Shutdown averted; disaster aid dispute surmounted
WASHINGTON (AP) - Ending weeks of political brinkmanship, Congress finessed a dispute over disaster aid Monday night and advanced legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown this weekend.
The breakthrough came hours after the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated it had enough money for disaster relief efforts through Friday. That disclosure allowed lawmakers to jettison a $1 billion replenishment that had been included in the measure - and to crack the gridlock it had caused.
Senate passage of the legislation was expected within hours. There was no immediate comment from House Republican leaders, although their agreement seemed a formality after the party's Senate leader signed off.
The events assured there would be no interruption in assistance in areas battered by disasters such as Hurricane Irene and last summer's tornados in Joplin, Mo., and also that the government would be able to run normally when the new budget year begins on Saturday.
The agreement also spelled the end to the latest in a string of political standoffs between Democrats and Republicans over deficits, spending and taxes that have rattled financial markets and coincided with polls showing congressional approval ratings at historically low levels.
"This compromise should satisfy Republicans...and it should satisfy Democrats," said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, who added that Budget Director Jacob Lew had informed him that FEMA did not need any additional funding to meet its needs for the final few days of the budget year.
"It's a win for everyone," Reid declared.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it was a "reasonable way to keep the government operational."
Libyan justice minister moves to abolish state security prosecution and courts
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - Libya's transitional justice minister said Monday that he has approved a measure to abolish the country's state security prosecution and courts, which sentenced opponents of the old regime to prison.
At a press conference in Tripoli, Mohammed al-Alagi, part of Libya's new leadership after the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, said he has signed a document to disband the bodies. The step still needs approval by the National Transitional Council that now runs the country.
"I am personally very happy to sign an approval to end the state security prosecution and court, and the state security appeals court," al-Alagi said.
He said the document includes a request to abolish a third court for special cases where many opposition members were sentenced to life terms in prisons like Abu Salim in Tripoli, where inmates were massacred by Gadhafi's regime.
Libyans are pressing forward with efforts to do away with some of the most hated remnants of the former regime even though fighting continues and the ousted leader's whereabouts remains unknown.
Afghan working at CIA office in Kabul kills a contractor working with US intelligence agency
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - An Afghan working for the U.S. government killed a CIA contractor and wounded another American in an attack on the intelligence agency's office in Kabul, officials said Monday, making it the latest in a series of high-profile attacks this month on U.S. targets.
The incident marked the most recent in a growing number of attacks this year by Afghans working with international forces in the country. Some assailants have turned out to be Taliban sleeper agents, while others have been motivated by personal grievances.
The assailant in Sunday evening's shooting was killed, and it was not yet clear if he acted alone or if he belonged to an insurgent group.
A U.S. official in Washington said the Afghan attacker was providing security to the CIA office and that the American who died was working as a contractor for the CIA. The official requested anonymity because he was speaking about intelligence matters.
The CIA declined to comment.
Stocks rally: Dow soars 272 points
NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks had their biggest gains in more than two weeks Monday after European officials vowed to take action to resolve the region's debt problems. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 272 points, making up about a third of last week's losses.
Financial officials met in Washington this weekend and pledged to take bolder steps to fight Europe's debt crisis, which threatens to slow the global economy. President Barack Obama called on European leaders to move more quickly to address the crisis.
German leaders want banks and private institutions that hold Greek bonds to take a bigger loss on those holdings to reduce Greece's debt burden. European officials have talked about increasing the size of Europe's $595 billion rescue fund by allowing it to take loans from the European Central Bank. Pressure is also mounting for the central bank to lower interest rates.
"The news leaking out of Europe is giving investors hope that the politicians and central bankers in Europe might be putting together a plan," said Channing Smith, managing director of Capital Advisors Inc. "The devil's in the details."
The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 272.38 points, or 2.5 percent, to close at 11,043.86. It was the biggest gain since Sept. 7. JPMorgan Chase & Co. jumped 7 percent to $31.65, the most of the 30 stocks in the Dow.
2,000 years after they were written, Dead Sea Scrolls go online
JERUSALEM (AP) - Two thousand years after they were written and decades after they were found in desert caves, some of the world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls went online for the first time on Monday in a project launched by Israel's national museum and the web giant Google.
The appearance of five of the most important Dead Sea scrolls on the Internet is part of a broader attempt by the custodians of the celebrated manuscripts - who were once criticized for allowing them to be monopolized by small circles of scholars - to make them available to anyone with a computer.
The scrolls include the biblical Book of Isaiah, the manuscript known as the Temple Scroll, and three others. Surfers can search high-resolution images of the scrolls for specific passages, zoom in and out, and translate verses into English.
The originals are kept in a secured vault in a Jerusalem building constructed specifically to house the scrolls. Access requires at least three different keys, a magnetic card and a secret code.
The five scrolls are among those purchased by Israeli researchers between 1947 and 1967 from antiquities dealers, having first been found by Bedouin shepherds in the Judean Desert.