Political News from Yahoo

Obama unveils first 5 'Promise Zones'

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is identifying five communities that will benefit from a program of tax incentives and government grants, a year after he unveiled the plan in his 2013 State of the Union address.

Official: Nuke launch officers tied to drug probe

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a rare visit Thursday to an Air Force nuclear missile base, hoping to boost morale among the men and women who operate and safeguard the nation's Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles. But his attempt to cheer the troops was tempered by news that launch officers at another base had been implicated in an illegal-narcotics investigation.

Official: 2 launch officers tied to drug probe

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AP) — A U.S. defense official says two Air Force officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana have been implicated in an illegal-narcotics investigation.

U.S. prosecutors say Trenton, NJ, mayor knew of bribe plot

The mayor, Tony Mack, and his brother Ralphiel have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that they were involved in a 2010 plot to secure the mayor's help in developing a parking garage on city-owned land. Federal prosecutors' case against the brothers read like a cheap crime thriller, filled with secret meetings and code names like "Uncle Remus" to refer to corrupt payments. "One thing you are never going to hear is Tony Mack asking who Uncle Remus is." Prosecutors said a government informant offered a $119,000 bribe and paid out $54,000 in a series of eight payments from October 2011 to June 2012. Mack's defense lawyer, Mark Garnet Davis, cast doubt that the mayor ever received the money, which was collected by steak house owner Joseph Giorgianni.

Senators look to revive climate debate in U.S. Congress

By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two of the U.S. Senate's biggest environmental boosters have launched a drive to revive the issue of climate change in Congress and defend President Barack Obama's climate action plan against opposition from Republicans. Democratic senators Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island told reporters on Thursday they would launch a new climate action task force with more than a dozen members and the full support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The task force is likely to introduce a number of small-scale bills and will push for increased discussion on climate topics in the full Senate.

FBI chief doesn't see Snowden as a whistleblower

WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI Director James Comey says he doesn't regard people like former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as a whistleblower in the ongoing controversy over surveillance.

Doctors say cutting food stamps could backfire

WASHINGTON (AP) — Doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills. Maybe not immediately, they say, but over time if the poor wind up in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result.

Giffords leaves door open for possible political future

Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was badly wounded in a shooting rampage three years ago, appeared to leave the door open for a possible future run for public office in a television interview that aired on Thursday. Asked by NBC "Today" show journalist Savannah Guthrie if she would consider ever returning to public office, Giffords, 43, replied: "A little bit later, a little bit later." She then added: "Maybe, maybe." The remarks came in an interview marking the three-year anniversary of the shooting rampage that nearly took her life. On the anniversary, Giffords went skydiving in southern Arizona. In an opinion piece in the New York Times on Wednesday, Giffords said that three years after the attack she still struggles to speak, her eyesight is "not great," and her right arm and leg have been "paralyzed." But she said she was beginning to gain movement in the arm.

Senate negotiators near deal on unemployment benefits

By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate negotiators were close to a deal on extending expired jobless benefits through November and paying the estimated $18 billion cost through future spending cuts, a senior Senate Democratic aide said on Thursday. The potential deal, which was still under discussion, could be unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid later on Thursday. Part of the $18 billion cost would be achieved by extending automatic spending cuts, known as "sequestration," meaning that the savings would be achieved years from now. Other savings would be attained by tightening some requirements for people who collect both jobless benefits and disability payments, the aide said.

U.S. lawmakers propose fast-track bill for trade agreements

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday proposed a bill to give the White House power to fast-track international trade agreements as the United States gears up for a hectic year of trade negotiations. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) would let the White House put trade deals before Congress for an up or down vote without amendments. This would be a boon given the United States is currently negotiating with Pacific Rim and European Union countries in two separate pacts that would encompass nearly two-thirds of the global economy and trade. "The TPA legislation that we are introducing today will make sure that these trade deals get done, and get done right," said Democrat Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade.

AP Exclusive: New jobless benefit plan advanced

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed optimism Thursday about chances for compromise on jobless legislation, and officials said talks were focused on a scaled-back program that is fully paid for and would provide up to 31 weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Senate moves toward supporting U.S. helicopters for Iraq

The Senate is looking more favorably at a request to provide attack helicopters to Iraq, but a top senator has not yet given the Obama administration a green light to go ahead with military assistance that Iraq wants to help it rebuff a brazen al Qaeda bid to seize a western province. Robert Menendez, an influential Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has held back on supporting the lease and sale of several dozen Apache helicopters to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki without certain assurances.

Senate majority support Iran sanctions bill opposed by Obama

By Timothy Gardner and Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than half of U.S. senators support a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran should the Islamic Republic break an agreement to curb its nuclear program, aides said on Thursday, but there was no plan yet to debate the measure. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, and Iran says last November's nuclear deal struck in Geneva would be dead if the U.S. Congress imposes new sanctions. The "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act" is now supported by at least 54 senators in the 100-member chamber, according to a congressional record, with six senators joining on Wednesday. A Senate aide said two more joined on Thursday, bringing the total to 56.

'Culture of disrespect' fuels academy sex assaults

WASHINGTON (AP) — A culture of bad behavior and disrespect among athletes at U.S. military academies is one part of the continuing problem of sexual assaults at the schools, according to a new Defense Department report that comes in the wake of scandals that rocked teams at all three academies last year.

US scrambles to avert civil war in South Sudan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three years after midwifing South Sudan's birth, the United States is desperately trying to prevent the world's youngest nation from falling apart.

What Took So Long, Guv?

Evidence was mounting for months that it was no mere “traffic study” that snarled things on the GW bridge. Christie’s two-hour press conference didn’t answer why he looked away.

Boehner: US should help Iraq in anti-terror fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner says the United States should provide more equipment and other aid to the Iraqi government in its battle against al-Qaida militants. But he also says U.S. troops should not be sent back there now.

U.S. House Speaker Boehner calls for new aid to Iraq

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday said President Barack Obama should authorize a more active American role in Iraq but he stopped short of calling for the participation of U.S. troops. Boehner, responding to a question at a weekly press conference about growing violence in Iraq, said that a new U.S. troop presence was "not called for at this time." But Boehner, a Republican, said the Obama administration could aid the Iraqi army with additional equipment. Earlier this week, the administration said it would hasten deliveries of military hardware to Iraq.

Christie fires aide, apologizes for traffic jams

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday apologized to his constituents and said he was "embarrassed and humiliated" by his staff but had no idea his aides may have closed highway lanes to exact political retribution.

Christie denies knowledge of aides' payback plan

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Christie says he knew nothing of a plan by some of his closest aides to create traffic jams as political payback to a town mayor.