Workers in a typhoon-shattered city in the Philippines buried 100 of its thousands of dead in a mass burial as aid began to reach some of the half-million people displaced by the disaster.
Six days after Typhoon Haiyan struck many of the dead were still lying along roads as survivors searched for bodies buried under the rubble. Philippine soldiers on trucks distributed rice and water as chainsaw teams cut debris from blocked roads.
The USS George Washington aircraft carrier and its strike group brought 21 helicopters to the area, which can help reach the most inaccessible areas. Authorities say 2,357 people have been confirmed dead in the disaster but that figure is expected to rise when information is collected from other areas.
Officials said efforts had been made to identify the bodies so families have a chance of finding out what happened to their loved ones in the days and weeks to come.
In addition to the USS George Washington, about a half dozen other U.S. ships, including a destroyer and two huge supply vessels, along with two P-3 aircraft that are being used to survey the damage from the sky so that planners can assess where aid is most needed.
“We are operating 24-7,” said Capt. Cassandra Gesecki, a spokeswoman for the Marines, who have set up an operations hub near Manila's international airport. "We are inundated with flights."
Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief who toured Tacloban said some 11.5 million people have been affected by the typhoon, which includes people who lost their loved ones, were injured, and suffered damage to their homes, business or livelihoods.
“The situation is dismal ... tens of thousands of people are living in the open ... exposed to rain and wind,” she told reporters in Manila. Aid has been slow to reach the 545,000 people displaced by the storm that tore through eastern Philippines.
Most of the casualties occurred in Leyte province, its capital Tacloban, and Samar Island. She said the immediate priority for humanitarian agencies over the next few days is to transport and distribute high energy biscuits and other food, tarpaulins, tents, clean drinking water and basic sanitation services.
Egypt’s foreign minister responded to speculation of a major foreign policy shift, saying during a top-level Russian visit that Cairo wants to boost ties with Moscow and not replace the United States as its key ally.
The remarks by Nabil Fahmy came after talks with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who led the Russian delegation to Cairo. It's Moscow's highest-level visit to Egypt in years and includes Russia's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, whose presence has set off rumors of an arms deal.
Fahmy said he, Lavrov, Shigu and Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the coup in July that ousted Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi would jointly meet. Fahmy said Egypt hopes for cooperation “in multiple fields” because of “Russia's significance in the international arena.”
“We seek to energize a relation that is already in existence,” Fahmy told reporters. When asked whether Russia would replace the U.S. as his country's chief ally, Fahmy said Egypt was not looking for a “substitute for anyone” and that Russia was too significant for such a role.
Egypt’s first freely elected president. Lavrov also said Russia's supports a return of stability to Egypt. "Russia would like to see a stable Egypt with a prosperous economy and an efficient political system," he said, offering support for a transition-to-democracy plan by Egypt's military-backed rulers, including an upcoming referendum on new constitutional amendments. The vote is first step in the interim government's fast track plan is aimed at returning to democratic rule by next year.
A federal probe of a Transportation Security Administration program to screen suspicious behavior of passengers at airports suggests the effort, which has cost almost $1 billion since 2007, has not been proven effective, according to a report.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said its investigation found that the results of the TSA program were “no better than chance.” Under the program, agents identify suspicious looking people and talk to them to determine whether they pose a threat.
“TSA has yet to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of the program despite spending about $900 million on it since 2007,” said Steve Lord, who directed the investigation for the GAO.
He said the GAO, which is the research and investigative arm of Congress, “conducts active oversight of the TSA for the Congress given their multibillion-dollar budget.” He said, “the behavior detection program is viewed as a key layer of aviation security.”
The investigation found that behavior detection officers at the four airports said some behavioral indicators they used were "subjective." The report said the TSA is still collecting evidence on the screening program but has indicated it needs more time to determine the program's effectiveness.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee said the report raises serious questions about the screening program. “While I believe there is value in utilizing behavior detection and analysis in the aviation environment, especially since it is used successfully by law enforcement, we can only support programs that are proven effective,” said Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, the committee's chairman.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the GAO report found that the "program is fundamentally flawed, cannot be proven effective and should no longer be funded with taxpayer dollars."
Michelle Obama is joining President Barack Obama's efforts to get the United States on track to have the highest percentage of college graduates by 2020.
Mrs. Obama spoke to students at Bell Multicultural High School just a few miles from the White House. Officials say the event is part of what will be a broader focus for the first lady on getting students, especially those in underserved communities, on track to attend college.
Mrs. Obama told students that meeting the 2020 goal is important, but their personal success is just as significant. "No matter what the president does, no matter what your teachers and principals do, or whatever is going on in your home or neighborhood, the person with the biggest impact on your education is you,” the First Lady said. “It’s going to take young people like all of you across the country stepping up and taking control of your education.”
Mrs. Obama also drew from her own experience as she encouraged students at the high school with a large immigrant population to attend college. She said neither of her parents went to college, but they had an “unwavering belief in the power of education.”
The First Lady said she attended one of the best high schools in Chicago across town that required her to wake up at 6 a.m. and travel at least an hour on the bus. Mrs. Obama, who grew up in a working class family, went on to Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
“Some of my teachers straight up told me that I was setting my sights too high. They told me I was never going to get into a school like Princeton,” Mrs. Obama said to a crowd of 10th graders. "It was clear to me that nobody was going to take my hand and lead me to where I needed to go; instead it was going to be up to me to reach my goals."
Officials said Mrs. Obama is coordinating with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has been overseeing the president's efforts to boost the nation's college graduation rate. The president has cited statistics showing that the U.S. ranks 12th globally in the proportion of people who hold college degrees.
About 106,000 people signed up for insurance coverage nationally under President Barack Obama's health care law during October, a fraction of the millions of people that had been expected to enroll for next year. The Obama administration had signaled enrollment would be very low in October because of technical failures with its HealthCare.gov website used for signing people up in 36 states.
But the reported figures show how far the White House has to go to build a new individual market of millions of consumers in 2014 to keep the health care program financially viable.
The enrollment in private plans amounts to 1.5 percent of a forecast 7 million people who were expected to sign up by the time enrollment wraps up in the end of March. Nearly 1 million people have successfully checked whether they are eligible for government subsidies toward the new insurance, but have not selected a plan, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are demanding that the White House swiftly help people whose existing insurance policies are being canceled and to fix the broken website by the end of the month.
The sign-up figures reflect people who have picked a new insurance plan but may not have paid their premiums yet. Some 26,794 people signed up for private health insurance plans through the federal marketplace and 79,391 signed up through state-based exchanges.
The projection figures showed 396,261 people were deemed eligible for the government's Medicaid program or the Children's Health Insurance Program for the poor.
House Democrats met with administration officials for more than an hour, angry that the botched rollout could become a major political liability for the party during the 2014 mid-term elections. A senior House Democratic aide said lawmakers called for Obama to announce a remedy to the canceled policies before a vote on a Republican bill allowing people to keep their current health insurance plans if they like them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he had a long conversation with Obama and said he feels “very comfortable” that the website will be fixed.
Obama had repeatedly promised that Americans who liked their health insurance could keep it when the law took effect on Oct. 1, but several million people have received cancellation notices because their plans do not comply with new requirements, such as coverage for mental health treatment.
Janet L. Yellen, President Obama’s choice to lead the Federal Reserve over the next four years, has championed the idea that the Fed can stimulate the economy simply by speaking clearly.
Her confirmation by the Senate is regarded by most Democrats and Republicans as all but inevitable. The questions she will begin to confront immediately, as she appears before the Senate Banking Committee, are whether the Fed under her leadership can communicate more clearly than it has managed to do in recent months – and whether that is the best the Fed can do to lift the economy from its enduring malaise.
Ms. Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairwoman since 2010, has been a key architect of the push to more fully explain to the public the Fed’s actions, its reasoning and its plans.
The theory is that the Fed can exert greater influence over investors, by enlisting them to hold down longer-term interest rates at a time when the Fed has cut short-term rates practically as low as they can go, by detailing an itinerary rather than sending occasional postcards.
The Fed has said that it will begin to taper its asset purchases in the coming months. To counter any negative effects from that move, the central bank is likely at the same time to reinforce its commitment to hold down interest rates until unemployment gets closer to normal levels.
Mr. Bernanke and Ms. Yellen, along with other Fed officials, have argued that the Fed can limit the increase in borrowing costs for businesses and consumers by persuading investors that short-term rates will remain near zero well into the future, because interest rates on longer-term loans are determined in large part by the expected level of short-term rates over the duration of the loan.
Long-term rates rose in part because investors saw the arrival of tapering as indicating that short-term rates also might start to rise sooner than they had expected. Ms. Yellen faces the challenge of convincing investors that is not the case.
Some 21 nations in the Middle East and nearby regions have jointly made the eradication of polio an emergency priority and recognized that Pakistan is a key part of the problem, the World Health Organization said.
The joint resolution by nations who are part of the U.N. health agency's Eastern Mediterranean region have called on Pakistan to urgently vaccinate all of its children to prevent the virus from spreading internationally.
Pakistan also approved the resolution, which the Geneva-based agency says includes Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
The problem is particularly challenging in Pakistan, where a U.N.-backed eradication campaign has suffered from violence and mistrust directed against polio workers and people who want their children vaccinated. Earlier this week, WHO officials said the polio virus has now been confirmed in 13 of 22 children who became paralyzed in a northern Syrian province.
The health agency said the Syria outbreak comes from a strain that originated in Pakistan, where, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, it is endemic – and has been spreading across the Middle East.