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Al Jazeera America
Just days until launch of health care exchanges, many people remain confused about new options
NEWARK, N.J. — Wale Ogundipe and Carlos Vasquez looked a little apprehensive as they walked into Hector Perez’s front yard.
Perez was leaning into the window of a black SUV, chatting with a friend. Shirtless, with tattoos splayed across his muscular arms and chest, he cut an intimidating figure on his lawn, particularly to two young, out-of-town volunteers charged with discussing health care options with strangers.
Ogundipe, 29, whose day job is in marketing, tentatively started, extending a hand and saying, "Hi, sir. My name is Wale, and this is Carlos. We're here with Enroll America, specifically the Get Covered campaign.”
Ogundipe and Vasquez, 18, explained it is a nonprofit organization and they were there to discuss a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the state-level online marketplaces that will open Oct. 1 and allow consumers to shop for coverage plans and apply for federal subsidies to help them purchase insurance until Dec. 31.
"Right now, health care in this country is changing so that some people are going to be eligible for additional benefits because of the legislation, so we're just volunteers letting people know,' Ogundipe said.
New York Times
WASHINGTON — At the climax of each of the fiscal crises that have paralyzed the nation’s capital since the Republican landslide of 2010, Senator Mitch McConnell, the wily Kentuckian who leads the Senate Republicans, has stepped in to untangle the seemingly hopeless knots threatening the economy.
But as Congress trudges toward its next budget showdown, the Mr. Fix-It of Washington is looking more like its Invisible Man as he balances his leadership imperatives with his re-election ones.
“The House and the White House in the end will have to reach some kind of understanding on both these issues,” Mr. McConnell said last week as he sat in his spacious Capitol office and looked toward Sept. 30, when much of the federal government runs out of money, and mid-October, when it exhausts its borrowing authority. “I don’t intend to participate in any discussion, publicly or privately, that raises taxes or spends more than current law.”
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — With one week left before a possible government shutdown, congressional debate has exposed deep divisions within the Republican Party, pitting tea-party-backed conservatives against their colleagues.
Budget moves orchestrated by tea party leader Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have encountered outright hostility from fellow Republican senators who say his strategy does not appear to have an endgame.
"I didn't go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said last week in a not-so-veiled swipe on Twitter at Cruz, who studied at both schools. Cruz's strategy is leading the party into a "box canyon" and "will fail and weaken our position," Corker said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to begin debate this week on legislation approved by the Republican-led House that would keep the government running but do away with President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
A trio of Tea Party-backed U.S. senators threatening to stall a bill to fund the U.S. government ran into a wall of resistance Monday from top Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In statements issued Monday evening, McConnell and the second-ranking Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, made it clear that they would not support the tactics of freshman Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio, which would have increased the odds of a government shutdown on Oct 1.
The move, while highlighting growing rifts among Republicans, did not eliminate the possibility of a shutdown, however. Indeed, all signs on Monday still pointed to a frantic last-minute showdown that will determine whether or not the U.S. government stays open next week as a result of Republican efforts to scuttle "Obamacare," President Barack Obama's health care law.
Heightening the tension, and the pressure on Republicans, the Pentagon issued a warning about the consequences of a shutdown, neither the first nor the last such announcement expected from federal agencies over the next few days.
Los Angeles Times
“Modern Family”? Check. “Breaking Bad”? Double check. Jeff Daniels? Whaaaaaa????
The 2013 Emmy Awards made for a bipolar evening with voters swinging wildly between rubber-stamping old favorites and offering up jaw-dropping surprises. It was, to quote noted Emmy handicapper Jimi Hendrix, a "frustrating mess" for anyone making predictions.
That said, let’s run down the list of winners and see whether we can make some sense from the higgledy-piggledy happenings of the evening.
Less than a week ago, it looked like the America's Cup — yachting's oldest and most prestigious trophy — would sail back to New Zealand after a near blowout of the U.S. defenders, who are sponsored by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
But since Wednesday, Emirates Team New Zealand has been stalled at match-point, while Oracle Team USA, which had looked thoroughly out-sailed by the Kiwi boat, methodically clawed its way back from the brink.
They were helped along somewhat by the vagaries of the wind off San Francisco — it's been alternately too light or too strong. On Friday in a light-air race, New Zealand crossed the line ahead of USA, but it took them just over 40 minutes, which the race rules said was too long. So the result was thrown out and the defenders lived to sail again.
Of the races that have been sailed and that count, Oracle Team USA has managed to win every one, keeping hope alive that it can hold onto the Auld Mug, as the 162-year-old trophy is known.
The Oracle comeback has been punctuated by delays caused by wind deemed too strong for the delicate 72-foot catamarans. The boats sport dual hulls lifted out of the water by foils and hard wings instead of traditional cloth mainsails, allowing them to reach breathtaking speeds but also making them more vulnerable to capsizing or going end-over-end than were the traditional America's Cup monohulls.
President Barack Obama has called for a transformation in US gun laws at a memorial service for the Washington navy yard shooting victims, saying, "There's nothing inevitable about it."
Obama said Americans should honour the victims of last Monday's shooting by insisting on a change in gun laws. "It ought to obsess us," Obama said.
"Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We cannot accept this."
He said no other advanced nation endured the kind of gun violence seen in the United States, and blamed mass shootings on laws that fail "to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people".
"What's different in America is it's easy to get your hands on a gun," he said.
He acknowledged "the politics are difficult," a lesson he learned after failing to get expanded background checks for gun buyers through the Democratic-controlled Senate this spring.
Holy Cross Hospital’s health center in Aspen Hill, Maryland, is bracing for more business.
The center treats the uninsured, and has been busy since it opened in 2012 with a waiting list of more than 400 people at its clinic. Now, as a result of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, it’s mulling adding staff and hours in anticipation of next year’s rush of newly-insured patients, many with chronic medical conditions that have gone untreated for years.
Poorly controlled diabetes can cause stroke, kidney failure and blindness. Undiagnosed cancer can translate into complex end-of-life care, and untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks. In effect, the 2010 health law’s biggest promise becomes its most formidable challenge: unprecedented access to care for a needy population when the nation is already grappling with overtaxed emergency rooms and a shortage of physicians.
The Los Altos, Calif., home where Apple co-founder Steve Jobs grew up is closing in on the end of a nearly two-year review by the Los Altos Historical Commission, CNN reports.
The garage, which belonged to the Jobs family, was Apple's official headquarters before the company moved to a rented office space in Cupertino, Calif. It was the birthplace of the first Apple computer, as well as the Apple II, which became the company's first real hit.
In a report of the house published Monday (PDF), the Commission notes that the first 50 Apple I computers were assembled there, as well as the incorporation of the company between Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ron Wayne. The location was also used in the filming of "Jobs", the film about Apple's early beginnings, which starred Ashton Kutcher and was released earlier this year.
U.S. prosecutors in California are planning to announce charges against JPMorgan Chase & Co. as early as Tuesday for activities related to the bank's pre-crisis mortgage-backed securities issuance, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.
The bank disclosed in August it was under parallel civil and criminal investigation by authorities in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California.
Al Jazeera America
Gunshots were heard, and smoke was seen rising from the site of the standoff that entered its third day Monday.
Gunshots could be heard and black smoke was seen rising Monday from the site of the ongoing standoff at a mall in Nairobi, where the Kenyan government says its military operation to free hostages from militants is nearly complete.
Three al-Shabab fighters have been confirmed killed in the government raid at the mall, and nearly all hostages have been freed, Kenya's Interior Secretary Ole Lenku said Monday.
"We don't want to give you a definitive position on when we think the process will come to an end, but we are doing anything reasonably possible -- cautiously though -- to bring this process to an end," he said at a news conference.
Lenku said that a fire inside the mall was the work of the fighters and that it would soon be extinguished.
He added that the militants included individuals from a number of countries, that some of the militants -- all of whom are men -- were dressed as women and that the number of hostages was uncertain.
Typhoon Usagi, which stormed ashore north of Hong Kong on Sunday evening, has been blamed for at least 25 deaths in south China's Guangdong province. Some 8,490 houses reportedly collapsed in the typhoon's winds, officials say.
"A total of 5.48 million people were affected and 310,000 residents were displaced due to the storm," reports the Xinhua state news agency, adding that the storm has caused an estimated $1.16 billion in direct economic losses.
Photos from the area show large parts of a construction site that was blown over in Shanwei City, where the typhoon came ashore in Guangdong. Trees, billboards and lampposts also fell prey to Usagi's strong winds.
"The toll in our city included seven deaths at a railway construction site. The majority of casualties were due to the collapse of houses where people took shelter," Xiao Zhan, deputy head of the Shanwei Water Authority, tells Xinhua.
The leader of Iran's reformist movement, Mohammad Khatami, has urged the west to show courage and work with President Hassan Rouhani or risk losing an unprecedented opportunity to end the current standoff.
In an article published by the Guardian on Monday, Khatami, a former president of Iran, said on the eve of Rouhani's eagerly anticipated visit to the UN that the moderate cleric has "the necessary authority" for a diplomatic resolution to the long-standing differences between Tehran and the west, not least on the nuclear issue. He warned that failure would strengthen extremists on both sides.
Speaking before leaving Tehran to fly to New York, Rouhani pledged on Monday to revamp the image of Iran, which he said has been distorted. But he fell short of blaming his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who delivered anti-western tirades each time he spoke to the UN.
Rouhani is scheduled to deliver his speech just few hours after US president Barack Obama's welcoming statement on Tuesday, amid speculation that the two leaders will meet in the first face-to-face encounter between leaders of the two countries since the 1970s. Rouhani will also be accompanied on his visit by Iran's only Jewish MP.
Francesco Schettino, the man who captained the Costa Concordia on the night it crashed into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio, pointed the finger at his helmsman in court on Monday, arguing the disaster would not have happened if the crew member had been quicker to carry out his orders.
Speaking at his trial on charges of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, the 52-year-old Italian blamed the cruise ship's Indonesian helmsman for having failed to properly execute an emergency move that Schettino said would have averted the collision.
Thirty-two people died when, on the night of 13 January 2012, the 300-metre-long ship ran aground close to the shore and became impaled on pinnacles of rock. Last week, in a salvage operation of unprecedented scale and complexity, engineers managed to parbuckle the Concordia and bring her upright in preparation – it is hoped – for towing next year.
While the West is trying to extricate itself from the war zone in Afghanistan as quickly as possible, old warlords like Ismail Khan are preparing for a post-withdrawal period that many anticipate will be violent.
Ismail Khan abruptly gets up from his armchair. "I understood the question," he says. "So you want to know whether now, 12 years after Western troops arrived, every village finally has electricity." Afghanistan's minister of water and energy walks over to a map on the wall on which rebuilt hydroelectric power plants, new solar plants and modern wind turbines are marked.
Khan grabs a pointer, taps it onto an area west of Herat and says: "This is where I came across the border from Iran with 17,000 men in 1996, during the Taliban era. Then we continued through Faryab and Mazar to Faizabad and back to Herat." He drags the pointer to the north and then to the east, sweeping it across all the wind turbines and power plants, as if they were nothing but hindrances. "My militias fought bravely everywhere," says Khan.
Germans tend to prefer consensus to political dispute. In this they may lack ambition, but it has paid off in the past. The German voting system, federalism, employee participation in workplace management: Almost all sectors of society in Germany are geared towards consensus -- and it mostly functions well.
Other countries, such as France, look on with a mixture of skepticism and admiration at the Germans' round-table culture. While the French have suffered in the euro crisis because their political battle lines are so clearly defined -- making reforms practically impossible -- a grand coalition of Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) would be typically German -- boring, but solid. No wonder that the majority of Germans have said they want such an alliance before almost every election, for many years.
Pregnant women hear a lot about things they should avoid: alcohol, tobacco, chemical exposures, stress. All of those have the potential to affect a developing fetus. And now scientists are beginning to understand why.
One important factor, they say, is something called epigenetics, which involves the mechanisms that turn individual genes on and off in a cell.
There's growing evidence that epigenetics is critical in determining a child's risk of developing problems ranging from autism to diabetes, says Dani Fallin, who studies the genetics of mental disorders at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Epigenetic control of genes is part of what allows a tiny cluster of identical cells in the womb to grow into a fully formed baby. By switching certain genes on and off, some cells become heart cells while others become brain cells.
BlackBerry Ltd. (BB) got a tentative $4.7 billion buyout offer from a group led by its biggest shareholder, forging a path to go private after a new line of smartphones failed to catch on.
The group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. (FFH) would offer $9 a share, according to a statement today -- a 3.1 percent premium over BlackBerry’s closing price last week. The consortium is still seeking financing for the offer, which will be subject to due diligence and further negotiation.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said last week that it’s cutting 4,500 jobs and taking a writedown of as much as $960 million for unsold inventory of its Z10 phone -- a touch-screen device unveiled in January as its answer to the iPhone. BlackBerry said the Fairfax-led group will be able to scrutinize its books in the six weeks through Nov. 4, during which the smartphone maker can seek other takeover bids.
Al Jazeera America
Report says infections down by 33 percent since 2001, but widespread challenges remain for further reductions
Transmissions of the human immunodeficiency virus have dramatically decreased over the last decade, but there are still widespread challenges to further reducing that number, according to the United Nations' annual report on HIV and AIDS released Monday.
Globally, new HIV infections are down by 33 percent since 2001 and have been more than halved among children. But HIV is far from being a problem of the past.
Last year 2.3 million people, including 260,000 children, contracted the virus. The pandemic is still especially prominent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of the world's 3.3 million infected children live.
Much of the progress in combating HIV transmission has come from increased access to antiretroviral drugs, according to the report. They work by significantly reducing the amount of HIV active in infected people. If given to pregnant women, the drugs can prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
REDMOND, Wash. -- Panos Panay and I stand on the third floor of Microsoft's Studio B, an unassuming building easily missed amid the company's sprawling Redmond campus. Panay, the Microsoft VP in charge of the Surface, looks a bit tired as he leans on a handrail and looks out across the inner courtyard of the building, the hub of Microsoft's ever-expanding and increasingly impressive hardware efforts. Still, he's visibly enthusiastic about the work he's about to show me.
A series of balconies frame a central meeting area below. To our left, a giant display ticks off the days until to the Xbox One launch: 60-some and counting. "The Xbox One design work happened on the fourth floor," Panay tells me. Other than the odd mouse and keyboard, the rest of the building is dominated by the company's tablet efforts, highlighted by large "Surface" stickers plastered onto most of the inner-facing windows. These are proud territory markers.
Audio CDs, all the rage in the ’90s, seem increasingly obsolete in a world of MP3 files and iPods, leaving many music lovers with the question of what to do with their extensive compact disk collections.
While you could turn your old disks into a work of avant-garde art, researchers in Taiwan have come up with a more practical application: breaking down sewage. The team will present its new wastewater treatment device at the Optical Society’s (OSA) Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2013, being held Oct. 6-10 in Orlando, Fla.
“Optical disks are cheap, readily available, and very commonly used,” says Din Ping Tsai, a physicist at National Taiwan University. Close to 20 billion disks are already manufactured annually, the researchers note, so using old disks for water treatment might even be a way to cut down on waste.