The United States offered Tuesday to send a team of experts to Nigeria to help find more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls amid a wave of outrage over their abduction. US Secretary of State John Kerry made the offer in a phone call to Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, who welcomed it, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Washington has also offered to set up a coordination cell at its embassy in Abuja with US military personnel, law enforcement officials as well as experts in hostage situations, she said. The issue was also set to dominate talks between Kerry and President Barack Obama later Tuesday.
Embarrassed by not being able to more harshly punish state legislators facing criminal charges, California lawmakers were due on Tuesday to examine a proposal allowing them to suspend one of their own without pay in the future. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced the measure in response to criticism leveled at the suspensions in March of three Democrats in the state Senate who continue to collect their salaries while they remain off the job. All three - Ron Calderon, Roderick Wright and Leland Yee - have faced criminal charges in a spate of ethics scandals that have damaged the public approval ratings of California lawmakers in general and cost Democrats a cherished two-thirds legislative majority in the Senate during an election year.
By Daniel Kelley TRENTON, New Jersey (Reuters) - A former aide to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie testified Tuesday that she had no involvement in an apparently politically motivated traffic jam orchestrated by top allies of the prominent Republican and likely presidential contender. Christina Genovese Renna was subpoenaed by a state legislative panel in Trenton investigating who in the governor's office knew about a plan to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge, apparently to punish a Democratic mayor who didn't support Christie's re-election. The shutdown over four days last September caused massive gridlock in the borough of Fort Lee, near the bridge linking New Jersey to New York City. Several of Christie's close allies, including his former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, have been accused of orchestrating the traffic jams to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who didn't back the governor's re-election.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday warned Americans against isolationism, saying the United States could not afford to turn away from the world's crises. Hagel's appeal coincides with a growing fatigue at home with the country's international commitments, after 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon chief acknowledged Americans were wary of foreign commitments but said the costs of pulling back from the world would carry even bigger risks.
Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, probably due to growing Clinton nostalgia in politics and on Tumblr, broke her silence with a personal essay for Vanity Fair this month. Lewinsky, who is only 40 now, expresses regret: "I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Lewinsky also makes a point to note that her affair with President Clinton was consensual, and that he did not abuse her. Now, the Internet is a much more friendly place for Lewinsky, especially the teen Internet.
The European Union must take a strong stance on food safety and environmental protection in landmark trade talks with the United States, the EU's agriculture commissioner said on Tuesday. "Europe should not be defensive in these negotiations," commissioner Dacian Ciolos told reporters at an informal meeting of EU ministers. "It was underlined by many ministers that in these negotiations we have to ensure the preservation of our values and our agro-food model, based on quality, food safety ... environment, animal welfare," Ciolos said. The European Union and the United States are negotiating what could be the world's largest free trade agreement, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Senior US officials are planning to travel to Israel "soon" following the collapse of the Middle East peace talks led by Washington, a State Department official said Monday. Deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf also dismissed reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry had decided to dismantle the team of American negotiators who have been based on the ground in Jerusalem for months trying to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Chief negotiator Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, had returned to Washington for consultations, Harf confirmed, after last week's April 29 deadline for a deal passed in a stalemate. "We're going to see where this goes from here and, you know, figure out what makes sense in terms of staffing," she told reporters, saying "we have some senior officials that will be going soon" to the region, without going into specifics.
Russia's "wilful violation" of Ukraine's sovereignty has global implications and has hindered its ability to help develop the Asia-Pacific region, a senior US official said Tuesday. "This is not an eastern European issue, this is a planet Earth issue," said US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel. "Russia's ability to contribute to the development of the Asia-Pacific region... has been badly compromised by its annexation of Crimea and its wilful violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbour the Ukraine." The United States has fiercely criticised Russia for the annexation, and for what it describes as Moscow's support for pro-Russian separatists who have occupied key buildings in eastern Ukraine.