No deal yet as US debt deadline looms

The US is still facing a potentially devastating sovereign debt default after senators failed to agree on terms to reopen the federal government and raise the country’s borrowing limit.

Republicans and Democrats – at war over the country’s finances for more than two weeks – tried to shed a positive light on Sunday on a weekend of talks that despite the threat of global economic censure produced no solution.

The Senate convened a rare Sunday session to try and break the budgetary impasse that prompted the government to shut down on October 1, a move that has since damaged domestic confidence and undermined America’s reputation as the world’s leading economic superpower.

If the US debt ceiling is not raised by October 17, the Treasury would run out of money and could begin defaulting on its obligations for the first time in history.

Seeking to avert that scenario, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid spoke with the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, though nothing concrete was disclosed.

“I’m optimistic about the prospect for a positive conclusion,” Reid said.

Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer on Monday warned of dire consequences if there was no solution.

A default would be “a thunderbolt on the financial markets” that would set off “extremely violent and profound turbulence worldwide”, he told the daily Le Figaro.

In Asia, markets were down in part over the deadlocked talks.

Oil prices also edged lower in Asian trade, with West Texas Intermediate for delivery in November, down 29 US cents at $US101.73 in afternoon trade, and Brent North Sea crude for November down 17 US cents to $US111.11.

And the US dollar slipped in Singapore afternoon trade to Y98.27 from Y98.59 in New York late on Friday. Japanese markets are closed for a public holiday.

“So far, markets have not panicked because both parties have come out to reassure that they are working towards a compromise after every failed vote, keeping alive hopes for a last-minute deal,” Singapore-based DBS Bank said in a note.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew earlier told the International Monetary Fund’s policy steering committee that Washington understood its reputation as a safe harbour was at risk.

Stock markets are already factoring in a possible default if no deal is reached between President Barack Obama, his Democratic Party and rival Republicans by Thursday night.

Polls released since the shutdown show congress’s approval rating at record lows, with Republicans taking most of the blame.

Both parties in recent days indicated a deal must be reached at all cost despite the bitter rancour.

“This is something that’s wreaking havoc around the world and will affect economic growth, and I do hope that over the next week we’ll reach a conclusion and I think we will,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker .

Obama earlier rejected an offer by Republicans in the House of Representatives to lift the debt ceiling for six weeks while negotiations would continue on reopening the government, insisting on a longer-term solution.

Following talks with the top House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, the president said they were not budging from their position.

Obama and Pelosi “reinforced that there must be a clean debt limit increase that allows us to pay the bills we have incurred and avoid default”, the White House said in a statement.

“The House needs to pass the clean continuing resolution to open up the government and end the shutdown that is hurting middle class families and businesses across the country.”

Senate leader Reid had on Saturday turned down a second compromise proposal, offered by moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins.

It called for lifting the US debt limit for up to a year, reopening the government and repealing a tax on medical devices under Obama’s signature healthcare law.

But Collins said her proposal could still become the basis of a deal, saying she had support from a growing, bipartisan group of senators.

Senator Charles Schumer, a key Democratic power broker, said Reid and McConnell “were not that far apart” on Saturday, when they held their first talks of the crisis.

Democrats, meanwhile, have added a demand of their own – that any deal also involve undoing the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester that went into effect earlier this year.

Schumer acknowledged it was a “sticking point”.

Global pressure for a deal in Washington is mounting.

“The standing of the US economy would, again, be at risk,” International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said, comparing the effects of failing to raise the debt ceiling and reopening the government to the 2008 global financial meltdown.

Second Life obsessed parents starve two-year-old child

 

 

Online gaming Is fun and an escape from reality, but when it becomes your reality at the expense of you family Its an issue that needs to be dealt with. When it becomes life threatening then its a crime. No child should be neglected because you cant drag yourself away from the computer to see to their basic needs.

US couple obsessed with a video game have allegedly let daughter starve

 

A Couple have been accused of starving their two-year-old daughter after becoming obsessed with the online video game Second Life.

Mark Knapp, 48, and wife, Elizabeth Pester, 33, from Tulsa, USA, were charged with child neglect and abuse after the girl was rushed to hospital weighing just 5.8 kilograms. The average two-year-old should weigh between ten and fifteen kilograms, depending on their height.

The girl was admitted to St Francis Hospital in a critical condition on Tuesday, with detective Denielle Bishop telling Newson6 that on top of being severely underweight, she could not walk, move or talk.

“My gut feeling is the child probably never left the apartment” she said.

“She can’t walk, they claim that she can crawl, the back of her head is completely flat.”

Hospital staff alerted authorities after Knapp and Pester told them they would be back on Thursday to check on the girl, despite living just around the corner. When local police arrived at the house, Knapp reportedly asked them if they were there because their daughter died. They were found playing Second Life.

The couple are previously known to authorities, having had their daughter taken from them in June 2012 for being underweight. She was returned to them in July 2012 on the condition that she would attend weekly weigh-ins, which did not happen.

Pester, whose avatar is a blonde DJ, allegedly rescheduled her daughter’s appointments around her performances as a virtual DJ in Second Life.

The couple are being held in Tulsa county jail on a US$50,000 bond each. The little girl is still in hospital in a critical condition.

The case is eerily similar to the 2010 case involving Korean couple Kim Yoo-chul and Choi Mi-sun, who raised an avatar baby through their profiles on a Second Life-style game called PRIUS. They were both charged with child abuse and neglect when their obsession with another world lead to their real daughter dying at three months of age.

Plans were made to kill Martin Bryant

Burning with hatred and revenge, people intent on killing Port Arthur gunman Martin Bryant applied for security positions at the hospital where he was held after the massacre, a police officer who guarded the infamous figure has revealed.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1996 atrocity, which left 35 innocents dead, police also received unconfirmed reports that suspects were flying from the mainland to take retribution on the 28-year-old.

The dramatic revelations come from former Tasmanian police officer Phil Pyke, who recorded his interactions with the reviled killer in 22 pages of handwritten notes that he has released to News Corp nearly two decades later.

In his own words: My time with a mass killer

Mr Pyke, who later retired from the force and now works in business development, tells how, as a police recruit, he first met Bryant three years before the massacre during a search for the killer’s 60-year-old father, Maurice, who had gone missing and would later be found to have committed suicide.

That day, Bryant was “seemingly unconcerned about the whereabouts of his father”. He spent parts of the day trying to ask female officers out on dates and later was “almost laughing” when his father’s body was found in a dam near the family home.
Mr Pyke recalled his memories when he was tasked on May 4, 1996, with guarding the notorious killer in a hospital ward in the days after the Port Arthur attack.

“I think that was a period of time that had a significant impact on me personally. I remember it every day and I remember the victims,” Mr Pyke told News Corp.

He spent only one day guarding Bryant in the hospital, and says he will never forget the “pure evil” look in his eyes.

“We were just exhausted and so we were asked who wants to go and spend some time guarding him. That was very hard, very difficult,” Mr Pyke said.

“Having worked down at the scene … it was extremely personally difficult to guard him and look after him.”

Mr Pyke wrote at the time about the heavy security in case someone wanted to kill Bryant, who he said he wouldn’t have protected “if anyone forced their way into the ward to harm him”.

“I made up my mind to protect the prison officers and nursing staff but not Bryant,” Mr Pyke wrote in his notes. “If anyone came through the door with firearms, they could have him.”

Mr Pyke said there was “nothing detailed” about the threats against Bryant’s safety, only unvalidated reports of people seeking retribution.

Concerns about Bryant’s security were part of the brief before his shift guarding the hospital ward with three other police officers, two prison officers and several security guards.

“There were suspicious people hanging around, wanting to get jobs (as part of the security of Bryant’s hospital room),” he said.

Bryant was arrested after starting a fire in a guesthouse at the end of an 18-hour standoff with police following the massacre of 35 people, most at the Port Arthur historic site.

He pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to life imprisonment without ever being eligible for parole.

He has spent most of the last 17 years as an inmate in the maximum security wing of Tasmania’s Risdon Prison. The dangerous nature of the prison was outlined in an inquiry two years ago as a result of growing violence and the swift relocation of 69 maximum security inmates to another detention centre.

Bryant was reportedly moved in recent years to the Wilfred Lopes Centre, a secure mental health unit for inmates with serious mental illnesses, though the Department of Justice will not reveal where he is being held.

No progress to end US government shutdown

WITH less than week to go until the federal government faces an historic default, talks between the White House and House of Representatives Republicans broke down Saturday, leaving the fate of a deal in the Senate’s hands.

The future of any compromise shifted largely to two wily, veteran negotiators, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. They, along with senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., met Saturday local time for the first time to discuss a way forward.

“The conversations were extremely cordial but very preliminary, of course. Nothing conclusive, but I hope that our talking is some solace to the American people and the world,” said Reid. He added that any deal was “a long ways away.”

Senate Democrats, though, offered a less optimistic take late Saturday after Reid and other Democratic Senate leaders talked strategy at the White House with President Barack Obama for more than an hour. They were joined by Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors and Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said the senators and the White House reviewed a number of options, but concluded that “while Democrats remain united, Republicans have yet to coalesce behind a clear negotiating position.” The aide said Obama and the senators agreed that talks between Senate Democrats and Republicans should continue, but said the Democratic position remains the same: “Democrats are willing to negotiate on anything Republicans want to discuss, as soon as we reopen the government and pay our bills.”

The government is expected to reach its debt limit Thursday, and parts of the government have been closed since October 1.

While Reid and McConnell were polite and guardedly hopeful, most of those at the Capitol were glum. The momentum that had been building all week fizzled, and the day was marked by round after round of public finger-pointing and posturing.

US President Barack Obama discussed the need for Congress to reopen government during a meeting with small business owners in the White House on Friday.
The gloom was triggered Friday, when Obama essentially rejected a House Republican debt limit plan. Saturday, angry House Republican leaders gave colleagues a somber assessment of where things stand. They said they were now awaiting the president’s next move and that no further talks were scheduled.

At the same hour, Reid and other senators were meeting, and afterward Reid said, “This should be seen as something very positive, even though we don’t have anything done yet.”

It was not clear where McConnell and Reid, two long-time legislative combatants, could find common ground. Democrats have insisted the government reopen before they negotiate on the budget. Republicans are reluctant to agree to a higher debt limit unless there are significant spending cuts.

Senators believe that the differences have narrowed to the point where disagreements can be broadly listed on a sheet of paper, meaning compromise is possible.

“There is a reason to believe that ultimately we will work it out,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Publicly, the sniping has escalated. The Senate took a test vote on moving ahead with a Democratic plan to extend the debt limit through the end of next year. Republicans blocked the maneuver, essentially killing the measure.

House Republicans expressed doubts about Senate Republican ideas. House Democrats mounted a public effort to force a vote on reopening the government, angering Republicans. The White House was largely silent.

“Congress must do its job and raise the debt limit to pay the bills we have incurred and avoid default. It is unfortunate that the common sense, clean debt limit increase proposed by Senate Democrats was refused a yes or no vote today,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

“Congress needs to move forward with a solution that reopens the government and allows us to pay our bills so we can move on to the business of achieving a broader budget deal that creates jobs, grows the economy and strengthens the middle class.”

But Aussie Treasurer Joe Hockey is confident the United States will sort out its fiscal crisis and end a partial government shutdown but warns the solution may not be pretty.

Mr Hockey is currently in Washington for meetings with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

He says the impact of a US debt default would be “catastrophic”.

“I’m absolutely confident, having spoken to a number of congressmen and senators from both sides of the house … there will be a resolution, it might not be pretty … America will not default,” he said this morning.

“We are in for a continuing volatile period.”

Mr Hockey described the tactics of the Tea Party members as extreme.

“The lesson for us is to understand that it should never get to this point,” he said, adding that governments must live within their means.

“America can no longer afford its lifestyle.”

“Swino” the Drunk pig that started fight with a cow has died in car accident

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A Boozy feral pig that shot to international fame after drinking 18 cans of beer, starting a fight with a cow and causing chaos at an Australian campsite has died in a car accident.

 

Local authorities confirmed that “Swino” had recently been hit by a passing vehicle in a remote stretch of the northern Pilbara region of Western Australia, adding that he had been identified by distinctive markings on the back of his ears.

 

It is not known if Swino had been drinking before the accident.

 

Last month the boorish porker went on a drunken rampage at the DeGrey River campsite in Port Hedland after stealing and drinking three six-packs of beer that had been left unguarded.

 

After the pig drank the alcohol, events took a somewhat predictable turn with Swino starting a fight with a cow, demolishing nearby tents and rubbish bins in his hunt for a midnight snack, recklessly swimming into the middle of a river, before eventually collapsing underneath a log.

 

One camper identified by ABC News as Merida said: “It was in the middle of the night. These people camping opposite us heard this crunching of cans. They got their torch out and shone it on the pig and there he was scrunching away at their cans.”

 

She added: “Then he went on and raided their rubbish that they had sort of covered over with a bin as well… And then there was some other people camped right on the river and they saw him running around their vehicle being chased by a cow.

 

Merida added: “The people that were camped on the river went across and crept up on it and it was hiding and sleeping under a big log right on the edge of the water.”

 

In the aftermath of the incident, campers were reminded to securely store any food and drink while staying in the area.