Republicans voting to extend all tax cuts; Pentagon warns of spending cut impact
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With the government speeding toward a year-end "fiscal cliff," Republicans pushed a House vote Wednesday on renewing tax cuts to prop up the national economy and the Obama administration warned that looming budget cuts could send troops into battle with less training. But both taxes and spending were enmeshed in campaign politics, with no resolution expected until after the elections.
Democrats are demanding that any compromise to avoid the $110 billion in budget cuts that are scheduled to kick in Jan. 2 include a tax increase on high-income earners as well as the tax-cut extension for most earners. Republicans reject the idea of raising rates on anyone as the economy struggles to recover fully from recession.
"There are five months remaining for Congress to act," acting White House Budget Director Jeff Zients told the House Armed Services Committee. "What is holding us up right now is the Republican refusal to have the top 2 percent pay their fair share."
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the committee that if Congress fails to come up with a compromise, nearly all elements of the military will be affected by cuts mandated by last year’s deficit deal. Training would be scaled back and flying hours for Air Force pilots would be reduced. The Navy would buy fewer ships and the Air Force fewer
"Some later-deploying units (including some deploying to Afghanistan) could receive less training, especially in the Army and Marine Corps," Carter said. "Under some circumstances, this reduced training could impact their ability to respond to a new contingency, should one occur." Military personnel would be exempt from job cuts, but furloughs might be issued and commissary hours reduced, he said.
Where’s Assad? Syrian leader appeals -- in writing -- for army to boost fight
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad urged his military Wednesday to boost its fight against rebels, but his written call to arms only deepened a mystery over his whereabouts two weeks after a bomb penetrated his inner circle.
Assad has not spoken publicly since the July 18 bombing killed four of his top security officials -- including his brother-in-law -- during a rebel assault on the capital, Damascus. The president’s low profile has raised questions about whether he fears for his personal safety as the civil war escalates dramatically.
The United States called the Syrian president a coward for marshaling his forces from the pages of the army’s official magazine.
"We think it’s cowardly, quite frankly, to have a man hiding out of sight, exhorting his armed forces to continue to slaughter the civilians of his own country," said U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
Sausan Ghosheh, the spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Syria, said Wednesday that international observers witnessed warplanes firing in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where intense fighting has been raging for 12 days.
Victory of Cruz in Texas will boost tea party lawmakers’ clout in the U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ted Cruz’s Senate primary victory in Texas will provide a boost for tea party-backed, no-compromise conservatives in Congress.
His all-but-sure win in November will increase the number of tea party-aligned senators to six. And as many as seven more could win election, ensuring a bigger impact on both politics and policy on Capitol Hill -- even if Democrats retain a Senate majority and the White House.
Dozens of tea party-supported candidates won House seats two years ago, but only four were elected to the Senate. Cruz is predicting his arrival will be part of a larger movement. He says voters are seeing "a great awakening."
Obama pitching middle-class tax cuts as part of pocketbook argument with GOP
AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- President Barack Obama made his rival’s personal millions a front-and-center issue in the race for the White House on Wednesday, telling a swing-state audience that Mitt Romney "is asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut."
"In order to afford just one $250,000 tax cut for somebody like Mr. Romney, 125 families like yours would have to pay another $2,000 in taxes each and every year," Obama added, citing a report that his opponent’s aides immediately denounced as deeply flawed.
The president leveled his charge as Romney, back from an overseas trip, looked ahead to an intensive campaign stretch that will culminate in his selection of a vice presidential running mate as early as next week and the Republican National Convention at month’s end.
There were hints that Republicans might soon seek to expand the political playing field into Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, states that traditionally vote Democratic in a presidential race. Campaign activity has been relatively modest in all three since the end of the GOP primaries.
Officials familiar with campaign advertising said Restore our Future, a super Pac aligned with the former Massachusetts governor, is airing television ads in all three states that retrace Romney’s successful stewardship of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. "After Sept.11, Romney delivered the Olympics safe and sound," the announcer says, referring to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of more than a decade ago.
Stocks lower after Fed decides not to take new action; technical glitch scrambles shares
NEW YORK (AP) -- There was more than one story line playing out in the stock market Wednesday.
The market wavered between gains and losses for much of the day, yanked around by technical problems, an ambiguous statement from the Federal Reserve, and mixed reports on U.S.companies that made it difficult to decipher just where the economy is headed.
By the time it was all over, all the key indexes were down, their third straight day of losses. The euphoria of late last week, when investors celebrated after European leaders promised to keep the euro zone intact, seemed a distant memory.
The Dow Jones industrial average shed 32.55 points to 12,976.13. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell four points to 1,375.32. And the Nasdaq composite index lost 19.31 points to 2,920.21.
Businesses work through Indian blackout with costly solutions
GHAZIABAD, India (AP) -- Work making potato chip display racks at Jayraj Kumar’s factory barely paused when much of India’s power grid collapsed.
The backup generators kicked in automatically and the electric saws, presses and welding machines kept running, just like they do during the five-hour power cuts the factory in suburban Delhi suffers nearly every day.
India’s unreliable power system has forced businesses to create a workaround electricity system of noisy, dirty diesel generators that prepared them well when the world’s worst blackout hit the country Tuesday.
But the trouble has also vastly increased businesses’ expenses, dragged down their productivity and hampered economic growth in the country.
‘’Running a factory is very tough here," Kumar said.
Bomb threat at San Antonio airport triggers evacuation, flights held from gates
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A bomb threat cleared out San Antonio International Airport on Wednesday after officials said someone called alleging three packages had been left inside a parking garage.
Passengers inside the terminal were herded onto the tarmac, arriving planes stayed parked away from the gates and dozens of firefighters combed the airport searching for explosives. San Antonio Fire Department spokeswoman Deborah Foster said she did not yet know Wednesday afternoon whether anything dangerous had been found.
"It was three packages in a parking garage," Foster said of the phone call to the airport. "Whether they found any, I’m not sure."
Airport spokesman Rich Johnson said the evacuation order was called at 2:35 p.m. Johnson didn’t immediately know how many passengers were inside the terminal at the time.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Ashley Dillon said the carrier had six arriving flights on the tarmac waiting for clearance to roll to the gate, and that delays to other flights were likely the longer the evacuation lasted.
Full-on tech, social media turn avoiding Olympic spoilers into
a sport of its own
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mandy Hauck turned 25 on Wednesday, but she’s avoiding Facebook and her happy birthday messages to steer clear of Olympic spoilers about her favorite sport, fencing.
Hauck has also deleted her iPhone apps for CNN and ESPN, opting for news from the London Games the old fashioned way, via TV coverage that’s time-delayed by NBC for prime time.
The network is making live streams of the action available in real time online. Hauck’s hanging tough, though, in favor of doing actual work during the day as the marketing communications manager for a software company in Atlanta, a job that requires her to stay on Twitter while she attempts to stay away from its main page and trending topics.
"I enjoy the experience of sitting with my family and friends in front of the television and cheering for the athletes as if they were competing live," said Hauck, a former college fencer who has been following two-time American gold medalist Mariel Zagunis in London. "It’s much more entertaining and enjoyable that way!"
It’s also incredibly difficult with social media in full flower. Olympic spoilers have people turning off phone alerts, hiding their iPads and shushing co-workers in search of simpler times, when screaming at the TV during nail-biting competition was a sport unto itself.
Young Europeans pursue dreams far from home as jobs, education funding dry up
MADRID (AP) -- Santiago Oviedo, a lanky 24-year-old from Madrid, is on track to get his master’s in physics in October -- a crucial milestone in his dream of becoming a researcher probing the origins of the universe.
Spain won’t benefit from his big brain.
Because of education spending cuts and Spain’s downward economic spiral, Oviedo is planning to emigrate to Britain, France, the Netherlands or Germany to get his Ph.D. or work at a company that lets him do research. He’s afraid he may never work or raise a family in his country.
If he had graduated two years ago, Oviedo would have stood a good chance of landing a government-funded scholarship and grant for four years of doctoral study and research. That has evaporated in an austerity drive that has brought slashed budgets for scientific research and waves of layoffs at companies large and small.
With Spain’s unemployment rate for people under 25 at an astonishing 53 percent, young Spaniards are leaving the country in droves to carve out a brighter future. Most seek jobs, but some, like Oviedo, are leaving because the government is struggling to afford to develop their minds.