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House Passes Bill To Restore Military Death Benefits

Source: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The partial government shutdown has halted death benefits to the families of fallen soldiers, but the House has now voted unanimously for legislation that would restore those benefits.

It's unclear if the Democratic-led Senate will take up the bill, which the House passed by a 425-0 vote.

The Pentagon typically pays out $100,000 within three days of a soldier's death. But it says the shutdown means there's no authority now to pay the money.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has blamed the Obama administration for withholding the payments. But White House spokesman Jay Carney says Republicans are at fault for shutting down the government.

Read more: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_CONGRESS_DEATH_BENEFITS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-10-09-14-39-57

Russia's Putin Hails Obama For 'Averting Tragedy' in Syria

DENPASAR (Indonesia), October 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his US counterpart Tuesday for undertaking what he said were actions that have helped avert a tragedy in the ongoing civil war in Syria.

The remarks come against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a move brokered by Moscow and supported by the United States that forestalled a planned US-led bombing campaign against President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Speaking to journalists after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the Indonesian island of Bali, Putin said that while he and US President Barack Obama remained divided on the Syrian issue, they shared common goals.

These are “to democratize the situation, to create conditions under which all people living on this territory – people of different religions, ethnic groups – can live together in peace,” Putin said.



Iran Appointment To U.N. Disarmament Committee Slammed By Israel

Posted on October 9, 2013 by JNS.org.

(JNS.org) Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, compared the recent appointment of Iran to the U.N. First Committee on Disarmament and International Security to “appointing a drug lord CEO of a pharmaceutical company.”

“Iran’s appointment erodes the U.N.’s legitimacy and its ability to promote arms control and disarmament, as well as preserve global peace and security,” Prosor wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, The Associated Press reported.



Hagel, In Meeting With Yaalon, Pledges To Remain Firm With Iran

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met at the Pentagon for the third time in six months.

Hagel told Yaalon during Tuesday’s meeting that while U.S. officials intend to test the prospect for a diplomatic solution with Iran, “we remain clear eyed about the challenges ahead and will not waver from our firm policy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Hagel said according to the Defense Department.

Yaalon warned that the easing of sanctions against Iran, as has been suggested by several Western countries, would lead to a collapse of their effectiveness. He also said it was the credible military threat and existential dilemma facing Syrian President Bashar Assad that caused him to agree to give up chemical weapons, according to Haaretz.

Hagel applauded the announcement by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria has started.

“While much works remains to be done, this recent progress is a step in the right direction to eliminating this threat,” he said.



White House Says It Won't End Aid To Egypt Military


Comments come amid reports that aid would be halted to pressure the military.

Oren Dorell, USA TODAY 2:20 p.m. EDT October 9, 2013

The White House batted down reports that it plans to cut all military aid to Egypt's military over its crackdown on political opponents, but threats to cut any aid to a regime in the midst of a power struggle could backfire.

"You're basically putting pressure on the military when they're dealing with a major and increasingly violent crisis," said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has advised the U.S. State Department, Defense Department, and intelligence community.

"We've seen in Pakistan and elsewhere what happens when we assume people are so dependent on U.S. aid. You end up alienating the majority of the population."

Egypt receives $1.5 billion a year from the United States. News media reports say the Obama administration is poised to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt to register displeasure with the slow pace of restoration of democratic rule.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/09/us-egypt-military-aid/2951487/

Why I’m Very Happy About Janet Yellen

By Justin Wolfers - Oct 8, 2013

President Barack Obama plans to nominate Janet Yellen as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. In doing so, he will promote the pre-eminent policy economist of her generation to the role of the most powerful central banker in the world.

Yellen is quite simply more qualified for the job than any of her predecessors. She’s an imaginative and technically adept economist possessed of a brilliant and precise mind. As a researcher, she has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of unemployment and the importance of smoothing out the ups and downs of the economy. She has demonstrated an ability to navigate political corridors, having served successfully as the chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

She’s also battle-tested, having worked in key policy roles through both the Asian financial crisis and the recent global financial crisis. She has spent most of the past two decades as a leading voice within the Fed, initially as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, then as president and chief executive officer of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Board, and over the past four years as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

No Fed chairman has ever been subject to as robust a public vetting as Yellen has over the past two months. It’s notable that through the drawn-out public debate over who should replace current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, not a single economist who has ever worked with Yellen has had a bad word to say about her.

Historic Moment

Yellen’s appointment is also a historic moment: If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first woman ever to lead the Fed. Economics remains an excessively male-dominated field, and this is particularly evident among the world’s central bankers. The European Central Bank’s governing council, for example, counts no women among its 23 members. Likewise, there are no women on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.



The US Is Sneezing Like Crazy. Will The World Catch A Cold?

BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — It’s not every day that Chile gets to wag its finger at the United States.

Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali this week, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera sounded like an irate parent when he said Washington had to confront its fiscal problems "in a better way than they are doing it now with shutting down the government.”

Singapore got a few digs in, too. “Obviously we prefer a US government that is working to one that is not,” Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said.

US President Barack Obama's failure to show up at the summit was "a very big disappointment to us," he added.

Washington’s painful and embarrassing political crisis, which has led to a government shutdown and the very real threat of default, has damaged the United States’ standing in the world and sent shock waves — so far minor ones — throughout the global economy.



Lawmakers Back Military Death Benefit Halted by Shutdown

By Timothy R. Homan - Oct 9, 2013

Death benefits for the survivors of U.S. military personnel would be renewed under legislation that House leaders plan to take up today after the payments were halted by the partial federal shutdown.

“It’s disgraceful that they’re withholding these benefits, but again tomorrow the House is going to act specifically on this, and I hope the president will sign it,” House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said yesterday at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

When most government funding ended Oct. 1 in a standoff between President Barack Obama and House Republicans, the Pentagon stopped paying the $100,000, tax-exempt “death gratuity” that’s intended to provide immediate cash to the survivors of U.S. military personnel.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the legal authority to make those payments” until government funding resumes, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told reporters on Oct. 5. He said emergency legislation that provided for military personnel to continue receiving their pay lacked provisions authorizing the death benefit.

In addition to the $100,000 death payment, the military has halted benefits for survivors, including burial expenses and travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive the remains of loved ones, according to Navy Lieutenant Commander Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman.



Jobs Data Integrity at Risk in Prolonged U.S. Shutdown

By Carlos Torres and Victoria Stilwell - Oct 9, 2013

The integrity of U.S. data on joblessness, one of the main measures of the strength of the economy, is at risk the longer some government agencies remain closed, according to former Labor Department officials.

Workers at the Census Bureau this month would normally begin canvassing households, starting on Oct. 13, to ask people if they were employed during the previous week. A delay caused by the partial government shutdown means Americans will be reaching further back into their memories to come up with answers, raising the possibility that some responses used to derive the unemployment rate will be inaccurate.

“I’m really worried not just about possibly missing data, but I’m worried about muddying the signal even after we are back to collecting the data,” Katharine Abraham, commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics from October 1993 to October 2001, said in a telephone interview. “If you collect the information too late, you know the information is not going to be reliable.”

Any suspicion about the dependability of the figures and the likely economic damage caused by an extended shutdown gives Federal Reserve officials reason to delay trimming their $85 billion-a-month in bond purchases, said Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Plc in New York, and a former Fed researcher. Central bankers have cited the unemployment rate as one of the thresholds they’ll use to determine when to stop pumping more money into the economy and eventually raise their benchmark interest rate.

Fed Policy

“The Fed is making a big point that it’s data-dependent, but data dependence only works if there are data releases coming out,” Maki said in an interview. “The data vacuum could push the Fed to wait. It could conceivably affect a December taper if the shutdown were to last long enough.”



Russia Says Drugs Seized on Greenpeace Ship as New Charges Loom

By Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko - Oct 9, 2013

Russia said it found drugs on a Greenpeace ship, warning it may file more serious charges against some of the group’s activists already facing as long as 15 years in jail for alleged piracy during an Arctic protest.

Investigators are also trying to determine who among the campaigners was responsible for trying to ram into Russia’s Coast Guard craft, endangering the life of officials, the Investigative Committee said in a website statement today.

The detention of 28 activists and two journalists from 18 countries has provoked a diplomatic row as the Netherlands seeks to force Russia to release the Dutch-registered ship and its crew through international arbitration. Two Greenpeace protesters scaled OAO Gazprom (GAZP)’s Prirazlomnoye rig in the Pechora Sea on Sept. 18. A day later Russia’s Coast Guard boarded the group’s Arctic Sunrise ship in international waters and towed the vessel to Murmansk.

“We can only assume the Russian authorities are referring to the medical supplies that our ships are obliged to carry under maritime law,” Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement. “The ship was first searched by Russian officers weeks ago, they scoured every corner of it, so we assume this announcement is designed to deflect attention from the growing global outrage over the continued imprisonment of the detainees.”

Adding to the tensions with the Netherlands, President Vladimir Putin yesterday demanded a Dutch apology after police arrested a Russian diplomat in The Hague and allegedly beat him in front of his family, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. The Netherlands today said the envoy’s diplomatic immunity had been violated and offered its apologies over the incident, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.


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