By Edith Honan and Gabriel Debenedetti NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The scandal over a made-up study that badly disrupted traffic at the George Washington Bridge may not be New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's biggest problem after all. Less than a year after the charismatic governor was the toast of the Republican Party and a leading contender to run for the White House in 2016, the story was supposed to be about a New Jersey economy that he had managed to turn around and budget problems he had been able to solve. At the same time, New Jersey's economy is less than buoyant - its jobless rate is 6.9 percent, higher than the national rate of 6.3 percent. Christie had built up a picture of a savvy politician and efficient administrator who could reach out to his Democratic opponents and get them to help him solve the state's problems, as he did in getting the support of President Barack Obama when Superstorm Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore in 2012.
A US federal judge ordered the government Wednesday to provide the medical records and 34 videos of a Syrian hunger-striking prisoner who was forced-fed at Guantanamo. Abu Wa'el Dhiab, 42, was cleared for release by the Obama administration in 2009 but has remained at the US naval base in Cuba for more than a decade without charge or trial. US District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered President Barack Obama's administration last week to temporarily stop force-feeding Dhiab, also asked that it turn over his medical records from last year. Dhiab has been "harassed and intimidated" by Guantanamo staff that he would face a so-called forcible cell extraction if he did not stop refusing food, according to the filing that described the "bodily pain" inflicted upon the prisoner by the FCE team.
US Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Germany to discuss privacy concerns after the NSA spying scandal damaged relations between the two allies, Germany said Wednesday. German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told journalists in Washington that Holder has accepted an invitation from Berlin to explain how the US would curb spying on foreign nationals overseas. "We will have this discussion together in Germany," he said. The US Justice Department did not immediately confirm the trip and de Maiziere said that Holder's visit would not take place "before the summer recess."
Sightseers in Washington got more than they bargained for Wednesday, bumping into Barack Obama as the world's most powerful man decided to take an impromptu stroll in the US capital city. In a rare foray outside the armored-plated security of the presidential motorcade, Obama opted to walk from the White House to the Department of the Interior, a couple of blocks away. "The bear is loose!," quipped Obama. Obama, flanked by several bodyguards, took time to chat with a group of Israeli and Chinese tourists during his short walk, according to journalists who accompanied him.
Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Boko Haram gunmen killed more than 50 people in three separate attacks, including two near Chibok, the Nigerian town where the Islamists kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last month, witnesses said on Wednesday. The first attack on Monday afternoon killed 10 in the village of Shawa, some seven kilometres (4.3 miles) from Chibok, in northeastern Borno state, a number of residents told AFP on condition of anonymity. "It was a sudden attack," said resident Haruna Bitrus, in an account supported by other locals. Many of those who fled the Alagarno attack ran to Chibok, where Boko Haram seized 276 schoolgirls on April 14.
Pakistan needs to overhaul laws to ban forced conversions which are leading to rape or other abuse against hundreds of non-Muslim girls each year, an advocacy group said Wednesday. The Movement for Solidarity and Peace, which campaigns against religious violence in Pakistan, said that forced conversions generally involve the abductions of girls or young women who are then converted to Islam and married. While exact figures are unverifiable, an estimated 100 to 700 Christian girls and at least 300 Hindu girls undergo such conversions in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation each year, the group said. "These trends threaten religious freedom and public safety for all people in Pakistan," the group's director of advocacy, Amber Jamil, told a briefing at the US Congress.
Washington on Wednesday renewed a stern warning to all American citizens not to travel to North Korea, saying that even joining a tour would fail to protect them from arbitrary arrest. "In the past 18 months, North Korea has detained US citizens who were part of organized tours," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "A US citizen should not assume that joining a group tour or using a tour guide would protect them from being detained or arrested by North Korean authorities." The tourist, identified as "Miller Matthew Todd," had been taken into custody April 10 for "his rash behavior in the course of going through formalities for entry" into North Korea, the state news agency KCNA said.
The scandal over delays in medical care for US veterans has put the spotlight on a sprawling bureaucracy struggling to cope with an influx of patients with new ailments after a decade of war. The Veteran Affairs Department (VA) was already under scrutiny over its slow-moving health service, but allegations that a Phoenix hospital maintained a secret waiting list and that up to 40 veterans may have died as a result have sparked a furious reaction. The disturbing claims have placed President Barack Obama on the defensive, but he has cited the strain of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an aggravating factor. Out of 22 million veterans in the country, including those who served in World War II, nine million are enrolled in the VA's vast health care system.
Jos (Nigeria) (AFP) - The United States deployed 80 military personnel to Chad on Wednesday to help find 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, as Nigeria probed its deadliest attack ever with the militant group the main suspect. In a letter to congress, US President Barack Obama said the personnel would stay in Chad until their support in ending the abduction nightmare that has outraged the world "is no longer required". "These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area," Obama said. The troops mark a significant boost to an existing US military effort which includes the use of surveillance drones as well as manned aircraft over Nigeria.
Turkey's deputy prime minister on Wednesday condemned a top aide for attacking an anti-government protester in the wake of the country's worst ever mining disaster, describing the incident as "catastrophic". Images of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's advisor Yusuf Yerkel repeatedly kicking a demonstrator as he was held down by two security officers have sparked a nationwide backlash against the government. "It is a very catastrophic incident," Bulent Arinc said of Yerkel's actions after a weekly cabinet meeting. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has faced mounting public anger over its response to last week's coalmine blast in the western town of Soma that claimed 301 lives.