AP Sources: GOP weighs short-term debt limit hike with default threatened
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republican leaders are considering a short-term increase in the U.S. debt limit as a possible way to break the gridlock that threatens the nation with an unprecedented default in as little as a week, officials said Wednesday night.
These officials said there is far less urgency inside the leadership about ending the current nine-day partial government shutdown, which has caused inconvenience and financial concern for many individual Americans but appears not to threaten the widespread economic damage a default might bring.
The officials declined to say what conditions, if any, might be attached to legislation to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit for an undetermined period, perhaps a few weeks or months. The GOP rank and file is expected to meet privately to discuss the issue on Thursday, before a delegation led by Speaker John Boehner goes to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama.
The officials describing the developments late Wednesday spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to disclose details of private deliberations.
Obama has said he won't agree to sign a debt limit increase if conditions are attached. Republicans indicated several days ago they intended to seek spending cuts to reduce deficits, measures to roll back environmental regulations and changes in the nation's 3-year-old health care law.
Charity to pay military death benefits as White House scrambles to contain controversy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration, scrambling to tamp down a controversy over suspended death benefits for the families of fallen troops, announced Wednesday that a charity would pick up the costs of the payments during the government shutdown.
"The Fisher House Foundation will provide the families of the fallen with the benefits they so richly deserve," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement, adding that the Pentagon would reimburse the foundation after the shutdown ended.
Hagel said Fisher House, which works with veterans and their families, had approached the Pentagon about making the payments. The Defense Department typically pays families about $100,000 within three days of a service member's death, but officials say the shutdown was preventing those benefits from being paid.
A senior defense official said the government could not actively solicit funds from private organizations but could accept an offer.
The failure to make the payments has stirred outrage on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president was "disturbed" when he found out the death benefits had been suspended and demanded an immediate solution.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. HOUSE GOP LEADERS WEIGH SHORT-TERM DEBT LIMIT HIKE
Meanwhile, there is far less urgency inside the leadership about ending the nine-day government shutdown.
3-star Navy admiral fired as deputy chief of nuclear command, demoted to 2-star rank
WASHINGTON (AP) — The deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, was notified Wednesday that he has been relieved of duty amid a military investigation of allegations that he used counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino, the Navy said.
The move is exceedingly rare and perhaps unprecedented in the history of U.S. Strategic Command, which is responsible for all American nuclear warfighting forces, including nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and land-based missiles.
The Navy's top spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Giardina, who had held the job since December 2011, is being reassigned to the Navy staff pending the outcome of the probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The gambling matter originated as a local law enforcement investigation in Iowa in June.
As a consequence of being removed from his post at Strategic Command, Giardina falls in rank to two-star admiral. He had been suspended by Gen. Robert Kehler, the top commander at Strategic Command, on Sept. 3, although that move was not disclosed publicly until Sept. 28.
After his suspension Giardina remained at Strategic Command but was not allowed to perform duties that required use of his security clearance.
US cutting hundreds of millions in military, other aid to Egypt, responding to Morsi ouster
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Wednesday cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to its Mideast ally Egypt, responding to the military ouster last summer of the nation's first democratically elected president and the crackdown on protesters that has sunk the country into violent turmoil.
While the State Department did not provide a dollar amount of what was being withheld, most of it is linked to military aid. In all, the U.S. provides $1.5 billion in aid each year to Egypt.
Officials said the aid being withheld included 10 Apache helicopters at a cost of more than $500 million, M1A1 tank kits and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The U.S. also is withholding $260 million in cash assistance to the government until "credible progress" is made toward an inclusive government set up through free and fair elections. The U.S. had already suspended the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets and canceled biennial U.S.-Egyptian military exercises.
In Cairo, military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali declined immediate comment. Before the announcement, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian military leader, described his country's relations with the United States as "strategic" and founded on mutual interests. But he told the Cairo daily, Al-Masry al-Youm, in an interview published on Wednesday that Egypt would not tolerate pressure, "whether through actions or hints."
Neighboring Israel also has indicated concern. The Israelis consider the U.S. aid to Egypt to be important support for the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.
If approved as Fed chair, Yellen must confront tough challenges on stimulus, economic recovery
WASHINGTON (AP) — If she becomes the next Federal Reserve chair, the challenges that lie ahead for Janet Yellen will require both the steely intellect and the personable style that many attribute to her.
The job as the world's most important banker comes with a daunting to-do list: deciding when to slow the Fed's stimulus, forging consensus from a fractious policy committee and calculating the effects of any economic slowdown from Washington's budget fight. That's in addition to monitoring volatile financial markets and fine-tuning the Fed's communications.
First, though, Yellen will have to get there. She will need to overcome Washington's toxic political environment and win confirmation from the Senate to succeed Ben Bernanke when his term ends Jan. 31.
It's almost enough to make you wonder why she would want the job.
Yellen is widely seen as a "dove" on Fed policy. She stresses the need to use the Fed's tools to boost growth and reduce unemployment in the sluggish aftermath of the Great Recession, rather than worry about igniting future inflation.
Man killed by police after firing shots at US courthouse in W.Va. was ex-cop, had 2 guns
WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — A retired police officer armed with an assault weapon and a handgun fired up to two dozen shots at a U.S. courthouse in West Virginia on Wednesday before police returned fire and killed him, authorities said.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger identified the gunman as Thomas J. Piccard, 55, of Bridgeport, Ohio. He was a retired Wheeling police officer.
Schwertfeger did not say whether Piccard used both weapons during the assault on the Wheeling Federal Building or speculate on a motive. Officials said they had no knowledge of any sort of note left behind by Piccard.
Three on-duty security officers were injured by flying debris during the onslaught, he told a news conference.
Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie said police who briefed him earlier Wednesday told him that Piccard was a 20-year-plus veteran of the force who retired 13 years ago.
Saudi women in kingdom's top advisory council call for discussion on allowing women to drive
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi women on the ultraconservative kingdom's top advisory council have called for a discussion on the sensitive issue of allowing women to drive, a move that could embolden reformers pushing to lift the ban.
The official request was made this week to the head of the Shura Council, council member Latifa al-Shaalan said, to address all "excuses" raised to keep women from driving since Islamic law and Saudi traffic laws do not forbid it.
Women seeking the right to drive in Saudi Arabia have been energized by a campaign calling on them to drive on Oct. 26. Saudi law does not explicitly prohibit them from driving, but religious edicts by senior and influential clerics are enforced by the police, effectively banning it. Authorities do not issue driving licenses to women.
The campaign started as an online petition last month and has so far garnered nearly 15,000 signatures.
In 2011, a Saudi woman was detained for posting an online video of herself driving, though her arrest launched wider protests.
NASA spacecraft runs into problem after flying past Earth en route to Jupiter; cause unknown
LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA's Jupiter-bound spacecraft hit a snag Wednesday soon after it used Earth as a gravity slingshot to hurtle toward the outer solar system, but mission managers said it's on course to arrive at the giant planet in 2016.
Juno emerged from Earth's shadow in safe mode, a state that spacecraft are programmed to go into when there's some trouble.
Despite the problem, "we believe we are on track as planned to Jupiter," said project manager Rick Nybakken of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $1.1 billion mission.
Engineers continued to diagnose the issue, which occurred after Juno whipped around Earth in a momentum-gathering flyby. Up until Wednesday, Juno had been in excellent health. While in safe mode, it can communicate with ground controllers, but its activities are limited.
Previous missions to the outer solar system have used Earth as a celestial springboard since there's no rocket powerful enough to make a direct flight. The Galileo spacecraft buzzed by Earth twice in the 1990s en route to Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet located 484 million miles from the sun.
Manager Joe Girardi signs 4-year contract extension to stay with New York Yankees
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Girardi's return as manager of the New York Yankees was all about family.
Girardi signed a four-year contract that could be worth up to $20 million Wednesday to stay with New York through 2017.
With the Yankees missing out on the playoffs this season for the second time in 19 years, the 48-year-old Girardi got an early start on determining his future. He went over several possible scenarios with his wife, Kim, and three children that included taking a year off, pursuing a broadcasting job or managing somewhere else. But they quickly came to the conclusion that six years in New York was not enough.
"It wasn't ever a lot of thought that I might not possibly come back. I just had to make sure that everyone was still on board," Girardi said on a conference call.
Girardi was in the final month of his second three-year contract (worth $9 million) with the Yankees since taking over for Joe Torre after the 2007 season, and he asked for a fourth year in the new deal.