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Boehner resists calls for U.S. veterans chief ouster, blames Obama

By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans stepped up their attacks on the Obama administration over a deepening Veterans Affairs healthcare delay scandal on Thursday, but House Speaker John Boehner again declined to join a growing list of lawmakers calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. At a news briefing, Boehner said he was not still convinced that Shinseki's ouster would solve the VA's problems. Instead, he sought to keep the pressure on President Barack Obama for VA scheduling abuses that covered up monthslong delays for veterans' medical care appointments. "I'm going to continue to reserve judgment on General Shinseki," Boehner said.

Why Dems Want the V.A. Chief Gone, ASAP

Just like Kathleen Sebelius with Obamacare, V.A. chief Eric Shinseki now embodies the VA scandal. The longer he stays in office, the bigger the target on his back.

64 Members of Congress Want VA Secretary Gone

After the VA’s inspector general released an interim report Wednesday citing “systemic” misconduct at veteran hospitals throughout the country, a tsunami of lawmakers added their names to what until now had been a small chorus of calls for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign or...

Obama says U.S. needs to choose battles more carefully

After defending his approach to foreign policy in a commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., President Barack Obama told NPR that America's leadership in the 21st century will be defined in part by its military strength — "but only in part."

Conservative New Hampshire group endorses Brown rival for Senate

A conservative New Hampshire group on Thursday endorsed former state Senator Jim Rubens' run for the U.S. Senate, posing a challenge to fellow Republican Scott Brown, who is also seeking the party's nomination in the September primary. The Republican Liberty Caucus did not mention Brown, a former U.S. senator for Massachusetts who moved to New Hampshire late last year, in its endorsement but noted that Rubens has lived in the New England state for four decades. At least four Republicans are vying for the chance to oppose the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, in November. The Republican Liberty Caucus is an influential group whose positions jibe with those of Tea Party organizations.

Pro-gun grandson follows in Jimmy Carter's footsteps, sort of

Blessed with his forebear's famous smile and mellow manner, state Senator Jason Carter is trying to emulate grandfather Jimmy in November by winning election as governor. In March he voted for legislation known to its detractors as the “guns everywhere law,” which the National Rifle Association boasts is the most comprehensive of its type ever passed by a state. Carter courted another controversy last month when he said Georgia's drivers had the right to license plates that display the Confederate flag. But those issues are not as important as the fact that he is my grandfather and I love him,” Jason said after a recent campaign event.

Pakistan PM orders 'immediate action' over murdered woman

Pakistan's prime minister Thursday demanded "immediate action" over the brutal murder of a pregnant woman who was bludgeoned to death with bricks outside a courthouse while police stood by. Farzana Parveen was attacked on Tuesday outside the High Court building in the eastern city of Lahore by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers, including her brother and father, for marrying against the wishes of her family. Hundreds of women are murdered by relatives in Pakistan each year supposedly to defend family "honour", but the brazen nature of the attack, in broad daylight and in the centre of the country's second-largest city, has shocked rights activists. The fact that police officers guarding the court apparently did nothing to intervene to save the 25-year-old has added to the outrage.

Historic Jewish community holds out on Tunisia island

Djerba (Tunisia) (AFP) - Jews and Muslims have coexisted for hundreds of years on Tunisia's Djerba island, but while relations between the two are good, some members of the tiny Jewish community say the atmosphere is stifling. "We, the Jews, have been living here for more than 2,000 years," said Claudine Saghroun, who lives in the Hara Kbira, the island's large Jewish neighbourhood. Not any more," Tunisia's Grand Rabbi Haim Bittan said, adding that there were some 1,500 Jews in the country, mostly in Djerba. "We even share our names," the cobbler says, referring to his surname that is also used by Tunisian Jews.

For Syrian refugees, election shreds hope of return

Tripoli (Lebanon) (AFP) - For Abu Nur, a Syrian war refugee in northern Lebanon, next week's certain re-election of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad buries any hope he had of returning home soon. It will now take a "miracle from God, the all-powerful" to end the more than three-year-old conflict in Syria, the forty-something said from his grubby lodgings in the port city of Tripoli. His face covered with a scarf and using an alias, he recalls the mass protests in his hometown of Homs, in central Syria, calling for democratic reforms back in mid-March 2011. "The demonstrations against the regime were a miracle and this war will only end with a miracle," said Abu Nur, who shares a makeshift home with his wife and their five children.

Britain condemns 'barbaric' murder of Pakistani woman

British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned on Thursday the "barbaric" murder of a pregnant woman by her family outside a courtroom in Pakistan. Hague urged the Pakistani government to fully investigate the killing of 25-year-old Farzana Parveen and stamp out the practice of killings to defend family "honour". "I am shocked and appalled by the death of Farzana Parveen: both for the appalling manner of her death, and the unspeakable cruelty and injustice of murdering a woman for exercising her basic right to choose who to love and marry," Hague said a in a statement. "There is absolutely no honour in honour killings and I urge the government of Pakistan to do all in its power to eradicate this barbaric practice.

Nigeria's Jonathan vows 'total war' against Boko Haram

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday vowed total war against terrorism as the country's security forces stepped up efforts to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists 45 days ago. "I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability by waging a total war against terrorism," Jonathan said in an address marking 15 years since the return to civilian rule in Africa's most populous country and largest economy. Nigeria returned to democracy on May 29, 1999 after nearly 16 years of military rule but the country has recently been blighted by a five-year Islamist insurgency in north and central Nigeria that has claimed thousands of lives. The mass abduction of teenage girls on April 14 from a secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Borno state has sparked global outrage and drawn unprecedented attention to Boko Haram's extremist uprising.

Clegg defends Cable in Lib Dem leadership row

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg defended Vince Cable Thursday, denying claims that his Liberal Democrat colleague was involved in an attempt to dislodge him as party leader. Clegg rejected the "endless plots and conspiracy theories" surrounding Cable who faces questions over an opinion poll commissioned by his close friend Lord Oakeshott appearing to undermine the Lib Dem leadership. He said Business Secretary Cable was "absolutely not aware of the polls elsewhere" which indicated that the Lib Dems would do better if Clegg resigned.

India PM Modi stays silent on key priorities

India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed top ministers Thursday to prepare their agendas for the first 100 days but did not reveal which of the country's many problems would be tackled first. Speculation has been mounting about what the Modi government would grasp first given the scale of India's economic problems, including creaking infrastructure, energy shortages, high inflation and poor public finances. After attending a cabinet meeting chaired by Modi on Thursday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu refused to say what was top of the list amid sky-high expectations.

Injuries, arrests in Barcelona on third night Barcelona clashes

Thirty people were arrested and 14 others hurt when police clashed with stone-throwing youths in a third night of riots sparked by a squat eviction in Barcelona, officials said Thursday. Rioters then tipped over and burned bins, broke windows and pelted police with missiles. Regional government spokesman Francesc Homs blamed the violence on well-organised radicals on the fringes of the protest.

Iran welcomes Saudi invitation to Islamic bloc meeting

Saudi Arabia has invited Iran to attend a meeting of Islamic bloc foreign ministers in Jeddah next month, an Iranian official said in comments published Thursday. Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian welcomed the "friendly" gesture by Iran's regional rival, with which relations have been strained by the Syrian conflict and the fallout from unrest in Bahrain. An exchange of visits by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif was high on Tehran's agenda, he told the Etemad newspaper. The two-day meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation opens in Jeddah on June 18.

Russia signs deal on economic union with Belarus, Kazakhstan

Astana (Kazakhstan) (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a deal creating an economic union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, with Ukraine conspicuously absent after it turned its back on Moscow. "Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are going over to a fundamentally new level of cooperation," Putin said at the signing ceremony in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

Abbas names PM as unity govt talks stall over foreign minister

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas chose a prime minister to head a unity government on Thursday but announcement of the lineup was held up over the foreign affairs portfolio, officials said. Abbas sent a "letter of designation" to Rami Hamdallah, who is currently serving as premier within the West Bank-based government, an official in Ramallah said. "The government is ready, but there is only one problem, and that is that Fatah and Hamas reject Riyad al-Malki as foreign minister, something Abbas is insisting on," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Malki is a veteran diplomat who has served as foreign minister since 2007.