Selasa, 15 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. Senate leaders still in talks as debt limit imminent


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With the United States just a day away from exhausting its ability to borrow money, U.S. Senate leaders were still discussing a deal late on Tuesday aimed at raising the debt limit and reopening federal agencies that have been closed for two weeks.

Senate aides said a deal was close but details remained to be worked out, and earlier hopes that a deal could be announced late on Tuesday were not met.

The U.S. Treasury says the government will bump up against its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit on Thursday, leaving little room for error and raising the risk the government will fail to pay its bills and creditors.

Even once a deal is reached, it must clear the full Senate and possible procedural snags in that chamber on Wednesday before moving to the fractious House of Representatives that was unable to produce its own deal on Tuesday.

Amid the chaos, Fitch Ratings warned it could cut the sovereign credit rating of the United States from AAA, citing the political brinkmanship over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell were discussing ways of avoiding procedural hurdles that could slow down the measure, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp told CNN late Wednesday.

"This is now back on track," she said, its fate dependent on "whether the House and Senate play well together."

As previously outlined, the Senate deal under discussion would extend U.S. borrowing authority until February 7, although the Treasury Department would have tools to temporarily extend its borrowing capacity beyond that date if Congress failed to act early next year.

The bill also would fund government agencies until January 15, ending a partial government shutdown that began with the new fiscal year on October 1.

It was another roller-coaster day of fiscal negotiations in Congress that saw two separate legislative efforts by the House die before they could even be debated by the full chamber. The measures were buried after it became apparent that too many Republicans were rebelling against their leaders' bills.


Aides said Reid and McConnell were looking at two possible ways of speeding the legislation through the Senate, which often can get bogged down for several days with procedural hurdles.

If such delays were allowed, they could throw the U.S. into default by making passage of a bill impossible by Thursday.

Under one scenario, all 100 senators would agree to let Democrats schedule quick votes to pass the bill. That would mean that Tea Party faction firebrands, such as Republican Senator Ted Cruz, would give up their rights to delay a vote.

Cruz has not publicly announced his intentions but some Senate aides think that the Texas freshman with presidential aspirations has been sending positive signals in recent days.

Cruz and fellow Tea Party activists late last month delayed passage of a government funding bill as they demanded major changes to Obama's landmark healthcare law.

The deadlock led to federal agency shutdowns as Obama and his fellow Democrats stood firm against changing the law.

The other scenario would have the House send a formal "message" to the Senate to pave the way for quick Senate action, according to a Senate aide who asked not to be identified.

Again, it was not clear whether House Republicans would go along with that option.


Either way, House Speaker John Boehner will have to decide whether to allow passage of a bill that many of his fellow Republicans might oppose, a decision that could impact the top Republican's political future.

House Republicans twice tried to come up with a new compromise but failed to satisfy Obama, Senate Democrats or Tea Party conservatives.

The first House Republican attempt was shot down in a closed-door meeting that had begun with members singing the hymn "Amazing Grace."

The second plan was scuttled hours before it was expected to hit the House floor for a vote after the influential Heritage Action for America, a conservative group, urged a "no" vote because it did not do enough to stop Obama's healthcare law.

If Congress fails to reach a deal by Thursday, checks would likely go out on time for a short while for everyone from bondholders to workers who are owed unemployment benefits. But analysts warn that a default on government obligations could quickly follow, potentially causing the U.S. financial sector to freeze up and threatening the global economy.

The U.S. Treasury Department seized on Fitch's downgrade threat to press Congress. "The announcement reflects the urgency with which Congress should act to remove the threat of default hanging over the economy," a Treasury spokesperson said.

Numerous polls show Republicans have taken a hit in opinion polls since the standoff began and the government shutdown. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Monday found that 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans have handled the standoff, compared with a 53 percent disapproval rating for Obama.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, David Lawder, Mark Felsenthal, Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Karey Van Hall, Grant McCool and Tim Dobbyn)

At least 8 killed as typhoon sideswipes Tokyo, moves up Japan coast


TOKYO (Reuters) - Eight people were killed and over 30 missing, with nearly 20,000 people ordered to evacuate and hundreds of flights cancelled as Typhoon Wipha pummelled the Tokyo region on Wednesday, leaving piles of wreckage on one small island but largely sparing the capital.

Operators of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant north of Tokyo pumped rainwater out of protective containers at the base of some 1,000 tanks storing radioactive water, and were taking other precautions, as the typhoon brushed past Tokyo and moved up Japan's Pacific coastline.

Seven people were found dead on Izu Oshima island, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Tokyo, after rivers overflowed and the storm set off mudslides along a 2 km (1.2 mile) swathe of mountains. Television footage showed roads clogged with heaps of wreckage and houses with gaping holes.

One woman was swept away by a swollen river in western Tokyo and 37 people were missing, the Japanese government said, including two schoolboys engulfed by mammoth waves on a beach. About 20 people suffered minor injuries from falls and being struck by flying objects such as roof tiles.

"I heard a crackling sound and then the trees on the hillside all fell over," a woman on Oshima told NHK national television. "Then mud slid as far as the house."

The storm brought hurricane-force winds and drenching rain to the metropolis of 30 million people at the peak of the morning rush hour, halting some train services.

Other trains operated at partial capacity.

The storm, which was picking up speed as it moved north, was 170 km (105 miles) south of the city of Miyako and moving north northeast at 75 kph (47 mph) at 11 a.m. (0200 GMT), according to the Japan Meteorological Agency's website.

It carried sustained winds at its centre of 126 kph (78 mph) and gusts up to 180 kph (112 mph) and was expected to weaken into a tropical depression later on Wednesday.

Over 500 flights at Tokyo's Haneda and Narita airports were cancelled, and several subway lines in the city stopped running due to the high winds. Thousands of schools closed as a precaution.

The typhoon passed close to the crippled Fukushima plant, 220 km (130 miles) north of Tokyo, shortly before noon.

The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Corp, which has been struggling to contain radioactive leaks, said it would cancel all offshore work and would decide whether to continue work onshore after assessing the weather.

It was pumping out rainwater at the tanks storing radioactive water, a by-product of a jerry-rigged cooling system designed to control reactors wrecked in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The rainwater will be pumped into an empty tank, checked for radioactivity and, if uncontaminated, released into the sea, the company said.

Nissan Motor Co cancelled the Wednesday morning shift at its Oppama and Yokohama plants south of Tokyo and said it was waiting to decide what to do about later shifts. Oppama makes the all-electric Leaf and other models.

Typhoon Wipha is the strongest storm to approach eastern Japan since October 2004. The cyclone that year triggered floods and landslides that killed almost 100 people, forced thousands from their homes and caused billions of dollars in damage.

(Additional reporting by Chris Meyers, Billy Mallard and Antoni Slodkowski; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Death toll from Philippines quake nears 100, more people missing


LOON, Philippines (Reuters) - The death toll from a strong earthquake in the central Philippines has risen to almost 100, officials said on Wednesday, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of a church and a hospital in search of more victims.

At least 10 people were missing under the collapsed public hospital, church and a home in the town of Loon on Bohol island, 630 km (390 miles) south of Manila, which bore the brunt of the 7.2 quake on Tuesday.

The quake caused landslides and widespread damage to infrastructure in Bohol and nearby Cebu, with close to three million people affected. The number of people injured in the quake climbed towards 280.

At least 90 of those killed were in Bohol, the national disaster agency said. Officials feared the toll would rise further as communications with damaged villages were re-established.

"I think this is a growing number, yesterday we had a partial communications block-out," Loon mayor Lloyd Lopez told Philippine radio.

At least a third of the deaths on Bohol island were in Loon, a town of about 43,000 people. One of those was the body of a schoolgirl found late on Tuesday under the rubble of a collapsed high school in Maribojoc town, adjacent to Loon.

"We have not reached all barangays (villages), many are cut off, the roads are blocked by big boulders," Lopez said.

Another eight people were killed on Cebu and one on Siquijor island, the disaster agency said.

Many of the millions affected by the quake spent the night outdoors, including patients at some hospitals in Cebu, because of aftershocks. More than 800 aftershocks have been recorded, the disaster agency said.

"There are so many aftershocks, we are afraid," Elena Manuel, a 64-year-old grandmother, told Reuters after her family and neighbours spent the night in the grounds of the centuries-old church that collapsed in Loon.

"We don't have any more food and water because stores are closed, and the bridge ... is damaged. After the quake, water and mud came out of cracks on the ground in our backyard."

Ferry and airline services have resumed despite damage to ports and airport structures in Bohol and Cebu.

The air force was carrying 11 tonnes (25,000 lbs) of relief supplies to affected residents in Bohol province, a military spokesman said. President Benigno Aquino was expected to visit evacuees in Tagbilaran City in Bohol on Wednesday.

The last time a quake of similar magnitude hit Bohol province was in 1602, said Trixie Angeles, a legal consultant who works at the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco in MANILA; Editing by Paul Tait)


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