Fugitive self-proclaimed spy Edward Snowden admitted he wants to return home, as he defended his massive leak of intelligence secrets, saying the abuse of the US Constitution left him no choice. "If I could go any place in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said almost a year to the day since he revealed a stunning US surveillance dragnet mining data from phones and Internet companies around the world, including Europe. Whether amnesty or clemency is a possibility, that's for the public to decide," he told NBC in his first interview with US television since the scandal broke in early June last year. But top US officials laughed off the idea of a clemency, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying the 30-year-old former CIA employee should "man up" and return to face trial.
The core of President Barack Obama's foreign policy was revealed in the moment he gazed into the eyes of hundreds of cadets at a West Point graduation ceremony on Wednesday. "You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan," Obama said at the famed military academy in the state of New York. Obama made his name as a young Illinois lawmaker railing against the invasion of Iraq, and rode that anti-war tide all the way to the White House. His major foreign policy speech Wednesday, in which he laid out a blueprint for US leadership in the world while avoiding military quagmires, was partly about political vindication.
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Seeking to redefine America's foreign policy for a post-war era, President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared that the United States remains the only nation with the capacity to lead on the world stage but argued it would be a mistake to channel that power into unrestrained military adventures.
By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus defended the embattled $34 billion Littoral Combat Ship program on Wednesday and said the ability to reconfigure the ships to carry out different missions would help the Navy keep pace with rapidly changing technologies. A Navy task force is reassessing the program after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed significant concerns about the survivability and firepower of the LCS ships, and ordered a pause in orders after 32 ships. The Navy has so far ordered 24 of the 52 ships planned for the program from the two companies that build them, Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia's Austal. Mabus told Reuters he did not want to skew the results of the task force review, which is due to be completed by July 31 in time to inform the fiscal 2016 budget deliberations, and said he was anxious to learn about any concerns or problems.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal will not be completed before a June 30 deadline agreed after Washington threatened air strikes last year, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said. An April 27 deadline for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons to international monitors also expired with Damascus holding around eight percent of its declared material. Under a UN-backed and US-Russia brokered deal agreed last year after the United States threatened air strikes against Syrian government targets, the weapons were to be destroyed by June 30. "It is now evident that some activities related to the elimination of the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic will continue beyond 30 June," he wrote.
Human Rights Watch criticised "failures" in Bahrain's justice system, saying it severely punishes pro-reform protesters while offering impunity to abusive security personnel. "A police officer in Bahrain who kills a protester in cold blood or beats a detainee to death might face a sentence of six months or maybe two years," said HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork in a 64-page report, released Thursday. In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry found that security forces had used "excessive force" and tortured detainees in its month-long crackdown on dissent. HRW's report criticised "the stark contrast between prosecutions of serious human rights violations by security personnel on the one hand and prosecutions for 'crimes' based on speech and peaceful assembly-related activities on the other."
WASHINGTON (AP) — About 1,700 veterans in need of care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off the official waiting list at the troubled Phoenix veterans hospital, the Veterans Affairs watchdog said Wednesday in a scathing report that increases pressure on Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
By David Lawder and Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Calls for U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign grew louder on Wednesday as the agency's inspector general confirmed "systemic" and widespread VA scheduling abuses to cover up long wait times for veterans' healthcare. The Department of Veterans Affairs' internal watchdog is probing manipulation of appointment data at 42 VA medical centers, up from 26 last week, it said in an interim report on allegations of secret waiting lists. "Our reviews at a growing number of VA medical facilities have thus far provided insight into the current extent of these inappropriate scheduling issues throughout the VA health care system," the VA Inspector General's Office said. The office also said it has confirmed that "inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic" throughout the Veterans Health Administration.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council urged Mali Wednesday to implement fully a ceasefire between the government and armed rebel groups following fresh fighting in the northern desert town of Kidal. Members "urged signatories to implement the ceasefire fully" and reiterated their "full support" in contributing towards the stabilization of Mali and the launching of peace talks. The Mali presidency earlier Wednesday appointed a retired air force colonel as defense minister after the predecessor resigned over last week's deadly rebel takeover of Kidal. Armed groups including the Tuareg separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) humiliated the army in a deadly offensive across the northern desert.
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday urged China to stop censoring news about the Tiananmen Square crackdown as authorities enforced a tight blackout ahead of the 25th anniversary. In a nearly unanimous vote, the House of Representatives approved a resolution that called on China "to stop censoring information about the Tiananmen Square massacre." Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House leader of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, brought onto the floor a framed copy -- signed by exiled dissidents -- of the famous picture of the man who stood alone on June 5, 1989 to hinder a column of tanks at the square in central Beijing.
Venezuela's ruling party accused opposition members and the US ambassador to Colombia on Wednesday of plotting a coup and the assassination of President Nicolas Maduro. The accusations came as the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials responsible for a crackdown on anti-government protests that have left at least 42 people dead. Surrounded by socialist party leaders, Jorge Rodriguez, the mayor of the Caracas municipality of Libertador, said US ambassador Kevin Whitaker acted as a coordinator "in a coup in collusion with Venezuelan politicians and civilians." Rodriguez showed reporters emails written by former opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado and other government critics in which they allegedly discuss how to heat up a political crisis to oust Maduro.
Egypt's ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was headed on Thursday for an overwhelming victory in a presidential election touted as a plebiscite on his ouster of the elected Islamist leader last year. With almost 15 percent of polling stations accounted for, the retired field marshal led with about 93 percent of votes cast over the three-day election, trouncing his sole rival Hamdeen Sabbahi. The outcome had never been in doubt, with Sisi riding on a wave of support for a potential strongman who can restore stability after several years of tumult. But the army-installed government and Sisi were eyeing a large turn out as an endorsement of the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July, and the subsequent crackdown on his supporters.