WASHINGTON (AP) — If President Barack Obama is mingling with inventors, sooner or later there has to be a robot. On Wednesday, it was Russell, the 17-foot electric giraffe towering in the South Lawn of the White House, a symbol of the quirky and clever creations Obama wanted to showcase on a day devoted to innovation.
The Federal Reserve slashed its 2014 growth forecast for the US economy Wednesday to 2.1-2.3 percent after a deeper-than-expected contraction in the first quarter of the year. In March the Fed forecast growth at 2.8-3.0 percent, before the depth of the winter setback, partially due to extremely harsh weather across much of the country, was known.
President Barack Obama does not support the idea of a corporate tax repatriation "holiday" that some Republicans in Congress have said could help boost the coffers of the dwindling Highway Trust Fund, the White House said on Wednesday. "The president does not support and has never supported a voluntary repatriation holiday because it would give large tax breaks to a very small number of companies that have most aggressively shifted profits, and in many cases, jobs, overseas," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. A one-time holiday in 2004 saw 15 firms get more than 50 percent of tax breaks worth billions, Carney said.
Cyprus returned to international debt markets Wednesday, just a little over a year after being forced to accept a 10-billion euro ($13.6 billion) bailout, with a five-year bond issue. Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said on Twitter: "It's done. In contrast to this public issue, Cyprus placed 100 million euros privately in April, with the six-year paper carrying a coupon of 6.5 percent. Ruling Disy party spokesman Prodromos Prodromou described the sale as “a critical moment” in restoring confidence in the Cypriot economy.
Ireland faces significant challenges as it begins a tentative economic recovery, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday in its first review since Dublin exited an international bailout programme in December. "Following a smooth exit from the EU-IMF supported programme, strong job creation and other indicators suggest Ireland's economic recovery is broadening," the IMF said in a staff report. Ireland was forced to turn to the European Union and the IMF for an 85-billion-euro ($115 billion) rescue in 2010 after a banking crash and the bursting of a property bubble, but regained investor confidence after it cut spending and raised taxes.
US Vice President Joe Biden, on a four-country trip across Latin America, said he hoped the region would accept more Guantanamo prisoners to help expedite closing the facility, in an interview published Wednesday by a Colombian newspaper. "One of the fastest ways to accelerate the closure of Guantanamo is for other countries to agree, in a responsible manner, to receive detainees," Biden was quoted as saying in the Spanish-language El Espectador. The vice president, who is on a regional tour coinciding with the World Cup, said during his stop in Colombia that closure of the prison remained a high priority for the United States. Transfer of prisoners out of the jail -- which President Barack Obama has repeatedly vowed to close -- has been accelerated in recent months.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Environmentalists in Illinois expected a battle royal over their call for a statewide ban on "microbeads" — tiny bits of plastic used in personal care products such as facial scrubs and toothpaste that are flowing by the billions into the Great Lakes and other waterways. Discovered only recently, scientists say they're showing up inside fish that are caught for human consumption.
France on Wednesday unveiled a much-anticipated bill to reduce the country's dependency on nuclear energy and fossil fuels, after months of intense debate over one of the Socialist government's pet projects. The planned law, presented to the cabinet by energy and environment minister Segolene Royal, seeks to make France a greener country and reduce the nation's energy bill. The bill is a chance "to develop new technologies, clean transport, energy efficiency and therefore to improve companies' competitiveness," Royal told reporters after the cabinet meeting. It aims to cut the country's final energy consumption in half by 2050 and reduce the use of fossil fuels by 30 percent by 2030, in comparison with 2012 when Francois Hollande was elected president.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday Iran's economy remained in a "state of distress" despite limited sanctions relief, as world powers sought a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. "Iran sanctions are the toughest the world community has imposed on any country and its economy is suffering a serious blow as a result –- an impact that is not being reversed," Lew said at a meeting in Jerusalem of the Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG). "As we approach the last month of the agreed upon period for negotiations, Iran’s economy remains in a state of distress that brought the government to the negotiating table in the first place," he said, according to a statement. Nuclear negotiators from Iran and six world powers got down to business Tuesday in Vienna, seeking to strike a momentous deal before a July 20 deadline but with significant differences still to bridge.
Nigeria's police on Wednesday advised football fans to stay away from public venues showing World Cup matches after a bomb attack killed at least 21 in the north of the country. "As a first choice, we are advising Nigerians to actually avoid these viewing centres as much as possible," national police spokesman Frank Mba told AFP from the capital Abuja. Instead, Mba said the advice was to watch the tournament instead with family or friends. At least 21 people were killed, according to a medical source, although state police put the death toll lower at 14.
Prominent Bahraini activist Nabil Rajab appealed on Wednesday for the world to impose sanctions on his country, which he said had slipped into "dictatorship". The head of Bahrain's Centre for Human Rights was arrested after taking part in a month of Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding political reforms. Rajab, who was holding his first media conference since his release on May 24, claimed that between 3,000 and 4,000 political prisoners were languishing in jail in Bahrain, a country of some 700,000 people. "I came to urge all civilised nations, civilised governments to take measures against my country," he said, calling on the international community to disregard commercial interests in Bahrain and impose sanctions.
Four former heads of the US Environmental Protection Agency who served under Republican presidents urged lawmakers Wednesday to stop bickering over whether climate change is real and start finding solutions. The debate has kicked up in intensity since President Barack Obama earlier this month called on the EPA to set carbon pollution standards for power plants that would cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. Obama's announcement, his most ambitious yet against climate change, also called for increasing global cooperation to curb pollution and for US financial incentives for renewable energy. "President Obama's new climate regulations... will harm our fragile American economy," Senator Ron Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, told the hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.