EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 24, 2012

World and Nation Briefs


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — World hopes for greater climate leadership from US after superstorm, Obama re-election

DOHA, Qatar — During a year with a monster storm and scorching heat waves, Americans have experienced the kind of freakish weather that many scientists say will occur more often on a warming planet.

And as a re-elected president talks about global warming again, climate activists are cautiously optimistic that the U.S. will be more than a disinterested bystander when the U.N. climate talks resume Monday with a two-week conference in Qatar.

“I think there will be expectations from countries to hear a new voice from the United States,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute in Washington.

The climate officials and environment ministers meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha will not come up with an answer to the global temperature rise that is already melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost, raising and acidifying the seas, and shifting rainfall patterns, which has an impact on floods and droughts.

They will focus on side issues, like extending the Kyoto protocol — an expiring emissions pact with a dwindling number of members — and ramping up climate financing for poor nations.

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Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans represent diverse political spectrum in House freshmen class

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Tammy Duckworth sees it, her path to Congress began when she awoke in the fall of 2004 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She was missing both of her legs and faced the prospect of losing her right arm.

Months of agonizing therapy lay ahead. As the highest-ranking double amputee in the ward, Maj. Duckworth became the go-to person for soldiers complaining of substandard care and bureaucratic ambivalence.

Soon, she was pleading their cases to federal lawmakers, including her state’s two U.S. senators at the time — Democrats Dick Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois. Obama arranged for her to testify at congressional hearings. Durbin encouraged her to run for office.

She lost her first election, but six years later gave it another try and now is one of nine veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who will serve in next year’s freshman class in the of House of Representatives.

Veterans’ groups say the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is welcome because it comes at a time when the overall number of veterans in Congress is on a steep and steady decline. In the mid-1970s, the vast majority of lawmakers tended to be veterans.

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Mass. natural gas explosion damaged 42 buildings; cause of blast that hurt 18 being probed

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Preliminary investigations show more than 40 buildings were damaged in a natural gas explosion in Massachusetts that injured 18 people, building inspectors said Saturday.

A strip club was flattened and a day care center was heavily damaged in the massive explosion Friday night in Springfield, one of New England’s biggest cities.

No one was killed in the explosion.

Investigators were trying Saturday to figure out what caused the blast that could be heard for miles, left a large hole in the ground where the multistory brick building housing Scores Gentleman’s Club once stood and scattered debris over several blocks.

Officials already had evacuated part of the entertainment district after responding to a gas leak and odor reported about an hour before the explosion. Gas workers venting a gas leak got indications that the building was about to explode and they ducked for cover behind a utility truck — along with firefighters and police officers — just before the blast, said Mark McDonald, president of the New England Gas Workers Association.

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How to judge possible ‘fiscal cliff’ deal? A checklist to see whether debt reduction is real

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and leaders of the lame-duck Congress may be just weeks away from shaking hands on a deal to avert the dreaded “fiscal cliff.” So it’s natural to wonder: If they announce a bipartisan package promising to curb mushrooming federal deficits, will it be real?

Both sides have struck cooperative tones since Obama’s re-election. Even so, he and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the GOP’s pivotal bargainer, have spent most of the past two years in an acrid political climate in which both sides have fought stubbornly to protect their constituencies.

Obama and top lawmakers could produce an agreement that takes a serious bite out of the government’s growing $16 trillion pile of debt and puts it on a true downward trajectory.

Or they might reach an accord heading off massive tax increases and spending cuts that begin to bite in January — that’s the fiscal cliff — while appearing to be getting tough on deficits through painful savings deferred until years from now, when their successors might revoke or dilute them.

Historically, Congress and presidents have proven themselves capable of either. So before bargainers concoct a product, and assuming they can, here’s a checklist of how to assess their work:

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No. 2 in Hamas says group will not stop Gaza weapons production, smuggling

CAIRO — Gaza’s ruling Hamas will not stop arming itself because only a strong arsenal, not negotiations, can extract concessions from Israel, the No. 2 in the Islamic militant group told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, just three days after the worst bout of Israel-Hamas fighting in four years, signaled trouble ahead for Egyptian-brokered talks between the hostile neighbors on a new border deal.

Hamas demands that Israel and Egypt lift all restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Palestinian territory, which has been buckling under a border blockade since the Islamists seized the territory in 2007. The restrictions have been eased somewhat in recent years, but not enough to allow Gaza’s battered economy to develop.

Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. However, an Israeli security official said this week that Israel would likely link a significant easing of the blockade to Hamas’s willingness to stop smuggling weapons into Gaza and producing them there.

Abu Marzouk said Saturday that the group would not disarm, arguing that recent Palestinian history has shown that negotiations with Israel lead nowhere unless backed by force.