The United States is \"deeply concerned\" at what Secretary of State John Kerry called Wednesday \"the deteriorating situation\" in protest-hit Venezuela. At least 41 people have been killed in three months of demonstrations against the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro, with protesters railing against dire economic conditions and what they say is worsening insecurity. \"The serious and worsening economic and social challenges in Venezuela can only be resolved with the input of those people,\" Kerry told a conference on the Americas in Washington, saying demonstrators had \"legitimate grievances.\" \"We believe the future of Venezuela is for the people of Venezuela to decide,\" Kerry said.
By Steve Holland VILONIA, Arkansas (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday toured the devastation wreaked by tornadoes that slashed through parts of Arkansas, along with a senator whose re-election is key to Democrats' hanging on to control of the U.S. Senate. Some Democratic senators in tough races this November have distanced themselves from Obama, but Senator Mark Pryor, whose state has tilted Republican in recent years, welcomed Obama to Arkansas and stood by his side as he spoke about the tragedy. Obama's Marine One helicopter provided the president with an aerial view of the destruction caused by a powerful EF-4 tornado, with winds of at least 180 miles an hour, and other deadly twisters that ripped central Arkansas last week, killing 15 people and injuring more than 150.
The Obama administration moved Wednesday to cut trade benefits to Russia under its GSP program, a move the White House termed \"appropriate\" given Moscow's interference in Ukraine. In a letter to Congress, President Barack Obama said he intends to withdraw Russia's privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which aims to provide developing countries with preferential trade tariffs. Russia is \"sufficiently advanced in economic development\" to no longer merit inclusion, Obama explained in the letter.
Washington on Wednesday demanded the release of one of China's most celebrated human rights lawyers and other activists detained during a round-up ahead of the sensitive 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The US is "deeply concerned" over the reports of Tuesday's arrest of Pu Zhiqiang, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. He and other activists were said to have been detained after taking part in a meeting to mark the June 4 anniversary "of the violent suppression of demonstrations in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square," Psaki told reporters. "We call on Chinese authorities to release these individuals immediately, remove restrictions on their freedom of movement and guarantee them the protections and the freedoms to which they are entitled under China's international human rights commitment," she added.
The United States on Wednesday called for a "peaceful" resolution to political tensions in Thailand and new elections after the country's constitutional court dismissed the prime minister and nine ministers for abuse of power. Washington was "following closely" the developments after the court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office, ruling she had acted illegally by transferring a top security officer in 2011. "We continue to urge all sides to resolve Thailand's political tensions in a peaceful and democratic manner so that the Thai people can choose political leadership they deserve," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "In keeping with Thailand's democratic ideals, a resolution should include elections and an elected government."
A candidate in Ukraine's critical upcoming presidential election on Wednesday urged US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to talk through their stark differences "like real men." Obama and Putin should "open a bottle of fine French wine and talk like real men, openly and honestly, and remember that, through joint efforts, the American and Russian forces and people were able to overcome fascism and give the world a chance to continue peaceful development," Valery Konovalyuk told reporters. The pair, split over the escalating crisis in Ukraine, could meet next month in France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
By John Whitesides WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Kentucky Senator Rand Paul bet on a long-shot and lost in North Carolina's contentious Republican Senate primary, raising new questions about the Tea Party hero's bid to woo the party establishment on his way to a 2016 White House race. While many Republicans celebrated Tuesday's Senate primary win by North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, Paul scrambled to save face after the candidate he backed, Greg Brannon, finished a distant second in the battle for the right to challenge vulnerable Democratic Senator Kay Hagan.
For a non-candidate, Hillary Clinton is on the move, making at least 35 public appearances since January on a circuit that took her from coast to coast, testing out themes for an expected White House run. Her frequent-flyer schedule included stops in Washington, San Francisco, Oregon, San Jose, Massachusets, the United Nations, Connecticut, Kentucky and Arizona. From east to west, the former first lady (1993-2001), US senator (2001-2009) and President Barack Obama's first secretary of state (2009-2013) has discussed the arc of her career, including fighting political fires in global hotspots. In other words, Hillary has been criss-crossing America crafting her unofficial political agenda, as the popular Democrat mulls a possible second run for the White House.
A White House spokesman said Wednesday that US officials have seen "no evidence" that Russian troops have pulled back from the tense border with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier said that the estimated 40,000 Russian troops deployed on the frontier had withdrawn to their usual training grounds. But, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said that "to date" there has been "no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place." Earnest made his remarks after the Russian leader met with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, current chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.