By Jonathan Spicer and Emily Stephenson NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former lawyer with the American Bankers Association is being considered by the White House as a possible nominee to the board of the Federal Reserve, according to sources familiar with the efforts The lawyer's name emerged as the White House weighs candidates with community banking backgrounds to fill gaps on the Federal Reserve's powerful but depleted board, the sources said. People familiar with the White House's process said administration officials may fill one of the remaining openings with someone with banking experience, as opposed to an economist. Two sources said the administration is considering Diana Preston, a lawyer who recently left a post at the American Bankers Association, which represents many small banks.
By David Alexander ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday his first trip to Latin America as Pentagon chief would add "muscle and sinew" to growing North American defense ties and highlight the importance of helping partner nations improve their militaries. Hagel, who will meet his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Mexico City before traveling to Guatemala, said the three-day visit will give him an opportunity to focus on relationship-building in a vital area that often receives little attention. "The region is important to America," Hagel told reporters aboard his plane to Mexico City. "I don't think over the years we've probably ever done enough to reach out to our Latin American partners." He said part of the reason was that U.S. relations in the region have been stable and good in recent years, so Washington has tended to focus its attention on the world's trouble spots.
The U.S. Democratic Governors' Association on Wednesday sued the state of Connecticut, saying its laws on political spending are unconstitutionally broad and limit the ability of political groups to buy independent ads backing candidates. The lawsuit said the state unfairly treats independent money spent on ads and other political messages by the national group as contributions to particular candidates, and thus subject to campaign finance limits. "Connecticut's campaign finance laws ... conflict with Supreme Court First Amendment precedent and place a cloud of uncertainty over what DGA may say or do without fear of prosecution," the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut said. It asked a judge to block the State Elections Enforcement Commission from enforcing its rules.
Some are suspected fighters from Yemen, Russia or Pakistan, arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Several have been linked to al Qaeda. As the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan winds down, the White House will soon provide Congress a dossier on about 50 non-Afghan detainees in a U.S. military prison north of Kabul. Their uncertain fate presents sensitive security and legal problems for the Obama administration in an echo of Guantanamo Bay.
By Hilary Russ NEW YORK (Reuters) - The board of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey on Wednesday delayed a scheduled vote on whether to provide $1.2 billion in loan guarantees to World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein, the latest holdup for the project. The request from Silverstein, who needs Port Authority backing to secure a construction loan for 3 World Trade Center, the complex's next skyscraper, recently became entangled in a debate over the agency's mission after the "Bridgegate" scandal rocked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration. Wednesday's delay came after the Port Authority's chief of staff told the board he had not yet brokered a good enough deal to recommend approval. The loan guarantee is meant to be part of an agreement that would provide hundreds of millions of dollars more to the Port Authority and allow it to foreclose on the $2.4 billion tower if Silverstein cannot pay debt service costs.
The latest snowfall was a bigger story in Washington this week than Tuesday's private meeting between the estranged president and House speaker - their first in more than a year. Since Barack Obama recently signaled he has all but given up on legislating with Republicans, and since John Boehner has flat out said he can't trust the president, the assumption in Washington is that the chances for big legislation anytime soon are basically zero, whether the White House breaks out the good china or not.
Ten years ago this week, John Kerry barely held off John Edwards in Wisconsin's Democratic primary, prolonging for another few weeks his plodding, uninspiring march to the party's presidential nomination. Kerry went on to lose an eminently winnable election, after which most Democrats in Washington expected him to disappear, like Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis.
Democrats in Washington don't have to worry much about the kind of fratricidal disorder that plagues the modern Republican Party. But neither should they take too lightly the intraparty breach that seems to be widening in New York, where the mayor of the nation's biggest city is staring down the governor of its third largest state.
TOKYO (AP) - Facing fresh questions about his commitment to Asia, President Barack Obama will seek to convince Japan's leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges, even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere.
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 20:45:18 -0400
NTSB head: Action needed now on oil train safety
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration needs to take steps immediately to protect the public from potentially catastrophic oil train accidents even if it means using emergency authority, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said Wednesday.
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:48:41 -0400
WASHINGTON (AP) - Spurred by a series of fiery train crashes, a push by government and industry to make safer tank cars used for shipping crude oil and ethanol has bogged down in squabbling and finger-pointing over whether they're needed and if so, who should pay.
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:40:32 -0400
Defense: FBI probe in 9/11 trial has implications
FORT MEADE, Maryland (AP) - The defense team for five people facing trial before a war crimes tribunal stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks claimed the implications of the FBI's questioning of one of its members are "staggering" and called on the court to probe the incident aggressively, according to a motion unsealed on Wednesday.
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:19:48 -0400
MEXICO CITY (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday he is exploring ways to deepen U.S.-Mexican defense ties, including the possibility of training exercises with Mexican forces.
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:57:47 -0400
Washington Insiders Say Chris Christie Won 2013
After a whirlwind year of crippling partisanship, bungled policy rollouts, and a government shutdown, most public figures are leaving this year with quite a few more chips to their image than they had in January. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie-a growing puzzle for Democrats and continuing headache for his fellow Republicans-emerged as the winner of 2013 on the political stage, according to a National Journal Political Insiders poll. Sixty percent of Democrats said Christie had the best 2013 of political figures, while 71 percent of Republicans said the same. The runners-up were barely any competition, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scoring 24 percent from Democrats and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pulling a mere 11 percent from GOP insiders.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:40:05 -0500
Sorry Pope Francis, 2013 Was the Year of Quinoa
This year has seen tanking approval ratings for just about everybody in Washington, thanks to bungled policy initiatives, stalled legislation, and a government shutdown. It's quinoa, a highly nutritious, centuries-old grain, at least according to the United Nations. In February, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2013 the international year of quinoa, not for the grain's place in Western society as a healthy, even upscale ingredient that's tough to pronounce, but for its impact on food security around the world. The price of quinoa, often called "the miracle grain of the Andes" for its origins, has tripled since 2006, The Guardianreported early this year.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 10:56:47 -0500
2013 Was Actually the Year of Quinoa
Between bungled or stalled policy initiatives and a government shutdown, moving the needle on progress on either side proved nearly impossible. According to the United Nations, 2013 was the year of quinoa, a highly nutritious, centuries-old grain. In February, the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization declared 2013 the international year of quinoa, not for the grain's place in Western society as a healthy, even upscale ingredient that's tough to pronounce, but for its impact on food security around the world. The price of quinoa, often called "the miracle grain of the Andes" for its origins, has tripled since 2006, The Guardianreported early this year.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 09:41:49 -0500
Republican Insiders to Tea Party: You're Not Helping Us
For Republicans, the group is something akin to a flesh-eating virus that threatens to chomp away at the GOP. The civil war between establishment and tea-party Republicans intensified this week when House Speaker John Boehner slammed outside conservative groups for "ridiculous" pushback against the bipartisan budget agreement, which cleared his chamber Thursday. Sixty-five percent of Republican influencers on the Hill called tea-party challengers to Republican lawmakers "very unhelpful" to the GOP, according to a National JournalPolitical Insiders poll published Friday. Their presence on the campaign trail leads to further splintering of the Grand Old Party, whose widening rift between establishment and tea-party members has not gone unnoticed by both Democratic opponents and the general public.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 06:31:57 -0500
Republican Look-Alike Sites Mocking Democrats May Violate Rules
The National Republican Congressional Committee proudly launched a faux campaign website for Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia this week, mocking him as a "career politician . asking for your vote." They even bought Google ads to direct New Yorkers to www.domenic-recchia.com, designed at first glance to look like it could be Recchia's own, down to the same yellow star replacing the dot in the 'i' of his last name. The problem is such a look-alike site, with a banner blaring "Domenic Recchia for Congress," may violate Federal Election Commission regulations for confusing the public, election lawyers say. (Screengrab) "This doesn't even strike me as a close call," said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog group. The Recchia site is just the latest in a series of mocking microsites the NRCC has put online to attack, taunt, and otherwise annoy Democratic congressional candidates from Montana to New York to West Virginia.
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 04:30:06 -0500
The Obama administration's top accomplishment on Syria - a deal in which President Bashar al-Assad would surrender his chemical weapons - risks being undermined by substantial, potentially deadly loopholes in the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry touted on Tuesday the fact that Syria had...
The heir to a billion-dollar hotel fortune, Patrick Gage, is an avowed warrior in the global fight against human trafficking. But ask him out for a beer to talk about it and he would, by the letter of the law, be compelled to turn down...
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 20:05:01 -0400
Obama: 8 Million Health Care Sign-Ups a Boon for Democrats
President Obama has many times declared victory for the Affordable Care Act, most recently with the announcement earlier this month that 7 million people have signed up in the law's inaugural year. Today, with a slight grin, he added a big exclamation point. Now, 8...
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:34:15 -0400
Cuba's top diplomat has met with a lawyer for jailed US contractor Alan Gross who is serving a 15-year term in Cuban prison, his defense team said Wednesday. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met with Gross's lawyer Scott Gilbert on Wednesday in Havana, stressing Cuba's willingness to speak with the United States on the case, Gilbert's team said in a statement released in Washington. Rodriguez emphasized that Cuba would place no preconditions on such a negotiation," the statement explained.
The United States dismissed as "ludicrous" Wednesday claims by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that it was funding or running an offensive in Ukraine as Washington and Moscow again traded barbs. "I think many of the claims he made in his interview are ludicrous and they're not based in facts of what is happening on the ground," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. In an interview with state-controlled RT television, Lavrov had issued a blunt warning that Russia would respond if its interests were attacked in Ukraine, in a sign Moscow was upping the ante in the crisis. Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov late Tuesday ordered a new "anti-terrorist" operation against separatists holding a string of eastern towns after the discovery of two "brutally tortured" bodies.
Swidwin (Poland) (AFP) - The first American troops arrived in Poland on Wednesday, after Washington said it was sending a force of 600 there and to the Baltic states amid rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine. Some 130 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade -- nicknamed "Sky Soldiers" -- touched down early afternoon in Swidwin, in the northwest of the country, and were welcomed by Poland's defence minister. "Every day we work on the defence of our country but in a world that is changing, and that is full of threats, we need strong and steadfast allies such as the United States and NATO," Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said under a cloudy sky.
The United States on Wednesday warned that a deal to form a Palestinian unity government could seriously hamper its already floundering efforts to forge a peace deal with Israel. Any Palestinian government must commit "unambiguously" to the principles of non-violence and to the existence of Israel as well as to already agreed treaties, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, restating a long-held US position. "It's hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist." Washington was both "disappointed" and "troubled" by Wednesday's announcement of a rapprochement between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) -- internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people -- and the Islamist Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip, Psaki said.
Environmentalists Wednesday urged the United States to drop plans to haul India to the WTO to open its solar market, saying the action would hurt the fight against climate change. The World Trade Organization's dispute settlement body in Geneva has scheduled Friday to hear the US case for a panel against India, which has some of the world's most ambitious plans for expanding solar power. US Trade Representative Michael Froman, announcing the move in February, said President Barack Obama's administration would "stand up for US workers and businesses" to break barriers to the Indian market.
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir sacked his army chief on Wednesday after rebels seized a major oil hub, unleashing two days of ethnic slaughter in which the UN says hundreds of civilians were massacred. Rebels loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar seized the oil hub of Bentiu last week. The United Nations says they hunted down civilians sheltering in mosques, churches and a hospital, in a wave of ethnic killings. The president gave no reason for removing general James Hoth Mai, a move announced on national television, but sources attributed the decision to recent military setbacks in the oil-rich north of the country.
The US Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that victims of child pornography should be able to receive financial compensation from one or more recipients of their pedophile photographs. Two of the pictures were found in the possession of Doyle Paroline, who the victim is suing for $3.4 million, an amount corresponding to the total cost of psychotherapy and loss of income resulting from the sexual abuse. A US appeals court in the southern United States found in her favor, but Paroline took the case to the top court. A minority, consisting of conservative Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said Paroline should pay nothing at all, because the amount of the damages were arbitrarily set.
Barack Obama will this weekend become the first US president to visit Malaysia for nearly 50 years, seeking to put decades of uneasy relations behind him as both cast wary eyes on a rising China. Mindful of America's perennial image problem in the Islamic world, Obama -- who visits Saturday-Monday -- is expected to tout the US friendship with the economically thriving moderate Muslim nation. As one of several rival claimants to parts of the South China Sea, Malaysia is also an important partner in the US "rebalance" of its strategic attention to Asia, where concern is rising over Beijing's territorial assertiveness. Obama will "highlight the growing strategic and economic relationship" with Malaysia and its "credentials as a moderate, Muslim-majority state and emerging democracy", said Joshua Kurlantzick, a fellow at the US Council on Foreign Relations.
April 23 marks the birthday of James Buchanan, the man regarded by many historians as one of the worst-if not the worst-presidents of all time. So what did Buchanan do to earn the disrespect of so many people?
US President Barack Obama dined Wednesday at a tiny Tokyo sushi restaurant -- a revered spot with three coveted Michelin stars but only a handful of seats -- ruled with an iron rod by its redoubtable 88-year-old owner. The world's most powerful man, dining at the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was entirely at the mercy of Jiro Ono, whose exacting standards and tireless work ethic have made him legendary among global foodies. Sukiyabashi Jiro -- Wednesday's venue -- has only 24 seats, sits in a slightly scruffy basement of an ageing commercial building and is connected to a Tokyo subway station. Obama made the pilgrimage to the restaurant just after touching down in Tokyo at the start of an Asian tour, and took along US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and his national security advisor Susan Rice.