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Hurricane disaster aid at stake as lawmakers feud

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WASHINGTON — Polarized US lawmakers hunted Monday for a way to defuse an angry spending feud that risked choking off disaster relief in Hurricane Irene’s wake and even threatened a government shutdown at week’s end.

Barely two months after a debt-limit battle cost Washington its sterling debt rating and weighed the already stumbling US economy down with more doubts, the divided US Congress had just days to break its paralysis.

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The Senate was to vote at 5:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) on a Democratic bill that would replenish a key disaster relief fund expected to run dry this week while keeping government agencies open past the October 1 dawn of fiscal year 2012.

Failure to reach a deal by Saturday would shut down services deemed non-essential as lawmakers in the world’s richest country figure out how to meet cash-strapped Washington’s obligations.

“If there were ever a time when we have the obligation to do the job at hand, it’s here,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who insisted “there’s no more time to waste.”

It was far from clear that Reid would corral the seven Republicans he needed to reach the 60 votes required to advance the bill, which would also fund the US government through November 18.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that the fund, drained by devastating tornadoes, Texas wildfires, and Hurricane Irene, had barely $114 million dollars left, perhaps enough to get to Thursday or Friday.

The Republican-led House of Representatives last week passed its own version of the legislation, then adjourned for a week-long recess, effectively daring the Senate not to pass its bill.

“It’s hard to negotiate with people who aren’t here,” Reid complained.

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Senate Democrats opposed the House version because it demanded $1.6 billion in cuts to clean-energy programs to offset money for FEMA, which would get about one billion dollars in immediate funding.

Reid’s bill embraced the House Republicans’ $3.65 billion in disaster aid but scrapped the spending cuts, including $100 million from a program that provided a loan to Solyndra, a bankrupt solar-panel firm with ties to the White House.

Democrats have charged the spending cuts could cost about 50,000 jobs, but the new measure needed 60 votes to advance and Democrats numbered just 53.

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“I’m pretty confident it will not” pass, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday.

The battle came as a new Gallup poll found that 69 percent of Americans had little or no confidence in Congress, an all-time high and up from 63 percent in 2010, while 57 percent had little or no confidence in the government’s ability to solve domestic problems.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said as the dispute boiled over on Friday that lawmakers were engaging in “the kind of behavior that we saw this summer that really repelled most Americans.”

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“This should not be that hard,” said Carney, who accused House Republicans of “playing politics with something that is the basic responsibility of Congress, which is to fund the government.”

The Senate had initially passed a bill including nearly $7 billion in disaster aid, including an immediate half-billion dollars for the FEMA fund.

The House bill included $3.65 billion in disaster aid with about $1 billion for the fund but offset those numbers with about $1.6 billion in cuts to clean energy programs.

The Senate voted 59-36 on Friday to set aside the House measure, which cleared that chamber in a largely party-line 219-203 vote.

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Millions around the world joined #ClimateStrike — demanding bold climate action

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Masses of children skipped school Friday to join a global strike against climate change that teen activist Greta Thunberg said was "only the beginning" in the fight against environmental disaster.

Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organizers said, in what was billed as the biggest ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.

Youngsters and adults alike chanted slogans and waved placards in demonstrations that started in Asia and the Pacific, spread across Africa, Europe and Latin America, before culminating in the United States where Thunberg rallied.

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Trump announces new sanctions on Iran — and deploys US troops to the Middle East

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The United States announced Friday that it was sending military reinforcements to the Gulf region following attacks on Saudi oil facilities that it attributes to Iran, just hours after President Donald Trump ordered new sanctions on Tehran.

Trump said the sanctions were the toughest-ever against another country, but indicated he did not plan a military strike, calling restraint a sign of strength.

The Treasury Department renewed action against Iran's central bank after US officials said Tehran carried out weekend attacks on rival Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, which triggered a spike in global crude prices.

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‘Do a lot of stupid sh*t as quickly as possible’: Ambassador Power breaks down ’The Trump Doctrine’

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The former ambassador to the United Nations explained "The Trump Doctrine" during a Friday evening interview with comedian Bill Maher on HBO's "Real Time."

Samantha Power, the author of the new book, The Education of an Idealist, was asked by Maher about the foreign policy mantra of the Obama administration.

"Obama's foreign policy doctrine was famously summarized as 'don't do stupid sh*t," Maher noted. "Trump's, of course, is 'Do stupid sh*t.'"

"Do stupid sh*t as quickly as possible," Power clarified.

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