Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Published:

Debt showdown may be delayed: Republicans press for three-month stopgap bill on US borrowing

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Seeking to regain their budget footing versus President Barack Obama, Republicans controlling the House are moving quickly to try to defuse a potential debt crisis with legislation to prevent a first-ever U.S. default for at least three months.

The Republicans are giving up for now on trying to extract spending cuts from Democrats in return for an increase in the government's borrowing cap. But the respite promises to be only temporary, with the stage still set for major battles between the GOP and Obama over taxes, spending and deficits.

The first step comes Wednesday with a House vote on GOP-sponsored legislation that would give the government enough borrowing leeway to meet three months' worth of obligations, delaying a showdown next month that Republicans fear they would lose.

Republicans leaving a two-hour meeting Tuesday afternoon appeared confident that the measure would pass.

While it's commonly assumed that the Treasury Department wouldn't allow a disastrous default on U.S. Treasury notes, the prospect of failing to meet other U.S. obligations such as payments to contractors, unemployment benefits and Social Security checks would also be reputation shattering. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders have made it plain they don't have the stomach for it.

___

Exit polls: Netanyahu wins narrow majority in Israeli election, centrists gain ground

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hard-line allies fared far worse than expected in a parliamentary election Tuesday, preliminary results showed, likely forcing him to reach across the aisle to court a popular political newcomer to cobble together a new coalition.

While Netanyahu appeared positioned to serve a third term as prime minister, the results marked a major setback for his policies and could force him to make new concessions to restart long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

His most likely partner was Yesh Atid, or There is a Future, a party headed by political newcomer Yair Lapid that showed surprising strength. Lapid has said he would only join a government committed to sweeping economic changes and a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Addressing his supporters early Wednesday, Netanyahu vowed to form as broad a coalition as possible. He said the next government would be built on principles that include reforming the contentious system of granting draft exemptions to ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and the pursuit of a "genuine peace" with the Palestinians. He did not elaborate, but the message seemed aimed at Lapid.

Shortly after the results were announced, Netanyahu called Lapid and offered to work together. "We have the opportunity to do great things together," Netanyahu was quoted as saying by Likud officials.

___

10 Things to Know for Wednesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday:

1. A SHORT-TERM REPAIR FOR THE DEBT CEILING

The House will vote Wednesday on a GOP measure to give the government enough borrowing leeway to pay three months' worth of bills.

___

North Korea warns it will strengthen 'nuclear deterrence' in reaction to UN punishment

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea swiftly lashed out against the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of its December launch of a long-range rocket, saying Wednesday that it will strengthen its military defenses -- including its nuclear weaponry -- in response.

The defiant statement from North Korea's Foreign Ministry was issued hours after the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Pyongyang's Dec. 12 rocket launch as a violation of a ban against nuclear and missile activity. The resolution, which required approval from Pyongyang's ally China, also added to sanctions against the North.

The Foreign Ministry called the launch a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space rather than a test of long-range missile technology. It said North Korea "should counter the U.S. hostile policy with strength, not with words."

The statement ominously warned that North Korea will "bolster the military capabilities for self-defense including the nuclear deterrence."

The wording "considerably and strongly hints at the possibility of a nuclear test," analyst Hong Hyun-ik at the private Sejong Institute think tank near Seoul said Wednesday.

___

Poll: Most back path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as Republican opposition declines

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a major increase in support driven by a turnaround in Republicans' opinions after the 2012 elections.

The finding, in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, comes as the Republican Party seeks to increase its meager support among Latino voters, who turned out in large numbers to help-re-elect President Barack Obama in November.

Emboldened by the overwhelming Hispanic backing and by shifting attitudes on immigration, Obama has made overhauling laws about who can legally live in the U.S. a centerpiece of his second-term agenda. In the coming weeks, he's expected to aggressively push for ways to create an eventual pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.

The poll results suggest that the public overall, not just Hispanics, will back his efforts. Sixty-two percent of Americans now favor providing a way for illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become citizens, an increase from just 50 percent in the summer of 2010, the last time the AP polled on the question.

In an even earlier poll, in 2009, some 47 percent supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

___

Russia begins evacuating nationals from Syria as civil war rages

MASNAA, Lebanon (AP) -- Key Syrian ally Russia began evacuating its citizens from the country on Tuesday as the civil war gathered momentum in the capital Damascus with intense fighting around the international airport.

The evacuation was the strongest sign yet of Moscow's waning confidence in the ability of its ally President Bashar Assad to hold onto power. The U.N. chief said Tuesday that a diplomatic conclusion to the war seems unlikely.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Russian evacuations indicate "the continued deterioration of the security situation and the violence that Assad is leading against his own people."

Four buses carrying about 80 people, mostly women married to Syrians and their children, crossed out of the country over land into neighboring Lebanon in the early afternoon. The land route was presumably chosen because of renewed fighting near the Damascus airport.

The first of two planes sent to pick up the Russians took off late Tuesday from Beirut and landed shortly after 5 a.m. (0100 GMT) in Moscow. Russia's Emergencies Ministry, which sent the planes, said the passengers were being given medical examinations before leaving the airport. It was unclear if any of them had been injured in the fighting.

___

Fight between 2 people leads to gunfire on Texas college campus, worker caught in crossfire

HOUSTON (AP) -- A fight between two people erupted in gunfire Tuesday at a Houston-area community college, catching a maintenance man in the crossfire and leaving students and others cowering in classrooms.

No one was killed, but the volley of gunshots heard shortly after 12 p.m. on the Lone Star College campus sparked fear of another campus massacre just more than a month after 26 people were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

The shooting happened outside between an academic building and the library where Luis Resendiz, 22, was studying on the second floor. An employee called police and then herded the 30 to 40 people in the library into a small room and told them to crouch down, he said.

Keisha Cohn, 27, was in a building about 50 feet away and began running as soon as she heard the shots.

"To stay where I was wasn't an option," said Cohn, who fled from a building that houses computers and study areas. All the students eventually were evacuated, running out of buildings as police officers led them to safety.

___

Pa. ex-pastor awaiting trial in 1st wife's death convicted of fatally bludgeoning 2nd wife

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A former pastor awaiting trial in the 1999 death of his first wife was convicted Tuesday of fatally bludgeoning his second wife nine years later.

Arthur "A.B." Schirmer, 64, was called the "sinister minister" by a prosecutor who said he clubbed Betty Schirmer on the head with a crowbar, then loaded her into their car and staged a low-speed accident in an effort to conceal the crime.

The ex-clergyman was motionless as the jury returned its verdict 90 minutes after getting the case, and he said nothing while being led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

His conviction brought cries and tears of joy from the family of Betty Schirmer, who prosecutors say suffered mortal brain injuries when he attacked her on July 15, 2008.

"Today, she can finally rest in peace," said her son, Nate Novack, who thanked prosecutors for "bringing my mom's killer to justice."

___

Did she or didn't she? Beyonce questioned about lip syncing national anthem at inauguration

WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's no question Beyonce's rendition of the national anthem was a roaring success. The mystery: was it live or lip synced?

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marine Band told news outlets that Beyonce had lip synced at President Barack Obama's inauguration. Master Sgt. Kristin duBois said the band was notified at the last minute that Beyonce would use a pre-recorded voice track.

But by late afternoon, the Marine Corps backed off that statement.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Gregory Wolf said that because there was no opportunity for Beyonce to rehearse with the Marine Band, it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill advised. Instead they used a pre-recorded track for the band's portion of the song.

"Regarding Ms. Knowles-Carter's vocal performance," Wolf's statement continued, "no one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded."