Pressure on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign increased today after an inspector general’s interim report found that inappropriate scheduling practices have been “systemic” throughout the VA. For the first time, Senate Democrats are joining Republicans in issuing new calls for Shinseki to step...
By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - California lawmakers urged swift action on Wednesday to better train law enforcement officials to recognize and deal with mental illness after last week's bloody rampage in an idyllic college town near Santa Barbara. The killing spree by the son of a Hollywood film director has raised questions about whether police have adequate training to spot warning signs of violence after it emerged that deputies sent to the young man's home weeks prior to the rampage found him to be polite and left without taking further action. California Democrats hoping to improve the ability of police to spot warning signs renewed a call on Wednesday to spend $12 million on better training for police on such issues as part of a broader measure seeking increased funding for mental health services in California's criminal justice system.
US Secretary of State John Kerry lashed out at fugitive Edward Snowden Wednesday, urging him to "man-up" and do his patriotic duty by returning home to face trial for leaking intelligence secrets. Kerry's comments came only hours after Snowden alleged he was not just a low-level contractor working for the CIA, as the White House has repeatedly insisted. "I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas -- pretending to work in a job that I'm not -- and even being assigned a name that was not mine," he told NBC. In his first interview with US media, Snowden said he had worked covertly as "a technical expert" for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, and as a trainer for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to impose targeted sanctions on Venezuelan officials responsible for violent crackdowns on anti-government protests that have left at least 42 people dead. The bipartisan bill, should it become law, would allow President Barack Obama to freeze assets, block property and ban US visits by any former or current official of President Nicolas Maduro's government behind the abuse. "The Venezuelan people have sent us a distress signal for help," the bill's author, House Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said shortly before the voice vote that encountered little if any verbalized dissent. "Today, we answer that call by condemning the actions taken by the Maduro regime and showing our support to the people of Venezuela who are seeking liberty, freedom, human rights and justice," she added.
A Nigerian rights activist confirmed Wednesday that ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo hosted talks aimed at brokering the release of more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by Boko Haram. The talks at Obasanjo's farm last weekend included the former president, "some family members" of Boko Haram fighters and intermediaries, said Shehu Sani, an activist based in the northern city of Kaduna. The mass abduction on April 14 from a secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Borno state has been met with global outrage and drawn unprecedented attention to Boko Haram's five-year extremist uprising. Sani, an expert on religious violence in northern Nigeria, has been involved in several past efforts to negotiate with Boko Haram, including a September 2011 bid with Obasanjo.
US military veterans were subjected to "significant delays" at a government clinic where up to 1,700 of them may have been kept off waitlists, said an inspector's report released Wednesday. With a swirling scandal over treatment of wounded warriors growing into a political timebomb for President Barack Obama, the Veterans Administration launched a rapid response probe into allegations staff manipulated scheduling data and that veterans may have died waiting for treatment at a VA clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. "While our work is not complete, we have substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care at this medical facility," the preliminary report by the VA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) found. The VA "should take immediate steps to reach out to veterans who are currently waiting to schedule appointments and make sure that they are getting better access to care now," he added.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - New extremist networks in Europe and the Middle East may emerge from the war in Syria as thousands of foreigners fight alongside local militants, the UN Security Council heard Wednesday. A report from the UN's Al-Qaeda sanctions committee raised specific fears of large numbers of A1-Qaeda affiliated foreign fighters teaming up with Syria's branch of Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front. "Ties are established that the monitoring team predicts could lead to new pan-Arab and pan-European networks of extremists," said the head of the committee, Gary Quinlan. "Furthermore, the return of these battle hardened foreign fighters to their countries of origin, or to third countries, with new ideas and skills is a cause for concern," said Quinlan.