New Jersey Governor Chris Christie casts himself as a straight-talking everyman, but as scandal swirls around his administration, the number of state voters who see him as trustworthy has fallen dramatically, a poll said on Tuesday. Fewer than a quarter of New Jersey voters say "trustworthy" applies very well to Christie - down 20 points from October, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Still, more than half of state voters see the charismatic Republican governor, who is seen as a leading contender for the White House in 2016, as a "strong leader." "Trustworthy was one of Christie's hallmarks, especially given voters' normal cynicism about politicians," said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Also on Monday, local media reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan had subpoenaed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for records regarding the business dealings of the agency's chairman, David Samson, a Christie appointee.
By Mark Felsenthal and Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Monday forecast more robust economic growth in 2014 than last year and a further pickup in the economy for 2015. Under a White House projection, the U.S. economy is expected to expand by 3.1 percent this year, faster than last year's 1.7 percent. Growth would pick up to 3.4 percent in 2015, the White House said. The jobless rate, which reached a high of 10 percent in 2009, fell to a five-year low of 6.6 percent in January.
The Senate unanimously approved reforms Monday aimed at curbing sexual assaults in the US military, after a similar but more far-reaching measure failed last week. The Victims Protection Act, authored by Senator Claire McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosector, would bolster recently codified reforms that strip commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, assign victims their own independent legal counsel to protect their rights, and criminalize retaliation against victims who report such crimes. The bill, which must pass the House of Representatives before it becomes law, would "ensure that victims of sexual assault in the military will be treated with dignity and responsibility," said Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican co-sponsor. The bill would gut the so-called "good soldier" defense, which allows military personnel to use their professional good standing to make their case before a military court.
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There were plenty of college athletes at the White House on Monday, but none of the usual NFL or NBA-bound football and basketball players. Instead, President Barack Obama recognized the achievements of college athletes not in the big-money pursuits of football and basketball, but in a range of other sports like riflery, field hockey, water polo, tennis, track and field, soccer, lacrosse and hockey. "It is nice to be outside for a change, and spring break is underway for a lot of schools, so we thought this was the perfect time to invite a bunch of college kids over to wreak havoc on the White House," said Obama, just a week after a snowstorm paralyzed the U.S. capital. Three schools had two national championship teams present: Princeton University (fencing and field hockey);
Dozens of lawmakers will try to push climate change higher up the US political agenda Monday, launching an all-night Senate session pushing for legislation to reduce the global warming threat. At least 28 Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will participate in the session -- mocked by Republicans as a stunt -- from after the last vote Monday though until Tuesday morning. The overnighter is the first major effort by the newly-created Climate Action Task Force in Congress, which wants to kick-start public debate on climate change. "On Monday we'll be sending a clear message: it's time for Congress to wake up and get serious about addressing this issue," Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said in a statement.
A group of rights activists and analysts called on US President Barack Obama Monday to press Saudi Arabia to help end the political crisis in its neighbor Bahrain. The oil-rich Gulf kingdom has "significant influence" in Bahrain where "lasting stability can only be achieved by genuine reform," the group of almost 30 people wrote in a letter to the American leader. The group -- including experts from some of Washington's most influential think tanks -- urged Obama to "seek to enlist the Saudis in an approach that can end the political crisis and the violence that afflict Bahrain" during his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia later this month.
By Thomas Ferraro and Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than two dozen U.S. Senate Democrats joined forces to speak through the night on Monday, hoping to "wake up" Congress to what they call the threat of climate change. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was slated to kick off the marathon gabfest at about 6 p.m. EDT on Monday, with the final address expected to end about 15 hours later, at 9 a.m. EDT on Tuesday. Thirty of the Senate's 53 Democrats, plus the two independents who caucus with them, have signed up to participate. The White House said it will post live tweets during the overnight session under the hashtag #up4climate.
The professional body for American diplomats has dropped its threat to sue the State Department following a row over whether some ambassador candidates were qualified for their plum overseas postings, an official said Monday. The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) had called for the US administration to release so-called "certificates of demonstrated competence" amid anger over the number of political nominees and concern over the qualifications of some. An AFSA spokesperson told AFP the body had received "the majority of the materials" it had requested by Friday. However the association, which has 16,400 members among current and retired diplomats "believes that these documents should be released to the general public as a measure of transparency and good governance," said AFSA's director of communications Kristen Fernekes.
Russian-US tensions over Ukraine exploded into a public row Monday, as Secretary of State John Kerry refused to attend talks in Moscow after his counterpart snubbed Kiev's interim leaders. Russia's wily foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, came out swinging first, putting the much-travelled Kerry on the spot by denouncing him for turning down an invitation to meet on Moscow on Monday. Washington has led global efforts to defuse tensions since Russian troops deployed troops last week in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula after a months-long tussle over Ukraine's future direction.
Spain has approved plans to host an expanded US Marine Corps force that is designed to respond to crises in Africa and rescue American diplomats in emergencies, officers said Monday. The "crisis response" task force was created in the aftermath of the 2012 deadly attack on a US diplomatic post in the Libyan city of Benghazi, which left four Americans dead. Under the agreement with Madrid, the US military presence at Moron air base will increase to 850 Marines, along with additional aircraft, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters. "Spain has agreed to allow the task force to temporarily base there for an additional year and to increase the number of Marines from 500 to 850," Warren said, adding Washington was grateful to the Spanish government for the decision.