US President Barack Obama said Friday he hopes to have an agreement on framing a vast pan-Pacific trading block by the time he makes his next visit to Asia in November. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would encompass 40 percent of the global economy and include 12 nations. Talks on setting up the pact have been delayed by intricate market access negotiations between Japan and the United States. Obama said he and New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key discussed the latest timeline for the deal in Oval Office talks Friday, and that he hoped to have a "document" on it by the end of the year.
The White House on Friday ordered environmental regulators to review the effect that pesticides may be having on bees and other pollinators that have suffered significant losses in recent years. Environmental advocates welcomed the plan but said it did not go far enough, noting that the European Union has already banned three common pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, on the basis that they were making bees sick. Honey bees contribute $15 billion in value to US crops annually, and have suffered severe losses in recent years due to a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. The government's new plan calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to "assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate," within 180 days.
The Obama administration on Friday said it would boost resources and speed up deportation hearings to cope with a suddenly rising tide of illegal immigration among children from Central America. The move comes while Vice President Joe Biden is in the region to discuss the problem, which has further roiled the already toxic debate over immigration reform in the United States. The White House said the government would step up enforcement resources to hold and process children and adults who bring them into the country illegally. Between October 2013 and the end of May 2014, US border officials intercepted more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors trying to illegally enter the United States, almost twice the number registered between October 2012 and the end of September 2013.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah visited Cairo Friday, on his first trip to Egypt since the 2011 ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak, for talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Riyadh hailed last July's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by ex-army chief Sisi and has pledged billions of dollars in aid to Egypt's military-installed authorities.
US President Barack Obama said Friday that he is badgering his staff to line up a trip to New Zealand, after holding talks with his golfing buddy, Prime Minister John Key. Obama and Key met for talks in the Oval Office on trade, security and economic issues, but the conversation also turned to their shared passion for the links and Obama's travel plans. "I indicated to him that I would love to come to New Zealand because I hear it's really nice," Obama told reporters. "We're going to be working with my scheduler to see what I can come up with, if not this year, certainly before the end of my presidency," Obama said.
Mombasa (Kenya) (AFP) - A Briton on trial in Kenya for plotting bomb attacks had chemicals that could be used to make "highly volatile" explosives, a British detective told a Mombasa court on Friday. Suspected British militant Jermaine Grant, accused of ties to Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab and plotting attacks, was arrested in December 2011 in the Kenyan port city with various chemicals, batteries and switches. "These items can be found with someone with the intention of constructing an IED, (improvised explosive device)," John Reilly, from London's Metropolitan police, told the court.
Iran has sent "small numbers" of operatives into Iraq to bolster the Shiite-led government in Baghdad but there is no sign of a major deployment of army units, the Pentagon said Friday. "There are some Iranian revolutionary operatives in Iraq but I've seen no indication of ground forces or major units," spokesman Admiral John Kirby told a news conference, apparently referring to Tehran's Quds force, the covert arm of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, once denied a visa to enter the United States over massacres of Muslims, is expected to receive the honor of addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress during a visit to Washington in September. California Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to House Speaker John Boehner on Friday and asked that he invite Modi to address a joint session of the House and Senate during his trip. "In every aspect – whether it be in political, economic or security relations – the United States has no more important partner in South Asia," the letter said. The administration of President George W. Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 U.S. law barring entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom." In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat's chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state.
By Brendan O'Brien MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rejected on Friday prosecutors' accusations of illegal coordination between his campaign and conservative groups and said they were politically motivated. Neither Walker, a potential Republican White House hopeful for 2016, nor anyone else was charged in an investigation launched nearly two years ago by prosecutors under a Wisconsin law that requires the probes to be conducted in secret. Prosecutors alleged that Walker's campaign created a complex network of organizations that allowed them to circumvent Wisconsin campaign finance laws. "This could qualify as a black cloud or not, depending on how it develops," said Larry Sabato, who leads the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
The nearly 1.9 million member Presbyterian Church USA has given its pastors the green light to marry gay and lesbian couples, in another coup for marriage equality in the United States. The decision by the influential mainline Protestant denomination's General Assembly in Detroit, which ends Saturday, follows "much thought, discussion and prayer," it said in a statement. The biannual General Assembly also approved a change to the church's Book of Order, or constitution, which will now define marriage as "traditionally" between a man and a woman. On Thursday, some 2,000 opponents of same-sex marriage staged a March for Marriage in Washington, despite opinion polls that indicate that a majority of Americans now accept marriage equality.
US Secretary of State John Kerry heads abroad Sunday for talks on the crisis in Iraq, seeking to find ways to end deep sectarian divisions threatening to tear the country apart. From June 22 to 27, Kerry will travel to Amman and then onto Brussels and Paris "to consult with partners and allies on how we can support security, stability, and the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday. As he unveiled plans to send up to 300 military advisors to Iraq to help stem a surprise militant onslaught, President Barack Obama said Thursday he was dispatching Kerry on a diplomatic mission to shore up Iraqi stability. In Amman, Kerry will meet with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, before traveling to Brussels for the NATO talks focusing on the alliance's summit later this year in Britain and "the ongoing crisis in Ukraine," Psaki said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will seek to exploit disagreement within a deeply divided EU over a Kremlin-backed gas pipeline as he looks to seal Vienna's support for the project during a visit to Austria next week. During the one-day trip on Tuesday Putin will oversee the signing of a shareholder agreement between Gazprom and energy firm OMV enabling them to press on with work to build a section of the planned South Stream pipeline in Austria, Putin's top foreign policy aide said on Friday. The Russian president is expected to use the opportunity to try to secure Vienna's backing for the Gazprom-led pipeline after another EU member involved in the project, Bulgaria, suspended work on it earlier this month under pressure from the EU, Putin's aide Yury Ushakov