Some are suspected fighters from Yemen, Russia or Pakistan, arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Several have been linked to al Qaeda. As the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan winds down, the White House will soon provide Congress a dossier on about 50 non-Afghan detainees in a U.S. military prison north of Kabul. Their uncertain fate presents sensitive security and legal problems for the Obama administration in an echo of Guantanamo Bay.
The United States dismissed as "ludicrous" Wednesday claims by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that it was funding or running an offensive in Ukraine as Washington and Moscow again traded barbs. "I think many of the claims he made in his interview are ludicrous and they're not based in facts of what is happening on the ground," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. In an interview with state-controlled RT television, Lavrov had issued a blunt warning that Russia would respond if its interests were attacked in Ukraine, in a sign Moscow was upping the ante in the crisis. Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov late Tuesday ordered a new "anti-terrorist" operation against separatists holding a string of eastern towns after the discovery of two "brutally tortured" bodies.
By Jonathan Spicer and Emily Stephenson NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former lawyer with the American Bankers Association is being considered by the White House as a possible nominee to the board of the Federal Reserve, according to sources familiar with the efforts The lawyer's name emerged as the White House weighs candidates with community banking backgrounds to fill gaps on the Federal Reserve's powerful but depleted board, the sources said. People familiar with the White House's process said administration officials may fill one of the remaining openings with someone with banking experience, as opposed to an economist. Two sources said the administration is considering Diana Preston, a lawyer who recently left a post at the American Bankers Association, which represents many small banks.
The U.S. Democratic Governors' Association on Wednesday sued the state of Connecticut, saying its laws on political spending are unconstitutionally broad and limit the ability of political groups to buy independent ads backing candidates. The lawsuit said the state unfairly treats independent money spent on ads and other political messages by the national group as contributions to particular candidates, and thus subject to campaign finance limits. "Connecticut's campaign finance laws ... conflict with Supreme Court First Amendment precedent and place a cloud of uncertainty over what DGA may say or do without fear of prosecution," the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut said. It asked a judge to block the State Elections Enforcement Commission from enforcing its rules.
By David Alexander ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday his first trip to Latin America as Pentagon chief would add "muscle and sinew" to growing North American defense ties and highlight the importance of helping partner nations improve their militaries. Hagel, who will meet his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Mexico City before traveling to Guatemala, said the three-day visit will give him an opportunity to focus on relationship-building in a vital area that often receives little attention. "The region is important to America," Hagel told reporters aboard his plane to Mexico City. "I don't think over the years we've probably ever done enough to reach out to our Latin American partners." He said part of the reason was that U.S. relations in the region have been stable and good in recent years, so Washington has tended to focus its attention on the world's trouble spots.
The United States on Wednesday warned that a deal to form a Palestinian unity government could seriously hamper its already floundering efforts to forge a peace deal with Israel. Any Palestinian government must commit "unambiguously" to the principles of non-violence and to the existence of Israel as well as to already agreed treaties, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, restating a long-held US position. "It's hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist." Washington was both "disappointed" and "troubled" by Wednesday's announcement of a rapprochement between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) -- internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people -- and the Islamist Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip, Psaki said.
Environmentalists Wednesday urged the United States to drop plans to haul India to the WTO to open its solar market, saying the action would hurt the fight against climate change. The World Trade Organization's dispute settlement body in Geneva has scheduled Friday to hear the US case for a panel against India, which has some of the world's most ambitious plans for expanding solar power. US Trade Representative Michael Froman, announcing the move in February, said President Barack Obama's administration would "stand up for US workers and businesses" to break barriers to the Indian market.
The US Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that victims of child pornography should be able to receive financial compensation from one or more recipients of their pedophile photographs. Two of the pictures were found in the possession of Doyle Paroline, who the victim is suing for $3.4 million, an amount corresponding to the total cost of psychotherapy and loss of income resulting from the sexual abuse. A US appeals court in the southern United States found in her favor, but Paroline took the case to the top court. A minority, consisting of conservative Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said Paroline should pay nothing at all, because the amount of the damages were arbitrarily set.
By Julia Edwards and Aruna Viswanatha WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department laid out new clemency guidelines on Wednesday that are expected to make thousands of drug offenders eligible for a reduction in the sentences they are currently serving. Under the new guidelines, inmates that were sentenced under laws that have since changed, have served at least 10 years of their sentence and are nonviolent may be re-examined by the Justice Department and suggested to the president for clemency. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who announced the details of the plan, said the most obvious candidates for review were those sentenced before a 2010 law that lowered the terms for crack cocaine possession charges. "These older, stringent punishments that are out of line with sentences imposed under today's laws erode people's confidence in our criminal justice system," Cole said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The White House has expressed horror at what it called the "abomination" of spiralling violence in South Sudan's civil war, where rebels have been accused of massacring hundreds of civilians. The rebels seized the oil hub of Bentiu last week, unleashing two days of ethnic slaughter as they hunted down civilians sheltering in mosques, churches and a hospital, butchering dozens on the roadside, according to the United Nations. "We are horrified by reports out of South Sudan that fighters aligned with rebel leader Riek Machar massacred hundreds of innocent civilians last week in Bentiu," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Images released by the United Nations show piles of bloated, decomposing bodies strewn in several areas -- a repeat of mass killings seen in other areas of the country over the past four months.
SWIDWIN (Poland) (AFP) - The first American troops arrived in Poland Wednesday, after Washington said it was sending a force of 600 to the Baltic states as the crisis over Ukraine deepens. Some 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade touched down early afternoon in Swidwin, in the northeast of the country, according to an AFP journalist at the scene. A further 450 US troops will be deployed in the next few days in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, following Washington's announcement on Tuesday that it would increase its presence in the region to reassure its NATO "allies and partners". The US has pulled no punches in describing the purpose of the mission, with Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby calling the deployment a "message to Moscow" that Washington takes its obligations in Europe "very, very seriously".
Barack Obama will this weekend become the first US president to visit Malaysia for nearly 50 years, seeking to put decades of uneasy relations behind him as both cast wary eyes on a rising China. Mindful of America's perennial image problem in the Islamic world, Obama -- who visits Saturday-Monday -- is expected to tout the US friendship with the economically thriving moderate Muslim nation. As one of several rival claimants to parts of the South China Sea, Malaysia is also an important partner in the US "rebalance" of its strategic attention to Asia, where concern is rising over Beijing's territorial assertiveness. Obama will "highlight the growing strategic and economic relationship" with Malaysia and its "credentials as a moderate, Muslim-majority state and emerging democracy", said Joshua Kurlantzick, a fellow at the US Council on Foreign Relations.