The United States sees value in getting to know Islamist militias in Syria, in order to better understand their intentions in the civil war there and their possible links with al Qaeda, the top U.S. military officer said on Wednesday. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not say directly whether the United States is holding face-to-face talks with Islamist rebel groups. "So I think that finding that out, however we do so, is worth the effort." The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the United States and other countries have held direct discussions with certain Islamist groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil conflict. Also on Wednesday, a commander of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah who fought in Syria was shot dead outside his home in Lebanon.
By Elvina Nawaguna WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. lawmaker critical of Wall Street is pushing the nation's six largest banks to voluntarily disclose their donations to think tanks, saying that not doing so threatens the credibility and research of these policy groups. In a letter to JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts asked the banks to be transparent in their financial dealings with think tanks so the public could more carefully evaluate their work. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America declined to comment on the issue.
By David Brunnstrom CHISINAU (Reuters) - John Kerry, the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Moldova in more than two decades, pledged on Wednesday to support the former Soviet republic's pro-Western moves in the face of Russian pressure. Kerry opted to make his brief stop after Moldova and another former Soviet republic, Georgia, initialed agreements on closer ties with the European Union last week. In doing so, Kerry skipped a ministerial conference in Ukraine, which has rejected an accord with Brussels in favor of cultivating closer ties with Russia. "I am here to affirm to you that the United States will stand with you," Kerry said at a meeting with President Nicolae Timofti.
By Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio began selecting his incoming administration on Wednesday, naming a veteran in management and public policy to become first deputy mayor. Anthony Shorris, 56, is former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the region's shipping terminals, bridges, tunnels and airports. More recently he has been senior vice president, vice dean and chief of staff at the NYU Langone Medical Center. "We have waited a long time for this progressive moment, and I am incredibly excited to join our new mayor and this team to take this city in a new direction." De Blasio said at a downtown Manhattan news conference that Shorris will be at the forefront of his administration.
By Richard Valdmanis BOSTON (Reuters) - Young Americans are unhappy with virtually every major thing President Barack Obama has done since he was re-elected, but they would still vote for him today, according to the results of a Harvard University survey released on Wednesday. The national poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics of more than 2,000 people aged 18 through 29 is intended to provide insight into the political views of the youngest U.S. voters, an increasingly influential demographic known as the "millennial generation." More than 50 percent of respondents in the survey, taken between October 30 and November 11, said they disapproved of how Obama handled key issues in his second term, including Syria, Iran, the economy, healthcare and the federal budget deficit. Some 55 percent of the survey respondents who reported casting ballots in the 2012 presidential election said they had voted for Obama, compared with 33 percent for Romney. The results follow a separate CNN/ORC poll released on November 25 that showed a growing number of Americans doubted Obama's ability to manage the nation, amid ongoing problems plaguing the president's signature domestic policy achievement, the healthcare reform law widely known as Obamacare.