New Delhi, Oct 13 (AP/UNB) — An official says 12 people are feared dead in a cyclone shelter swamped by a landslide caused by heavy rains in eastern India.
Krishan Kumar, a spokesman for the National Disaster Response Force, says relief officials have rushed to the remote area in Gajapati district in Orissa state. The landslide hit on Friday, a day after a severe cyclone that caused heavy rains in parts of eastern India.
The villagers moved to the shelter to escape the fury of Cyclone Titli, which whipped up wind speeds of up to 150 kilometers (95 miles) per hour.
At least eight people were killed in Andhra Pradesh state and one in Orissa state on Thursday when the cyclone damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles.
Kathmandu, Oct 13 (AP/UNB) — Seven people, including South Korean climbers, were killed and two more are missing on Gurja Himal mountain after a strong storm swept through their base camp, Nepalese police said Saturday.
A storm Friday night destroyed their camp and two rescue helicopters sent early Saturday were unable to land because of bad weather conditions on the mountain, said police official Bir Bahadur Budamagar.
Villagers who reached base camp Saturday afternoon found the bodies of four South Korean climbers, two Nepalese guides and another person yet to be identified, while the search was continuing for two more, Budamagar said. There were five South Korean climbers and four Nepalese guides in the camp when the strong storm hit.
It was unlikely the weather would clear on Saturday and helicopter flights were likely to be possible only on Sunday.
A police team was heading toward the base camp on foot and will likely reach there on Sunday, Budamagar said.
The climbers were attempting to scale the 7,193-meter (23,590-foot) peak during the autumn climbing season.
Beijing, Oct 13 (AP/UNB) — With China and the United States opening the door to a meeting next month between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, hopes are rising for a potential easing of tensions in the trade war between the world's two largest economies.
Worries about the increased tariffs the two sides have imposed on each other's goods have contributed to this week's dizzying volatility in financial markets. The higher tariffs have elevated costs for companies in both countries, and economists say that if they remain in place indefinitely, they could depress economic growth.
A Xi-Trump meeting, if it happens, would take place during a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 biggest global economies in Argentina in late November.
In Bali, Indonesia, where he's attending global finance meetings, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, "We are having discussions about a potential meeting."
Later Friday, Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, said in Washington that preparations for the talks were under way.
"It looks like there will be a meeting in Buenos Aires at the G-20," Kudlow said in an interview with CNBC. "We are looking at it. The Chinese are looking at it. Preparations are being made. I can't say 100 percent certainty, but there is no question everybody is looking at it."
Kudlow said that so far, the administration viewed China's negotiating offers as "rather unsatisfactory" but that "maybe talks between the two heads of state will bear fruit."
The trade feud has been fueled by U.S. accusations that China engages in cyber-theft and coerces foreign companies into handing over technology in return for access to the Chinese market, as well as by Trump's anger over China's trade surplus with the U.S. It is far from clear that the U.S. might be preparing to consider lifting penalty tariffs on about $250 billion of Chinese products.
Mnuchin suggested that the two leaders could meet next month if the Trump administration felt trade discussions were moving in a positive direction.
"We need to do work in advance to be sure there are changes and we can have a more balanced trading relationship," the Treasury secretary said. "And that we're going to be make sure we don't have forced joint transfers and forced transfer of technology."
Lu Kang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, offered no specifics Friday but said, "I have also seen the relevant reports."
The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have cited officials as saying Trump has decided to proceed with a meeting with Xi.
Global indexes bounced back sharply Friday after their recent plunges, on word of the possible presidential meeting, along with strong Chinese export data. Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.5 percent to 22,694.66 after a nearly 4 percent loss on Thursday.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 2.1 percent to 25,801.49. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 0.9 percent to 2,606.91. Shares recovered in Taiwan and rose throughout Southeast Asia.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 305 points, or 1.2 percent, in late-morning trading, and the Nasdaq composite surged 138 points, or 1.9 percent. Later, both stock indexes gave up much of their gains.
Friday's volatility followed a swoon over the previous two days that erased 1,300 points from the Dow and dragged the S&P 500 down more than 5 percent.
Reports that Mnuchin has advised against labeling China a currency manipulator — a status that could trigger penalties — were also seen as easing tensions. The Chinese currency has been falling in value against the dollar in recent months, raising concerns that Beijing is devaluing its currency to make Chinese goods more competitive against U.S. products.
In his comments in Bali, Mnuchin did not say what the forthcoming Treasury report, set to come out next week, will conclude about China's currency practices. In the past, Treasury has placed China on a watch-list but found that Beijing did not meet the threshold to be labeled a currency manipulator.
Mnuchin met Thursday with Yi Gang, head of China's central bank.
"I expressed my concerns about the weakness of the currency." Mnuchin said.
He said that in the discussions he had with the Chinese, they had made clear that they didn't see a further weakening of the Chinese yuan as being in their interests.
Concerns have been raised that China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasurys, might start dumping its holdings as a way to pressure the United States in the trade dispute. But Mnuchin said this possibility didn't concern him because it would be contrary to Beijing's economic interests to start dumping its Treasury holdings.
"That would be very costly for them," Mnuchin said.
China's surplus with the United States widened to a record $34.1 billion in September as exports to the American market rose 13 percent from a year earlier to $46.7 billion, down slightly from August's 13.4 percent growth. Imports of American goods increased 9 percent to $12.6 billion, down from August's 11.1 percent growth.
Beijing's exports to the United States have at least temporarily defied forecasts they would weaken after being hit by punitive U.S. tariffs of up to 25 percent.
September marked the second straight record Chinese monthly trade surplus with the United States. Export numbers have been buoyed by producers rushing to fill orders before American tariffs rose. But they also benefit from "robust U.S. demand" and a weaker Chinese currency, which makes their goods cheaper abroad, Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report.
The Chinese yuan has lost nearly 10 percent of its value against the dollar this year. That prompted suggestions Beijing might weaken the exchange rate to help exporters. But that might hurt China's economy by encouraging an outflow of capital. The central bank has tightened controls on currency trading to prevent further declines.
Washington, Oct 13 (AP/UNB) — The disappearance of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi after visiting a Saudi consulate in Turkey has thrown the large number of diplomatic vacancies under President Donald Trump into the spotlight — notably in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It's a gap the administration says it has been trying to fix but with limited success.
Khashoggi's case and the fact that there are no American ambassadors in either Ankara or Riyadh have prompted concerns about dozens of unfilled senior State Department positions almost two years into Trump's presidency. And, those concerns have sparked an increasingly bitter battle with Congress over who is to blame.
Aside from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Trump has yet to nominate candidates for ambassadorial posts in 20 nations, including Australia, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Singapore and Sweden. At the same time, 46 ambassadorial nominees are still awaiting Senate confirmation, prompting angry complaints from the administration and pushback from Democratic lawmakers.
A number of ambassador positions to international organizations also remain unfilled as do 13 senior positions at the State Department headquarters, for which five have no nominee.
It's unclear if high-profile issues like Khashoggi's disappearance suffer from neglect in the absence of an ambassador. Indeed, Turkey freed American pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday after repeated complaints and sanctions from Washington. But the management of day-to-day diplomatic relations can languish without a personal representative of the president present.
The difference between having an ambassador in country or having only a charge d'affaires running an embassy is a matter of degree but can be substantial, according to Ronald Neumann, the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Non-ambassadors can have trouble getting access to senior officials and may not be viewed as the legitimate voice of the president or his administration.
"It's a lot harder when you're not the presidential appointee and you don't have Senate confirmation," he said. "An ambassador is the personal representative of the president. A charge is the representative of the State Department."
In addition to problems with access, some countries may resent not having an ambassador posted to their capital, Neumann said.
"Countries may get grouchy without an ambassador and that may affect relations," he said. "Without an ambassador, there is a greater chance of misunderstanding and greater chance you aren't able to persuade them to do something we want."
"There are real, direct impacts of not having these people confirmed," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month, making the case for the Senate to act quickly. Those remarks set off a war of words with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was singled out by Pompeo for blame.
"I want every single American to know that what Sen. Menendez and members of the Senate are doing to hold back American diplomacy rests squarely on their shoulders," Pompeo said. He later maintained that Senate Democrats are blocking more than a dozen nominees "because of politics" and are "putting our nation at risk."
Menendez fired back, accusing Pompeo of politicizing the process and blaming confirmation delays on the unsuitability of candidates for certain posts and the Republican leadership for not calling votes on the others. He also slammed the administration for failing to nominate candidates for critical posts.
"We cannot confirm nominees who have not been nominated," he noted wryly, adding that some nominees had been or are currently being blocked by Republicans.
Two cases in point: The nominee for the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, a career foreign service officer, was forced to withdraw earlier this year after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he would do everything in his power to stop the nomination. The career diplomat nominated to be ambassador to Colombia is being blocked by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Pompeo responded by again blaming Menendez for holding up more than 60 nominees and using them as a "political football." ''We need our team on the field to conduct America's foreign policy," he said.
Perhaps as a result of the sparring, the Senate late Thursday did vote to confirm several ambassadorial nominees, including those to Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Suriname and Somalia.
Chicago, Oct 13 (AP/UNB) — The Trump administration informed a federal judge in Chicago on Friday that it's seeking to scuttle a plan negotiated between the nation's third-largest city and the state of Illinois that envisions far-reaching reforms of Chicago's 12,000-officer police force under close federal court supervision.
In a statement announcing the intervention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions blasted the roughly 200-page plan, also known as a consent decree, because of the court oversite. And he offered a full-throated defense of Chicago police, saying they must take the lead in stemming city violence.
"There is a misperception that police are the problem and that their failures, their lack of training, and their abuses create crime," Sessions said. "But the truth is the police are the solution to crime, and criminals are the problem."
An 11-page Justice Department statement of interest — filed with Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., who must grant the proposal final approval — says the reform plan, as it is, would deprive police of flexibility to do their jobs right. And it criticizes criteria in the plan meant to assess police compliance as vague.
It asks Dow "to allow state and local officials — and Chicago's brave front-line police officers — to engage in flexible and localized efforts to advance the goal of safe, effective, and constitutional policing in Chicago."
The filing and Sessions' comments came a week after jurors convicted white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder for shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 as he walked away from police with a knife.
A video of the shooting, released about a year later, sparked outage nationwide and led to an Obama administration investigation of Chicago police, which was followed months later by a damning report that found widespread police abuses.
The Department of Justice Friday simultaneously announced the creation of a "Gun Crimes Prosecution Team" at Chicago's U.S. attorney's office focused on gun crimes. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will assign five violent-crime coordinators to work with federal prosecutors.
Responding to the announcements, a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Matt McGrath, said the city appreciated the additional resources, "but we don't appreciate efforts ... to impede our public safety reforms or inhibit our efforts to rebuild the bonds of trust between officers and residents."
Illinois Attorney Lisa Madigan — without objection from Emanuel — sued the city last year to ensure any police reforms would be overseen by a judge. That killed a draft plan negotiated with Trump's administration that didn't envision a court role in reforming the department and led to the ultimately successful talks to create the current plan.
The reform plan now on the table foresees far stricter rules on the use of force by officers. One provision requires officers to file paperwork each time they point their weapons, even if they don't fire.
Sessions again echoed President Donald Trump, who told officers at a convention in Orlando on Monday that a three-year-old agreement between Chicago and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois to curb stop-and-frisk procedures by police prevented officers from doing their jobs.
"When police are restrained from using lawfully established policies ... when arrests went down, and when their work and character were disrespected, crime surged," Sessions said. "There must never be another consent decree that continues the folly of the ACLU settlement."
Chicago officials and the ACLU have said those and similar claims by Trump administration officials are exaggerated, get the data on crime in Chicago wrong and misstate the underlying causes of crime.
Karen Sheley, the director of the police practices project at the ACLU of Illinois, said the move Friday by the Trump administration to sink a plan in the works for over a year was "a last-minute political play at the expense of real people in our city."
"The Trump Administration and Sessions' Department of Justice have never attempted to learn about the problems in Chicago or what reform is necessary," Sheley said in a Friday statement.