Political News from Yahoo

Republicans tone down Benghazi talk as elections near

When the House voted in May to authorize the select committee, which could cost taxpayers up to $3.3 million to operate, the media attention such a panel was sure to draw was a huge part of the attraction for the Republicans who pushed for it. They wanted a channel to attack President Obama and the Democrats in the lead-up to the midterm election — so much so that House Democrats weren’t even sure they wanted to appoint representatives to the panel out of fear it would legitimize the GOP’s charged rhetoric on the issue. But the politics of Benghazi have shifted. Domestically, the GOP appears poised to win back the Senate for the first time in nearly a decade, and internationally, the foreign policy picture has become much more complicated, with unrest in the Middle East growing dramatically since the last election.

How does a police department lose a Humvee?

Among the issues that Obama is likely to find is that the program lacks oversight and accountability. Once Pentagon weapons reach the 8,000 police departments that participate in the program, many of them in tiny towns, the federal government has little control over them. The departments are not allowed to sell or dispose of any of the 1033 program's “controlled” items, which include small arms and tactical vehicles. An agency in each state takes over responsibility for checking the inventory once a year and reporting anything missing to the Defense Department’s Defense Logistics Agency.


US military attacks al-Shabab in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon said, and a witness described ground-shaking explosions in a strike that reportedly targeted the group's leader.


British activist goes on trial in Thailand for defamation

The defamation trial of a British activist began Tuesday in Bangkok after he co-authored a report alleging widespread labour abuses in Thailand's food industry, a prime supplier of cheap foodstuffs to Western supermarkets. Andy Hall, 34, faces jail if convicted over lawsuits brought by Thai fruit processor Natural Fruit, after his report levelled accusations of forced and child labour, unlawfully low wages and long hours at one of its factories. Natural Fruit is a major supplier to the European drink market. Defamation is a criminal offence in Thailand and Hall, whose passport has been confiscated by Thai authorities pending the trial, could be jailed for up to a year if found guilty.


Russia's gains cloud Obama's assurances to Baltics

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time this year, President Barack Obama will travel to Russia's backyard to assure nervous nations of his ironclad commitment to their security. But his objectives will be clouded by the West's inability to halt the Russian aggression in Ukraine that has stoked fears in other former Soviet republics.


Australia axes contested mining tax

Australia on Tuesday agreed to scrap a contested resources profits tax after the government struck a surprise deal with crossbench senators, including mining tycoon Clive Palmer. The Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) was introduced by the previous Labor administration in 2012, with a levy on annual profits above Aus$75 million (US$70 million) on iron ore and coal at a rate of 30 percent. It was intended to return a share of the spoils of Australia's decade-long mining boom to government coffers but was widely criticised after its revenues fell dramatically short of forecasts. "The mining tax is now gone," triumphant Treasurer Joe Hockey told parliament after the Senate, where minor parties hold the balance of power, voted 36 to 33 for its repeal, a key election promise of the Tony Abbott-led conservatives.


US air strike in Somalia targeting Shebab leader: government

US military forces launched air strikes against the leader of Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab, the government said Tuesday, claiming "casualties" but with no details if the main target was killed. "The Americans carried out a major air strike targeting a gathering by senior Al-Shebab officials, including their leader Abu-Zubayr," said Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, governor for southern Somalia's Lower Shabelle region.


5 things to know about driving on marijuana

WASHINGTON (AP) — The legalization of recreational marijuana in two states — Colorado and Washington — and medical marijuana in more than 20 others has raised concern that there will be more drivers stoned behind the wheel. What's not clear is whether that will translate into an increase in fatal crashes. Five things to know about marijuana and driving:

Marijuana's hazy contribution to highway deaths

WASHINGTON (AP) — New York teenager Joseph Beer smoked marijuana, climbed into a Subaru Impreza with four friends and drove more than 100 mph before losing control. The car crashed into trees with such force that the vehicle split in half, killing his friends.


Blackwater legacy: a faint memory of Nisoor Square

WASHINGTON (AP) — The summer-long trial of four Blackwater security guards in the shootings of more than 30 Iraqis has been a grim retelling of lives snuffed out and the daily life-and-death decisions amid the chaos of war.


Hong Kong police arrest 22 pro-democracy protesters

Hong Kong police have arrested at least 22 people during a series of protests targeting a senior Chinese official visiting the city, authorities said Tuesday. The city has been plunged into political crisis after pro-democracy activists vowed to take over the streets of the city's financial district following Beijing's refusal to grant citizens full universal suffrage. In the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable on the mainland, Li Fei, a senior member of China's rubber stamp parliament, has been dogged by angry demonstrations throughout his visit to the former British colony -- including lawmakers heckling him during a speech on Monday. Li is in town to explain China's controversial proposal to control who stands for the top post in the city's next leadership election, a decision that has prompted pro-democracy activists to embark on what they describe as a new "era of civil disobedience".


Fiji says UN negotiating demands with hostage takers

Fiji revealed for the first time Tuesday the demands being made by Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels who took more than 40 UN peacekeepers hostage in the Golan Heights last week. Fiji army chief Mosese Tikoitoga said the rebels wanted their organisation, the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, to be removed from the UN's list of terrorist organisations.


Australia satisfied on India's nuclear safeguards

Australia is satisfied with the safeguards India has in place to allow the export of uranium to the nuclear-armed nation, Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is due to arrive in India on Thursday for his first visit to the country since assuming power a year ago and is expected to sign a deal clinching the export of uranium. Asked what steps had been taken to make sure there were appropriate safeguards, Robb told ABC radio: "We have satisfied ourselves that the steps are in place. "The negotiations and work that's gone on between authorities in India and Australia have gone on for some years to develop a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement which meets the international requirements and we are satisfied, our officials are satisfied, that all the requirements have been met," he added.


Germany to open memorial to Nazis' disabled victims

Germany will inaugurate the first national memorial to the estimated 300,000 ill and disabled people systematically murdered by the Nazis on Tuesday, at a ceremony with victims' relatives. The site next to the Tiergarten park is the fourth and likely final major memorial in Berlin's city centre to groups targeted in the Holocaust, following monuments dedicated over the last decade to Jewish, gay and Roma victims. Uwe Neumaerker, director of the Holocaust memorial foundation in Berlin, said the slaughter of patients and residents of care homes marked "the first systematic mass crime of the National Socialist regime". The German parliament voted in November 2011 to erect a memorial to the victims of the Nazis' cynically labelled "euthanasia" programme adjacent to Berlin's renowned Philharmonie concert hall.


Uruguay denies cold feet on taking Guantanamo detainees

Uruguay denied that it had delayed taking in six detainees from the US military prison at Guantanamo, saying no date for the transfer had been set yet. Uruguayan President Jose Mujica announced in March that his country had agreed to take detainees from the prison on human rights grounds, helping his US counterpart Barack Obama fulfill his long-delayed promise to close the controversial jail. Diego Canepa, an assistant secretary in Mujica's office, denied the report, which cited Obama administration officials. He also denied the newspaper's claim that US Vice President Joe Biden had called Mujica in August "pressing him to resettle the men."


Latin America's prisons in critical condition

Latin America's prisons are overcrowded, violent and sometimes lack even the most basic services, despite the fact that several of the region's current leaders themselves spent time behind bars. As incarceration rates have soared across the region over the past two decades, Latin America's jails have become packed, nightmarish facilities where serving time is a battle to survive, rights groups say. In Brazil, whose President Dilma Rousseff was jailed by the former military regime for three years in the 1970s, nearly half of all prisons lack enough beds for their inmates, according to FIO, an umbrella group of watchdogs and rights organizations. Like Brazil, Chile has a leftist president, Michelle Bachelet, who was jailed and tortured by her country's military regime in the 1970s.


Pro-Russian rebels lower demands in peace talks

MOSCOW (AP) — Pro-Russian rebels softened their demand for full independence Monday, saying they would respect Ukraine's sovereignty in exchange for autonomy — a shift that reflects Moscow's desire to strike a deal at a new round of peace talks.


China calls for Britain to scrap Hong Kong inquiry: report

Chinese authorities have demanded Britain drop an inquiry into the progress of democratic reforms in Hong Kong, accusing it of "highly inappropriate" interference in its affairs, the BBC reports. The broadcaster said it had seen a letter from China's Foreign Affairs Committee to its British counterpart condemning the probe into the state of democracy since Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese control in 1997. Critics have called the restrictive framework a betrayal of Beijing's promise to award Hong Kong universal suffrage by 2017. The letter from the foreign affairs committee said the British probe, announced in July, would be a "highly inappropriate act which constitutes interference in China's internal affairs".


As woes mount, economic stats vanish in Venezuela

Prices keep rising in Venezuela, economic activity is sputtering and shops struggle to fill their shelves. The last time the central bank and the national statistics institute published the annual inflation figure was in May, when the indicator rose to 61 percent, the highest in Latin America. "This destroys the credibility of the central bank. There has never been this kind of a delay for as long as we have been measuring inflation," said economist Jose Guerra, a former economic research chief at the bank.


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