By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will challenge the Republican-led Congress to back his tax-raising ideas for helping middle-class Americans in a State of the Union speech on Tuesday that will set up a tough debate and may impact the 2016 campaign to replace him. Looking to burnish his legacy with two years left in office, Obama will appear before a joint session of Congress in the well of the House of Representatives at 9 p.m. The speech will be his best opportunity of the year to command the attention of millions of Americans watching on television. Obama will push a plan to increase taxes by $320 billion over 10 years on the wealthy by closing tax loopholes and imposing a fee on big financial firms. The money would be used to pay for an increase in benefits for the middle class.
By Laila Kearney and Sebastien Malo NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tributes to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. were held nationwide on Monday as protests over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement rolled on across the country. Observers of Martin Luther King Jr. Day have this year linked the federal holiday to a rallying cry in recent months during demonstrations over police brutality: "Black lives matter." King's 1960s dream of racial equality was being viewed through a lens focused on the recent deaths of unarmed black men after confrontations with police, including Eric Garner, who died in July after being put in a chokehold in New York City, and Michael Brown, shot in Ferguson, Missouri, in August. More than 1,800 people pressed into a King commemoration service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King once preached, some holding signs with his famous quote "I am a man," others with placards reading "I can't breathe" in Garner's memory and "Hands up! Don't shoot!" to honor Brown.
US Senator John McCain on Monday urged the deployment of international ground forces to combat jihadists in Syria and Iraq, as he toured the Middle East with a Senate delegation. "For months we've been bombing (Syrian border town) Kobane and we still haven't driven ISIS out," the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman told reporters in Jerusalem, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. "The reality is, we need more boots on the ground... we need intelligence, we need special forces, and we can't treat Iraq and Syria as different battlegrounds because it's the same enemy," McCain said.
By Laila Kearney and Sebastien Malo NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tributes to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. were held around the United States on Monday as protests over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement rolled on across the country. Observers of Martin Luther King Jr. Day have this year linked the federal holiday to a rallying cry in recent months during demonstrations over police brutality: "Black lives matter." In a pre-dawn rally in Oakland, California on Monday, about 40 people converged on the home of Mayor Libby Schaaf, calling for harsher punishment of police who use violence against civilians. They chalked outlines of bodies on the tree-lined street, played recordings of King's speeches and projected an image of the slain civil rights leader with the words "Black lives matter," on the mayor's garage door. Other protests were planned in major cities such as Dallas and New York, where the family of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a police chokehold, was set to lay a wreath on the Brooklyn street where two uniformed officers were ambushed in December by a gunman claiming to avenge Garner's death.
By Andrew Osborn LONDON (Reuters) - Muslim groups accused the British government of copying the language of the far right on Monday and of stoking Islamophobia after ministers wrote to imams asking them to explain to Muslims how Islam is compatible with being British. In a letter to over 1,000 imams last Friday, Eric Pickles, the minister for local government and communities, asked them to explain to Muslims how Islam can be "part of British identity", arguing they had a duty to do more to fight extremism and root out anyone preaching hatred. Muslim groups said the letter unfairly singled them out. "The letter has all the hallmarks of very poor judgment which feeds into an Islamophobic narrative, which feeds into a narrative of us and them," Tahla Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told Sky News.