Political News from Yahoo

Shelling ravages east Ukraine, with or without truce

Standing on broken glass in her wrecked living room, Valentina Balabai thanked her love of animals for keeping her and her husband alive that morning. Just hours earlier Ukraine's Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko had announced he was relaunching Kiev's military offensive against pro-Russian insurgents after 10 days of a supposed ceasefire had failed to halt daily fighting. Now Ukraine's brutal conflict had torn through the lives of the residents of tree-lined Skadinova street in the rebel-held city of Kramatorsk. Ukrainian politicians have been under increasing pressure from an anxious public in Kiev to renounce the ceasefire and come down hard on the rebels.

Britain to consider outlawing 'revenge porn'

Angry lovers who post naked images of former partners on the Internet without their consent could face prosecution in Britain, the justice secretary said on Tuesday. So-called "revenge porn" is a growing problem in Britain and the government is open to creating a law against it, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said.

US presses Russia to stop backing Ukraine separatists

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday pushed Russia to stop backing pro-Moscow insurgents in Ukraine, as the West mulled further sanctions against the government of Vladimir Putin. In a call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry "expressed strong concern about the refusal of Russian-supported separatists to take the necessary steps" to enable the extension of a shaky 10-day ceasefire. Kerry "stressed the importance of taking steps to de-escalate," and reiterated Washington's support for Kiev, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. He "also made clear that we and our European and international partners will continue to press Russia to end all support and weapons flowing to separatists," and do more to police the porous border, the statement said.

Fears of extremism rise in Muslim nations

Fears about Islamic extremism are rising in nations with large Muslim populations from the Middle East to South Asia and support for radical groups is on the slide, according to a poll released Tuesday. Concern about extremism has increased in the past 12 months amid the dragging war in Syria and attacks by Nigeria's Boko Haram militants, the Pew Research Center found after interviewing more than 14,200 people in 14 countries. Extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and even Hamas, which won elections to take control of running the Gaza Strip, are also losing support. The review was carried out from April 10 to May 25, before the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- now renamed the Islamic State -- took over the northern Iraqi town of Mosul in a lightning offensive which has seen it seize a large swathe of territory.

Canal a priority as Varela takes office in Panama

Conservative Juan Carlos Varela took office as Panama's president Tuesday pledging to finish a troublesome canal expansion, stamp out corruption and get more people out of poverty. Varela, who was elected to a five-year mandate in May 4 polls, replaced Ricardo Martinelli, a supermarket magnate who leaves office with high popularity despite corruption allegations. Panama's vice-president and a former Martinelli supporter, Varela was the surprise winner in a three-way race. Venezuela broke ties with Panama in March, when President Nicolas Maduro slammed Martinelli as a corrupt US lackey.

U.S. troops in Baghdad to fly Apache helicopters, drones

The nearly 500 American troops sent to Baghdad to bolster security for the US embassy are equipped with Apache attack helicopters and small unarmed surveillance drones, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. President Barack Obama on Monday ordered 200 additional troops to the Iraqi capital to ensure the safety of American diplomats and other personnel working in the city, as Baghdad government forces face a challenge from advancing Sunni extremists. The reinforcements will include troops to fly and maintain Apache attack helicopters and unarmed surveillance drones, Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference.

Sarkozy held in landmark detention over criminal probe

Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into custody for questioning in a criminal investigation Tuesday in an unprecedented move that could wreck the former president's hopes of a political comeback. His longtime lawyer Thierry Herzog and a magistrate Gilbert Azibert -- taken into custody a day earlier alongside another magistrate -- were both charged with "influence peddling" in a late night court appearance, their respective lawyers said.

Obama administration warns states that road funds near gone

By Mark Felsenthal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration warned states on Tuesday that federal highway funds will be largely depleted in August, limiting the money states can expect to pay for road and bridge projects this summer. The political stalemate in Congress over transportation spending means drivers will have to endure more potholes and detour around more unsafe bridges, delaying commutes, excursions and the delivery of products to market. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told states the government will slow federal reimbursement for highway repairs in August as the U.S. Highway Trust Fund drops below a critical threshold next month. Foxx, and later, in a separate speech, President Barack Obama, urged Congress to replenish the fund by ending tax breaks and using the revenues to set aside money to repair the nation's infrastructure.

Moody's pushes Puerto Rico debt deep into junk status

Ratings company Moody's on Tuesday slashed Puerto Rico's debt rating by three notches into even deeper junk status after the US territory passed a debt-restructuring law. Moody's Investors Service cut the rating to "B2" from "Ba2" and said the outlook was negative, indicating further downgrades were possible. Now dubbed the "Greece of the Caribbean," the archipelago is, like Greece, reeling under massive debt. In a bid for debt relief, the Puerto Rican authorities recently adopted a law that allows for the restructuring of part of its debt by allowing public corporations to defer or reduce payments on outstanding payments, to the detriment of creditors.

Find out here how much your favorite Obama aide is paid

The White House official whose job, until recently, included monitoring reporters’ tweets makes $42,420. David Simas, the head of the West Wing’s political office, makes $172,200. The chief calligrapher, Patricia Blair, pulls down $97,692.

US backs Hong Kong calls for greater democracy

Washington backed calls for voters in Hong Kong to be given a say in nominating their next leader after half a million protesters marched through the city's streets on Tuesday. "We support Hong Kong's well-established traditions and basic law protections that include internationally recognized freedoms such as freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law is really essential for Hong Kong's stability and prosperity," she told reporters, risking the ire of China. Waving colonial-era flags and chanting anti-Beijing slogans, Tuesday's protest was the largest since Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997, organizers said.

Hungary says will not suspend South Stream pipeline

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday his country would not give up on Russia's controversial South Stream gas pipeline project as it was key to securing the country's energy supplies. The crisis in Ukraine has made the planned pipeline bringing Siberian gas to the European Union -- bypassing Ukraine -- a new focus of tensions between Moscow, Brussels and Washington. "We will not allow ourselves to get into a situation that our gas supplies depend on Ukraine," Orban told reporters after talks with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic. "Hungary will build up South Stream as it will secure our energy supplies," he said.

Russia bans swear words in art, films

A hugely controversial Russian law banning curse words in films, theatre, the media and arts came into force on Tuesday, part of a Kremlin-backed drive to play up traditional values and root out swearing. The legislation, wich was signed off by President Vladimir Putin in May, imposes hefty fines on offenders -- up to 2,500 rubles ($72) for individuals and up to 50,000 rubles ($1,460) for businesses. The legislation does not spell out what constitutes profanity but the law is widely seen to be targeting Russia's hugely potent lingua franca of obscenities known as "mat". Many ridiculed the legislation, saying efforts to outlaw what essentially is an inalienable part of Russia's culture will fail.

Towns can ban fracking, New York's top court rules

In a victory for two small upstate New York towns, the state’s highest court on Monday upheld their local bans on fracking, the bitterly contentious method in which high-pressure water and chemicals are used to extract subterranean natural gas. It is a decision that many observers say could reverberate through New York’s energy industry for years to come, as it affirms the “home rule authority” of towns and local communities, granted by the state’s constitution, allowing them to forbid fracking (also known also as hydraulic fracturing) and other forms of gas drilling within their borders. Drilling companies sued the municipalities, saying only the state had the power to regulate gas drilling. The decision comes, too, as more than 100 municipalities from Pennsylvania to New Mexico have passed similar bans and moratoriums on fracking, according to FracTracker, a national nonprofit that compiles data on the oil and gas industry.

US welcomes Japan's move to expand military role

The United States Tuesday welcomed a historic shift by Japan to expand the role of its military by reinterpreting the terms of the nation's US-imposed constitution. "We have followed with interest the extensive discussion within Japan on the issue of exercising its right under the UN Charter to collective self-defense," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "We welcome the government of Japan's new policy regarding collective self-defense and related security matters." After months of political horse-trading and browbeating of opponents, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his cabinet had formally endorsed a reinterpretation of rules that have banned the use of armed force except in very narrowly-defined circumstances.

U.S. Navy names its first female four-star admiral

Michelle Howard on Tuesday became the first woman to reach the rank of four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, part of a trailblazing path in the armed forces. Howard, 54, was sworn in at a ceremony overseen by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the Pentagon said in a statement. With her promotion, she became the 38th vice chief of naval operations. Howard graduated from high school in Aurora, Colorado, and was one of the first women to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

Highway crisis looms as soon as August, US warns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gridlock in Washington will lead to gridlock across the country if lawmakers can't quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs, President Barack Obama and his top officials warned Tuesday.

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jury rejects civil rights lawsuit filed by father of man killed by California transit officer .