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Top lawmaker wants corporate tax loophole 'plugged now'

By Kevin Drawbaugh WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Immediate government action is needed to stop U.S. corporations from avoiding federal taxes by shifting their tax domiciles overseas through deals known as inversions, the head of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee said on Tuesday. Nine inversion deals have been agreed to this year by companies ranging from banana distributor Chiquita Brands International Inc to drugmaker AbbVie Inc and more are being considered. "Let's work together to immediately cool down the inversion fever ... The inversion loophole needs to be plugged now," said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, finance committee chairman, at a hearing. Several Democrats have offered bills to curb inversions, which let companies cut their taxes primarily by putting foreign earnings out of the reach of the Internal Revenue Service.

C. Africa peace talks suspended after rebel no-show

Peace talks between Central Africa's sectarian rivals were suspended Tuesday after the ex-rebel Seleka group failed to show up less than a day before the deadline of a deal. The two main negotiating sessions of the talks being held in Brazzaville -- one on securing an end to hostilities, the other on disarming fighters in CAR -- were subsequently suspended. The Congolese source said delegates from the mainly Muslim Seleka had been provided with a copy of the draft accord for the talks, which had been due to end on Wednesday, and were apparently still studying the text. One of Africa's poorest countries, CAR has been mired in chaos since the Seleka seized power in a March 2013 coup, with months of atrocities by rebels gone rogue sparking reprisal attacks by mostly Christian anti-balaka vigilantes.


Taliban suicide attack kills five foreign guards in Kabul

A Taliban suicide attacker riding a motorbike killed five foreign guards in Kabul on Tuesday, the latest blast to rock the Afghan capital during an impasse over presidential election results. The attacker struck a compound near the outer perimeter of Kabul airport, which was targeted last week when insurgents seized a building in the same area and fired towards the airport using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Taliban insurgents oppose the election process, which is currently undergoing an audit of all eight million votes due to a dispute between the two contenders over fraud allegations. "The US Embassy strongly condemns the terrorist attack on Camp Gibson in Kabul this morning which killed five foreign national security guards," a US statement said.


Georgia voters to pick Republican U.S. Senate nominee after long fight

By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - A drawn-out fight between an 11-term congressman and a former Fortune 500 chief executive in a key U.S. Senate race is due to be decided by Georgia's Republican voters on Tuesday. U.S. Representative Jack Kingston and David Perdue, former CEO of Reebok, Dollar General and Pillowtex, have traded jabs and tried to coalesce Republican support since emerging from a crowded primary field in May. Republicans consider it crucial to hold on to the seat, currently held by retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss, as they push to retake control of the Senate. Kingston, 59, of Savannah, has worked to convince voters that his 21-year tenure in Congress is a strength despite low approval ratings for its members. "Do you really know what you get with David Perdue?" Kingston asked at a recent debate.

Working-class whites lose voting dominance in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — For the first time, working-class whites make up less than half of Ohio's eligible voters, part of a demographic shift in a key Midwestern swing state that is pushing political parties to widen their appeal beyond the once-dominant bloc.


UN, US press Gaza truce efforts as death toll soars

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday discussed proposals for a Gaza ceasefire with Egypt, as both sides voiced guarded hopes of ending the bloodshed. Kerry, who arrived late Monday in the wake of growing casualties from the Israeli-Hamas conflict, held talks in Cairo on Monday with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who has also come to the Egyptian capital to push for a truce. "We are hopeful that this visit will result in a ceasefire that provides the necessary security for the Palestinian people and that we can commence to address the medium- and long-term issues related to Gaza," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri told reporters ahead of Kerry's talks with Sisi. Kerry voiced appreciation to Egypt for proposing a truce that was embraced by Israel but rejected by the Islamist Hamas, which has tense ties with Cairo's new government and has refused to end violence unless Israel ends its eight-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.


Nigeria president meets relatives of schoolgirls held hostage

Relatives of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram 100 days ago met with President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday for the first time since the girls were seized. The much anticipated meeting comes amid reports of a worsening security crisis in the northeast, where Islamists have occupied the town of Damboa and surrounding areas, with the military so far unable to chase them out. The girls were kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok in the northeast on April 14 and carted away in a convoy of trucks. His office tried to organise a meeting in the capital last week with a small group of the affected families, after he was urged to do so by the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.


U.S. judge dismisses Republican lawsuit over Obamacare subsidy for Congress

By Brendan O'Brien MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A federal judge has thrown out a U.S. Senator's legal challenge to a part of President Barack Obama's healthcare law that grants health insurance subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin had challenged the right of the federal government to continue making employer contributions to Congressional health insurance plans even when lawmakers and their staff purchase coverage through new Obamacare online exchanges. U.S. District Judge William Griesbach, in Green Bay, dismissed the lawsuit on Monday, saying Johnson had failed to show he had been harmed by the regulation. "There is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court," Griesbach, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, said in his decision.


South Sudan rebel bid for Uganda troop pullout fails

South Sudanese rebels who travelled to Uganda pleading for Kampala to pull troops out of the war-torn nation left without meeting officials, the foreign minister said Tuesday. Ugandan troops are in South Sudan backing government forces, and their withdrawal is a key demand of the rebels. "They never communicated they were coming, they just arrived," Ugandan Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem told AFP, who said the team had arrived on Monday and then left. Fighting broke out mid-December between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, rebel leader Riek Machar.


U.S. Senate panel to debate wave of corporate tax-avoidance deals

By Kevin Drawbaugh WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As more U.S. corporations do deals to cut taxes by shifting their tax domiciles overseas, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday focused on these transactions known as inversions. Nine such deals have been agreed to this year by companies ranging from banana distributor Chiquita Brands International, Inc to drugmaker AbbVie Inc and more are being considered. Witnesses at the Senate Finance Committee's hearing will include government officials and academics. Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, is expected to call for stand-alone legislation to respond to the flurry of inversions that has Washington on edge.


I no longer talk to Obama: Turkey's Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has stopped talking to US President Barack Obama on the phone, amid growing strains between Ankara and Washington over Syria and the Gaza conflict. Turkey, a fierce opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an open supporter of armed rebel fighters, felt betrayed when the United States backed away from military action against Damascus in September. "In the past, I was calling him (Obama) directly. Because I can't get the expected results on Syria, our foreign ministers are now talking to each other," Erdogan said in a live interview on pro-government ATV channel late Monday.


US job-training review emphasizes data, employers

WASHINGTON (AP) — A six-month review of federal job-training programs concludes that the government needs to better engage U.S. employers, improve the use of data, and boost apprenticeship programs so workers can earn while they train.

Mexico approves oil and gas reform legislation

Mexico's Senate has approved legislation to implement historic constitutional reform that would open the country's oil and gas industry to foreign investment for the first time since 1938. In an 85-26 vote, lawmakers passed the last of four packages of laws Monday to end the monopoly held by state oil company Pemex for 75 years in the exploration and exploitation of energy resources. The Chamber of Deputies must now vote on the measures, which the leftist opposition had tried to modify. President Enrique Pena Nieto hailed the marathon voting that began Thursday as an example of Mexico's "political civility and maturity".


GOP voters in Ga. to decide Senate nominee

ATLANTA (AP) — After a bruising nine-week runoff campaign, Georgia Republicans will finally have their Senate nominee who will compete against Democrat Michelle Nunn for a seat the GOP can ill afford to lose as the party looks to take control of the chamber.


Egypt calls for Israeli, Palestinian peace talks

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's foreign minister raised the possibility Tuesday of restarting stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as part of negotiating a cease-fire in the war that has broken out on the Gaza Strip.


2008 law unexpectedly at center of border debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Dianne Feinstein recalls turning on her television and seeing a young Chinese girl crying before a judge, without even an interpreter to help her after surviving a harrowing journey to the U.S.


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