November 15, 2013

From Washington, this is VOA news. A U.S. aircraft carrier group arrives to help Philippine typhoon survivors, and President Obama offers a fix for those who lost their healthcare. I'm David Byrd reporting from Washington.

The U.S. Navy launched a huge relief operation in the typhoon-ravaged central Philippines Thursday as the devastated Philippine city of Tacloban began the grim task of burying its dead.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and a contingent of seven supply ships arrived in the Philippine Sea early Thursday. The ships began delivering water and emergency rations to the wrecked city.

The giant hospital ship USS Mercy is also getting ready to leave the United States and is expected to join the emergency flotilla within weeks. The British carrier HMS Illustrious will also go.

Meanwhile, rescue personnel began lowering unidentified bodies into a mass grave near Tacloban's city hall on Thursday. U.S. helicopters sped food and water to the city and reconnaissance aircraft began charting the areas worst-hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

The death toll from last Friday's storm stands at 2,357 although Tacloban's mayor said that count is expected to rise significantly.

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Moving to avert some political damage from what he acknowledges was a "fumbled" implementation of his health care law, President Barack Obama on Thursday announced a fix to allow Americans to keep existing healthcare policies for one year.

Dan Robinson reports from the White House.

The administrative fix announced by Mr. Obama would let insurers renew for one year health plans that were canceled because of the implementation of Obamacare.

Companies could offer plans next year that do not meet minimum requirements but would have to inform applicants how these are deficient and what alternatives are available.

Mr. Obama said it would be up to insurance commissioners in individual U.S. states to allow the fix to proceed, saying Obamacare would not "get in the way" of companies implementing the change.

Dan Robinson, VOA news, the White House.

President Obama's nominee to be America's next central bank chief says the U.S. economy must grow faster and needs continued monetary stimulus at least for now.

VOA's Michael Bowman reports current Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen was cordially received at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

Yellen told senators the economy has improved since the deep recession of 2008-2009, but still needs help.

"Our country has come a long way since the dark days of the financial crisis. But we have further to go. I believe the Federal Reserve has made significant progress toward its goals, but has more work to do."

That work includes further reductions in U.S. unemployment, which stands at 7.3 percent.

Yellen is likely to receive bipartisan support in both the Banking Committee and the full Senate. She would become America's first female central bank chief.

Michael Bowman, VOA news, the Capitol.

Iraqi officials say that multiple bombings targeting Shiite pilgrims killed at least 41 people Thursday.

The largest attack happened in al-Sadiya, north of Baghdad, where a suicide bomber killed at least 32 people and wounded 75 others.

Earlier, two explosions south of the capital in Hafriyah killed at least nine people.

Both attacks hit groups of Shiites observing the annual Ashura ritual.

President Barack Obama urged Congress on Thursday not to add new sanctions against Iran as world powers attempt to negotiate a deal on Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

Mr. Obama warned that Washington is not changing its bottom line despite the potential for a nuclear deal with Iran.

The resident's comments in Washington follow a surge in optimism among top U.S. diplomats that a deal with Iran is within reach.

Economic growth in Europe's 17-nation euro currency bloc has nearly stalled again only months after it emerged from a recession that lasted a year and a half.

The eurozone said Thursday that its economy expanded just one tenth of one percent in the July to September period. That's down from the gain of three tenths of one percent in the previous quarter.

With record high unemployment and some debt-ridden governments struggling to regain their financial footing, the eurozone's fortunes have faltered even as the world's two biggest economies, the U.S. and China, have continued to grow.

For more on these stories, please log on to voanews.com. I'm David Byrd in Washington.