Posted: Oct 16, 2013 4:00 PM
Updated: Oct 17, 2013 4:00 AM
Government reopens after Congress ends 16-day shutdown and dodges default on debts
WASHINGTON (AP) The government reopened its doors Thursday after a battle-weary Congress approved a bipartisan measure to end a 16-day partial shutdown and avert the possibility of an economy-jarring default on U.S. obligations.
Early Thursday, President Barack Obama signed the measure, which the House and Senate passed late Wednesday, ending a brawl with Republicans who tried to use the must-pass legislation to mount a last-ditch effort to derail the president's landmark health care law and demand concessions on the budget.
The White House directed all agencies to reopen promptly and in an orderly fashion. Furloughed federal employees across the country are expected to return to work Thursday.
The impasse had shuttered national parks and monuments, and mostly closed down NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department. Critical functions of government went on as usual and most federal employees won't see their paychecks delayed, but the closure and potential default weighed on the economy and spooked the financial markets.
There were signs early Thursday that the federal government was slowly coming back to life. "We're back from the (hash)shutdown!" the Smithsonian Institution crowed on Twitter, announcing that museums would reopen Thursday and the National Zoo in Washington on Friday.
Relief around world as US lawmakers reach agreement to avoid default, reopen government
BEIJING (AP) The International Monetary Fund appealed Thursday to Washington for more stable management of the nation's finances as Asian stock markets rose after U.S. leaders agreed to avoid a debt default and end a 16-day government shutdown.
With only hours to spare until the $16.7 trillion debt limit was reached, Congress passed and sent a waiting President Barack Obama legislation Wednesday night to allow more government borrowing and reopen public agencies.
The debt standoff had rattled global markets and threatened the image of U.S. Treasury debt as a risk-free place for governments and investors to store trillions of dollars in reserves. Few expected a U.S. default but some investors sold Treasurys over concern about possible delayed repayment and put off buying stocks that might be exposed to an American economic downturn.
"World heaves sigh of relief as U.S. barely averts debt default," said the Times of India newspaper in a headline.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde welcomed the deal but said the shaky American economy needs more stable long-term finances. The deal only permits the Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7 and fund the government through Jan. 15.
Cory Booker claims US Senate victory in NJ and must make a quick return to campaign trail
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Democrat Cory Booker has won a special election to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate through next year, but the rising political star will have to return to the campaign trail almost immediately to run for a full term.
Booker, 44, defeated conservative Steve Lonegan on Wednesday after an aggressive two month race to finish the term of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in office in June at age 89.
The Newark mayor takes to Washington a national profile boosted by a strong social media presence, frequent television appearances and his status as an Obama surrogate during the president's 2012 re-election campaign just as the federal government begins functioning again after a 16-day shutdown.
"That's why I'm going to Washington to take back that sense of pride," Booker said in his victory speech. "Not to play shallow politics that's used to attack and divide but to engage in the kind of hard, humble service that reaches out to others."
Booker, a supporter of gay marriage in a state where the issue is the subject of a court and legislative battle, talked about needing to improve America's schools and making the Senate "more accessible to all of us."
San Francisco Bay Area rapid transit system keep running; strike threat put off another day
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) San Francisco Bay area commuters will see transit trains running as usual Thursday morning after the two sides in long-running labor contract talks agreed to keep meeting, forestalling a major strike yet again.
In a message to hundreds of thousands of anxious commuters, a federal mediator said that the transit system will continue to run Thursday as unions and management agree to keep talking.
"Negotiations are continuing under our auspices. Progress is being made," mediator George Cohen said in an email press statement late Wednesday night. "Trains will be running all day tomorrow,"
Commuters are getting used to such announcements they've endured seven strike deadlines, sometimes staying up past midnight waiting to hear if the trains will run in the morning..
The contentious labor talks between the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit agency and its two largest unions have dragged on for six months a period that has seen a chaotic dayslong strike, a cooling-off period and frazzled commuters wondering if they'll wake up to find the trains aren't running.
27 states have passed laws to stock injection devices at schools to treat allergic reactions
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) When a third-grade student who had been stung by a wasp developed welts on his neck and had trouble breathing, school nurse Amanda Williams had the necessary dose of epinephrine to counter the allergic reaction.
A law Tennessee enacted this year makes it easier for schools to stock the life-saving drug. Williams said the emergency room doctor told the boy's parents that he probably wouldn't have survived without the injection at Tellico Plains Elementary because it's a 30-minute drive to the nearest hospital.
"It would have been tragic," she said.
Fifteen other states enacted similar laws in 2013, joining 11 others that already had them, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. While only four of the states require schools to have the medication on hand, all the laws allow schools to stock it without a prescription for an individual person a legal hurdle in many places and provide legal protection for staff members who administer it.
The most common form of the medication is packaged inside a device called an auto injector. The tip of the device is placed firmly against the thigh, which releases a short, spring activated needle that injects the epinephrine.
Report: Documents show close collaboration of NSA and CIA in drone strike program
WASHINGTON (AP) The National Security Agency has been extensively involved in the U.S. government's targeted killing program, collaborating closely with the CIA in the use of drone strikes against terrorists abroad, The Washington Post reported after a review of documents provided by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.
In one instance, an email sent by the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate contained clues as to her husband's whereabouts and led to a CIA drone strike that killed him in Pakistan in October 2012, the Post reported in its online edition Wednesday night.
While citing documents provided by Snowden the American is hiding out in Russia after being granted asylum there the Post reported that it was withholding many details about the drone-strike missions at the request of U.S. intelligence officials. They cited potential damage to ongoing operations and national security for their request, the paper reported.
The documents make clear that the CIA-operated drone campaign relies heavily on the NSA's ability to vacuum up enormous quantities of e-mail, phone calls and other fragments of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, the newspaper said.
The NSA created a secret unit known as the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell, or CT MAC, to concentrate the agency's vast resources on hard-to-find terrorism targets, the Post reported.
Changing face of America is influencing our taste buds, one tortilla chip at a time
MIAMI (AP) Salsa overtaking ketchup as America's No. 1 condiment was just the start.
These days, tortillas outsell burger and hot dog buns; sales of tortilla chips trump potato chips; and tacos and burritos have become so ubiquitously "American," most people don't even consider them ethnic.
Welcome to the taste of American food in 2013.
As immigrant and minority populations rewrite American demographics, the nation's collective menu is reflecting this flux, as it always has. And it goes beyond the mainstreaming of once-esoteric ethnic ingredients, something we've seen with everything from soy sauce to jalapenos.
This is a rewrite of the American menu at the macro level, an evolution of whole patterns of how people eat. The difference this time? The biggest culinary voting bloc is Hispanic.
Rescuers find bodies in Mekong River after plane carrying 49 people crashed in storm in Laos
PAKSE, Laos (AP) Rescuers in fishing boats pulled bodies from the muddy Mekong River on Thursday as officials in Laos ruled out finding survivors from a plane that crashed in stormy weather, killing 49 people from 11 countries.
Backpacks, an airplane propeller and passports were among the debris scattered on the riverbank where the Lao Airlines turboprop plane apparently hit hard before skidding into the water and sinking Wednesday.
"So far eight bodies have been found. We don't yet know their nationalities," said Yakao Lopangkao, director-general of Lao's Department of Civil Aviation, who was at the crash site in Pakse, in southern Laos. "We haven't found the plane yet. It is underwater. We're trying to use divers to locate it."
He ruled out finding survivors. "There is no hope. The plane appears to have crashed very hard before entering the water."
Some bodies were found as far as 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the crash site, he said.
Attacks on churches leave Egypt's Coptic Christians feeling more persecuted, vulnerable
THE RED MONASTERY, Egypt (AP) Locked inside a 6th century church in a desert monastery are some of the jewels of early Christianity ancient murals in vivid pinks, greens and reds depicting saints, angels and the Virgin Mary with a baby Jesus, hidden for centuries under a blanket of black soot.
Italian and Egyptian restorers are meticulously uncovering the paintings, some of the earliest surviving and most complete examples of early Coptic Christian art. But the work, in the final stages more than a decade after it started, is done quietly to avoid drawing attention and there's no plan to try to attract visitors, at least not now.
"This is our heritage and we must protect it," said Father Antonius, abbot of the Red Monastery where the Anba Bishay Church is located. He takes it as a personal mission to protect it. The church's heavy wooden door has only two keys. He keeps one and a young monk he trusts keeps the other.
"I don't think there is a church anywhere in Egypt that even begins to match the beauty of this one," Antonius said, beaming like a proud father.
The little known Anba Bishay Church offers a striking example of how Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Church jealously guards its heritage against formidable odds whether decades of neglect, discrimination by the Muslim majority or the violence by Islamic militants, who have gained significant power since the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Jackson leads revamped Tigers lineup to 7-3 win over Red Sox, Detroit evens ALCS at 2-2
DETROIT (AP) Jim Leyland had no big plans for Detroit's oddest lineup card of the year.
"I'll throw it away, unless I can sell it to some bar on the way home," the Detroit manager said.
Torii Hunter batting leadoff and Miguel Cabrera hitting second worked well enough Wednesday night for the Tigers, who beat the Boston Red Sox 7-3 to even the AL championship series 2-all.
Leyland used his new lineup in an effort to boost the offense after the Tigers lost 1-0 in Game 3. Slumping leadoff hitter Austin Jackson was dropped to eighth in the order, and he responded with two hits and two walks.
Detroit scored five runs in the second inning, the first coming home on a bases-loaded walk by Jackson. Hunter had a two-run double and Cabrera drove in two runs.