Talks collapse on border deal as U.S. government shutdown looms

FILE PHOTO: Construction fencing surrounds part of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S. November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

By Richard Cowan and Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Talks on border security funding collapsed after Democratic and Republican lawmakers clashed over immigrant detention policy as they worked to avert another U.S. government shutdown, a Republican senator said on Sunday.

“The talks are stalled right now,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby told “Fox News Sunday.” He said the impasse was over Democrats’ desire to cap the number of beds in detention facilities for people who enter the country illegally.

Efforts to resolve the dispute over border security funding extended into the weekend as a special congressional negotiating panel aimed to reach a deal by Monday, lawmakers and aides said.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester played down any breakdown in talks. “It is a negotiation. Negotiations seldom go smooth all the way through,” he told the Fox program. Tester, one of 17 negotiators, said he was hopeful a deal could be reached.

But Shelby put the chances of reaching a deal by Monday at 50-50. No further talks were scheduled, a source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The lawmakers hoped to have an agreement by Monday to allow time for the legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and get signed by President Donald Trump by Friday when funding for the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies expires.

Trump agreed on Jan. 25 to end a 35-day partial U.S. government shutdown without getting the $5.7 billion he had demanded from Congress for a wall along the border with Mexico, handing a political victory to Democrats.

Instead, a three-week spending deal was reached with congressional leaders to give lawmakers time to resolve their disagreements about how to address security along the border.

One sticking point has been the Democrats’ demand for funding fewer detention beds for people arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Republicans want to increase the number as part of their drive to speed immigrant deportations.

Since he ran for president in 2016, Trump has pledged to stop the influx of undocumented immigrants by building a wall on the border and crack down on immigrants living in the United States illegally by aggressively conducting more deportations.

‘DESPERATELY NEEDED’

Democrats proposed lowering the cap on detention beds to 35,520 from the current 40,520 in return for giving Republicans some of the money they want for physical barriers, the source familiar with negotiations said.

But Democrats would create a limit within that cap of 16,500 beds at detention facilities for undocumented immigrants apprehended in the interior of the country. The remainder would be at border detention centers.

By having the interior cap, ICE agents would be forced to focus on arresting and deporting serious criminals, not law-abiding immigrants, a House Democratic aide said on Sunday.

Republicans balked at the Democrats’ sub-cap offer, the source said.

Trump weighed in Sunday, saying the Democratic proposal would protect felons. “They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention!” Trump said on Twitter.

“Claims that this proposal would allow violent criminals to be released are false,” the Democratic aide said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is close to Trump, warned against limiting beds. “Donald Trump is not going to sign any legislation that reduces the bed spaces. You can take that to the bank,” he said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Lawmakers working on a border deal also have not yet nailed down the amount of money to go for physical barriers along the southern U.S. border, the source said.

While a growing number of Republicans in Congress have made it clear they would not embrace another shutdown, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said he could not rule it out.

“You absolutely cannot,” Mulvaney, who is also Trump’s acting chief of staff, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Is a shutdown entirely off the table? The answer is no.”

Lawmakers, however, were working to avoid it.

On Friday, some of the negotiators said that if Congress could not pass a border security bill by Friday, they would move to pass another stop-gap funding bill to avert a shutdown and allow more time to reach a border deal.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Doina Chiacu, Howard Schneider; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

At least 12 dead as Arctic freeze spreads into U.S. Northeast

Desolate Wrigley Field is seen at sunset during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek

(Reuters) – The blast of Arctic air that brought record-breaking cold, causing at least a dozen deaths and canceling or delaying thousands of flights in the U.S. Midwest, spread eastward on Thursday, bringing frigid misery to the Northeast.

A forecast for warmer weather by the weekend offered little comfort to those enduring icy conditions, brutal winds and temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 34 Celsius).

“This morning is some of the coldest of the temperatures across the Upper Midwest, and we still have some dangerous wind chills,” Andrew Orrison, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said in a phone interview.

In Minnesota and Upper Michigan, temperatures will be at minus 20F (minus 29C) on Thursday and parts of North Dakota can expect minus 30F, forecasters warned.

The bitter cold was caused by displacement of the polar vortex, a stream of air that normally spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole but whose current was disrupted. It pushed eastward and states including Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania experienced bitterly cold temperatures. The overnight low in Boston was at minus 5F (minus 21C), according to the National Weather Service.

“This morning is the worst of the worst in terms of the cold,” Orrison said. “It’ll be the coldest outbreak of Arctic air (so far this winter) for the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast.”

Desolate Wrigley Field is seen at sunset during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek

Desolate Wrigley Field is seen at sunset during subzero temperatures carried by the polar vortex, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Pinar Istek

It has been more than 20 years since a similar Arctic blast covered a swath of the Midwest and Northeast, according to the weather service.

The cold has caused at least 12 deaths since Saturday across the Midwest, according to officials and news media reports. Some died in weather-related traffic accidents, others from apparent exposure to the elements.

Videos this week showed boiling water freezing as it was tossed in the air in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and transit workers in Chicago setting fire to train tracks to keep them from locking up.

Even parts of the South, such as the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and upper Georgia, will be in the single digits, the weather service said.

More than 30 record lows were shattered across the Midwest. Some areas only saw a high of minus 10F (minus 23F) on Wednesday.

The lowest temperature recorded that day was minus 40F (minus 40C) in International Falls, Minnesota, just south of Canada. The city, dubbed the “Icebox of the Nation,” saw temperatures drop another 5 degrees F early on Thursday.

U.S. homes and businesses used record amounts of natural gas for heating on Wednesday, according to preliminary results from financial data provider Refinitiv.

But the picture was set to change. By the weekend, Chicago, which experienced near-record cold of minus 23F (minus 30C) on Wednesday and minus 21F (minus 29C) on Thursday, was expected to bask in snow-melting highs in the mid-40s to low 50s Fahrenheit. So will other parts of the Midwest.

“It’s going to feel quite balmy in comparison,” Orrison said.

The weather caused hundreds of traffic accidents, including a chain-reaction collision of about two dozen cars in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during a whiteout on Wednesday, local media reported.

More than 2,500 flights were canceled and more than 3,500 were delayed on Thursday morning, most of them out of Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway International airports, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.com.

General Motors Co suspended operations at 11 Michigan plants and it’s Warren Tech Center after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas after extreme cold and a fire at a compressor station. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV  also canceled a shift on Thursday at two of its plants.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales and Karen Pierog in Chicago, Gina Cherelus in New York, and Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry King, Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)

ICE arrests of immigrants in U.S. illegally highest since 2014

FILE PHOTO: Border Patrol agents arrest migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in the desert near Ajo, Arizona, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

By Yeganeh Torbati

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested more immigrants who were in the United States illegally in the fiscal year through Sept. 30, 2018, than in any year since 2014, the agency said on Friday.

The 158,851 people arrested in the 2018 fiscal year by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division, the branch that carries out immigration arrests and deportations, represented an 11 percent increase over 2017, according to agency data.

ICE arrests of immigrants with no criminal history but who are in the country illegally increased by nearly one-third compared to 2017, to reach 20,464. Such arrests made up 13 percent of all ICE immigration arrests last year, compared to 11 percent the previous year.

Other immigrants arrested by ICE last year were either convicted criminals or had “pending criminal charges” at the time of their arrest, according to ICE data – though the latter category can include people who have been arrested by police but are not yet or ever charged with an actual crime. The number of people with pending charges arrested by ICE was 48 percent higher in 2018 than in 2017, while arrests of those with criminal convictions dropped slightly.

Those with criminal convictions made up 66 percent of all those arrested last year, while those with “pending” charges made up 21 percent.

Under President Donald Trump, U.S. immigration enforcement officers have expanded the arrest, detention and deportation of people in the United States illegally, including those with little or no criminal history or with deep roots in their communities.

The most common criminal charges or convictions for those arrested by ICE last year, according to its data, were driving under the influence, “dangerous drugs,” “traffic offenses,” and “immigration,” which includes crimes such as entering the country illegally, entering illegally more than once, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, or “alien smuggling.”

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Phil Berlowit

Snowstorm kills one, thousands without power in U.S. southeast

Snow hits a porch in Banner Elk, North Carolina, U.S., December 9, 2018 in this still image from a time-lapse video obtained from social media. Rod Wilbourn/via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – An intense snowstorm was easing up on Monday after it dumped up to two feet of snow in Virginia, left one motorist dead in North Carolina and cut off power for more than 300,000 people in the U.S. southeast.

The storm headed out to sea but the region will stay cold this week, the U.S. National Weather Service said.

A man cuts a fallen tree blocking a road in Landrum, South Carolina, U.S., December 9, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Off-Road Adventures/via REUTERS

A man cuts a fallen tree blocking a road in Landrum, South Carolina, U.S., December 9, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Off-Road Adventures/via REUTERS

Motorists in northern Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia can expect snow and ice to taper off on Monday, NWS meteorologist Bob Oravec said.

“It’s fairly light and some of it is actually mixing with rain in North Carolina, so it won’t be as bad as it was in the last 24 hours,” Oravec said.

The storm dropped its heaviest snow in the appropriately named Whitetop, Virginia, tucked in the Appalachian Mountains along the western end of the Virginia-North Carolina border, the NWS said. Whitetop received two feet (60 cm) of snow, while Greensboro, North Carolina saw 16 inches (41 cm) and Durham, North Carolina got 14 inches (36 cm).

“Some of the higher totals occurred in higher elevations, but there were high totals in the more populated area of North Carolina as well,” Oravec said.

A motorist died and a passenger was injured in Matthews, North Carolina, on Sunday when a tree fell on their vehicle as it was traveling, causing the driver to plow through the front lawn of a church and slam into the building, Matthew police officials said in a statement.

In Kinston, North Carolina, divers searched for a driver whose 18-wheeler was found in a river, an NBC affiliate in Raleigh reported.

More than 300,000 customers were without power in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia, Poweroutage.us reported.

The storm prompted more than 1,000 flight cancellations at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the sixth-busiest airport in the country, and other airports across the region, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware, early Monday.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Sunday a state of emergency would remain in effect and the North Carolina National Guard had been activated to help with the response.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus and Maria Caspani in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

Antarctic thaw quickens, trillions of tonnes of ice raise sea levels

By Alister Doyle Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) – An accelerating thaw of Antarctica has pushed up world sea levels by almost a centimeter since the early 1990s in a risk for coasts from Pacific islands to Florida, an international team of scientists said on Thursday.

Antarctica has enough ice to raise seas by 58 meters (190 ft) if it ever all melted, dwarfing frozen stores in places from Greenland to the Himalayas and making its future the biggest uncertainty in understanding global warming and ocean levels.

The frozen continent lost almost three trillion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, the 84 scientists said in what they called the most complete overview of Antarctic ice to date.

The thaw, tracked by satellite data and other measurements, contributed 0.76 cm to sea level rise since 1992, they wrote in the journal Nature.

And the ice losses quickened to 219 billion tonnes a year since 2012, from 76 billion previously. “The sharp increase … is a big surprise,” professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds and a leader of the report, told Reuters.

Most ice was being lost from West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, where warmer ocean water is melting floating ice shelves at the end of glaciers, allowing ice pent up on land to slide faster toward the sea, the study said.

A single millimeter of global sea level rise is equivalent to 360 billion tonnes of melted ice, or an imaginary gigantic ice cube with sides about seven kilometers (4.35 miles) long.

Overall, world sea levels have risen about 20 cm in the past century, driven mainly by a natural expansion of water already in the oceans as it warms along with a thaw of glaciers form the Andes to the Alps.

And a major U.N. assessment in 2014 said seas could rise this century by between about 30 cm and almost a meter.

Shepherd said Antarctica alone is now on track to raise world sea levels by about 15 cm by 2100, above most past estimates.

Such a rise alone sounds little but would make coastal floods during storms at high tides more damaging, he said. Sea level rise is a threat to cities from New York to Shanghai as well as low-lying nations from the Pacific Ocean to the Netherlands.

“We’re watching these reports closely,” said Michiel van den Broeke, professor of Polar Meteorology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, saying they were the guide for defending the Dutch coast.

Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, almost 200 governments set a goal of phasing out fossil fuels this century to limit warming. U.S. President Donald Trump plans to pull out of the pact and to focus instead on U.S. jobs and coal.

Chris Rapley, a professor of climate science at University College London who was not involved in the study, wrote in a comment that he had suggested in 2005 that a “slumbering giant (of ice in Antarctica) seemed to be awakening. This paper suggests it is stretching its limbs.”

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Winter storm to strike U.S. East, snarling traffic, closing schools

A pedestrian walks through a late season snow storm in New York, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) – Millions of commuters along the U.S. East Coast will face another round of heavy snow, ice and wind gusts on Wednesday when the fourth major snow storm this month strikes the region, closing schools, grounding flights and halting buses and trains.

The nor’easter storm is on track to dump up to a foot of snow and bring gusts of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kmph) to major cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston on Wednesday and into Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

“Significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice will make travel very hazardous or impossible,” the service said in an advisory for New Jersey.

More than 2,000 flights had already been canceled on Tuesday evening at the three major airports that serve New York. Airlines said they were waiving fees to change flights from and to the East Coast.

The storm forced schools across the region including those in Philadelphia and New York, the largest school district in the United States, to cancel classes on Wednesday.

“For everyone’s safety, because it could be such a big storm … we want to be ahead of it,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday.

Both Greyhound bus service and Amtrak passenger train service suspended or abbreviated routes for the day. Throughout the East Coast, local bus and train services that millions of people rely on to commute to and from work and school also canceled service on Wednesday.

Widespread power outages were also expected on Wednesday as heavy snow and ice along winds may topple trees and power lines, the service said.

The latest storm comes after storms on March 2, 7 and 12 left at least 9 people dead across the region and more than 2 million homes and businesses without power.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

Storm barrels through U.S. Midwest with snow and frigid temperatures

Satellite image from the National Weather Service. 2-9-18

By Brendan O’Brien and Suzannah Gonzales

MILWAUKEE, Wis./CHICAGO (Reuters) – A major winter storm barreled into Chicago and Milwaukee early on Friday, dumping heavy snow and dropping temperatures well below freezing as it forced schools to close and threatened to leave travel at a stand still across the Midwest.

The storm system stretches from western Montana across the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and reaches as far east as southern Michigan. The storm could drop up to 14 inches (36 cm) of snow in some areas, the National Weather Service said.

Chicago was anticipating six to 12 inches of snow early on Friday morning with more snow expected over the weekend, according to the service’s weather forecast.

“The city is ready for this,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a news conference about the city’s preparedness on Thursday. “Make no mistake though, this is a heavy snow, heavier than we’ve seen in a number of winters.”

City officials announced school closures in Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee because of the weather.

Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region, and officials warned of limited visibility on roads.

Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway international airports canceled more than 200 flights on Thursday before the storm hit, and several airlines were also anticipating delays or cancellations.

United Airlines said on Twitter that waivers were in effect for snow-hit areas this week allowing travelers to change flights without charges, and Delta Air Lines offered to rebook flights on Friday for 18 Midwest cities.

Winter weather across the United States this week killed several people in accidents in the Midwest, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

Deadly winter storm delays travel in U.S. Midwest, Northeast

Weather conditions for winter storm 2-6-18 National Weather Service

(Reuters) – A winter storm will dump snow and freezing rain on the U.S. Midwest and the Northeast beginning on Tuesday after it caused several deaths as it snarled highways and spurred the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Chicago’s main airport.

The National Weather Service warned commuters in northern Texas, east through southern Illinois and Indiana, and New York and Massachusetts, to watch for icy road conditions, wind gusts and reduced visibility throughout the day and into Wednesday.

“The ice and snow will result in difficult travel conditions,” the NWS said in an advisory. “Motorists are strongly urged to slow down and allow plenty of time to reach their destinations.”

Winds of 40-miles an hour(65 kph) and as much as 4 inches (10 cm) of snow are expected across the affected regions, with parts of New York and Vermont getting as much as a foot of snow, the NWS said.

The storm was responsible for the death of six people on Monday in crashes throughout Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

Two people also died in southwest Missouri and more than 70 others were injured after icy roads caused a high number of crashes, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

At Chicago’s busy O’Hare International Airport, the storm caused the cancellation of more than 460 flights, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Second U.S. winter storm forces hundreds of flight cancellations

The Brooklyn Bridge is seen partially in fog from in front of the Manhattan skyline in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., January 12, 2018.

By Alana Wise

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A second winter storm in as many weeks caused hundreds of flight cancellations across the United States, airlines reported on Tuesday, potentially dealing a further blow to carriers’ first quarter outlooks.

As the storm sweeps across southeast Texas and up the East Coast dumping snow, sleet and freezing rain, airlines have already canceled flights into Wednesday in anticipation of difficult conditions.

American Airlines, the world’s largest airline by passenger traffic, had canceled some 270 flights between Tuesday and Wednesday as a result of the storm, it said.

Rival Delta Air Lines, the No. 2 U.S. carrier by passenger traffic, said it had canceled about 275 Tuesday flights and expected additional cancellations in New York and Boston as the storm tracked north.

The third-largest U.S. carrier, United Airlines, said it had canceled more than 700 flights on Tuesday. United was offering to waive fees for changes to flights to and from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and other affected airports for scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday flights.

The storm itself is relatively minor compared to other winter weather events, and several hundred flights represent only a tiny percentage of airlines’ overall operations. But such storms are still a nuisance to carriers and can cost them millions of dollars in lost revenue.

A massive winter storm at the onset of the year caused thousands of cancellations, as several inches of snow and ice paralyzed the U.S. Northeast and forced the closure of some of the region’s biggest airports.

(Reporting by Alana Wise, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

New York City’s JFK Airport temporarily closed due to snowstorm: FAA

People are seen in silhouette inside the Trans World Airlines Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport in the Queens borough of New York, October 18, 2015.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport was temporarily closed on Thursday due to heavy snow, ice and harsh winds in the area, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport, which suspended operations shortly before 11 a.m. local time (1600 GMT), was expected to reopen at 3 p.m. (200 GMT), FAA officials said.

(Reporting by Gina CherelusEditing by Chizu Nomiyama)