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Justice Dept. broadening criteria for clemency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is broadening the criteria it will use in evaluating clemency petitions from certain federal prisoners and expects the changes to result in thousands of new applications, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.

Safety lacking after Bangladesh factory disaster: US

A year after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building left more than 1,100 dead, Washington says it remains concerned about worker safety and rights in Bangladesh. The poorly built nine-story Rana Plaza outside Dhaka was a warren of shops producing garments for export, including for major international brands like Italy's Benetton, Britain's Primark and Spain's Mango. Its collapse came six months after a fire at the Tazreen garment factory killed 111, further highlighting the deep safety issues in the country's $20 billion clothing industry. "We still have concerns however about labor rights and workplace safety in Bangladesh and there's still a lot of work to be done, particularly on the legal side of things."

US: Russia has 'days, not weeks' to follow accord

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia has "days, not weeks" to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.

US plans to sell Black Hawks to Mexico for $680 mn

The Pentagon said Monday it has informed the US Congress that it plans to sell 18 Black Hawk helicopters to Mexico for $680 million. The proposed deal -- announced a few days before a visit to Mexico by US defense chief Chuck Hagel -- is for 18 UH-60M Black Hawks with associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support, said the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). "Mexico has been a strong partner in combating organized crime and drug trafficking organizations," it said.

9/11 Truther Politicians

While September 11 conspiracy believers are fringe, they’re also bipartisan.

Argentine bonds: US court hears case on chasing assets

Argentina argued Monday that holders of its defaulted bonds have no right to pursue government assets, in the first of two US Supreme Court reviews of its fight against hedge funds. Lawyers for Argentina argued that the government's official assets around the world were protected by sovereign immunity, and as well by the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). But lawyers for the hedge funds, which have won several lower court rounds to compel Buenos Aires to pay up on the bonds, say they have the right to track down assets, such as those held in banks, as they try to recoup their investments. The hearing, and a second one to come, could finally decide the years-long case over whether a country which restructured its debt with a majority of bond holders has to repay a small minority which refused to join the restructuring deal.

Neil Eggleston to serve as Obama's new White House counsel

President Barack Obama has chosen former presidential lawyer Neil Eggleston as his new White House counsel to replace Kathyrn Ruemmler, who is resigning after nearly three years in the position, the White House said on Monday. Eggleston was an associate White House counsel under Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Treasury secretary to show 'commitment' to Detroit in visit

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will visit bankrupt Detroit this week to highlight the Obama administration's "continued commitment to the city's revitalization and explore ways to promote job creation and economic growth," according to an advisory his department released on Monday. In a draft of its plan for restructuring $18 billion in debt and other obligations released last week, Detroit outlined how it will tap philanthropies for $816 million to cover pension costs and avoid selling pieces from the Detroit Institute of Arts. President Barack Obama has not pledged direct funds to the Motor City, but his administration and Congress are using existing federal programs to provide aid. "As we've said, there is no bailout coming from Washington, but we continue to support the efforts by state and local officials as they work on Detroit's revitalization." The assistance comes as Detroit zeroes in on formulating a final restructuring plan that can win approval from Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes.

US looking into possible chemical attack in Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is looking into whether a toxic chemical was deployed on areas of Syria that are controlled by rebel forces seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Postal Service unveils image for Harvey Milk stamp

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service will feature a close-up, black-and-white photograph of Harvey Milk on its commemorative stamp of the California politician and gay rights icon.

Biden in Ukraine to show support as tensions rise

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden on Monday launched a high-profile visit to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to Ukraine and push for urgent implementation of an international agreement aimed at de-escalating tensions even as violence continues. The State Department said photographs show that some of the forces in eastern Ukraine are Russian special forces

US: Pictures indicate Russian troops in Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department has released images of soldiers in eastern Ukraine that it says are Russian forces, showing militants wearing similar uniforms and brandishing Russian weapons.

US sends salvage ship to help with S.Korea ferry disaster

The United States is sending a Navy salvage ship to help South Korea with the recovery of the ferry that capsized last week, the Pentagon said Monday. South Korea has not formally requested the ship, but the USNS Safeguard was being moved from Thailand toward South Korea in case it does, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said. An amphibious assault ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, is already taking part in rescue operations off the southwestern coast where the Sewol sank on Wednesday with 476 people aboard, including 352 high school students on a holiday trip.

Court orders U.S. to release memo on drones, al-Awlaki killing

By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to turn over key portions of a memorandum justifying the government's targeted killing of people linked to terrorism, including Americans. In a case pitting executive power against the public's right to know what its government does, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling preserving the secrecy of the legal rationale for the killings, such as the death of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. Ruling for the New York Times, a unanimous three-judge panel said the government waived its right to secrecy by making repeated public statements justifying targeted killings. These included a Justice Department "white paper," as well as speeches or statements by officials like Attorney General Eric Holder and former Obama administration counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, endorsing the practice.

U.S. to expand clemency criteria for drug offenders

By Julia Edwards WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department will widen the criteria it uses to decide which drug offenders to recommend to the president for clemency, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday. The department expects thousands of drug offenders currently serving time to be eligible for reduced sentences under the new clemency guidelines and it will prepare to review an influx of applications, Holder said in a video address. The Justice Department will now recommend more candidates for the president's consideration. "There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime - and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime," Holder said in his address.

U.S. justices seek narrow path in bondholder fight with Argentina

By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday indicated that creditors should be able to seek limited information about Argentina's non-U.S. assets in a case stemming from long-running litigation over Argentina's obligations to bond investors. During the one-hour oral argument concerning hedge fund NML Capital Ltd's efforts to seek payment of court judgments it says are worth around $1.7 billion, several justices suggested that military and diplomatic assets should be off-limits, which would narrow the scope of the ruling. A separate and more high-profile case - in which Argentina is challenging a court judgment ordering it to pay $1.33 billion to NML and other so-called holdout bond investors or face a potential default if it refuses to do so - is also pending before the U.S. high court. On Monday, the court heard Argentina's appeal of a lower court ruling that said a hedge fund could subpoena banks for information about the South American country's non-U.S. assets.

Supreme Court to review Jerusalem birthplace law

By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to weigh the constitutionality of a U.S. law that was designed to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem - the historic holy city claimed by Israelis and Palestinians - to have Israel listed as their birthplace on passports. The case concerns a long-standing U.S. foreign policy that the president - and not Congress - has sole authority to state who controls Jerusalem. Seeking to remain neutral on the hotly contested issue, the U.S. State Department allows passports to name Jerusalem as a place of birth, but no country name is included. The State Department, which issues passports and reports to the president, has declined to enforce the law passed by Congress in 2002, saying it violated the separation of executive and legislative powers laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

Another big week on tap for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will hear two significant cases and announce more decisions this week, as the nation’s highest court swings back into gear. Among the highlights: a TV dispute, truth telling in political campaigns, and a possible big decision from a case heard last October.