By Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama heads to Minneapolis on Thursday, the first stop in series of summer road trips where he will aim to spend a "day in the life" of an ordinary American and convince voters that the White House understands their challenges. Obama will have lunch with a woman named Rebekah - the White House has not provided her full name - who wrote to him earlier this year. The trip is also aimed at reconnecting Obama with Democrats ahead of midterm elections where Republicans stand a good chance of taking control of the Senate, jeopardizing the chance to accomplish goals for his last two years in office. Obama's job approval ratings have slid to 41 percent, Gallup said on Tuesday, with voters concerned about the economy and with the way the White House has handled the insurgency in Iraq.
A scene of carnage in World War I, the small Belgian town of Ypres is a warning written in blood for EU leaders Thursday of what happens when statesmen fail to preserve the peace. Now a bustling, busy place, Ypres and its proud medieval cloth hall were reduced to rubble by incessant German shelling. The symbolic centrepiece of Thursday's EU summit, hosted by European Council head Herman Van Rompuy, is the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, the imposing monument which honours the dead of the armies of the British empire "who stood here ... and who have no known grave." "It will be a moving ceremony because we are here testifying what Europe is -- a project of peace, a project of solidarity, a project of cooperation," Van Rompuy said recently.
US President Barack Obama warned additional sanctions would be in store if Russia does not move swiftly to reduce tensions in eastern Ukraine. In a telephone call with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Obama also vowed to press Russia to persuade separatist groups to abide by a ceasefire agreement, the White House said. The two leaders agreed to "coordinate measures to impose additional costs on Russia if it fails to take rapid action to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine," where 400 people have died in unrest since April, it added in a statement. Obama and Renzi "also stressed the need for Russia to use its influence over separatist groups to persuade them to abide by the cease-fire and for Russia to take immediate concrete steps to stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border," the statement said.
US President Barack Obama mocked Republicans who reject global warming as a "liberal plot," as he pumped up a crowd of environmental activists in Washington. "Folks will tell you climate change is a hoax or a fad or a plot," Obama said at a League of Conservation Voters dinner. "It's a liberal plot," Obama said, sarcastically. "'They say, hey, I'm not a scientist,' which really translates into, 'I accept that manmade climate change is real, but if I say so out loud, I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements that thinks climate science is a liberal plot.'"
North and South Korea resumed talks Thursday on managing their Kaesong joint industrial zone, after a six-month hiatus caused by rising tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul. The two Koreas set up a joint committee to run Kaesong after the zone shut down completely in April for five months as military tensions on the Korean peninsula surged to dangerous levels. Since its last meeting on December 19, however, the joint committee has sat idle as tensions rose again with North Korea's angry protests over the South's annual military exercises with the United States.
Britain's David Cameron headed for defeat at an EU summit Thursday after being abandoned by his allies in a battle to block the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission chief. European Union leaders gather at the World War I killing fields of Ypres in Belgium to kick off two days of fiery talks in what is the most bitter dispute seen in Europe since the height of the euro crisis. With tensions high between Cameron and his European peers, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy is to issue a statement after the dinner. "We will support Juncker's candidacy," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told parliament shortly after Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt made a similar statement before a Swedish parliament committee.
By Annika McGinnis WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama lampooned congressional skepticism over climate change on Wednesday, saying that lawmakers who balk at tackling air pollution are either blind to science or cowed by extremists. In a speech to the League of Conservation Voters, the president enumerated the steps he has taken to slow pollution and rein in emissions that scientists say have trapped heat in the earth's atmosphere. The president mocked those who question the science behind climate change or the urgency of addressing the problem, which has emerged as a legacy issue for his presidency and a polarizing topic in November congressional elections. "Right? I mean, it’s not that hard." Some lawmakers may secretly believe that man-made climate change is real but are afraid to admit so for fear of "being run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements that thinks climate science is a liberal plot", Obama said.
By Jonathan Kaminsky HATTIESBURG Miss. (Reuters) - Tea Party Republicans in Mississippi on Wednesday railed against an election rule that allowed Democrats, many of them black, to tilt a bitterly fought Republican U.S. Senate primary runoff to incumbent Thad Cochran. Tea Party-backed candidate Chris McDaniel, who declined to concede defeat in a fiery election-night speech, said on Wednesday he would decide within days whether to challenge the election results. “We just had the Democrats select the Republican candidate," said Barry Neyrey, a Tea Party activist from Long Beach. "That’s corruption.” The Cochran campaign, which trumpeted the six-term incumbent's track record of steering billions of dollars in federal aid to the state, defended his courtship of black voters as an effort to expand the party's mostly white base.
The Security Council extended for another year the UN mission in Mali, calling on it to prioritize efforts to facilitate peace talks and expand its presence in the north. The maximum level of peacekeepers will remain the same, at 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police, as will the arrangement under which French soldiers in Mali can lend a hand in cases of serious and imminent danger. According to the resolution, the UN mission, known as MINUSMA, should "expand its presence, including through long-range patrols... in the north of Mali beyond key population centers, notably in areas where civilians are at risk." The UN resolution urged "Malian authorities to launch without delay an inclusive and credible negotiation process," and called on all the armed groups to put down their weapons.
A former U.S. Internal Revenue Service official at the center of a controversy over the tax agency's treatment of Tea Party groups sent emails in which she appears to seek an audit involving a Republican senator, according to documents released on Wednesday by a House of Representatives committee. The emails show former IRS official Lois Lerner received an invitation to an event in 2012 that was meant to go to Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. Grassley apparently received Lerner's invitation by mistake. Lerner, in an email to another IRS official, suggests referring the matter for an audit.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — National Republican leaders trying to appeal to non-white voters are cringing over Senate candidate Chris McDaniel's complaints that Democrats — most of whom are black in Mississippi — voted in the state's GOP Senate runoff and helped six-term incumbent Thad Cochran capture the party nomination.