By Jeff Mason GLENDALE, California (Reuters) - Almost two weeks ago, President Barack Obama, looking down, walked into the White House briefing room and apologized for the flawed rollout of his healthcare reform law. During a three-day Western swing through Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Obama touted the accomplishments of his signature law, popularly known as Obamacare, and promised the glitches were going away. "Yes, we decided to fix a broken healthcare system," Obama told workers at DreamWorks Animation on Tuesday, the final day of his trip. "I was talking to some of the studio execs here and I said, 'You know the rollout of the healthcare marketplace was rough' ... and yet here in California and here across this state, there are thousands of people who are getting healthcare for the first time - for the first time - because of this." The administration has promised the website will be working for the vast majority of Americans by the end of this month, and White House officials continue to express confidence that goal will be achieved.
The Obama administration proposed new rules on Tuesday for certain tax-exempt groups at the center of the Internal Revenue Service's Tea Party targeting scandal this year. According to a Treasury Department news release, the proposed rules will change the definition of "social welfare" in the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code, which allows tax-exempt groups to engage in certain limited campaigning activities. In May, the Internal Revenue Service was engulfed in a scandal over agency targeting of 501(c)(4) groups that included "Tea Party" and other conservative phrases in their titles.
By Phil Stewart and David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. military aircraft have flown around disputed islands in the East China Sea without informing China, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, defying China's declaration that the region falls into a new airspace defense zone. We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies," spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said, using the Japanese name for the islands. China published coordinates for an "East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone" over the weekend and warned it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that failed to identify themselves properly in the airspace. The United States and close ally Japan have sharply criticized the move, with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling it a "destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region." He said on Saturday the United States would not change how it operates in the region.
The United States on Tuesday asked Iran for help in finding an American who has been missing there for more than six years, in a hint of the potential for a thaw between the two adversaries after a landmark deal on Tehran's nuclear program. The White House called for Iran to cooperate in locating retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared during a business trip to Iran in March 2007. "We welcome the assistance of our international partners in this investigation, and we respectfully ask the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist us in securing Mr. Levinson's health, welfare, and safe return," the White House said in a statement. The request comes days after world powers reached a deal with Iran to curb that nation's nuclear program in exchange for the easing some of the crippling sanctions that the global community has imposed on Teheran.
By John O'Donnell BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission called on Tuesday for new protection for Europeans under United States' law against misuse of personal data, in an attempt to keep in check the U.S. surveillance revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said she wanted Washington to follow through on its promise to give all EU citizens the right to sue in the United States if their data is misused. "I have ... made clear that Europe expects to see the necessary legislative change in the U.S. sooner rather than later, and in any case before summer 2014," she said. The remarks underline a growing sense of unease in Europe at a delicate moment in transatlantic relations, when the globe's two biggest economies seek a trade pact to deepen ties.