Please feel free to share your articles and stories in the comments.
WASHINGTON — The federal government teetered Monday night on the brink of its first shutdown in nearly two decades after last-minute moves by the House and Senate failed to break a bitter budget standoff over President Obama’s health care law, raising the prospect that federal agencies would run out of money as of Tuesday.
House Republican leaders won approval, in a vote of 228 to 201, of a new plan to tie further government spending to a one-year delay in a requirement that individuals buy health insurance after the Senate took less than 25 minutes to convene and dispose of a weekend budget proposal by the House Republicans. The House proposal would deny federal subsidies to members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff, executive branch political appointees, White House staff, and the president and vice president, who would be forced to buy their health coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges.
The U.S. government sped toward a partial shutdown at midnight, as lawmakers lobbed dead-end proposals across the Capitol and President Barack Obama made last-minute phone calls to the top four congressional leaders.
The House voted 228-201 to pass its third version of a short-term extension of government funding in the past 10 days. Each attempt linked averting a shutdown to major changes to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and each drew veto threats from Obama.
“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway or just because there’s a law there you don’t like,” Obama said at the White House today. “Time’s running out.”
The partisan confrontation showed few signs of ending as the Senate was set to reject the latest House plan within an hour of the vote, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Barring a last-minute compromise or concession, the U.S. appears headed for its first shutdown in 17 years.
President Obama blamed an imminent government shutdown on House Republicans on Monday and said his health care plan is "moving forward" despite GOP efforts to defund it.
"You don't get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway ... just because there's a law there that you don't like," Obama said in the White House briefing room.
Late Monday, Obama spoke by phone with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other top lawmakers, but there did not appear to be a breakthrough in the impasse that would trigger a shutdown.
Congress has two responsibilities, Obama told reporters: passing budgets and — in a reference to the upcoming battle over the debt ceiling — paying the government's bills. The Republicans are shirking both, he said.
Obama said a partial government shutdown — which would start at midnight unless there is an 11th-hour deal — will damage economic recovery and hurt "real people right away." He said, "It will throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction."
The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to meet behind closed doors on Monday to decide whether to hear a high-profile appeal by Argentina over its battle with hedge funds that refused to take part in two debt restructurings that sprang from the country's 2002 default.
Argentina has appealed an October 2012 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in which the court said the government had broken a contractual obligation to treat bondholders equally.
In two restructurings, in 2005 and 2010, creditors holding about 93 percent of Argentina's debt agreed to participate in debt swaps that gave them 25 cents to 29 cents on the dollar.
But bondholders led by hedge funds NML Capital Ltd, a unit of Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp, and Aurelius Capital Management went to court, seeking payment in full.
Al Jazeera America
A recent report found that jailing an inmate in New York City for one year costs about as much four years of tuition at an Ivy League university.
The Independent Budget Office found that in 2012 it cost the city $167,731 to hold each of its daily average of 12,287 inmates, or about $460 per inmate per day.
Undergraduate tuition at Harvard University is $38,891 annually, or $155,564 for a four-year degree.
Of those inmates, more than 2,000 were being held for drug offenses, surpassing the number for murders or robberies.
The majority of inmates are African-American (57 percent), followed by Hispanics (33 percent), whites (7 percent) and Asians (1 percent), a New York City Department of Corrections report said. The majority of inmates come from less affluent areas of the city.
An ex-military intelligence officer who prosecutors say siphoned millions from a bogus charity for U.S. Navy veterans is going on trial in Ohio.
The 67-year-old defendant calls himself Bobby Thompson, but authorities say his real name is John Donald Cody. He was arrested last year in Portland, Ore., after two years on the run, and is charged with masterminding a $100 million multistate fraud using a charity called United States Veterans Association, based in Tampa, Fla.
Thompson, who worked in military intelligence in the 1970s and is described as a Harvard-trained lawyer, has claimed in court filings that he's still working as a "nonofficial cover" agent for the CIA, and that the charity is part of a secret operation.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that "in a handwritten court motion, Thompson alleged that the Tampa charity was not a criminal enterprise but 'a U.S. intelligence community/White House and Republican Party manipulated operation.' "
Thompson faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the fraud. Prosecutors say the charity he ran "turned out to be a total charade," according to the Times:
Arguably the most talked-about television series of the past five years, the finale of Breaking Bad aired in the US on Sunday, swiftly followed by its UK premiere on Netflix.
Set in Albuquerque, the series followed the life of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of the first series.
In order to secure his family's future before he dies, he turned to a life of crime, making and selling methamphetamine.
Reviews in the UK and US have been generally favourable - but reveal several key plot points.
BP told "outright lies" as it tried to hide the amount of oil that was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, a court heard on Monday, in a new phase of the trial that could ultimately determine how much the company will pay in fines.
In opening statements of the latest phase of the trial over the fatal 2010 disaster, plaintiffs' attorney Brian Barr said BP failed to prepare for a blowout and compounded the problem by lying about how much oil was flowing from the well. He said BP was woefully unprepared for the disaster. "BP's plan was nothing more than a plan to plan," said Barr.
BP attorney Mike Brock said second-guessing the company's efforts to cap the well is "Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst". He said that BP's spill response was "extraordinary" and that the company "did not misrepresent flow rate in a way that caused a delay in the shut-in of the well".
US district judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who is presiding over the trial, is already weighing whether BP's actions ahead of the disaster and during the subsequent spill reached the level of "gross negligence". The second phase of the trial, expected to last 14 days, will cover the size of the spill and BP's efforts to contain it.
SALIDA, COLO. Five hikers were killled by a rock slide on a trail in south-central Colorado on Monday, and another was pulled out with injuries and flown to a hospital, authorities told local reporters.
The slide occurred at about 11 a.m. on the trail to Agnes Vaille falls in the Pike and San Isabel National Forest, an easy day hike about a 2 1/2 hour drive southwest of Denver.
A 13-year-old girl was extracted from the slide and flown to Children's Hospital in Denver, said a spokesman for the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office, Dave Cotten said. He didn't know the nature and extent of her injuries.
The names and hometowns of the hikers haven't been released. Rescuers from at least five agencies were working at the scene Monday afternoon.
The trail is below Mount Princeton, a 14,197-foot peak. The National Forest Service describes the trail as short and relatively easy.
The trail is one of the first hikes recommended to people new to the area and is also popular with tourists, said Margaret Dean, a regular hiker who has hiked the trail with her 7-year-old grandson.
Dean, a copy assistant at The Mountain Mail newspaper in Salida, said the trail is easily accessible and provides a view of the falls and the Chalk Creek Valley in the Collegiate Peaks, which contains many mountains over 14,000-feet tall.
About 20 Italian center-right lawmakers may break with leader Silvio Berlusconi if he tries to bring down prime minister Enrico Letta's coalition in a dispute over Berlusconi's fraud conviction, a center-right party source warned on Monday.
In a move that may give Letta, from the center-left, a chance to save his government following the resignations of five ministers from Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL), some 20 PDL senators will tell the party leader on Monday they may form a breakaway group in the upper house, the source told Reuters.
"If Silvio doesn't agree to take a step back from what the hawks are proposing, we could have a new moderate group by Wednesday," the source said.
The comment slightly revived prices of Italian stocks and bonds, which have suffered from the prospect of new uncertainty and lack of economic reforms as former premier Berlusconi fights an impending expulsion from the Senate following his conviction.
Al Jazeera America
Tropical Storm Wutip lashed central Vietnam Monday after sinking at least two Chinese fishing boats, leaving 75 fishermen missing, officials said. The storm, which weakened from a typhoon to a tropical storm by the time it made landfall, also uprooted trees, cut power lines and damaged more than 1,000 houses.
Vietnam closed schools, ordered all boats ashore and moved some 70,000 people to shelters in vulnerable areas along its central coastline.
Wutip made landfall on Vietnam's central coast Monday afternoon local time packing winds of up to 64 mph per hour and gusts of up to 80 mph, Vietnam's National Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting Center said.
"We have evacuated thousands of people, prepared vehicles, mobilized 5,000 police and soldiers," Nguyen Duc Cuong, a local communist party official in Quang Tri province, told state-run VTV.
Torrential rain and strong winds battered neighboring Quang Nam province, with the popular tourist town of Hoi An also affected by heavy flooding.
China also deployed navy warships and aircraft to search for survivors in the missing fishing boats. China was hit by Typhoon Usagi last week that blew cars off roads, crippled power lines, caused flooding and left at least 25 people dead.
It's quickly becoming clear how hard it's going to be for Angela Merkel to form a new government. The SPD wants the Finance Ministry and will ballot its members on any deal. In the end, though, they're likely to reach an agreement, say media commentators.
The election may have been held eight days ago, but Germany is no closer to forming a government. It could take until December or January, the general secretary of the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), Andrea Nahles, warned on Monday. The SPD, in a canny move to drive up its price for joining a coalition and to secure grass-roots support for a deal, decided at a party conference on Friday that it will ballot its 470,000 members on any agreement. That means they can say in talks, "we can't give in on that point because our members won't back it."
They murder, rob and kidnap, just like their male comrades. Some women fight for rebel groups in Congo against their will, while others are driven by desperation. Photographer Francesca Tosarelli documented their dangerous lives.
The Kivu region is extremely dangerous. The lush area on the eastern outskirts of the Democratic Republic of Congo is the hiding ground for some of Africa's most notorious rebel groups, like the fighters for the M23 Movement, which is engaged in a conflict with the country's government. Here, there is little by way of infrastructure or state control.
Despite the dangers, an interest in the marauding rebel groups has repeatedly brought photographer Francesca Tosarelli to the region along the borders of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday to step up sanctions on Iran if it pursues its disputed nuclear drive while negotiating with the West.
Seeking to ease Israeli concerns about U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran, Obama said Tehran must prove its sincerity with actions, insisted that Washington would not ease sanctions prematurely and reaffirmed U.S. readiness to resort to military action if all else fails.
Netanyahu was hosted at the White House just three days after Obama and new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone in the highest-level contact between the countries in more than three decades. The call fueled hopes for a resolution of Iran's decade-old nuclear standoff with the West.
Signs of U.S.-Iranian rapprochement have rattled Israel, which accuses Iran of trying to buy time and get out from under tough international sanctions while it pursues development of nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is working toward an atomic bomb.
Phantom vibration — that phenomenon where you think your phone is vibrating but it's not — has been around only since the mobile age. And five years ago, when its wider existence became recognized, news organizations, including ours, covered the "syndrome" as a sign of the digital encroachment in our lives. Today, it's so common that researchers have devoted studies to it.
For Valerie Kusler, who works on a 2,200-acre cattle ranch, the sensation is complicated by the cows. "The cows' moo is very muffled, it kinda sounds like ... errrrrr," she says. "So that's very similar to what my phone sounds like when it vibrates on my desk or in my purse."
If you heard the comparison, you could understand how she gets confused. "Definitely other people have experienced it, too," Kusler says.
Other people may not confuse cows for their phones, but research shows phantom vibration syndrome, or its other nicknames — like hypovibochondria or ring-xiety — are a near-universal experience for people with smartphones.
Nearly 90 percent of college undergrads in a 2012 study said they felt phantom vibrations. The number was just as high for a survey of hospital workers, who reported feeling phantom vibrations on either a weekly or monthly basis.
Chances are, you've seen it in your local grocery store. Maybe you've even mustered the courage to taste it — or at least take a whiff.
Once mostly a product of health food stores and hippies' kitchens, kombucha tea is now commercially available in many major grocery stores.
And people aren't necessarily scooping it up for its flavor. Its taste has been described as somewhere between vinegar soda and carbonated apple cider.
So why shell out $4 bucks for a small bottle of the stinky tea?
Many folks are banking on the potential health benefits of kombucha, including disease prevention, energy improvement and perhaps even turning back the clock and inhibiting aging.
"I've seen claims that kombucha might help kill cancer, is a powerful detoxifier, even a fountain of youth," says Monica Reinagel, a nutritionist and creator of the podcast Nutrition Diva.
While the collection of private information by the National Security Agency is under scrutiny worldwide, a remarkable amount of your digital trail is also available to local law enforcement officers, IRS investigators, the FBI and private attorneys. And in some cases, it can be used against you.
This week, NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting are documenting just how vivid the typical person's digital picture has become — and how easy it can be for others to see it.
Read the full report at cironline.org/yourdata and tune in to the four-part series on All Things Considered starting tonight. The stories examine a day in the life of your data, how marketers track you, the power of the subpoena, and the larger consequences of living in a world of big data.
Scientists think they have found the volcano responsible for a huge eruption that occurred in AD1257.
The mystery event was so large its chemical signature is recorded in the ice of both the Arctic and the Antarctic.
European medieval texts talk of a sudden cooling of the climate, and of failed harvests.
In the PNAS journal, an international team points the finger at the Samalas Volcano on Lombok Island, Indonesia.
Little remains of the original mountain structure - just a huge crater lake.
The team has tied sulphur and dust traces in the polar ice to a swathe of data gathered in the Lombok region itself, including radiocarbon dates, the type and spread of ejected rock and ash, tree-rings, and even local chronicles that recall the fall of the Lombok Kingdom sometime in the 13th Century.
Microsoft's former chief privacy adviser says he does not have faith in the security of the software company's technology, following revelations about the US's NSA spy agency published in the Guardian.
"I don't trust Microsoft now," he said, adding that he only uses open source software where he can examine the underlying code. He also said he has not carried a mobile phone for two years.
In June the Guardian revealed that an NSA program called Prism could demand data from a number of technology companies at will using court orders that were never rejected.
Bowden said the extent of the NSA's surveillance efforts – where it shares and gathers intelligence with the UK's GCHQ and intelligence agencies in Canada, New Zealand and Australia – was undermining democracy.