Political News from Yahoo

Japan business confidence sags in June quarter

Japanese business confidence has sagged since an April sales tax hike came into force, pushing up prices, in the first deterioration in six quarters, a Bank of Japan report showed Tuesday. The Tankan survey for the April-June quarter showed confidence among large manufacturers stood at plus 12, well short of market expectations, after hitting a more than six-year high of plus 17 in the preceding quarter. The latest reading marked the first decline since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in late 2012 on a pledge to kick-start the world's number-three economy, and throws into question the strength of Japan's recovery. The closely watched survey of more than 10,000 companies is the most comprehensive indicator yet of how Japan is coping with the impact of the nation's first sales tax rise in 17 years.

French bank BNP guilty of US sanctions violations

WASHINGTON (AP) — France's largest bank, BNP Paribas, has agreed to pay nearly $9 billion to resolve criminal allegations that it processed transactions for clients in Sudan and other blacklisted countries in violation of U.S. trade sanctions, the Justice Department announced Monday. The bank pleaded guilty to state charges in New York and plans another guilty plea in federal court next month.

US court reinstates Abu Ghraib torture lawsuit against contractor

A decade after the Abu Ghraib scandal, a US federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit against a defense contractor accusing its employees of torturing detainees at the Iraqi prison. CACI International, based just outside the US capital in Arlington, Virginia, was accused of abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners at the jail while it was managed by the American military. The plaintiffs in this case are four Iraqi detainees, and the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit on their behalf.

Obama to expand safeguards for transgender workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is preparing an executive order offering transgender federal workers formal protection from discrimination at work, President Barack Obama announced Monday.

Reaction to Supreme Court birth control decision

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that some companies like the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-craft stores can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, if they have religious objections.

Signs of improvement in US health costs, coverage

Health costs in the United States surged in the decade to 2010 along with the tally of Americans without medical insurance, but both trends then improved, a study said Monday. In 2002, the annual increase was about seven percent -- more than twice the rate in five other advanced economies -- but fell in 2011 to about one percent, putting the United States on a par with Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, according to an investigation published in The Lancet medical journal. Though the numbers improved, the US medical system remained at the bottom in terms of public access to health services, it added. From 2000 to 2010, the number of people without health insurance rose "dramatically" from 36.6 million to almost 50 million, mainly as a result of the economic downturn and unprecedented levels of immigration, the report found.

Obama says to reform immigration on his own, bypassing Congress

By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Monday he would take executive action to revamp the U.S. immigration system and move additional resources to protect the border after hopes of passing broad reform legislation in Congress officially died. Republican John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, told Obama last week that his chamber would not vote on immigration reform this year, killing chances that a wide-ranging bill passed by the Senate would become law. The collapse of the legislative process delivers another in a series of blows to Obama's domestic policy agenda and comes as he struggles to deal with a flood of unaccompanied minors from Central America who have entered the United States. Obama chided Republicans for refusing to bring immigration reform to a vote and said only legislation could provide a permanent fix to the problem.

Ukraine leader vows to 'attack' rebels as ceasefire dropped

Ukraine's Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko has announced that Kiev's forces will resume a military offensive against pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine after he opted not to prolong a shaky ceasefire. "After examining the situation I have decided, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, not to extend the unilateral ceasefire," Poroshenko said in an address to the nation late Monday.

Oyster farm owners eye options after ruling

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to consider the appeal of a popular oyster farm that federal officials want to shutter and return to wilderness along the coast of Northern California.

Obama's pick vows to transform veterans' health care

President Barack Obama's pick to head the crisis-hit Department of Veterans Affairs vowed Monday to transform health care for America's returned war veterans following a string of recent scandals. Obama formally nominated ex-Procter & Gamble boss Bob McDonald to turn around the beleaguered agency and succeed former secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned in May amid a political storm over a cover-up about delayed health care for veterans.

Nigerian army arrests 'spies' implicated in schoolgirls' kidnap

Nigeria's military said Monday it had broken up a Boko Haram intelligence cell and arrested its leader, alleged to have taken part in the abduction of over 200 teenage girls in April. A defence headquarters statement said that troops have found a militants' 'intelligence cell' headed by a businessman "who participated actively in the abduction of school girls in Chibok," in northeast Borno state last April 14. The businessman identified as Babuji Ya’ari, who was also a member of a civilian youth group that worked along with the military, popularly known as Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force), allegedly used his position as a cover to work for the militants, it said. "The arrest of the businessman who is known to deal in tricycles has also yielded some vital information and facilitated the arrest of other members of the terrorists’ intelligence cell who are women," the military said.

MPs urge Britain to be tougher on Spain over Gibraltar

Britain should take a tougher stand towards Spain in disputes over Gibraltar, including using legal action and more diplomatic protests, a parliamentary committee urged on Tuesday. Spain disputes British sovereignty over the peninsula, which has long been a point of contention in relations between the two countries, with tensions increasing over the last year. The Foreign Affairs committee, a group of lawmakers who analyse the work of Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, urged the government to "get off the fence and take a tougher line with Spain" in a report to Westminster.

CentrAm seeks migrant kids' reunification in US

Leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras hope to meet with top US diplomat John Kerry this week to discuss the child migrant crisis in the United States, and seek family reunification. Thousands of unaccompanied migrant children have trekked to the United States in recent months and face deportation. Three quarters of the youths are from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. "We are trying to get a three-country meeting... plus the United States, at the highest possible level, with Kerry" in Panama, where new president Juan Carlos Varela is to be sworn in Tuesday, Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez told reporters.

White House defends Obama's pick to lead veterans affairs

By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Monday defended President Barack Obama's choice to lead the troubled Veterans Administration, stressing that the nominee is a seasoned manager and dismissing concerns that he may lack a understanding of issues facing recent war veterans. Obama announced at the Veterans Administration building that he is nominating Bob McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to be the next secretary of veterans affairs. Obama called McDonald "one of our nation's most accomplished business leaders and managers." "We've got to regain the trust of our veterans with a VA that is more effective, more efficient and that truly puts veterans first. McDonald, 61, would succeed Eric Shinseki, who resigned amid a scandal over widespread delays in getting healthcare to veterans.

Ukraine 'will not renew ceasefire': Poroshenko

Kiev (AFP) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said late Monday he would not extend a truce with pro-Russian rebels in the country's east, vowing instead to go on the attack.

Syria rebels say IS caliphate 'null and void'

Syrian rebels, including the main Islamist factions, said Monday the creation of a caliphate by the Islamic State (IS) was "null and void". "We see that the announcement by the rejectionists of a caliphate is null and void, legally and logically," the groups said in a statement, using a pejorative term to refer to the extremist Islamic State. Among the signatories were the Islamic Front, Syria's biggest rebel coalition, and Majlis Shura Mujahideen al-Sharqiya, an alliance in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near Iraq, that includes the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

Hundreds of African immigrants in Israel on mass hunger strike

Hundreds of illegal African immigrants began a hunger strike on Monday after Israeli police forcibly broke up a sit-in they were staging along the Egyptian border. Around 1,000 Africans, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, had marched Friday to the border and set up a makeshift camp to protest against their "inhuman and unlimited" detention at Holot facility. Israel opened Holot detention camp in the southern Negev desert last year as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, with the facility open by day but locked down at night. The demonstrators have said Holot is akin to prison and have also slammed what they said was Israel's failure to process their asylum requests.

Russian arms likely used against Ukrainian aircraft, says US

Pro-Russian separatists likely used weapons supplied by Moscow to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in recent weeks, NATO's top commander General Philip Breedlove said Monday. Russia was maintaining a large troop presence near Ukraine's border and had provided anti-aircraft weapons and other hardware to the rebels, Breedlove told a Pentagon news conference. Asked if the separatists used the weapons to take out Ukrainian aircraft in recent weeks, Breedlove said all the facts need to be "sorted out" but "I would say it's a very good likelihood" that Russian-supplied arms were behind the attacks. A Ukrainian military cargo plane was shot down on June 14, killing 49 people on board, and a Ukrainian helicopter was downed last week, leaving nine troops dead.

Obama to deploy 200 extra troops to Iraq

President Barack Obama said Monday he had sent up to 200 extra US troops equipped for combat, with surveillance gear and helicopters, to protect the US Embassy in Baghdad. Together with a 275-strong embassy protection force already sent and another 300 US special forces charged with advising the Iraqi army, the deployment will mean nearly 800 US soldiers will be in Iraq, following the sudden advance of Sunni Islamic State radicals. "In light of the security situation in Baghdad, I have ordered up to approximately 200 additional US Armed Forces personnel to Iraq to reinforce security at the US Embassy, its support facilities, and the Baghdad International Airport," Obama said in a letter to Congress. The Pentagon said in a statement that the new detachment had arrived in Iraq on Sunday and was also equipped with aerial drones to protect American personnel traveling away from the embassy -- possibly in an evacuation.

Toronto mayor back at work after rehab, wants 'another chance'

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted Monday he had been in "complete denial" about his drug and alcohol abuse, but asked voters for another chance as he returned to work following a stint in rehab. So far, Ford places second or third in public opinion polls.