Senate Leaders Near Deal to End Shutdown, Raise Debt Limit

Senate leaders say they are nearing a deal to reopen the federal government after two weeks of a partial shutdown. The draft measure would temporarily raise the nation’s borrowing limit and fund the federal government, while setting a deadline to hash out a long-term spending plan. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, praised each other on Monday.

Sen. Harry Reid: "I’m very optimistic that we reach — we will reach an agreement that’s reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation’s bills and begin long-term negotiation to put our country on sound fiscal footing. I deeply appreciate my friend, the minority leader, for his diligent efforts to come to an agreement."

Sen. Mitch McConnell: "Let me just echo the remarks of my good friend, the majority leader: We’ve had an opportunity over the last couple of days to have some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward."

It’s unclear whether House Republicans will support the plan even as a deadline approaches this Thursday to raise the debt ceiling or risk default.

Report: Social Security Rise to Be Historically Low

While Republicans push to gut programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, new figures show next year’s increase in Social Security will already be historically small. According to the Associated Press, Social Security recipients, as well as disabled veterans and federal retirees, will see their payments rise roughly 1.5 percent in January, among the smallest rises since the automatic increases began in 1975. The exact size of the cost-of-living adjustment is unknown because a key federal inflation report has been delayed by the shutdown.

Shutdown Hurts South Dakota Cattle Ranchers Hit by Blizzard

In South Dakota, the government shutdown has blocked federal financial help for cattle ranchers whose herds were devastated by a historic early blizzard this month. The storm blasted western South Dakota with 70-mile-an-hour winds and more than three feet of snow. The cattle had yet to grow their winter coats. As many as 100,000 died of hypothermia, drowning and other causes. The exact number of deaths is unknown; the federal agency tasked with tallying them is currently shut down.

Report: NSA Collects Millions of Email, Chat Contact Lists

The latest disclosures from Edward Snowden reveal the National Security Agency is collecting large volumes of electronic contact lists from people around the world, including Americans. According to The Washington Post, the NSA is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal email and instant messaging accounts. Intelligence officials say the practice would be illegal if carried out on U.S. soil, so the collection takes place abroad through deals with foreign companies and intelligence agencies. Data from Americans frequently leaves the country because companies like Google and Facebook operate data centers abroad. The scope of the collection is vast; in a single day last year, the NSA harvested nearly 700,000 email address books.

Brazil Gov’t to Use Encrypted Email to Block Foreign Spying

Brazil has announced government employees will begin using an encrypted email service in an effort to avoid foreign spying. Brazil’s communications minister says the new government system will become mandatory for all federal officials in the coming months. Documents revealed by Edward Snowden show Brazil is the leading target of U.S. spying in Latin America.

Afghanistan: Governor of Logar Killed by Bomb

In Afghanistan, the governor of the eastern province of Logar has died in a bomb attack at a mosque. Gov. Arsallah Jamal was a close ally of President Hamid Karzai. He was delivering a speech today marking the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha when a bomb hidden under a table exploded, wounding 15 people.

Libyan Bomb Suspect Faces Arraignment in New York

A Libyan al-Qaeda suspect snatched from the streets of Tripoli is in New York where he is expected to be arraigned in court today. Abu Anas al-Liby was interrogated for a week aboard a U.S. warship following his capture. He is accused of helping plan the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.

Talks on Iran’s Nuclear Program Begin in Geneva

Key talks between Iran, the United States and other nations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program are resuming today in Geneva. Iran is expected to introduce a proposal to curb its uranium enrichment efforts in a bid to ease crippling economic sanctions. The meetings include the so-called P5+1 group, which consists of the United States, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, who is leading the negotiations, says she is cautiously optimistic.

Catherine Ashton: "I hope that what we’ll have here is a very productive two days, an opportunity to explore both the proposals that we have put on the table, but also ideas that are coming from Iran. I hope that in the course of that time there will be an opportunity to really go into the detail and to explore the possibilities."

Syria: Gunmen Release 4 of 7 Aid Workers

In Syria, gunmen have released three Red Cross Workers and a Red Crescent volunteer who were kidnapped in a rebel-held area of Idlib province on Sunday. The fate of the remaining three workers seized with them remains unclear.

Russia: Police Round Up 1,600 Migrants After Anti-Migrant Riots

In Russia, police rounded up more than 1,600 migrants in Moscow Monday, a day after anti-immigrant riots that marked the worst such violence in nearly three years. On Sunday, thousands of Russian nationalists flipped cars, smashed windows and tried to break into a migrant-run vegetable market. The riots followed the killing last week of a Russian man by an attacker thought to be of Caucasian or Central Asian origin. Hundreds were detained during the riots, but most have been released without charge. On Monday, police raided the vegetable market, loaded migrants into vans, and said some were being probed for possible criminal ties.

Russian Court Denies Bail to Greenpeace Captain, Activists

A Russian court has denied bail to the captain of a Greenpeace ship and two other members of the "Arctic 30" who were detained in a direct action against Russia’s first Arctic offshore oil rig. Captain Peter Willcox and two others had appealed an order keeping them in pretrial detention until late next month. Six other participants have already been denied bail. The 28 environmentalists and two journalists are facing up to 15 years in prison on piracy charges. Captain Peter Willcox rejected the charges in court.

Peter Willcox: "I’ve been working on ships doing environmental work for 40 years. Never before have I been accused of using violence or doing something for my own personal gain. And I reject these accusations in the strongest way possible."

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case on Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on affirmative action. The case centers on a voter referendum in Michigan that banned race and sex-based preferences in admissions at public universities. Last year, a federal appeals court found the ban violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the case could impact similar bans in California and Washington.

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