Brasília (AFP) - Brazil approved a law Monday creating 20 percent quotas for mixed race and black Brazilians in government jobs, in a country where more than half of the population has African roots. "We have started this change in the racial composition of public officials in the federal administration so it will be more representative of the Brazilian population," said President Dilma Rousseff during a ceremony for the enactment of the law. The quotas expire in 10 years and applies to federal agencies and foundations as well as state-controlled companies like oil giant Petrobras and banks like Caixa Economica Federal and Banco de Brasil. However, the quotas do not apply to the legislative and judicial branches, which would require separate legal initiatives.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A political storm over the trade of five Taliban inmates for a captured American soldier intensified on Monday when Obama administration officials told U.S. lawmakers that up to 90 people within the administration - but no members of Congress - were told in advance about the swap. "It strikes me as unfortunate that they could have 80 to 90 people in the administration aware of what was happening and not be able to trust a single Republican or Democrat in the House or the Senate," Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, a member of the House of Representatives Republican leadership, told reporters after leaving a briefing on the exchange. The White House has been trying to appease angry lawmakers since President Barack Obama announced on May 31 that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had been exchanged for the five inmates from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. House Republicans said they planned an investigation of the exchange deal.
The Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an appeal of a court order that requires California to ensure that disabled inmates who are housed in county jails to ease crowding in state prisons receive appropriate accommodations. The court’s denial highlighted tensions between the most populous U.S. state and federal courts about crowding and conditions in California's troubled prison system. The state has been under court orders to reduce its prison population since 2009 and has sought to comply partly by funneling some non-violent offenders to county jurisdiction. In 2012, a U.S. District Court judge ordered state officials to notify the counties when inmates have disabilities entitling them to accommodations under federal law while in jail.
By David Lawder and Emily Stephenson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 100,000 veterans are experiencing waits of more than 90 days for appointments at medical centers run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to an internal audit released by the troubled agency on Monday. The survey revealed that a scandal over cover-ups of long wait times at VA clinics, during which some veterans are alleged to have died, was broader and deeper than initially thought, prompting a new round of recriminations from lawmakers and veterans groups. The VA said it found that in mid-May, 57,436 veterans were waiting for appointments that could not be scheduled within 90 days, while about 43,000 had appointments more than 90 days in the future. Over the past 10 years, 63,869 new enrollees in the VA healthcare system had requested appointments that were never scheduled, VA said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 57,000 U.S. military veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointments, and an additional 64,000 appear to have fallen through the cracks, never getting appointments after enrolling, the government said Monday in a report newly demonstrating how deep and widespread the problem is.
Hillary Clinton said the latest round of congressional investigations into the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, would not deter her from seeking the presidency. "Actually, it is more of a reason to run because I do not believe our great country should be playing minor league ball," Clinton told ABC News. And I view this as really apart from, even a diversion from the hard work that the Congress should be doing about the problems facing our country and the world," Clinton said in a televised excerpt from an interview airing on Monday with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. Republicans have accused Clinton, who was then secretary of State, of not doing more to ensure the safety of Americans in Benghazi.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who spent time in hospital over the weekend suffering from exhaustion, will miss his new government's first meeting from Tuesday, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said. "President Zuma will miss the cabinet meeting and continue to rest at home this week," said Ramaphosa, who is standing in for Zuma during his recuperation. Zuma left hospital late Sunday, the day after he was admitted for routine tests.
An audit on health care access for US veterans released Monday confirmed the existence of fake waiting lists, prompting a top official to slam "systemic" problems for America's wounded warriors seeking treatment. The report is the latest revelation in a political scandal that last month led to the resignation of Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs secretary. The audit showed that 13 percent of scheduling staff got instructions from supervisors or others "to enter a date different than what the veteran had requested in the appointment scheduling system" to conceal wait times in official statistics. "In some cases, pressures were placed on schedulers to utilize unofficial lists or engage in inappropriate practices in order to make waiting times appear more favorable," according to a fact sheet provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Police in Panama on Monday arrested a fugitive former opposition lawmaker from Ecuador who is wanted in his homeland for complicity to murder. Tito Galo Lara was taken into custody in the province of Veraguas, police spokeswoman Mara Rivera told AFP. Galo Lara, shackled and wearing a bullet-proof vest as he was taken into the prosecutor's offices in Panama City, shouted that Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa "is trying to kill me." "I am a victim of political persecution, because I reported corruption inside Correa's government," Galo Lara said to the gathered reporters.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday lashed out at fellow ministers for espousing contradictory solutions to the conflict with the Palestinians, maintaining Israel needed one binding diplomatic plan. During back-to-back presentations, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel should seek to resume peace talks with the Palestinians despite the establishment of a Hamas-backed unity government; Interior Minister Gideon Saar spoke in favour of maintaining the status quo; Economy Minister Naftali Bennett called for the annexation of parts of the West Bank.
NATO on Monday launched one of its largest military manoeuvres in the Baltic states since tensions spiked with neighbouring Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Around 4,700 troops and 800 military vehicles from 10 countries including Britain, Canada and the United States are participating in the Sabre Strike exercises near the Latvian capital Riga. Russia has voiced its objections to the manoeuvres, which move to neighbouring Lithuania on Tuesday. They joined NATO and the EU in 2004.
The United States Monday offered to aid Pakistan in investigating a deadly seige on Karachi airport and denounced the assault which left 30 people dead. "The United States condemns the attack on the Karachi airport. And our hearts go out… to the families of the victims and those who were wounded in that attack," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Washington has offered "assistance to the relevant Pakistani authorities investigating this crime," added State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, although she was not aware if the offer had been taken up.
The United States is hopeful that after months of attacks and tensions "significant progress" could be made this week to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine, a US official said. Washington had been "encouraged" by the talks, between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the incoming Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko, in Normandy last week, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Putin on Saturday ordered the Russian border guards to reinforce the state frontier with Ukraine and take all necessary measures to prevent illegal crossings of armed convoys, a move which was also welcomed by the US administration. She added that President Putin had "called on the separatists" to stop the attacks in eastern Ukraine and "I think we could see significant progress."