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.
One month after congressional committees launched formal probes into why it took GM more than a decade to respond to ignition switch safety defects with the recall, lawmakers still do not know exactly how company engineers initially reacted to the problem or whether senior executives were made aware of it. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee investigators last month spoke with GM lawyers about company documents. GM Chief Executive Mary Barra had few detailed answers for lawmakers at hearings last week. "If you really want to get to the bottom of it you really have to talk to people who were actually there when all this was going on," said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the senior Republican on the Senate committee.
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — President Barack Obama returned to the grieving Army post Wednesday where he first took on the job as the nation's comforter five years ago, mourning with families and uniformed comrades of those killed during last week's Fort Hood shooting spree. "We somehow bear what seems unbearable," he declared.
The US State Department Wednesday said it hoped to be able to reach a deal quickly with France to compensate victims of French rail firm SNCF for the deportation of Jews in World War II. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed the United States and France were in talks on "compensation for victims of deportations by rail from France to Nazi labor and death camps as well as for victims' families." But she hit out at state assemblies such as Maryland and New York which she said had "begun to pose a serious obstacle to achieving this goal." During the occupation of France by Germany and the so-called Vichy regime, SNCF deported some 76,000 Jews to concentration camps in freight cars between 1942 and 1944.
Fort Hood (United States) (AFP) - President Barack Obama vowed to do more to protect US soldiers on Wednesday as he paid a somber tribute to victims of last week's Fort Hood shooting, the second gun rampage at the Texas military base in five years. Speaking before the families of three soldiers killed by a comrade who took his own life during the April 2 shooting, Obama referenced the 2009 massacre at the base which claimed 13 lives. "Part of what makes this so painful is that we've been here before," Obama said. Completely eliminating every security risk from a base the size of Fort Hood may not be possible, Obama said.
Washington on Wednesday denounced as "unfortunate" an order from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to limit his cabinet's contacts with their Palestinian counterparts. We regard it as unfortunate," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, as her boss John Kerry met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Netanyahu ordered ministers to limit contact with their Palestinian counterparts in response to "the Palestinian violation of their commitments under peace talks," an Israeli official told AFP.