Rescuers tell flooded mountain residents: Leave now or face possible hardship
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- Rescue teams are warning people in some Colorado towns isolated by devastating flooding against remaining there, telling them that they could face weeks without basic supplies, including running water and electricity.
Helicopters and truck convoys of the National Guard carried the admonition Saturday into paralyzed canyon communities where thousands of stranded residents were eager to escape the Rocky Mountain foothills. But not everybody was willing to go. Dozens of people in hard hit Jamestown wanted to stay to watch over their homes.
Authorities made clear that residents who chose not to leave might not get another chance for a while. Rescuers won’t go back for people who insist on staying, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.
"We’re not trying to force anyone from their home. We’re not trying to be forceful, but we’re trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down," Pelle said.
Special education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home.
Obama: Agreement to destroy chemical weapons a plus for the world as well as Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says an agreement between the U.S. and Russia offers a chance to destroy Syria’s huge stockpile of chemical weapons and promises to end the threat the weapons pose to the region and the world as well as the Syrian people.
Obama says the international community expects Syria to live up to its public commitments to hand over its chemical weapons stockpile. Warning that the U.S. remains prepared to act if Syria falls short, he also cautions that more work remains even after the progress the deal represents
"The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere," Obama said in a statement Saturday. "We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children. Today marks an important step towards achieving this goal."
In setting out one of the most ambitious arms-control efforts in history, U.S. and Russian officials reached an agreement calling for an inventory of Syria’s chemical weapons program and seizing all its components. The agreement includes imposing penalties if Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and their teams had been meeting day and night in Geneva to develop a framework for ridding the world of Syria’s chemicals weapons. A gas attack in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21prompted a series of events leading to the meetings.
Biden to face anti-war Democrats who are cool to talk about an airstrike on Syria
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden is heading into the belly of Democrats’ anti-war opposition, venturing into a politically influential heartland state for the first time since President Barack Obama publicly endorsed a possible military strike on Syria.
Biden is scheduled to headline a fundraiser in Iowa Sunday for Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, an annual steak picnic for the senator who is popular with anti-war Democrats.
Even if Biden sidesteps talk of Syria, the issue will be as much a part of the backdrop as the bales of hay and smoke from the grilling steaks, and in a place where he will have to plant his flag should he seek the presidency in 2016.
"That’s going to be a little sensitive," said eastern Iowa Democrat Richard Machacek, an Obama delegate in 2008, referring to possible military action against Syria. "It flies in the face of what the president campaigned on here."
Obama rode an anti-war wave to victory in Iowa’s 2008 presidential caucuses. He had proposed limited air strikes in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack last month against more than 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb. The administration says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was behind the attack.
Philippines says nearly 100 Muslim rebels killed or captured
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- Nearly 100 Muslim guerrillas who have held scores of people hostage for a week in a southern Philippine city have been killed or captured in an offensive to retake rebel-held coastal communities, officials said Sunday.
Army troops and police special forces have regained rebel-held grounds and are pressing an assault deeper into communities in the coastal outskirts of Zamboanga city, where more than 100 Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas are holding an unspecified number of hostages, military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.
"We’re gaining ground, we’re pushing forward," he said.
Troops are calibrating their firepower to avoid harming civilians, Zagala said.
At least 51 rebels have been killed and 42 others captured, most while trying to escape along the coast after discarding their camouflage uniforms for ordinary clothes, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said, adding that the gunmen would face criminal charges.
Analysis: Energy costs keep Japan’s focus on nuclear, despite risks and use of renewables
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan will once again be without atomic energy as its only operating nuclear reactor goes offline Sunday for refueling and maintenance, and other plants remain closed for intensified safety checks following the 2011 meltdowns at the tsunami-stricken plant in Fukushima.
But despite signs that the Fukushima crisis is worsening, Japan’s commitment to restarting many of its 50 idled reactors appears stronger than ever, a year after a previous government said it would begin to phase out nuclear power completely.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December, says nuclear power remains essential, even with a surge in generation capacity from solar, wind and other renewable sources, and that the world’s No. 3 economy cannot afford the mounting costs from importing gas and oil.
Four nuclear plant operators have applied to restart a dozen reactors under revised safety guidelines, though the pace will be relatively slow, with the first expected to come online early next year at the earliest. Inspections take about six months for each reactor, and obtaining consent from local governments may also take time.
Only two reactors have been operating in Japan since July 2012, both at Ohi in the west. The No. 3 reactor went offline for maintenance on Sept. 2, and the No. 4 reactor is being shut down Sunday night. They are among the dozen that have applied to restart.
New Mexico cleans
up after widespread flooding damages neighborhoods
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Flood waters broke through dams, inundated neighborhoods and killed at least one person, leaving New Mexico residents with a major cleanup effort.
The massive flooding prompted Gov. Susana Martinez to issue a state of emergency, opening up recovery funding after rivers overflowed because of heavy rains and caused millions of dollars in damage.
State Police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said the body of a man was found Saturday in his partially submerged vehicle next to State Road 51 in Ash Canyon, about 150 miles from Albuquerque. Investigators believe the man died after his vehicle washed into a ravine covered in mud near the Elephant Butte dam and was washed nearly a miles off roadway, probably Friday during the flooding, Gutierrez said.
The man’s name was not released.
Officials said heavy rain on Friday caused the Rio Grande and nearby creeks to overflow in Sierra County -- where the man was found -- and forced an unknown number of residents to evacuate. The flooding also ruptured an earthen canal in Las Vegas and an aging earthen dam in southern New Mexico.
At least 24 Afghans killed in northern coal mine tunnel collapse, 3 still missing
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A tunnel collapsed in a coal mine in Afghanistan’s north, killing at least 24 workers and leaving three others missing, officials said Sunday. Some 14 area residents trying to aid in the rescue were overcome by fumes and had to get treatment.
Workplace safety standards are poor in Afghanistan as in many developing nations, and such accidents are common. But concern about such standards is likely to grow in the coming years as the government tries to develop a wealth of mineral resources in the country -- a challenging goal as it battles a Taliban insurgency.
The mine tunnel collapse occurred Saturday around 2 p.m. in Ruyi Du Ab district of Samangan province, a remote area where the insurgency does not have a significant presence yet. Aminullah, a police official who like many Afghans goes by one name, says more than 1,000 villagers in the area rushed to the scene, using their hands, shovels and other tools to try to dig out the workers.
Akram Baigzad, the provincial police chief, said 24 bodies had been recovered of a total of 27 workers. Fumes left around 14 rescuers with breathing problems, but none died as a result, he said.
Summers withdraws name from Fed consideration
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawrence Summers, who was considered the leading candidate to replace current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, has withdrawn his name from consideration, the White House said Sunday.
Summers faced opposition from some Democrats, including members of the Senate Banking Committee. Summers alluded to the opposition to his candidacy in a letter he sent to Obama Sunday to formally withdraw from consideration.
"I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interests of the Federal Reserve, the administration or ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery," he wrote.
Summers’ ascent to the top of the list to succeed Bernanke rankled some of the president’s liberal supporters. He was seen as having been too cozy with Wall Street and was criticized for controversial comments he made about women and math and science.
Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the women’s rights group UltraViolet, welcomed Summers’ withdrawal, saying she hopes it serves as "a reminder to all that sexism has no place anywhere in society and certainly not in the highest levels of our government." Thomas called on Obama to nominate current Fed vice chairwoman Janet Yellen, another candidate on Obama’s short list, to take over Bernanke’s job.
Obama vigorously defended Summers in recent weeks, both in public comments and in closed-door meetings with lawmakers.
"I will always be grateful to Larry for his tireless work and service on behalf of his country, and I look forward to continuing to seek his guidance and counsel in the future," Obama said Sunday.
The president has also been facing trouble with his liberal base on other fronts this year, including revelations about the National Security Agency’s spying programs and his call for a military strike against Syria.
Summers’ decision could make Yellen the leading candidate to replace Bernanke. Yellen, who became a member of the Fed’s board of governors in 1994, would be the first woman to run the Fed.
Obama is expected to announce his nomination as early as this month. Bernanke’s term ends Jan. 31, 2014.