Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel Thursday endorsed stronger military ties with Mongolia as it seeks a US partnership as a counterweight to its powerful neighbours Russia and China. Hagel and his Mongolian counterpart Dashdemberel Bat-Erdene signed a "joint vision" statement in Ulan Bator calling for expanding military cooperation through joint training and assistance. The document is mostly symbolic but is likely to irritate Beijing, which has accused Washington of trying to hold back its rise by cultivating military ties with smaller Asian neighbours. "A strong US-Mongolia defence relationship is important as part of the American rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region," Hagel told a joint press conference, referring to a strategic "pivot" that China has eyed with concern.
Restrictions on voting rights in conservative states endanger the core of the U.S. civil rights movement and force Americans to recreate "a yesterday we're better off done with," former President Bill Clinton said on Wednesday. Speaking to a crowd of students and activists in Austin, Texas, Clinton slammed new voting laws that require photo IDs, make voting harder for students, or otherwise tighten up access to the polls. "We all know what this is about," Clinton said at a gathering called the Civil Rights Summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson presidential library. "This is a way of restricting the franchise after 50 years of expanding it." Last year the Justice Department separately sued Texas and North Carolina to block voter-identification laws.
By Steve Holland HOUSTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama sharply criticized what he called the least productive U.S. Congress in modern history on Wednesday in a fund-raising speech that he used to try to energize Democrats to vote in November congressional elections. Obama blasted Republicans in the U.S. Senate for blocking a Democratic-supported bill earlier in the day aimed at addressing a gap in pay between male and female workers. Republicans argued that pay discrimination is already illegal. Obama also cited Republicans' refusal to agree to an immigration overhaul and an increase in the minimum wage as examples of what he called obstruction by his political opponents.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is looking into whether a "Cuban Twitter" program secretly backed by the U.S. government contained messages that were political in nature, despite assertions from the administration that the effort was intended only to increase the flow of information in a country that heavily restricts Internet access.