EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 16, 2013

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — TACLOBAN, Philippines — Althea Mustacisa was born three days ago in the aftermath of the killer typhoon that razed the eastern Philippines. And for every one of those three days, she has struggled to live.

But she has clung to life because her parents have been pushing oxygen into her tiny body with a hand-held pump non-stop ever since she came into this world.

And “if they stop, the baby will die,” said Amie Sia, a nurse at a hospital in typhoon-wracked Tacloban city that is running without electricity and few staff or medical supplies.

“She can’t breathe without them. She can’t breathe on her own,” Sia said. “The only sign of life this little girl has left is a heartbeat.”

More than a week after ferocious Typhoon Haiyan annihilated a vast swath of the Philippines, killing more than 3,600 people, the storm’s aftermath is still claiming victims — and doctors here fear Althea may be the next.

Suicide bomber kills 6 in Afghan capital near site of upcoming elder talks

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide car bomber tore through the Afghan capital yesterday, just hours after President Hamid Karzai announced U.S. and Afghan negotiators had agreed on a draft deal allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond a 2014 deadline.

The blast, which killed six people near where thousands of tribal leaders will discuss the deal next week, was a bloody reminder of the insecurity plaguing the country after 12 years of war.

The suicide bomber attacked security forces protecting the Loya Jirga site, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. He said the blast killed six people and wounded 22. Among the dead were two security personnel, he said.

Sediqqi said Afghan security forces had prior knowledge of the suicide bombing, but were unable to stop the attack. He did not elaborate.

No group immediately claimed the attack, though blame is likely to fall on the Taliban, who have adamantly opposed the presence of any foreign soldiers in Afghanistan.

As crises multiply for Toronto’s blustery mayor, a test of loyalty for supporters

TORONTO — When Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto in 2010, his bluster and checkered past were widely known. A plurality of voters backed him anyway, eager to shake things up at a City Hall they viewed as elitist and wasteful.

Those voters — many from Toronto’s conservative-leaning, working-class outer suburbs — got their wish, and perhaps more turmoil than any could have expected.

Now the loyalty of the mayor’s constituency, known as Ford Nation, is being tested as he faces intense pressure to resign following sensational revelations about his drinking problems and illegal drug use, as well as repeated outbursts of erratic behavior and crude language.

The City Council voted Friday, on a 39-3 vote, to suspend Ford’s authority to appoint or dismiss the deputy mayor and his executive committee, which oversees the budget. Further efforts are expected Monday to strip Ford of most of his remaining powers, though he vows to resist with court action.

Many of Ford’s political allies — including most council members — are deserting him, and polls show his approval rate is down sharply from two years ago. Yet some of his loyalists want him to hang on.

Obama struggles to save his cherished health law from his own administration

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s health care law risks coming unglued because of his administration’s bungles and his own inflated promises.

To avoid that fate, Obama needs breakthroughs on three fronts: the cancellations mess, technology troubles and a crisis in confidence among his own supporters.

Working in his favor are pent-up demands for the program’s benefits and an unlikely collaborator in the insurance industry.

But even after Obama gets the enrollment website working, count on new controversies. On the horizon is the law’s potential impact on job-based insurance. Its mandate that larger employers offer coverage will take effect in 2015.

For now, odds still favor the Affordable Care Act’s survival. But after making it through the Supreme Court, a presidential election, numerous congressional repeal votes and a government shutdown, the law has yet to win broad acceptance.

GOP already on 2014 offensive on troubled health care law rollout

WASHINGTON — In his West Virginia district, the TV ads attacking Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall over the calamitous startup of President Barack Obama’s health care law have already begun.

The 19-term veteran, a perennial target in a GOP-shifting state, is among many in the president’s party who have recited to constituents Obama’s assurance that they could keep insurance coverage they liked under the 2010 overhaul.

That has proved untrue for several million Americans, igniting a public uproar that has forced Obama to reverse himself on part of the law and sent many Democrats scrambling into political self-preservation mode ahead of next year’s congressional elections.

Rahall was among 39 Democrats who, despite an Obama veto threat, voted Friday for a GOP measure that would let insurers continue selling policies to individuals that fall short of the health care law’s requirements. It was approved 261-157.

“I’m concerned about my integrity with voters who have returned me here 38 years. They know me enough to know I wouldn’t purposely mislead them,” Rahall said this past week. “They have that confidence in me, and I want them to continue to have that confidence in me.”

Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray shatter an image in New York City

Another milestone is passing in America’s racial journey: The next mayor of New York City is a white man with a black wife.

Even in a nation with a biracial president, where interracial marriage is more accepted and common than ever, Bill de Blasio’s marriage to Chirlane McCray is remarkable: He is apparently the first white politician in U.S. history elected to a major office with a black spouse by his side.

This simple fact is striking a deep chord in many people as de Blasio prepares to take office on Jan. 1, with McCray playing a major role in his administration.

“It reflects the American values of embracing different races, ethnicities, religions. I think it’s just a great symbol,” said William Cohen, the former Maine senator and Secretary of Defense, who is married to a black woman.

Cohen was already a senator when he started dating Janet Langhart, a black television journalist. He proposed several times, but she feared that her race would hurt Cohen’s political future. They married in 1996, a few weeks after Cohen announced he would not seek a fourth term.

Case of Detroit-area homeowner who shot woman may hinge on single word

DETROIT — The way Renisha Marie McBride’s young life ended Nov. 2 is not in dispute: A homeowner in suburban Detroit fatally shot the 19-year-old in the face as she stood on his porch before the sun came up.

Almost every other aspect of the case is not as clear-cut.

Did race play a role in the shooting? What exactly happened on that doorstep? Did the homeowner reasonably believe he was acting in self-defense?

Police and prosecutors say Theodore Paul Wafer fired once with a 12-gauge shotgun through his screen door at McBride.

The 54-year-old airport maintenance employee, who faces murder and manslaughter charges, is free on bail awaiting a Dec. 18 hearing that will determine if the case should go to trial.

Syrian government currently gaining ground and strengthening hand

BEIRUT — Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have firmly seized the momentum in the country’s civil war in recent weeks, capturing one rebel stronghold after another and triumphantly planting the two-starred Syrian government flag amid shattered buildings and rubble-strewn streets.

Despite global outrage over the use of chemical weapons, Assad’s government is successfully exploiting divisions among the opposition, dwindling foreign help for the rebel cause and significant local support, all linked to the same thing: discomfort with the Islamic extremists who have become a major part of the rebellion.

The battlefield gains would strengthen the government’s hand in peace talks sought by the world community.

-Associated Press

Both the Syrian government and the opposition have said they are ready to attend a proposed peace conference in Geneva that the U.S. and Russia are trying to convene, although it remains unclear whether the meeting will indeed take place. The Western-backed opposition in exile, which has little support among rebel fighters inside Syria and even less control over them, has set several conditions for its participation, chief among them that Assad must not be part of a transitional government — a notion Damascus has roundly rejected.

“President Bashar Assad will be heading any transitional stage in Syria, like it or not,” Omar Ossi, a member of Syria’s parliament, told The Associated Press.

Former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to join private equity firm Warburg Pincus

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who played a central role in the government’s response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009, is joining private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC.

The firm announced Saturday that Geithner will serve as its president and managing director starting March 1.

Geithner led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for more than five years before becoming Treasury secretary in 2009, when the economy had sunk into a deep recession.

Few Treasury secretaries received as much scrutiny. Supporters credited Geithner with helping prevent the recession from spiraling into a second Great Depression by stabilizing the banking system and restoring investor confidence. Critics said he was too cozy with Wall Street.

Warburg Pincus said that Geithner would advise the firm on strategy, investing, investor relations and other topics. The New York-based firm has been involved in buyouts of such well-known companies as luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus and contact lens maker Bausch + Lomb.