Obama Goes After GOP in Final Quarter of Presidency

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With a tone of outrage and eye-rolling dismissiveness, President Barack Obama and his White House team are working out their aggressions on Republicans. Well into the final quarter of Obama’s presidency the White House approach is, if you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em. […]

European Nations Plan Urgent Talks After Hundreds of Migrants Drown in Mediterranean; Pope Francis Calls Them “Victims of War”

Migrants wait to disembark from a tug boat in the Sicilian harbour of Trapani, April 17, 2015. Photo by Reuters

Migrants wait to disembark from a tug boat in the Sicilian harbour of Trapani, April 17, 2015. Photo by Reuters

As many as 700 people were feared dead after a fishing boat packed with migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight in what officials said may be the Mediterranean’s worst disaster as thousands flee poverty and war to Europe. […]

Iran’s supreme leader urges military to increase ‘preparedness’

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/File)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/File)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the country’s armed forces Sunday to increase their “defensive preparedness,” hitting out at a US warning of possible military action. […]

Thousands of Yemeni troops pledge allegiance to exiled president

Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi speaks during the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South Sinai governorate, south of Cairo, March 28, 2015. REUTERS/STRINGER

Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi speaks during the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South Sinai governorate, south of Cairo, March 28, 2015.
REUTERS/STRINGER

The Yemeni commander of a vast military district covering half the country’s border with Saudi Arabia pledged support on Sunday to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local officials said.

The announcement puts at least 15,000 troops in the desert and mountain border area on the same side as Saudi Arabia, which backs Hadi and has waged an inconclusive three-week bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen who are allied with Iran.

“Brigadier General Abdulrahman al-Halily of the First Military District announced today his support for constitutional legitimacy as represented by President Hadi,” one of the officials told Reuters.

The declaration was also broadcast on official radio in the city of Seiyun, the main city of the Hadramawt valley area where the district’s main military base is located.

Most of Yemen’s military is loyal to powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces are fighting alongside the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi militia in battles stretching across Yemen’s south and east.

But the defection of the northeastern troops brings to about 10 the number of divisions that back Hadi. It may point to an increasing sense in the military that momentum favors the president, who resides in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Beginning last week, most of the army divisions along Yemen’s eastern Arabian Sea coast evacuated their posts and handed security of their bases and Yemen’s Masila oil fields, the country’s largest, to armed Sunni tribes.

Other powerful tribes followed suit on Monday within the First Military District, announcing after a vast gathering that they supported Hadi and the Saudi-led military operation, in a move which likely encouraged the commander’s decision.

“The announcement followed that of the tribes. It would be impossible to oppose their will and continue to live side by side, and there was likely some pressure from Saudi Arabia, which is keen to secure its border,” Radhi Subaih, a political analyst in Seiyun, told Reuters.

Citizens from Hadramawt, Yemen’s largest province which stretches from the coast to the Saudi border, are linked closely to the kingdom by family and historical ties.

The remainder of Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen encompasses the northern stronghold of the Houthi guerrillas, who are avowedly hostile to Sunni-led Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf and Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

SOURCE: Reuters

Rubio says an Iran with Nuclear Arms is “Unacceptable”

Marco Rubio (Elise Amendola, AP)

Marco Rubio (Elise Amendola, AP)

Republican presidential aspirants converged on Nashua, N.H., today for a “First in the Nation Summit,” a two-day GOP fanfest where potential 2016-ers are addressing several hundred political activists. A look at some notable moments:

Marco Rubio

By turns inspirational and apocalyptic,  Rubio won a standing ovation from the audience both before and after his talk, in which he recounted the story of his immigrant parents, his proposals to make college more affordable for students, and his grim view of threats facing the U.S.

The U.S. should not have entered negotiations with Iran over nuclear capabilities, Rubio said,  because economic sanctions were working. Allowing Iran to have any nuclear capacity is a mistake because it could not be sufficiently monitored to prevent development of a nuclear weapon. “We’ve seen this movie before. It’s called North Korea,” he said.

“We may have to decide at some point what is worse: a military strike against Iran or a nuclear-armed Iran,’’ Rubio said. “I am not a cheerleader for war,” but Iran with nuclear weapons is “an unacceptable risk for the region.’’

The threat of terrorist attack in the U.S. has only grown since he entered the Senate, Rubio said, dismissing concerns raised by, among others, his presidential rival Rand Paul about government electronic surveillance. “This risk is real. It is not hyperbole.”

Rubio, who had the marquee dinner-time speaking slot, unleashed a patter of introductory jokes that was late-night-TV worthy: After his introduction by former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, Rubio said Brown was the only senator who actually used the Senate gym to work out. “Everybody else is just there to watch Morning Joe on the TV.”  He also ribbed Brown for telling him that Hillary Clinton plans to raise $2.5 billion for her presidential campaign. “That’s a lot of Chipotle, friend.”

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SOURCE: Martha T. Moore
USA Today

Venezuela holds military drills after U.S. sanctions

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Rolling out tanks, missiles and 100,000 men, Venezuela launched 10 days of military exercises, amid sky-high tensions over US sanctions slapped on officials accused of an opposition crackdown. […]

Rare fighting between militias and ISIS breaks out in Libya

Fighters from Fajr Libya drive at a military camp in Ajaylat 80 kms west of the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 12, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

Fighters from Fajr Libya drive at a military camp in Ajaylat 80 kms west of the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 12, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

Rare clashes between fighters from the Islamic State group and the Fajr Libya militia coalition erupted Saturday in the central city of Sirte, security and militia officials said. […]

John Kerry reiterates Obama’s ‘commitment’ to two-state solution for Israel, Palestine

US President Barack Obama (centre) looks on as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) shakes hands with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas before a 2009 meeting in New York

US President Barack Obama (centre) looks on as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) shakes hands with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas before a 2009 meeting in New York

US President Barack Obama is “committed” to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday on the stalled Middle East peace process.

“The position of the United States with respect to our long expressed hope, the Republicans and the Democrats alike (and) many presidents of the last 50 years or more, has always been for peace and President Obama remains committed to a two-state solution,” Kerry said at a news conference in Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Kerry said that Obama was “hopeful that whatever choice people of Israel make… (they) will be able to move forward on those efforts”.

The top US diplomat said he would not like to comment more on the issue only a few days before an Israeli general election.

Final opinion polls have put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party four seats behind its centre-left rival the Zionist Union for Tuesday’s vote.

Palestinians are keen for a change from Netanyahu, hoping for a more suitable partner for future peace talks.

On Friday, Kerry held talks on the peace process with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

The four discussed creating an environment to “push forward the peace process to reach a comprehensive and just peace in the region,” Sisi’s office said after they met.

Kerry led a bid last year to try to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, but his efforts collapsed amid bitter recriminations by both sides.

Last month the United States voiced fears the Palestinian Authority may be teetering on the brink of collapse because of a lack of funding, as Israel withholds taxes and donor aid stalls.

SOURCE: AFP

Ex-Stripper Takes On Sex Traffickers in N. Dakota’s Seedy Oil Patch

Windie Lazenko

In this Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 photo, Windie Lazenko, with the anti-trafficking group 4her North Dakota, stands for a photo in Williston, N.D. Though her past gives her credibility with trafficked women, Lazenko says getting them to walk away is difficult. “We’re often working against years of abuse,” she says. “When these girls buy into their lives, their minds are made up. The rescue mentality really doesn’t work. They don’t even consider themselves victims.” (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

When she first arrived in town, Windie Lazenko headed to the neon-lit strip clubs and bars catering to lonely oil field workers with extra cash and time on their hands. She knew these were likely gathering spots for the sex trade — the life she’d given up long ago.

[…]

10 Killed, Over 50 Wounded In Twin Pakistan Church Blasts

Pakistan's large Christian minority suffers discrimination as well as militant attacks

Pakistan’s large Christian minority suffers discrimination as well as militant attacks

Two bomb blasts have killed at least 10 people near two churches in a Christian neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.

[…]

Pope Francis Declares a Jubilee Year in Powerful Sign of Commitment to Reform the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis on Friday marked the second anniversary of his election by declaring a jubilee year that will be interpreted as a powerful signal of his commitment to reforming the Church. […]

Police say Man Who Attacked U.S. Ambassador in S. Korea Intended to Kill him Over Military Exercises

Mark Lippert

An anti-U.S. activist arrested last week for allegedly stabbing U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert had intended to kill the envoy to highlight his protest against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, police said Friday.

The suspect, Kim Ki-jong, could face charges of attempted murder, assaulting a foreign envoy and obstruction as his case has been sent to prosecutors for possible indictment, senior Seoul police officer Kim Chul-jun said in a televised briefing.

Police say Kim Ki-jong attacked Lippert with a knife during a breakfast forum last Thursday that left deep gashes on the envoy’s face and arm. Lippert left a South Korean hospital Tuesday where doctors closed an 11-centimeter (4-inch) wound on his face and operated on his left arm to repair damaged tendons and nerves.

Kim Ki-jong has told investigators he had no intention of killing Lippert and only tried to hurt him, according to police. But police believe Kim attempted to kill the ambassador because he knifed Lippert more than twice with a force that was enough to penetrate the envoy’s arm as he tried to block the attack, police officer Kim Chul-jun said.

Police believe Kim’s anti-U.S., pro-North Korea views are believed to have led him to taken an “extreme action” on the U.S. ambassador, Kim Chul-jun said.

During questioning, Kim Ki-jong said South Korea is a semi-colony of the U.S. and North Korea has an independent, self-reliant government, Kim Chul-jun said. Shortly after his arrest, Kim Ki-jong shouted that the U.S.-South Korea war games are an obstacle against a Korean unification, he said.

The South Korean-U.S. springtime training is a source of tension, with North Korea describing it as a rehearsal for an invasion. Seoul and Washington say their annual exercises are defensive in nature. Earlier this month, the North’s army threatened to launch unspecified “merciless strikes” against the allies in protest of the drills.

Kim chose Lippert as a target because he considered him “a symbolic figure who represents the U.S.” and his computer records show that he searched Lippert’s blog, articles on the military drills and South Korean criminal law, according to police.

Police said they were investigating whether Kim Ki-jong violated an anti-Pyongyang security law after finding that some of the books found at his home supported North Korea. Police said Kim visited North Korea seven times on South Korean government-approved trips between 1999 and 2007, during a previous era of inter-Korean reconciliation.

Kim has said during questioning he acted alone but police said they are looking into whether there were any accomplices.

The U.S., which fought alongside South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, stations about 28,500 troops as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.

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Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.

SOURCE: KIM TONG-HYUNG
AP