Shutdown countdown: Senate rejects House bill as Republican unity frays; Obama urges agreement
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Their unity fraying, House Republicans bent but did not blink Monday in their demand for changes in the nation’s health care overhaul as the price for preventing the first partial government shutdown in 17 years.
"We’re at the brink," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., moments after the Senate voted 54-46 to reject the latest GOP attempt to tie government financing to delays in "Obamacare."
The stock market dropped on fears that political gridlock between the White House and a tea party-heavy Republican party would prevail.
As lawmakers squabbled, President Barack Obama urged them to "act responsibly and do what’s right for the American people." At the White House, he said he was willing to discuss long-term budget issues with members of Congress, and expected to do soon. But, he added, "The only way to do that is for everybody to sit down in good faith without threatening to harm women and veterans and children with a government shutdown."
In a fast-paced series of events, the Senate voted 54-46 to reject a House-passed measure that would have kept the government open while delaying implementation of the health care law for a year and permanently repealing a medical device tax that helps finance it.
Despite foes, the health care law going live as markets for uninsured open across the nation
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Contentious from its conception, President Barack Obama’s health care law has survived the Supreme Court, a battle for the White House and rounds of budget brinkmanship. Now comes the ultimate test: the verdict of the American people.
A government shutdown could dampen the rollout Tuesday as insurance markets open around the country. But it won’t stop the main components of "Obamacare" from going live as scheduled, glitches and all. The biggest expansion of society’s safety net since Medicare will be in the hands of consumers, and most of their concerns don’t revolve around ideology and policy details.
People want to know if they can afford the premiums, if the coverage will be solid, where the bureaucratic pitfalls are and if new federal and state websites will really demystify shopping for health insurance. Full answers may take months.
Expect the rollout to get off to a slow start, with some bumps.
People who don’t have access to job-based health insurance can start shopping right away for subsidized private policies. Or they can wait to sign up as late as Dec. 15 and still get coverage by Jan. 1. Many will probably want to see how it goes for the first wave of applicants before they jump in.
Netanyahu to Obama: Don’t fall for the smiles; try diplomacy but keep Iran sanctions in place
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Despite soothing assurances from Iran’s new leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored President Barack Obama on Monday to keep punishing sanctions in place against Tehran -- and even tighten them if the Islamic republic advances its nuclear programs while negotiating with the U.S.
Netanyahu nevertheless signaled he would not block Obama’s efforts to seek a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear impasse, even as he expressed skepticism about the Iranian government
"If diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place," Netanyahu said of the sanctions during an Oval Office meeting with Obama.
The two men met three days after Obama’s historic phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which marked the first direct conversation between a U.S. and Iranian leader in more than three decades. While the election of Rouhani, a more moderate-sounding cleric, has been viewed optimistically by the Obama administration, Netanyahu has dismissed the new Iranian leader’s outreach as a "smiley campaign" aimed at buying Tehran more time to pursue a bomb.
Obama, who has long called for a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute, said it was important to test the possible diplomatic opening. But he insisted that U.S. officials were "clear-eyed" as they enter talks with the Iranians.
In aftermath of Kenya
mall siege, shop owners suspect security troops
in widespread thefts
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Jewelry cases smashed. Mobile phones ripped from displays. Cash registers emptied. Alcohol stocks plundered.
For the second time in two months, poorly paid Kenyan security forces that moved in to control an emergency are being accused of robbing the very property they were supposed to protect. First the troops were accused of looting during a huge fire in August at Nairobi’s main airport.
Now shop owners at Westgate Mall are returning to their stores after last week’s devastating terrorist attack to find displays ransacked and valuables stolen.
One witness told The Associated Press that he saw a Kenyan soldier take cigarettes out of a dead man’s pocket.
Shopkeepers spent Monday carting merchandise and other valuables out of their stores and restaurants to prevent any more thefts. No one can say for sure who is responsible, but Kenya’s security forces are strongly suspected.
Racing against time, international weapons experts kick off complex Syria disarmament mission
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Inspectors charged with the enormous task of overseeing the destruction of Syria’s deadly chemical weapons stockpiles kicked off their mission Monday, racing to meet tight deadlines against the backdrop of civil war.
The Syrian regime lashed out at the rebels, claiming government forces are fighting mostly al-Qaida-linked militants and refusing to talk with the main Western-backed opposition group -- a blow to U.S.-Russian efforts to hold a peace conference by November.
New splits within the opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, also emerged on the conditions for attending the planned conference in Geneva. After meetings with U.S. officials in New York last week, the group’s leader expressed readiness to attend talks aimed at establishing a transitional government with full executive powers, leaving open the question of whether President Bashar Assad could stay on.
But other coalition members expressed astonishment, saying they would participate only if they have prior guarantees that Assad would step down.
"Geneva should be the road toward salvation and not the road to rescue Assad and his gang," said Mohammad Sarmini, a Turkey-based coalition member.
Faced with protests, Sudan’s al-Bashir digs in against calls for reform
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- When Sudan’s longtime president Omar al-Bashir introduced drastic austerity measures, he berated the public for being ungrateful over how his regime had improved their lives, boasting that before he came to power, Sudanese never ate hot dogs, talking as if they were a strange, luxury food.
For the protesters streaming out into the streets for the past week demanding his ouster, al-Bashir’s talk of hot dogs in his Sept. 22 speech was one more sign of how out of touch he has become after 24 years in power. The protests, prompted by cuts in subsidies that sparked dramatic hikes in fuel and food prices, have brought out an unprecedented diversity -- from the poor in Khartoum’s fringe neighborhoods to upscale districts of the capital.
Al-Bashir’s security forces have responded with a fierce crackdown, opening fire on marches. At least 50 people have been killed, and Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud said Monday that 700 people have been arrested, while authorities have clamped down on Sudanese media, trying to impose a blackout on reporting of the events.
The response is a sign of the vulnerability al-Bashir’s regime is feeling at a time when it has increasingly been fraying. Discontent has grown within the military and his own ruling party over the 69-year-old president’s handling of Sudan’s relentless stream of crises. After South Sudan broke away in 2011 and took with it most of the country’s oil resources, the economy is in a shambles with inflation mounting and nearly half the population living below the poverty line. The regime has been unable to deal with multiple internal wars that further drain the treasury as ethnic minorities wage insurgencies in the east, west and south, complaining of unequal distribution of power and wealth.
Even former allies are warning al-Bashir must carry out real democratic reforms or else the system could collapse, leading to the further fragmentation of Sudan.
Republican N.C.gov, lawmakers vow to fight U.S. DOJ lawsuit alleging voting rights discrimination
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina’s Republican governor is vowing to fight a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department challenging the state’s tough new elections law on the grounds it disproportionately excludes minority voters.
Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday he has hired a private lawyer to help defend the new law from what he suggested was a partisan attack by President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration.
"I believe the federal government action is an overreach and without merit," McCrory said at a brief media conference during which he took no questions. "I firmly believe we have done the right thing. I believe this is good law."
North Carolina’s new law cuts early voting by a week, ends same-day voter registration and includes a stringent photo ID requirement. The measure also eliminated a popular high school civics program that encouraged students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.
More than 70 percent of African-Americans who cast a ballot in North Carolina during the past two presidential elections voted early. Studies show minority voters are also more likely to lack a driver’s license.
In Gulf oil spill trial, BP accused of lying about gushing crude; company denies claims
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- BP lied to the U.S.government and withheld information about the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico after its well blew out in 2010, attorneys told a judge Monday.
But lawyers for the London-based oil giant denied those accusations and said there was no way to prepare for such a unique blowout a mile below the sea floor. Second-guessing the company’s efforts to cap the well was "Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst," BP attorney Mike Brock said during opening statements of the second phase of a trial over the spill.
This part focuses on BP’s response to the disaster and is designed help U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier determine much oil spewed into the Gulf.
The government’s estimate is some 70 million gallons more than what BP says spilled. Establishing how much oil leaked into the Gulf during BP’s struggle to cap the well will help figure out the penalties the oil company must pay. Billions of dollars are at stake.
The first phase of the trial centered on what caused the blowout.
Experimental surgery for unusual form of infertility produces a baby boy for Japanese woman
NEW YORK (AP) -- A 30-year-old infertile woman gave birth after surgeons removed her ovaries and re-implanted tissue they treated in a lab, researchers report.
The experimental technique was only tried in a small group of Japanese women with a specific kind of infertility problem, but scientists hope it can also help women in their early 40s who have trouble getting pregnant because of their age.
The new mother gave birth to a son in Tokyo last December, and she and the child continue to be healthy, said Dr. Kazuhiro Kawamura of the St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kawasaki, Japan. He and others describe the technique in a report published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The mother, who was not identified, had been diagnosed with primary ovarian insufficiency, an uncommon form of infertility sometimes called premature menopause. It appears in about 1 percent of women of childbearing age. The cause of most cases is unknown, but the outcome is that the ovary has trouble producing eggs.
That leaves women with only a 5 percent to 10 percent chance of having a baby unless they get treated. The standard treatment is using donor eggs.