US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on American ambassadors around the world to make the fight against climate change a top priority ahead of new UN talks next year. In his first department-wide policy guidance statement since taking office a year ago, he told his 70,000 staff: "The environment has been one of the central causes of my life." "Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country's top diplomat," Kerry said in the letter issued on Friday to all 275 US embassies and across the State Department. "It's also a critical mission for all of you: our brave men and women on the frontlines of direct diplomacy," he added in the document seen by AFP.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday spoke by telephone to his counterpart in the United States, John Kerry, about the situation in Ukraine, the foreign ministry in Moscow said. During the call, initiated by Kerry, the two men agreed "to continue intensive contact with the aim of settling the crisis in Ukraine," the ministry said in a brief statement. The call came around 24 hours after Lavrov warned Kerry against the United States taking "hasty" actions against Russia, saying they could harm the relationship and "boomerang" on the US. Washington has already imposed visa bans and set the stage for wider sanctions against Russia over the seizure of the Ukrainian region of Crimea by pro-Russia forces.
The Pentagon on Saturday dispatched a naval destroyer and a surveillance plane to aid in the search for a Malaysia Airlines jet that has disappeared in waters off Vietnam. US military officials said in a statement that the destroyer, the USS Pinckney, is currently en route to the southern coast of Vietnam to help search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The vessel carries two helicopters which can be equipped for search and rescue, the Pentagon said. The US military statement said a P-3C Orion reconnaissance plane also will depart shortly from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan aiding the effort with additional long-range search, radar and communications capabilities.
KEY LARGO, Florida (Reuters) - President Barack Obama made a series of phone calls on Saturday to world leaders about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi the White House said. He also held a conference call about the situation with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. No further details about the discussions were immediately available. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sandra Maler)
WASHINGTON (AP) — In late December, President Barack Obama's new legislative affairs team sent him more than a dozen recommendations for ways to improve his strained relations with Capitol Hill. The president responded with a few ideas of his own, including a request for more social events with lawmakers at the White House.
By John Whitesides WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eight months before the November 4 elections, Republicans have expanded the number of competitive races for U.S. Senate seats and have a growing chance of gaining control of that chamber and stalling Democratic President Barack Obama's second-term agenda. Public dissatisfaction with the president, concerns about his healthcare overhaul and a sluggish economy, and a series of retirements by key Democratic senators in conservative states have made a rugged year for Democrats even more so, analysts and strategists in both parties say. Republicans, who are widely expected to retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, need a net gain of six seats to take back the 100-member Senate. Although the primary season is just starting and the candidates in many races are not set, polls suggest Republicans have boosted their odds of gaining additional Senate seats by becoming competitive in politically divided states such as Michigan and Colorado, where a year ago they were given little chance of winning.
By David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans, looking for ways to turn November's congressional elections into a referendum on President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, are trying to portray Obamacare as a danger to Medicare. The aim is to court one of the biggest and most reliable voting blocs in midterm elections, senior citizens and people near retirement, by depicting Republicans as defenders of the federal healthcare program for 42 million seniors. It's an attempt to turn the tables on Democrats, who in the 2012 presidential election attacked Republican Mitt Romney over Republican proposals to overhaul Medicare. "You'd have to be a blind man in a dark room not to see the political implications of Obamacare in general and now specifically with respect to Medicare," said Brock McCleary, former polling director for the Republican National Committee.
By Laila Kearney SARATOGA, California (Reuters) - Teenagers who share sexually explicit images of others on the Internet to harass them could soon face tougher punishment under California legislation proposed on Friday, spurred by the suicide of a teen after images of her sexual assault were circulated to other students. The new bill, dubbed Audrie's Law after 15-year-old Audrie Pott, who killed herself in Los Altos in September 2012, is the latest effort by lawmakers in California and other states to curb online cruelty that has been blamed for a number of teen suicides. The law would make it a crime for juveniles, those under age 18, to take or distribute images of a sexual nature of a minor with the intent to harass, shame or intimidate the person, said Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who helped draft the legislation. The proposed law would also allow juveniles to be tried as adults if they are accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated, developmentally disabled or otherwise incapacitated person.
The governments of the United States, Mexico and Guatemala formed a special body to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. The Trilateral Security Desk evaluates intelligence and border risks to combat human trafficking and the smuggling of illegal weapons and drugs in the region, Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez told reporters. During the group's first meeting, at a hotel in Guatemala City, officials set a roadmap to meet security objectives. Guatemala is suffering from a wave of violence that has caused about 6,000 deaths, nearly half of them attributed to drugs and the operations of powerful Mexican cartels supported by local drug lords.