and with Sarkozy staying out of the political limelight, it also faces a fresh challenge from two centrist leaders, Jean-Louis Borloo and Francois Bayrou, possibly joining forces.(Writing by Brian Love and Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Mark John, Tom Heneghan and David Evans)
German SPD opening door to coalition deal with MerkelErik Kirschbaum 43 minutes ago PoliticsBudget, Tax & EconomyView galleryGerman Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel arrives with senior …By Erik Kirschbaum BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s opposition Social Democrats have signaled their readiness to join Angela Merkel’s conservatives in a right-left ‘grand coalition’ by jettisoning a key election demand for higher taxes on the rich.Two weeks after losing the election to Merkel, SPD leaders have stopped speaking disparagingly of becoming Merkel’s junior partners again – a thankless supporting role the SPD filled in 2005-2009 and which they blamed for a plunge in support.However, it remains to be seen whether grassroots SPD members will back the moves towards a grand coalition, given their fears that the identity of Germany’s oldest party could erode further in a government led by the popular Merkel.Her conservatives emerged as the dominant force on September 22 but fell short of a majority, winning 311 seats in the 630-seat parliament versus 192 for the SPD. The Greens, another potential partner for Merkel, got 63 seats and the radical Left 64.Keeping the pressure on the SPD, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), will meet the Greens on Thursday for exploratory talks before a second meeting with SPD leaders next Monday.Full-scale talks with either the center-left SPD or the Greens could begin in mid-October and last a month or more.After a first meeting with Merkel and conservative leaders on Friday, SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel and his allies abruptly softened their demand for higher taxes, saying it was not carved in stone if the conservatives could come up with other ways to raise funding for infrastructure, education and local councils.”For us tax hikes are not an end in itself,” Gabriel said. „If the CDU/CSU doesn’t want this, they must explain what alternative there is to finance these tasks.””I’d rather see the SPD in a government shaping policy than outside looking in,” Gabriel said.”SOLIDARITY”-The comments marked a departure from the language right after the election when SPD leaders professed little interest – and even urged Merkel to talk to the Greens about a government.Giving up tax increases runs counter to the SPD’s campaign platform, which called higher taxes an „important means to promote solidarity and counter growing social division”.The SPD wanted to raise the top income tax rate from 42 percent to 49 percent for people earning over 100,000 euros. Its retreat on tax hikes is an indication the party is more eager than a fortnight ago to join forces with Merkel.”It’s surprising to see the SPD sounding so eager so soon to be in the next government,” said Gero Neugebauer, political scientist at Berlin’s Free University. „But it won’t be easy for Gabriel to sell this to the rank and file. It’s a tough piece of meat and he’s going to have to marinate it for a while.”The SPD plans to allow its 472,000 members to vote on any coalition agreement with the CDU/CSU. As many SPD members are skeptical, the unprecedented move is fraught with risk and could scupper the formation of a coalition if members rejected it.Thomas Jaeger, a political scientist at Cologne University, said the SPD leaders shifted because they realized their usual allies, the Greens, are competing with them to get into power.”If the Greens had refused to talk to Merkel the SPD would have had a stronger hand,” he said. „Now they’re competitors. SPD leaders want to get into power. It remains to be seen if they can persuade their members that it’s the right move.”(Editing by Gareth Jones)
View galleryCanada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves as he boards a Royal Canadian Air Force plane before departing …OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday he would not attend a November summit of the Commonwealth in Sri Lanka because of what he called human rights abuses on the island.”We remain disturbed by ongoing reports of intimidation and incarceration of political leaders and journalists, harassment of minorities, reported disappearances, and allegations of extra judicial killings,” he said in a statement.The U.N.’s human rights chief said last month that Sri Lanka could be sliding toward an authoritarian system as President Mahinda Rajapaksa gathered power around him.Harper is the only leader from the Commonwealth, which groups Britain and many former colonies, to announce he will boycott the November summit. Britain also has criticized human rights in Sri Lanka.Harper said it was unacceptable that Sri Lanka had yet to investigate allegations of atrocities during and after a long civil war with Tamil rebels, which ended in 2009. Sri Lanka has long dismissed allegations its troops committed major crimes.”It is clear that the Sri Lankan government has failed to uphold the Commonwealth’s core values, which are cherished by Canadians … I will not attend the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Colombo,” said Harper.Canada will be represented by Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to Foreign Minister John Baird.(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bill Trott)
Americans, German-American win medicine NobelView gallery KARL RITTER and MALIN RISING 18 minutes ago Science, Social Science, & HumanitiesRandy SchekmanJames RothmanStanford UniversityNobel PrizeNobel CommitteeAlfred NobelSTOCKHOLM (AP) — Two Americans and a German-American won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering how key substances are transported within cells, a process involved in such important activities as brain cell communication and the release of insulin.James Rothman, 62, of Yale University, Randy Schekman, 64, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Thomas Sudhof, 57, of Stanford University shared the $1.2 million prize for their research on how tiny bubbles called vesicles act as cargo carriers inside cells.This traffic control system ensures that the cargo is delivered to the right place at the right time and keeps activities inside cells from descending into chaos, the committee said. Defects can be harmful, leading to neurological diseases, diabetes and disorders affecting the immune system.”Imagine hundreds of thousands of people who are traveling around hundreds of miles of streets; how are they going to find the right way? Where will the bus stop and open its doors so that people can get out?” Nobel committee secretary Goran Hansson said. „There are similar problems in the cell.”The winners’ discoveries in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s have helped doctors diagnose a severe form of epilepsy and immune deficiency diseases in children, Hansson said. In the future, scientists hope the research could lead to medicines against more common types of epilepsy, diabetes and other metabolism deficiencies, he added.View gallery.”FILE – In this Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 file photo Thomas C. Suedhof delivers a speech during the 2013 …Schekman said he was awakened at 1 a.m. at his home in California by the chairman of the prize committee, just as he was suffering from jetlag after returning from a trip to Germany the night before.”I wasn’t thinking too straight. I didn’t have anything elegant to say,” he told The Associated Press. „All I could say was ‘Oh my God,’ and that was that.”He called the prize a wonderful acknowledgment of the work he and his students had done and said he knew it would change his life.”I called my lab manager and I told him to go buy a couple bottles of Champagne and expect to have a celebration with my lab,” he said.In the 1970s, Schekman discovered a set of genes that were required for vesicle transport, while Rothman revealed in the 1980s and 1990s how vesicles delivered their cargo to the right places. Also in the ’90s, Sudhof identified the machinery that controls when vesicles release chemical messengers from one brain cell that let it communicate with another.View gallery.”FILE – In this 2005 file photo released by Yale University shows biologist James Rothman on the scho …”This is not an overnight thing. Most of it has been accomplished and developed over many years, if not decades,” Rothman told the AP.Rothman said he lost grant money for the work recognized by the Nobel committee, but he will now reapply, hoping the Nobel prize will make a difference in receiving funding.Sudhof, who was born in Germany but moved to the U.S. in 1983 and also has U.S. citizenship, told the AP he received the call from the committee while driving toward the city of Baeza, in southern Spain, where he was due to give a talk.”I got the call while I was driving and like a good citizen I pulled over and picked up the phone,” he said. „To be honest, I thought at first it was a joke. I have a lot of friends who might play these kinds of tricks.”The medicine prize kicked off this year’s Nobel announcements. The awards in physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will be announced by other prize juries this week and next. Each prize is worth 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million).View gallery.”Images of James Rothman and Randy Schekman, of the US, and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof are …Rothman and Schekman won the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their research in 2002 — an award often seen as a precursor of a Nobel Prize. Sudhof won the Lasker award this year.”I might have been just as happy to have been a practicing primary-care doctor,” Sudhof said after winning that prize. „But as a medical student I had interacted with patients suffering from neurodegeneration or acute clinical schizophrenia. It left an indelible mark on my memory.”Jeremy Berg, former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, said Monday’s announcement was „long overdue” and widely expected because the research was „so fundamental, and has driven so much other research.”Berg, who now directs the Institute for Personalized Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said the work provided the intellectual framework that scientists use to study how brain cells communicate and how other cells release hormones. In both cases, vesicles play a key role by delivering their cargo to the cell surface and releasing it to the outside, he told the AP.So the work has indirectly affected research into virtually all neurological disease as well as other diseases, he said.Established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prizes have been handed out by award committees in Stockholm and Oslo since 1901. The winners always receive their awards on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.Last year’s Nobel medicine award went to Britain’s John Gurdon and Japan’s Shinya Yamanaka for their contributions to stem cell science._____Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin, Matt Surman in London, Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn., and Malcolm Ritter in New York contributed to this report.
2013 MLB Regular-Season Standings
|x Tampa Bay||92||71||.564||5.5||51-30||41-41||W-2||700||646||54||8-2|
|Chi White Sox||63||99||.389||30.0||37-44||26-55||L-1||598||723||-125||3-7|
|y St. Louis||97||65||.599||—||54-27||43-38||W-6||783||596||187||8-2|
|y LA Dodgers||92||70||.568||—||47-34||45-36||L-2||649||582||67||5-5|
In northern push, Syrian troops reopen key roadView galleryIn this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, in Damascus, Syria, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. Assad has conceded making mistakes and says no side in his country’s civil war is entirely free of blame. (AP Photo/SANA)BASSEM MROUE 26 minutes agoBEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces have reopened a key road leading to the embattled northern city of Aleppo after heavy fighting with rebels that left casualties on both sides, state media and activists said Monday.The state news agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime troops wrested control of the road Sunday night. It had been closed since rebels captured villages along the road in August.President Bashar Assad’s regime built the desert road to bypass contested areas after rebels took the town of Maaret al-Numan late last year, cutting the main highway between the capital, Damascus, and Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.”This road was a matter of life or death to the regime,” said Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman. He added that government troops now can send supplies to the north although the road remains „very dangerous.”SANA said the military „broke the siege of armed terrorist groups that were preventing food supplies from reaching residents of Aleppo.” The government refers to rebels as terrorists.Rebels and government troops have fought for control of Aleppo since July 2012.Meanwhile, several members of an advance team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent to Syria as part of a deal to rid the country of its chemical arms program returned to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.The OPCW said in a statement that those who left Syria had held „constructive” talks with the government about the details Damascus has provided about its program. Syrian authorities have been „cooperative,” it said, and the experts will continue to evaluate the information handed over by the government. An initial report will be submitted by Oct. 27, it added.For the first time since the mission began last week, Syrian personnel working under the supervision of the OPCE experts on Sunday began destroying the country’s chemical arsenal and equipment used to produce it.The joint OPCW-U.N. mission to scrap Syria’s chemical program stems from a deadly Aug. 21 attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in which the U.N. has determined the nerve agent sarin was used. Hundreds of people were killed, including many children. The U.S. and Western allies accuse the Syrian government of being responsible, while Damascus blames the rebels.The Obama administration threatened to launch punitive missile strikes against Syria, prompting frantic diplomatic efforts to forestall an attack. Those efforts concluded with September’s unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.__Follow Bassem Mroue on twitter.com/bmroue
Gov’t shutdown enters 2nd week, no end in sightView galleryDONNA CASSATA 25 minutes agoWASHINGTON (AP) — The government shutdown entered its second week with no end in sight and ominous signs that the United States was closer to the first default in the nation’s history as Speaker John Boehner ruled out any measure to boost borrowing authority without concessions from President Barack Obama.The uncompromising talk rattled financial markets early Monday with the Dow dropping more than 100 points in early trading.Just 10 days before the threat of default would be imminent, animosity among congressional leaders marked the stalemate and resolution seemed elusive.A statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Boehner of a credibility problem and called on him to allow a vote on a straightforward bill to re-open the government.”There is now a consistent pattern of Speaker Boehner saying things that fly in the face of the facts or stand at odds with his past actions,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid. „Americans across the country are suffering because Speaker Boehner refuses to come to grips with reality.”In response, Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said it was „time for Senate Democrats to stow their faux outrage and deal with the problems at hand. The federal government is shut down because Democrats refuse to negotiate, and the debt limit is right around the corner.”A defiant Boehner insists that Obama must negotiate if the president wants to end the shutdown and avert a default that could trigger a financial crisis and recession that would echo 2008 or worse. The 2008 financial crisis plunged the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,” the Ohio Republican said in a television interview Sunday. „I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit, and the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”Boehner also said he lacks the votes „to pass a clean CR,” or continuing resolution, a reference to the temporary spending bill without conditions that would keep the government operating.Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned that the budget brinkmanship was „playing with fire” and implored Congress to pass legislation to re-open the government and increase the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit. Lew reiterated that Obama has no intention to link either bill to Republican demands for changes in the 3-year-old health care law and spending cuts.The shutdown has pushed hundreds of thousands of workers off the job, closed national parks and museums and stopped an array of government services.The one bright spot on Monday is a significant chunk of the furloughed federal workforce is headed back to work. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered nearly 350,000 back on the job, basing his decision on a Pentagon interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act.Those who remain at home or are working without paychecks are a step closer to getting back pay once the partial government shutdown ends. The Senate could act this week on the measure that passed the House unanimously on Saturday.Democrats insist that Republicans could easily open the government if Boehner simply allows a vote on the emergency spending bill. Democrats argue that their 200 members in the House plus close to two dozen pragmatic Republicans would back a so-called clean bill, but the Speaker remains hamstrung by his tea party-strong GOP caucus.View gallery.”U.S. Park Police stand guard inside the gates of the World War II Memorial in Washington October 5, …”Let me issue him a friendly challenge. Put it on the floor Monday or Tuesday. I would bet there are the votes to pass it,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.In a series of Sunday television appearances, Lew warned that on Oct. 17, he exhausts the bookkeeping maneuvers he has been using to keep borrowing.”I’m telling you that on the 17th, we run out of the ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire,” Lew said.Lew said that while Treasury expects to have $30 billion of cash on hand on Oct. 17, that money will be quickly exhausted in paying incoming bills given that the government’s payments can run up to $60 billion on a single day.Treasury issued a report on Thursday detailing in stark terms what could happen if the government actually defaulted on its obligations to service the national debt.”A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic,” the Treasury report said. „Credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world.”Private economists generally agree that a default on the U.S. debt would be extremely harmful, especially if the impasse was not resolved quickly.”If they don’t pay on the debt, that would cost us for generations to come,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He said a debt default would be a „cataclysmic” event that would roil financial markets in the United States and around the world.Zandi said that holders of U.S. Treasury bonds would demand higher interest rates which would cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars in higher interest payments in coming years on the national debt.Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a force in pushing Republicans to link changes to the health care law in exchange for keeping the government running, spelled out his conditions for raising the borrowing authority.”We should look for three things. No. 1, we should look for some significant structural plan to reduce government spending. No. 2, we should avoid new taxes. And No. 3, we should look for ways to mitigate the harms from ‘Obamacare,'” Cruz said, describing the debt ceiling as an issue that is among the „best leverage the Congress has to rein in the executive.”Boehner and Schumer were interviewed on ABC’s „This Week,” and Lew and Cruz on CNN’s „State of the Union.” Lew also appeared on CBS’ „Face the Nation,” ”Fox News Sunday” and NBC’s „Meet the Press.”___Associated Press writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.
Target of failed U.S. raid in Somalia planned Kenya attacksROBERT BURNS and JASON STRAZIUSO 1 hour ago U.S. special forces nab top al-Qaeda terroristPlay video.”NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A United States official says the target of raid by Navy SEALs in Somalia over the weekend was a Kenyan man named Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir. A Kenyan government intelligence document names him as the coordinator of other planned attacks.The man, also known as Ikrima, was a known operator for the Somali militant group al-Shabab.The document says that foiled plots by Abdulkadir included plans to target Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations office in Nairobi, as well as an Ethiopian restaurant patronized by Somali government officials.It does not appear that Saturday’s raid resulted in the killing or capture of Abdulkadir. The U.S. official who confirmed the target of the SEAL raid insisted on anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter.___Burns reported from Washington.
Israelis, Palestinians intensify talks despite skepticismCrispian Balmer and Ali Sawafta 9 minutes agoView galleryIsraeli parliament members Isaac Herzog (L) and Hilik Bar (C) shake hands with Palestinian President …By Crispian Balmer and Ali Sawafta JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a new round of talks on Monday, picking up the tempo of their meetings at the request of the United States in the face of widespread skepticism that they will ever reach a deal.The two sides resumed direct peace negotiations in late July after three years of stalemate and have conducted a series of discussions far from the gaze of the media over recent weeks, without any outward hint of the slightest breakthrough.Just as for much of the last 20 years, the same problems continue to snarl progress towards a deal, with Israelis and Palestinians at loggerheads over how to divide the land and over their future security arrangements – among other things.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a rare meeting with a group of Israeli parliamentarians on Monday, warning that this could be the last chance to reach a deal to end decades of conflict and create two independent states living side-by-side.An uncompromising speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday underscored pessimism prevailing in both camps, with members of the Israeli leader’s own coalition openly campaigning for an end to the so-called peace process.However, a senior Palestinian official told Reuters that the talks were intensifying, with the negotiating teams agreeing to meet for up to eight hours a day and to see one another more regularly than at the start of their latest diplomatic drive.”As the Americans requested, we are upping the tempo of the discussions,” the official said, adding that Washington would evaluate the situation in the next two months and see how to narrow the inevitable differences.”So far we have achieved nothing,” he said.For the last two months, the two sides met once or twice a week, sometimes only for a couple of hours a time, raising eyebrows among foreign diplomats, who questioned how the U.S. goal of reaching a full accord by April could ever be met.”If they are really serious about getting a result within nine months, then they should be meeting every day,” said one senior diplomat in Jerusalem, who declined to be named.CLASHING NARRATIVES-Netanyahu on Sunday pinned blame for the continued impasse on a refusal by Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and said they would have to abandon their demand for refugees and their descendants to return to Israel.His speech went down well with hardliners and supporters of the Jewish settlements that dot the occupied West Bank. Settlers fear that Netanyahu might buckle under international pressure and give Palestinians most of the land seized in the 1967 war.”Probably the best speech by Netanyahu as PM,” Dani Dayan, a former settler leader, said appreciatively on Twitter.A senior Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, dismissed the speech as part of a „political game”. He also criticized chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni, who suggested at the weekend that the talks could go on beyond the April deadline.”This is a clear sign that Israel wants to draw out the process of negotiations for as long as possible so that it can evade international pressure and American disfavor,” he told Voice of Palestine radio.Palestinian leaders have often said continued settlement expansion on land they seek for a state poses the main obstacle to a peace agreement.Striking a more upbeat tone in his meeting with mainly opposition Israeli politicians, Abbas said he still believed it was possible to strike a comprehensive accord by April.”I’ll say what (U.S. Secretary of State) Kerry has said, that I fear this could be the last chance for peace, which is terrifying. This is why we must work with all our effort to reach peace, because in the unknown, there is great danger.”(Additional reporting by Noah Browning in Ramallah and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Putin says he agrees with Obama’s decision to cancel Asia trip4 hours ago PoliticsBarack ObamaView galleryRussia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in …NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday he understood U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel his trip to Asia and would have done the same if faced with the same domestic challenges.Obama cancelled his visit to Indonesia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit this week due to the U.S. government shutdown.”We see what is happening in U.S. domestic politics and this is not an easy situation. I think the fact that the U.S. president did not come here is quite justified,” Putin said at APEC.”I think that if I was in his situation, I would not come either. Any head of state would do that, probably.”(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Ron Popeski)