By Toni Clarke and Sharon Begley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House changes to proposed rules for tobacco products significantly weakened language detailing health risks from cigars and deleted restrictions that might have prevented online sales of e-cigarettes, published documents show. The White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which analyzes the potential economic consequences of proposed regulations, deleted language in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recently proposed regulations describing how the rules would keep thousands of people from taking up cigar smoking and have enormous public health benefits. The OMB also weakened language detailing the FDA's concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes, according to documents published Tuesday in the Federal Register. Emily Cain, a spokeswoman for OMB, said that as with any rule, OMB's office of information and regulatory affairs conducted an interagency review process "to ensure that the regulations through which agencies implement policies are efficient, well-designed to achieve their objectives, and based upon the best available evidence." "It is routine for agencies to make changes to their draft rules during the course of OMB review," she added.
Britain's David Cameron looks set to be left out on a limb at an EU summit Thursday over his crusade to block Jean-Claude Juncker's nomination as powerful European Commission chief. After posing in a rowing-boat just two weeks ago with anti-Juncker allies the Dutch and Swedish premiers, Cameron saw the pair abandon his side Wednesday, the eve of a two-day European Union summit expected to be dominated by the row. "We will support Juncker's candidacy," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told parliament shortly after Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt made a similar statement before a Swedish parliament committee. As for Germany's Angela Merkel, who was also in the boat and originally reticent over the choice of centre-right Juncker, she too has since changed her tune.
A car bomb in a Kurdish-majority neighbourhood of the ethnically mixed northern city of Kirkuk killed three people Wednesday evening, security and medical officials said. The blast also wounded 15 others in the northern part of the tinderbox oil hub, which lies at the centre of territory Iraq's Kurds want to incorporate into their autonomous region over the objections of Baghdad. While the federal government has not relinquished its claim to the city, Kurdish peshmerga security forces are now responsible for its external security after the army abandoned its positions when faced with a Sunni militant offensive led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for coordinated efforts to fight "terrorism" during a visit to Algiers on Wednesday, his first trip abroad since his election in May. "The purpose of my visit to Algeria is to reach a shared vision of common interests and challenges facing the two countries and the region," Algerian official media quoted the ex-army chief as saying. Sisi was met by Algerian premier Abdelmalek Sellal and Senate speaker Abdelkader Bensalah, and was later received by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose chronic health problems have severely limited his movements. Algeria and Egypt both share long borders with Libya, which has been gripped by deadly violence since the NATO-backed ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 that scattered weapons across the Sahara region and has provided refuge for jihadists.
Republicans were likely to hold the U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi regardless of whether conservative upstart Chris McDaniel or six-term incumbent Thad Cochran won Tuesday’s primary election runoff. And yet Cochran’s narrow victory came as a relief to national Republicans, who were anxious about what a McDaniel bid could mean for their chances of winning back the Senate majority. The electoral map that decides control of the Senate is a constantly evolving puzzle for both major parties, with national organizations making ever-changing calculations on which states should receive the most resources to guarantee the best overall outcome for their sides. Any money that has to be spent in one state in many ways deprives another on the map from being a beneficiary.
By Elvina Nawaguna WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday approved San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, clearing the way for a final vote in the full Senate. If confirmed in the post, as expected, Castro would be in position to push the Obama administration's plan to wind down mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an effort that has stalled in Congress. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, the 39-year-old Castro became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city when elected in May 2009. He said he would seek to make sure taxpayers would not be on the hook again if another housing crisis struck, as they were when the government stepped in to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in 2008.
BAGHDAD (AP) — They were known as the Sahwa, or the Awakening Councils — Sunni militiamen who took extraordinary risks to side with U.S. troops in the fight against al-Qaida during the Iraq War. Once heralded as a pivotal step in the defeat of the bloody insurgency, the Sahwa later were pushed aside by Iraq's Shiite-led government, starved of political support and money needed to remain a viable security force.
Unidentified gunmen have killed three Iranian police on patrol in the northwest of the country near the border with Iraq, the Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday. Tuesday night's attack comes after the authorities in Shiite-ruled Iran beefed up security along the frontier in response to a Sunni militant offensive that has captured swathes of Iraqi territory. The police were killed near the village of Taze-Abad, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the border with Iraq, said Mehr. An official familiar with the attack denied the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carried out the attack, or that the jihadist group leading the offensive in Iraq had entered Iran.
The Zimbabwe government has awarded a $1.3 billion thermal power generation project to China's Sino Hydro after another Chinese company failed to conclude the contract, a minister said on Wednesday. Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire said the tender for the expansion of the Hwange power station had been awarded initially to China Machinery and Engineering Company (CMEC). "CMEC however failed to conclude the contract within the stipulated time frame that they had agreed upon with the Zimbabwe Power Company and the government of Zimbabwe,hence,the tender was cancelled in May 2014," he said. Sino Hydro's bid for the project was the next best, Mavhaire said.
Dozens of Palestinian prisoners who had refused food for 62 days have suspended their hunger strike after reaching a deal with the Israel Prisons Service, their lawyer told AFP. The prisoners began refusing food on April 24 in protest at being held by Israel without charge or trial under a controversial procedure called administrative detention, which can be indefinitely extended for years. "The strikers, who have reached an agreement with the Israeli prison authorities, have decided to suspend their action with the approach of Ramadan," Ashraf Abu Snena said, referring to the Muslim fasting month which begins this weekend. Israel confirmed the agreement, details of which were to be made public later on Wednesday.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived in Algiers on Wednesday for his first trip abroad since being elected in May, official media reported. The ex-army chief was welcomed on arrival by Algerian premier Abdelmalek Sellal and Senate speaker Abdelkader Bensalah, and was due to meet President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose chronic health problems have severely limited his movements. Algeria and Egypt both neighbour Libya, which has been gripped by deadly violence since the NATO-backed ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. Algeria called for a "peaceful transition" in Egypt after Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by Sisi, then head of the army, in July last year.