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POSTED February 26, 2013 8:33 p.m.

OBAMA REJECTS PLAN FOR MORE SAY IN SPENDING CUTS: WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama brushed off a Republican plan Tuesday to give him flexibility to allocate $85 billion in looming spending cuts, wanting no part of a deal that would force him to choose between the bad and the terrible.

Three days out and no closer to any agreement, both parties sought to saddle the other with the blame for the painful ramification of the across-the-board cuts set to kick in Friday. Obama accused Republicans of steadfastly refusing to compromise, while the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, chided Obama's effort to "fan the flames of catastrophe."

McConnell and other top Republicans were lining up behind a plan that wouldn't replace the cuts but would give Obama's agency heads, such as incoming Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, greater discretion in distributing the cuts. The idea is that money could be transferred from lower-priority accounts to others that fund air traffic control or meat inspection.

But Obama, appearing at a Virginia shipbuilding site that he said would sit idle should the cuts go through, rejected the idea, saying there's no smart way to cut such a large chunk from the budget over just seven months — the amount of time left in the fiscal year.

2ND MAJOR SNOWSTORM PARALYZES PARTS OF MIDWEST: KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — For the second time in a week, a major winter storm paralyzed parts of the nation's midsection Tuesday, dumping a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow atop cities still choked with piles from the previous system and making travel perilous from the Oklahoma panhandle to the Great Lakes.

The weight of the snow strained power lines and cut electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses. At least three deaths were blamed on the blizzard.

The Missouri Department of Transportation issued a rare "no travel" advisory, urging people to stay off highways except in case of a dire emergency. Conditions were so bad that some snowplows slid into ditches, underlining the danger even to well-equipped travelers.

"It's straight hell. It's snowing, blowing, drifting, everything," said Robert Branscecum, a trucker from Campton, Ill., who was hauling Wal-Mart merchandise to Dallas. He had been stranded since Monday evening at Beto Junction, about 80 miles southwest of Kansas City.

"The cars are stuck in the parking lot. Some of the trucks that tried to leave got stuck," he said. "I'm not leaving anytime soon."

Up to 10 inches had fallen in and around Kansas City, Mo., by the time the snow tapered off before midday. Mayor Sly James declared a state of emergency.

For a second straight week, schoolchildren, government workers and others caught a break as most schools and office buildings were closed. Hospitals closed outpatient centers and urgent-care clinics.

JUDGE REFUSES TO DISMISS CHARGES IN WIKILEAKS CASE: FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — An Army private accused of sending classified material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks has not been denied a speedy trial despite his lengthy pretrial confinement, a military judge ruled Tuesday.

Attorneys for Pfc. Bradley Manning had asked the judge to dismiss all charges against the former intelligence analyst because he's been detained for two years and nine months. Defense attorney David Coombs argued that prosecutors dragged their feet and that a commander rubber-stamped their requests for delay after delay.

Prosecutors said the delays were reasonable, given the complexity of the case and the volume of classified material involved. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, agreed Tuesday with prosecutors, with a few minor exceptions. She denied the defense motion, letting the charges against Manning stand.

 

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