US Congressional negotiators on Monday pressed to wrap up a must-do spending bill to prevent an election-season government shutdown and provide money to battle the Zika virus, but numerous sticking points remain and top senate leaders again postponed a planned procedural vote.
The stopgap measure would keep the US government running past the end of the budget year this month. It is the only measure that has to pass before congress adjourns for election day. As such, the talks have been tricky, with Republicans battling Democrats and the administration of US President Barack Obama.
A controversy involving whether Planned Parenthood should be eligible for anti-Zika funding in Puerto Rico, which sparked a Democratic blockade of an earlier measure, was defused with little fanfare last week.
Senate Republicans, who have taken the lead in the talks, have relented and would make affiliates of Planned Parenthood eligible for funds to fight the virus in Puerto Rico.
The US$1 billion-plus to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus is months overdue. Republicans were slow to act on Obama’s request in February and then sparked an imbroglio with Democrats by restricting new health grants for Puerto Rico to entities like public health providers and hospitals, a step that Republicans said was aimed at ensuring Planned Parenthood was ineligible to receive any funds. A proposed solution would move the money to different accounts and make sure Planned Parenthood remains eligible to receive it.
Another proposal would temporarily ease pesticide spraying rules from US Clean Water Act requirements for permits.
Supporters say the permits are duplicative, as pesticides are generally regulated by a different environmental law, but the idea is opposed by the administration, which says it’s an assault on environmental laws.
Democrats also are opposed to pairing the Zika money with spending cuts intended to try to pay for it. Other disasters, like floods and emergency wildfire funds, have not required such offsetting cuts, and Democrats do not want to set the precedent.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz is pushing for a provision in the bill to ensure that the government does not relinquish control of the Internet’s addressing system. The government is expected to take that step, and Cruz has been fighting it.
“It is my hope that congress is going to act to maintain current law and to protect the Internet, keep the Internet free,” Cruz told reporters. “It would be profoundly harmful to American interests and to the free-speech rights of Americans to give Russia and China and Iran greater control over the Internet, and I hope we see a bipartisan consensus to protect free speech online.”
After talks over the weekend failed to produce much progress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed a procedural vote that had been slated for Monday evening. The delay probably means congress will not wrap up its pre-election session this week.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered