×

Nation & World Briefs


Wednesday, December 20, 2017
With shutdown clock ticking, GOP struggles for spending deal

WASHINGTON — With a shutdown clock ticking toward a midnight Friday deadline, congressional Republicans scrambled on Wednesday to finalize a must-pass spending bill. A major obstacle evaporated after key GOP senators dropped a demand to add health insurance subsidies for the poor.

The No. 2 House Republican, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, said party leaders have scrapped plans to combine a short-term spending bill with $81 billion worth of disaster aid and a $658 billion Pentagon funding measure. Instead, Republicans are likely to schedule a separate vote on the disaster package, he said.

The strategy for averting a government shutdown appeared to be coming into focus, though it looks like many items on Capitol Hill’s list of unfinished business could be pushed into next year. It also appears the upcoming short-term measure will fund the government through mid-January, giving lawmakers time next month to work out their leftover business.

“I think if this all comes together we can vote and leave,” McCarthy said in anticipation of a House vote on Thursday.

Hopes for a bipartisan budget deal to sharply increase spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies appeared dead for the year and Democrats were rebuffed in their demands for protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

After net neutrality: Brace for internet ‘fast lanes’

NEW YORK — Now that federal telecom regulators have repealed net neutrality, it may be time to brace for the arrival of internet “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.”

The net neutrality rules just voted down by the Federal Communications Commission prohibited such “paid prioritization,” as it’s technically known. That’s when an internet provider such as Verizon or Comcast decides to charge services like YouTube or Amazon for faster access to users. Firms that decline to pay up could wind up in bumper-to-bumper slow lanes.

The Associated Press queried seven major internet providers about their post-net-neutrality plans, and all of them equivocated when asked if they might establish fast and slow lanes. None of the seven companies — Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Sprint and T-Mobile — would rule out the possibility. Three said they had “no plans” for paid prioritization, and a few declined to answer the question at all.

By contrast, several of these firms promised not to block or slow down specific internet sites and services, two other practices prohibited by the expiring net-neutrality rules. (Those rules won’t formally end until sometime in early 2018.) Any such move could set off a public uproar and might even trigger an antitrust investigation.

8 Americans, 2 Swedes, 1 Canadian dead in Mexican bus crash

CANCUN, Mexico — Driver negligence and speed caused a bus crash in southern Mexico that killed eight Americans, two Swedes, one Canadian and a Mexican tour guide as they traveled from cruise ships to visit nearby Mayan ruins, officials said Wednesday.

Quintana Roo state prosecutors said a preliminary manslaughter investigation indicated the driver lost control of the bus and when he tried to get back on the narrow highway, the bus flipped, struck a tree and landed in vegetation along the roadside.

“Due to a lack of care the driver lost control of the bus’ steering to the right, leaving the asphalt,” state prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech Cen said at a news conference. He said evidence found at the scene indicated the driver was going too fast.

The state government said that in addition to the 12 people killed, three Canadians, four Brazilians, four Americans and two Swedes had to be hospitalized for treatment of injuries. The two Swedes were transported to the United States for treatment. Seven other people were slightly injured in Tuesday’s accident and returned to their cruise ship.

Of 9,000 dead in Mosul, a third slain by US alliance, Iraqis

MOSUL, Iraq — The price Mosul’s residents paid in blood to see their city freed was 9,000 to 11,000 dead, a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported. The number killed in the nine-month battle to liberate the city from the Islamic State group marauders has not been acknowledged by the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi government or the self-styled caliphate.

But Mosul’s gravediggers, its morgue workers and the volunteers who retrieve bodies from the city’s rubble are keeping count.

Iraqi or coalition forces are responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of the Islamic State group in July 2017.

Most of those victims are simply described as “crushed” in health ministry reports.

From Associated Press