Senate passes farm bill, setting up food stamp fight with House

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed bipartisan farm legislation that sets up a clash with the House and President Donald Trump over imposing broad new work requirements for food stamp recipients.

The Senate bill, passed 86-11 Thursday, would renew subsidies for farmers and crop insurance companies, along with food aid for low-income families. The Senate bill doesn’t include the work rules. The House version would make work requirements stricter and would shift some food stamp benefits to job-training programs _ changes critics say are designed to throw needy Americans off the rolls.

The House and Senate versions of the five-year, $867 billion legislation will need to be reconciled. Trump backs the work rules in the House plan, which was passed 213-211 last week without any Democratic votes.

Lawmakers are under pressure to act before current farm programs begin to expire on Sept. 30. The farm legislation is a traditional vehicle for modifying the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.

Republicans said the work requirements are needed to move food stamp recipients into the labor force at a time of worker shortages. Democrats rejected those provisions because they said they’ll reduce benefits and increase paperwork without effectively moving people into jobs.

The Senate plan boosts funding for pilot programs that study the effectiveness of job training for food-stamp recipients, but doesn’t change work rules nationwide. The House version changes eligibility rules for food stamps.

— Bloomberg News

Senate panel advances music bill endorsed by Smokey Robinson

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote Thursday a proposal endorsed by a Motown legend. The measure would extend federal protections to songs recorded before 1972. It would also streamline the music licensing process and help streaming music companies head off copyright infringement lawsuits.

Chairman Charles E. Grassley said after the committee markup that he hoped to work out differences of an offset for the music licensing bill and other issues before Senate floor action on the measure. The Iowa Republican said he would work with other supporters to “get it scheduled” on the floor.

The bill by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch has the same text as a music licensing bill sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, which sailed through that chamber unopposed in April.

The Senate proposal would allow digital streaming companies to obtain a blanket so-called mechanical license for the use of all musical works available for compulsory licensing if the company follows certain requirements. A mechanical license allows digital streaming services to provide digital copies or downloads of songs to their customers.

It would establish a nonprofit mechanical licensing collective to engage in various activities related to the payment of royalties, such as the administration of blanket licenses and collection and distribution of royalties from digital music providers for the use of musical compositions.

Sound recordings made between Jan. 1, 1923, and Feb. 15, 1972, are currently covered by a patchwork of state copyright laws, and the measure would provide them with certain federal copyright protections. Musician Smokey Robinson, the writer of classic ’60s songs such as “My Girl,” made famous by The Temptations, urged the committee last month to compensate musicians for work done before current copyright law took effect in early 1972.

The measure would also standardize existing industry practices for royalty payments to sound producers, sound mixers and sound engineers involved with a sound recording.

— CQ Roll Call

Can humans reach even older age? We haven’t maxed out yet, some scientists say

On the day that one becomes an octogenarian, nature bestows a mathematical birthday gift: a gradual reprieve from the relentlessly increasing likelihood that he or she will die in the coming year.

That gift may come as small comfort against the growing creakiness of joints and the still-mounting probability that the end is nigh. But an analysis of close to 4,000 very long-lived Italians suggests that the rise in the risk of imminent death continues to slow until the age of 105. After that, researchers estimate, the chance of making it to see another birthday holds steady at roughly 50-50.

Perhaps it’s “nothing to blow a trumpet about,” said University of California, Berkeley demographer Kenneth Wachter. But at least the mortality rate levels off, the data suggest.

Wachter and colleagues from universities in Italy and Germany published their findings in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

For humankind in general, these findings hint at an intriguing, if largely theoretical, prospect: that the maximum possible human lifespan — essentially, the species’ design limit — has not yet been reached. It may even be extended by means as yet undiscovered.

If the “oldest old” tell us how long we could live, then many centenarians could, in principle, get even older. And maybe older still with the right elixir.

“This data suggest our genetic heritage is permissive,” Wachter said. “Our bodies are not put together so that at some point, everything goes wrong.”

Indeed, he said, there’s reason to believe that some humans could beat the current longevity record of 122, which was set in 1997 by Jeanne Louise Calment of France.

— Los Angeles Times

11 children killed in bombed shelter in Syria, rescuers say

BEIRUT — At least 11 children were among 17 civilians killed on Thursday in airstrikes that targeted an underground shelter in a rebel-held area of southern Syria, a rescue team said.

The shelter in the southern province of Daraa was the target of multiple strikes by Russian jets, Amer Abu Zied, the provincial head of the volunteer rescue group White Helmets, told dpa.

His claim could not be independently verified.

Meanwhile, opposition sources told dpa that a 12-hour truce is due to take place at midnight in Daraa.

According to sources, the agreement on the truce was worked out between the Russians and opposition groups in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

“So far it is just talk, and we have to wait and see if the 12-hour truce will take place at midnight,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A Syrian source close to the government said that so far the Syrian government has not been informed of any truce in Daraa.

Russia is a major military ally of the Syrian government, which is pressing on with a major offensive against rebels in Daraa, located along Syria’s border with Jordan.

Many people had taken refuge in the shelter in the village of al-Musyfira in order to hide from intense government shelling, the observatory reported.

The 17 civilian deaths are the highest toll in a single day in Daraa since government forces began their campaign there on June 19.

It brings to 96 the total number of civilians who have since been killed there, the observatory reported.

— dpa