President Barack Obama has a modest, tongue-in-cheek suggestion for people in New York City who support his agenda: move to North Dakota. The idea drew laughs in what was otherwise a somber speech at a $32,400-per-ticket fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the posh Upper East Side apartment of investment banker Blair Effron, co-founder of Centerview Partners. In the second of two fundraisers on Wednesday, Obama bemoaned how Democrats face some \"structural disadvantages\" in elections - winning with large margins in places like Brooklyn but losing to Republicans in red states. Obama described buying cheesecake at Junior's Restaurant in Brooklyn in October while campaigning with Bill de Blasio two days before the mayoral election.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday she was "personally skeptical" that Iran would agree to a comprehensive deal to remove its nuclear weapon capabilities but said the Obama administration faced a promising opportunity that required it to "give diplomacy space to work."
Six U.S. senators asked antitrust regulators to take a hard look at Pfizer Inc's plan to buy rival AstraZeneca PLC if the two companies reach a deal, saying they had \"significant concerns\" about how the proposed transaction would affect consumers. AstraZeneca, formed in 1999 from the merger of Sweden's Astra and Britain's Zeneca, has rejected a $106 billion offer from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, but Pfizer has not given up and a possible deal has raised concerns in Europe and the United States. \"Should a merger or acquisition ultimately be accepted by AstraZeneca, whether under the terms of that offer or any subsequent offer, we want to bring to your attention our significant concerns with the potentially harmful impact to consumers that would result,\" the senators said in a letter. The senators, all Democrats, said that a 2009 deal by Pfizer to buy Wyeth Laboratories was followed by a Pfizer decision to close research and development sites.
The US government officially designated as \"global terrorists\" Wednesday two figures from rival jihadist groups in Syria, warning other rebel factions in the war-torn country to stay away from both men. The US Treasury added Saudi-born Abd Al-Rahman Muhammad Zafir Al-Dubaysi al-Juhni and Iraq native Abd Al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The two were cited for their ties to, respectively, Al-Qaeda operations in Syria, and Qaeda breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Al-Juhni is part of a group of senior Qaeda operatives in Syria formed to attack Western targets outside the country and also to mediate tensions between ISIL and the Al-Nusra Front, the local Qaeda affiliate, the Treasury said.
The Pentagon is looking at transferring convicted leaker Private Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison so she can get hormonal treatment for her gender identity disorder, officials said Wednesday. Manning, found guilty of sending secret documents to WikiLeaks, is serving out a 35-year sentence and has asked the military to receive hormone replacement therapy to enable her to live as a woman. Faced with an unprecedented request, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved plans to allow military inmates to be transferred to federal prisons where they can receive treatment for the condition, officials said. Hagel instructed the Army to \"evaluate potential treatment options for inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria,\" Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told AFP.
By Gabriel Debenedetti WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton, a likely U.S. presidential candidate in 2016, on Wednesday defended her time as secretary of state as Republican criticism of her time in government mounts. Clinton told a forum of the American Jewish Committee advocacy group that she played a key role in securing U.N. sanctions on Iran in 2010 to try to halt its nuclear ambitions. \"I worked for months to round up the votes,\" she said in the first of three speeches she is giving in Washington this week. And Clinton has been attacked because the State Department on her watch did not designate Nigeria's Boko Haram group - which has kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls - as terrorists.
The US military is flying surveillance drones as well as manned aircraft over Nigeria to help the search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist extremists, the Pentagon said Wednesday. However, the data is not yet being shared with the Nigerians because Washington is still working out an agreement to govern the sharing of intelligence, Colonel Steven Warren told reporters. The United States has deployed the Global Hawk, which flies at high altitude, and the manned MC-12, a turboprop plane heavily used in Afghanistan, for the mission, a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP. The Pentagon had initially declined to say publicly if drones were being used.
By Thomas Ferraro WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democrats unveiled legislation on Wednesday to allow millions of Americans with student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates. Democrats said their measure would let holders of both federal and private undergraduate loans - some with rates of 9 percent or higher - to refinance at 3.86 percent. Drafted in coordination with the White House, the bill is part of Senate Democrats' 2014 legislative agenda aimed at giving all Americans \"a fair shot\" and rallying the party's liberal base in advance of the November elections. \"I don't think it will be seriously considered.\" Democrats control the Senate, 55-45, but need 60 votes to clear Republican procedural hurdles.
US ground and air forces held joint exercises with their Jordanian counterparts on Wednesday as the conflict in neighbouring Syria showed no let-up. Among those taking part in this year's war games are more than 1,000 soldiers and marines that Washington kept stationed in Jordan after last year's \"Eager Lion\" manoeuvres. The exercises centred on the sprawling Muwaffaq Salti air base in the eastern desert, which has long been seen as the mostly likely launchpad for any US intervention in Syria, like that which Washington briefly threatened late last year. \"The Royal Jordanian and US Air Forces carried out live fire exercises with F-16 and F-18 fighters, and practised aerial manoeuvres,\" the official Petra news agency reported.
Four weeks from publication of her new memoir, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday robustly defended her record as secretary of state and navigator of hot-button crises like Iran's nuclear drive and elusive Mideast peace. The book, \"Hard Choices,\" is set for a June 10 release and offers Clinton a framework for criss-crossing the country to boost her public standing as she mulls a possible run for the White House in 2016. Clinton told a Washington meeting of the American Jewish Committee that said she spent months holed up in her attic in upstate New York penning her memoir about the pitfalls and progress of conducting diplomacy in more than 110 countries. The book -- \"a light summer read,\" Clinton quipped -- highlights what she described as the \"endless set of tough calls\" she faced in her four years as President Barack Obama's first secretary of state.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met late Wednesday in London with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas for their first face-to-face talks since the peace process collapsed last month, US officials said. \"The door remains open to the peace process. After weeks of angry moves by both sides, Israel suspended its participation in the talks on April 23 after Abbas announced the Palestine Liberation Organisation was seeking a unity deal with the Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip.