President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the United States has expanded sanctions against Russia over its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine, unveiling the steps after the EU agreed to its own new measures against Moscow hours earlier. Obama said the new U.S. sanctions block the exports of specific goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector, expand sanctions to include more Russian banks and defense companies, and formally suspend credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia. "If Russia continues on this current path, the costs on Russia will continue to grow," Obama said. The United States slapped sanctions on VTB, the Bank of Moscow, the Russian Agriculture Bank and the United Shipbuilding Corp over Moscow's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Treasury Department said.
The US Senate unanimously confirmed a former army officer and corporate leader as secretary of veterans affairs Tuesday, as lawmakers acknowledged he faces an uphill battle to reform the scandal-plagued department. Lawmakers closed ranks, 97-0, to approve former Procter & Gamble chief executive c as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. They were keen to fill the void after Eric Shinseki resigned amid a string of crises over failures in health care for America's retired warriors. "It will be an uphill battle as we work to eliminate homelessness and the claims backlog," Murray added.
President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that the United States will join the European Union in slapping new sanctions on Russia's energy sector, arms industry and financial institutions. The broader economic measures will hurt Moscow's ability to secure dollar financing for its banks, in the toughest attack yet on its economy since it became embroiled in the conflict in Ukraine. "The major sanctions we're announcing today will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia, including the cronies and companies supporting Russia's illegal activities in the Ukraine," he said. Obama denied the West was being drawn into a new Cold War with its former-Soviet foe, but warned that the United States and Europe are running out of patience Vladimir Putin's government.
Just 108 of the thousands of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the US border have been granted asylum in 2014, in a process that often takes more than a year, Congress heard Tuesday. Since October more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended crossing the border, and about three-quarters of them are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, Central American countries where youths are fleeing poverty and gang violence. More than 1,500 child migrants who arrived in the United States without papers or parents applied for asylum in fiscal year 2014, according to US Customs and Immigration Services director Leon Rodriguez. "Of the 167 unaccompanied children asylum cases adjudicated on the merits in FY14 through the third quarter, 108 have been granted asylum status," Rodriguez told a House panel.
US officials pledged Tuesday that any deal struck with Iran would include a strict monitoring regime to thwart any bid by Iranian leaders to covertly try to develop nuclear weapons. As I said, one of the pathways of greatest concern is, of course, covert action," Sherman told the Senate Foreign Relations committee. For every measure laid out in any deal with Iran to rein in its suspect nuclear program "we will decide whether in fact an additional element of transparency and monitoring is needed over the entire duration of this agreement," she insisted. Marathon talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna ended on July 19 after negotiators gave themselves four more months to try and bridge major gaps and strike a historic nuclear deal.
South Africa's ruling ANC on Tuesday likened the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters to the Nazi party and its firebrand leader Julius Malema to Adolph Hitler. "South Africa has... witnessed the entering of a fascist movement into our parliamentary politics," the party said in a statement. Malema's populist EFF took third place with just over six percent of the vote in May elections, winning 25 seats in the national parliament. "This movement uses uniforms to mobilise in the same way that (Adolf) Hitler used brown shirts in the 1930s," the ANC said in a statement read by its secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Bob McDonald as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, pinning Washington's hopes on the former Procter & Gamble Co chief executive to launch a massive turnaround effort at the troubled agency. McDonald, 61, replaces former Army general Eric Shinseki, who resigned in late May amid a scandal over cover-ups of long waiting times for health care appointments at VA hospitals and clinics across the country. The 97-0 vote to confirm McDonald comes a week after he pledged to bring corporate-style discipline and accountability to the agency, refocusing its 341,000 employees on serving veterans. McDonald, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who served as P&G CEO from 2009 to 2013, is widely expected to start his new job with an extra $17 billion at his disposal to reduce months-long health care wait times in new legislation slated for passage by Congress this week.
An armed group abducted a former Libyan deputy prime minister and newly-elected MP, Mustapha Abu Shagur, in the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, his nephew said. "Twenty minutes before his abduction, Mr Abu Shagur received a call from a stranger who asked him to leave the house because of imminent danger," he added. Abu Shagur was elected a deputy in Libya's June 25 legislative election, in which he stood as an independent candidate. Abu Shagur was deputy prime minister for a year under Abdelrahim al-Kib, who led a first transitional government in the wake of the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
The US Treasury announced punitive sanctions on three leading Russian banks including the giant VTB on Tuesday to press Moscow over its support for rebels in Ukraine. The sanctions banned any Americans or people in US jurisdictions from any new medium or long-term financing transactions with VTB Bank, its subsidiary Bank of Moscow and Russian Agricultural Bank.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be "glad" to return an award given to him in 2004 by an American Jewish group, Turkey's embassy in the US said Tuesday, amid a growing controversy over the premier's anti-Israel remarks. The American Jewish Congress had given Erdogan the Profile of Courage award in recognition of his efforts to seek peace in the Middle East but now wants the decoration to be returned after his repeated verbal assaults against Israel over the Gaza conflict. Erdogan has slammed Israel's attacks on Gaza as a "genocide" of the Palestinian people and compared the actions of the Jewish State to those of Adolf Hitler.
By Carey Gillam OVERLAND PARK Kan. (Reuters) - Paul Davis has emerged as the potential wrecker of red state politics. The 42-year-old Democratic nominee for governor in Kansas, one of the nation's reddest states, was a long shot when he announced his candidacy. Nearly a year later his moderate platform is drawing enough support from voters disenchanted with the Republican candidate, incumbent Governor Sam Brownback, and the state's flagging economy that Davis is threatening to upend the race. Support for Davis, the Kansas House minority leader, has climbed in recent weeks as Brownback's policies have coincided with a drastic decline in state revenue and mounting fears about funding shortfalls for schools.
The European Commission said Tuesday it would release a further 50 million euros ($67 million) in humanitarian aid for Syria as the crisis there deepens. The Commission, the European Union's executive arm, said it also approved proposals to increase assistance for neighbouring countries dealing with an "unprecedented flow of refugees."
Catalonia's elder statesman, and a leading advocate of its independence from Spain, will be stripped of his pension and privileges after admitting hiding money abroad for more than 30 years, the region's government said Tuesday. Jordi Pujol, 84, who headed the regional government of Catalonia from 1980 to 2003, will abandon politics and "give up everything", the current head of the regional Catalan government, Artur Mas, told a news conference. Pujol's fall comes as the Catalan government plans to hold a referendum on independence from Spain on November 9, putting it at odds with the national government which insists the move is illegal. He did not say how much money he had hidden abroad to avoid tax but Catalan daily newspaper La Vanguardia reported that four million euros ($5.4 million) was kept in a bank account in the principality of Andorra, a tiny landlocked nation wedged between France and Spain.