Local / Politics

Obama makes trade deal top priority in remaining months

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite formidable opposition across the political spectrum, President Barack Obama is using his final months in office to fight for congressional approval of a 12-nation free trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Administration officials say Obama would speak about the trade agreement at each stop during his trip to China and Laos.

Back home, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump bash it and public opinion polls indicate voters are closely divided on the agreement’s merits.

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center estimated that 39 percent of registered voters view TPP as a bad thing for the United States and 37 percent consider it a good thing, hardly the kind of numbers that would inspire Congress to heed the president’s call.

Where things stand on the agreement and Obama’s effort:

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Obama, Putin, agree to continue seeking deal on Syria

HANGZHOU, China (AP) — President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday failed to force a breakthrough in negotiations over a cease-fire for Syria, but agreed to keep looking for a path to provide humanitarian relief to thousands of besieged civilians in the civil war-ravaged country.

After a 90-minute huddle on the sidelines of an economic summit, the two leaders directed their top diplomats to return to talks quickly, likely later this week, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the meeting. The official would not be named discussing the private discussion, which also covered U.S. concerns over cybersecurity and the situation in Ukraine.

The official said the U.S. was eager to find an agreement quickly, mindful of the deteriorating conditions around the besieged city of Aleppo. But U.S. was wary of enter a deal that would not be effective. The two leaders used the talk to clarify sticking points, the official said.

The conversation came hours after U.S. and Russian negotiators acknowledged that a recent round of intense talk had come up short. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov have for weeks been trying to broker a deal that would curb the violence between the Russian-ally Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces and moderate rebels backed by the U.S.

The deal depends on the two sides agreeing to closer militarily coordination against extremist groups operating in Syria, something the Russians have long sought and the U.S. resisted.

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Multiple bomb blasts in Syrian cities kill at least 38

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — At least 38 people were killed in a string of bombings inside government territory in Syria, state media reported Monday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, which maintains a network of contacts inside the country, put the toll at 47 dead. Conflicting casualty figures are common in the Syria war.

The SANA news agency reported blasts in the coastal city of Tartus, the central city of Homs, the suburbs of the capital Damascus, and the northeastern city of Hasakeh.

Attackers detonated two bombs at the entrance of the government stronghold of Tartus along the international coastal highway, SANA said, killing 30. A car bomb at the Arzoneh bridge was followed by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt who targeted the gathering crowd. The city, a stronghold of support for President Bashar Assad, is home to a major Russian naval base.

The Observatory said the twin blasts killed 35 people, including an army colonel, and injured dozens more.

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China agrees on steps toward reducing steel exports

HANGZHOU, China (AP) — China agreed to steps toward reducing its politically volatile steel exports but avoided binding commitments, as leaders of major economies ended a summit with a crowded agenda that also included trade, the Koreas and Syria.

Beijing made boosting sluggish global growth through increased trade a theme of the Group of 20 meeting in this lakeside city southwest of Shanghai, but faces complaints that a flood of low-cost Chinese steel exports threatens U.S. and European jobs, encouraging calls for trade curbs.

In a joint communique due to be released after the meeting, China agreed to the creation of a global forum to study excess production capacity in the steel industry, according to Japan’s Nikkei and Yomiuri newspapers. They cited unidentified Japanese diplomats.

The agreement included no binding limits on Chinese output. Chinese officials insist steel overcapacity is a global issue, but U.S. and European officials say Beijing’s vast state-owned industry, which accounts for half of global output, is the root of the problem.

Washington has hiked import duties by 500 percent on Chinese steel to offset what it says are improper subsidies.

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Clinton and Trump courting Ohio voters on Labor Day

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are making competing Labor Day pitches in Ohio, setting the stage for a critical month in their testy presidential campaign.

The Republican real estate mogul is joining running mate Mike Pence at a morning round-table discussion with union members in Cleveland. The Democratic nominee plans to arrive in the city for a Labor Day festival with union leaders and workers.

Trump is also expected to campaign at a fair in Youngstown, Ohio, in a nod to the state’s role as a make-or-break proving ground for Republican presidential candidates. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio and Trump is trying to overcome some splintering in the state party, which was supportive of Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the presidential primary.

While Labor Day has traditionally been the kickoff to the fall campaign, both Clinton and Trump have been locked in an intense back-and-forth throughout the summer.

Clinton has questioned Trump’s temperament and preparation to serve as commander in chief while seeking to connect the reality television star to the extreme “alt-right” movement within the Republican Party.

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What if? There’s still time for drama before Election Day

WASHINGTON (AP) — What could go possibly go wrong? (Or right?)

It’s the Labor Day question that keeps presidential candidates up at night.

Nine weeks from Election Day, the electoral math favors Democrat Hillary Clinton. But both Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump know there are countless ways the trajectory of this uncommonly volatile presidential campaign still could shift in unexpected ways.

A health scare. An inopportune remark. A blockbuster debate. A WikiLeaks bombshell. An extremist attack.

Even without a wildcard like Trump in the mix, history shows there’s no anticipating all the ways late developments can affect a race.

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Hermine lingers off shore continuing its unsafe storm surges

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Hermine continued Monday to twist hundreds of miles off shore in the Atlantic Ocean and was expected to keep swimmers and surfers out of beach waters because of its dangerous waves and rip currents on the last day of the long holiday weekend.

“We’re not looking at a landfall,” said Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center on Sunday, adding Hermine is just sitting and pushing the water up along the coast making storm surge a great concern.

It was expected to stall over the water before weakening again.

Governors all along the Eastern Seaboard announced emergency preparations. A tropical storm warning was in effect from New York’s Long Island to Massachusetts.

Tropical storm-force winds were possible Monday in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie warned that minor to moderate flooding was still likely in coastal areas and said the storm will cause major problems, even as it tracks away from land.

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Seoul says North Korea fires 3 ballistic missiles

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Monday fired three suspected medium-range missiles that traveled about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and landed near Japan in an apparent show of force timed to coincide with the Group of 20 economic summit in China, South Korean officials said.

North Korea has staged a series of recent missile tests with increasing range, part of a program that aims to eventually build long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

Such tests are fairly common when international attention is turned to Northeast Asia, and this one came as world leaders gathered in eastern China for the G-20 summit of advanced and emerging economies. China is North Korea’s only major ally, but ties between the neighbors have frayed amid a string of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and what many outsiders see as other provocations in recent years.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the three missiles, all believed to be Rodongs, were launched from the western North Korean town of Hwangju and flew across the country before splashing into the sea.

A Joint Chiefs of Staff statement described the launches as an “armed protest” meant to demonstrate North Korea’s military capability on the occasion of the G-20 summit and days before the North Korean government’s 68th anniversary.

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Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates retain veto in key vote

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates won enough seats in a pivotal legislative election to retain veto power over the southern Chinese government’s proposals, setting the stage for a new round of political confrontations with Beijing, official results showed Monday.

The big winners included a group of young candidates who took part in massive 2014 pro-democracy street protests and are now seeking to change the way the city is governed by Beijing.

Pro-democracy candidates needed to secure at least 24 of 70 seats in the Legislative Council in order to block government attempts to enact unpopular or controversial legislation, such as a Beijing-backed revamp of how the city’s top leader is chosen that sparked the 2014 protests.

Official results for most constituencies showed that they won at least 27 seats. Full final results are still to be announced.

Record turnout in Sunday’s vote helped sweep the newcomers into office, most notably Nathan Law, a 23-year-old former student protest leader, who garnered the second-highest number of votes in his six-seat Hong Kong Island constituency.

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Dreams of wealth, fears of problems as Guyana finds oil

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Sleepy Guyana has long been one of the hemisphere’s poorest places, a sparsely populated nation on South America’s northern shoulder that relies heavily on exports of sugar, rice and gold.

But these days, there’s a surge of excitement about an anticipated windfall from major oil-and-gas deposits found in the deep seabed 120 miles (193 kilometers) off the coast — as well as worries about the disruptions and conflicts it might bring.

Hopes are high that fuel siphoned in a few years’ time from more three miles (more than 5 kilometers) below the sea’s surface might be an antidote to entrenched poverty and underdevelopment in the country of 750,000 people.

“We will have billions in foreign reserves and our population is going to swell big time,” miner Cosmos Santo said from a park bench in the seaside capital of narrow streets and mostly low-rise, wooden buildings.

The U.S. Geological Survey had long estimated that offshore Guyana was rich in gas and oil. Now U.S.-based ExxonMobil has announced a “world-class oil discovery” off Guyana after drilling a well that struck oil-bearing sandstone with an estimated 800 million to 1.4 billion oil equivalent barrels.

 

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