By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and his Republican opponents traded accusations over the minimum wage and a deadly attack at a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday in their drive to get voters focused on the November congressional elections. With five months before voters go to the polls, little actual governing is getting done and much of Washington is all about political posturing ahead of elections that may well determine Obama's ability to govern in his last two years in office. Obama, whose tepid public approval rating threatens to sag Democratic attempts to maintain control of the Senate in November, appeared with low-wage workers in the White House East Room to press his case for reducing income inequality. He zeroed in on what Democrats consider a major issue for them heading into the campaign season - raising the minimum wage paid to millions of Americans.
The head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency and his deputy will step down later this year, officials said Wednesday, but denied reports they were being forced out. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who had served as director of the DIA since July 2012, and deputy David Shedd, said in a joint memo to employees that "they will depart the agency and retire by early Fall 2014," according to an agency statement. Their "retirements have been planned for some time," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby in an email. Flynn played a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving under General Stanley McChrystal as part of US efforts to dismantle insurgent networks through raids by special operations forces.
Healthcare spending increased at its fastest pace in more than three decades. That surge is attributed to the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. "GDP growth would have ... been negative were it not for healthcare spending," said Harm Bandholz, chief economist at UniCredit Research in New York. Healthcare spending increased at a 9.9 percent annual rate, the quickest since the third quarter of 1980, and it contributed 1.1 percentage points to GDP growth.
The United States on Wednesday renewed calls for Bangladesh's leaders to work through their bitter divisions, warning that prolonged instability would take a dangerous toll on the impoverished country. Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said that the United States would keep pressing Bangladesh to resolve intense feuding but acknowledged that "we haven't seen a tremendous amount of movement." "We believe that all of the gains that Bangladesh has made in its economy, in its development trajectory, that all of those gains are fragile and unsustainable in the long term if it does not have political stability," she told a congressional subcommittee. "And political stability is not possible without some greater degree of political inclusion."