US lawmakers clinch spending deal to avert government shutdown

Updated 22 March 2018
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US lawmakers clinch spending deal to avert government shutdown

WASHINGTON: US congressional budget negotiators said Wednesday they had reached a deal on federal spending for the remainder of fiscal 2018, two days before a deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown.
The $1.3 trillion spending bill was hailed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Congress’s top Republican, as marking “the beginning of a new era for the United States military,” while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it would fulfill Democratic priorities.
It was introduced with precious little time to act. Government funding expires at midnight Friday night, and the House of Representatives and Senate will need to scramble if both chambers are to pass the measure and get it signed by President Donald Trump by the deadline.
The White House later said Trump supported the deal.
It signals an end — or at least a pause — to the deeply partisan feuding over funding that has roiled Congress for months.
Five times lawmakers have had to pass stopgap funding legislation to keep the government’s lights on, and twice this year the government was allowed to slip into shutdown.
A third lapse would be deeply embarrassing for a Republican-controlled Congress facing mid-term elections in November.
The bill sets defense spending levels, including a 2.4 percent raise for troops, at $700 billion for the year, an increase of $61 billion over the 2017 level.
Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly raised the alarm about the country’s military and how it has been severely depleted from budgetary constraints.
Non-defense domestic spending will reach $591 billion, an increase of about 10 percent.
Eleventh-hour snags on multiple issues, including immigration enforcement, border security, infrastructure and health care payments, had bogged down the release of the monster measure.
The bill includes nearly $1.6 billion for construction of almost 100 miles (160 kilometers) of physical barriers and fencing along the US-Mexico border.
And while it does not include any provisions that defund so-called sanctuary cities, where authorities do not take action against undocumented immigrants who don’t commit crimes, it fails to address protections for more than a million immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children.
Democrats can meanwhile claim increased domestic spending on issues like infrastructure, education and battling the opioid crisis.


Spanish emergency services working to rescue toddler trapped in well

Updated 16 January 2019
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Spanish emergency services working to rescue toddler trapped in well

  • Among debris pulled out of the well, rescuers found hair, which DNA tests confirmed belonged to the child
  • Emergency services are using cameras to try to locate the child but said access was difficult, with soil partially blocking the well

TOTALAN, Spain: Spanish emergency services were working to rescue a toddler trapped in a well since Sunday.
The two-year-old boy was seen falling into the well as his family walked through a private estate in Totalan, Malaga, in southern Spain, his father Jose told Spanish media.
Among debris pulled out of the well, rescuers found hair, which DNA tests confirmed belonged to the child. No signs of life have been detected.
The town’s residents turned out on Wednesday for a vigil to support the family, many holding homemade placards reading “All of Spain is with you” and “We are sending you our strength.” One man held a sign simply reading “Julen,” the name of the toddler.
Emergency services are using cameras to try to locate the child but said access was difficult, with soil partially blocking the well, which is just 25 cm (10 inches) wide and 100 meters (328 feet) deep.
“We are not only giving voice for all the residents of Totalan but also for the rest of the country because we have all had Julen in our minds since last Sunday,” resident Patricia Calderon told reporters.
Spanish police said members of a Swedish firm which helped locate 33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground more than seven years ago had arrived on Tuesday to help in the rescue operation.
Alternative routes were being studied and officials said they were working to dig a tunnel next to the well.