By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A high-ranking California lawmaker, Kevin McCarthy, emerged on Thursday as the leading contender in the Republican contest to fill one of the top positions in the U.S. Congress, but some of his colleagues complained he was not conservative enough and urged others to jump into the race. House Majority Whip McCarthy has been asking other lawmakers to support his bid to become House of Representatives majority leader to succeed Eric Cantor, who is stepping down after his shock primary election defeat to a little-known challenger from the populist Tea Party movement. Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, who chairs the House Rules Committee, has also said he would run in the party's June 19 election for the number two post in the House. McCarthy, the No. 3 ranking House Republican who is in charge of lining up support for legislation, grabbed early momentum over Sessions by picking up some endorsements.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday stressed that his criticism of Jean-Claude Juncker was not personal but warned that his election as European Commission president would be a "power grab through the backdoor". In an opinion piece published in various European newspapers, Cameron said that the concept of "Spitzenkandidaten" -- whereby the president is elected according to the results of last month's parliamentary elections -- was anti-democratic and risked fanning the flames of euroscepticism. The British premier argued that EU treaties made clear that it was for EU heads of government to propose the candidate to head the European Commission -- the EU's executive -- and not the European Parliament, as under Spitzenkandidaten. "It was not negotiated between the European institutions.
The thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who have journeyed to the United States in recent months have no guarantees of citizenship or legal status, and are prioritized for deportation, officials said Thursday. Three out of four minors who illegally cross the border into the United States come from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The children make the grueling journey of hundreds of miles (kilometers) through Mexico to escape the dire economic conditions and violence in their home countries, and to join relatives in the United States. That's the message," US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told reporters.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday criticised the conduct and "unguarded utterances" of leading politicians as they were stoking tensions in the country ahead of key polls next year. "Indeed the conduct and utterances of leading politicians at home and abroad are rapidly creating and spreading unnecessary tension in the country," Jonathan said at a meeting with politicians and political parties.
US companies were Thursday evacuating hundreds of Americans working with the Iraqi government from a major air base, US officials said, as Islamic militants swept towards Baghdad. A US defense official confirmed that "a few hundred" American contractors from Balad air base, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the capital, were being moved to Baghdad for security reasons. "We can confirm that US citizens under contract to the government of Iraq in support of the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in Iraq are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Militants are closing fast on the capital Baghdad after sweeping up a huge swath of predominantly Sunni Arab territory in northern and north-central Iraq since launching their offensive in the second city of Mosul late on Monday.
US President Barack Obama is in "excellent" health and has given up cigarettes, but still resorts to nicotine gum every now and again, his doctor said Thursday. "All clinical data indicates that the president is currently healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency," said Ronny Jackson, who supervised the president's periodic physical. Nor did Jackson find any issues of concern in Obama's heart rate, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, according to the results made public "with President Obama's consent." But under medications, the doctor reported: "Nicotine gum: occasional use."
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - A minibus belonging to Donetsk rebel leader Denis Pushilin was blown up in the restive eastern Ukrainian city on Thursday, killing two of his entourage and wounding two, the rebel government said. Pushilin, who was not in the car when the explosion hit, is one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic", heading its Supreme Soviet. "One of those wounded in the explosion in front of the Donetsk People's Republic's building died in hospital," the rebels' press service wrote on Twitter. It then updated its Twitter feed: "One more has died in hospital from the terrorist attack outside the Donetsk People's Republic government building.
Brazil rode a wave of national fervour to launch the World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Croatia on Thursday as an opening day which began with violent clashes gave way to an outpouring of joy. Barcelona superstar Neymar scored in each half as Brazil recovered from conceding an early Marcelo own goal to set up a win before hordes of golden-shirted fans at the 61,600 Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. The host nation's Group A victory was greeted by an explosion of fireworks across Sao Paulo, a sharp contrast to several hours earlier when riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse angry protests.
Toulouse (France) (AFP) - Airbus's chief executive said Thursday that if Britain voted to leave the European Union that would not be a reason for the European planemaker to quit the country where it employs 10,000 people. The comments by Fabrice Bregier run counter to those by many British business leaders who have begun a campaign against their country leaving the EU as could happen in possible 2017 referendum. With 90 percent of Airbus's market outside of Europe, competitiveness is the top priority for the planemaker, Bregier said at a company event in Toulouse on Thursday. Bregier said Airbus was very pleased with all the initiatives of the government of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and did not believe that would change if Britain left the EU.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The US ambassador to the United Nations accused Sudan Thursday of intensifying attacks on civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and of deliberately bombing schools and hospitals. Samantha Power condemned "in the strongest possible terms" attacks she said were being carried out by the Sudanese government and its rapid support forces against ordinary people. Ground and air attacks have increased since April, with hundreds of barrel bombs and other ordnance dropped on towns and villages, deliberately targeting hospitals and schools, she said. The United States was also disturbed by reports of air strikes targeting civilian aid workers, which if accurate would seriously violate international law, she said.
By Emily Stephenson and Patrick Temple-West WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The defeat of House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor shifted the political ground under U.S. multinational corporations this week, just as they seemed to be gaining traction in their push for a $95 billion tax break on bringing foreign profits home. With House Republicans in turmoil after their leader's loss, lobbyists and policy analysts said the proposal, known as the offshore corporate income tax holiday, was losing momentum. The offshore income tax holiday had been gathering some support, but Cantor's defeat in the Virginia primary election damaged that, observers said. The proposal, which calls for short-term tax breaks to pay for road repairs, frustrates some conservatives who oppose more government spending and believe tax breaks should be permanent, not a one-time holiday.
President Barack Obama was given a clean bill of health on Thursday by his doctor, who noted in a medical report that daily exercise, healthy eating and a "tobacco free" lifestyle has helped the 52-year-old stay in great shape. "The president's overall health is excellent. All clinical data indicates that the president is currently healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency," said the report, by Ronny Jackson, physician to the president. A former smoker, Obama kicked the habit in 2010, his wife Michelle Obama told reporters in Feb. 2011.
The European Union wants the United States to be "fair" in its treatment of BNP Paribas over the French bank's alleged US sanctions violations, a senior EU official said Thursday. The EU's internal market and services commissioner, Michel Barnier, said that Brussels was following developments in the US case against France's largest bank, which reportedly might have to pay at least $10 billion in fines to resolve the accusations. "Given the importance of this case and the importance of this bank... we are closely following the situation and we simply wish that this affair be handled in a proportionate, fair and objective manner," Barnier said at a news conference in Washington. The bank is accused of breaking sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba between 2002 and 2009 by carrying out dollar transactions with them.