Political News from Yahoo

Ban on Russian contacts spreads to space agency NASA

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - NASA has been added to the list of U.S. government agencies prohibited from contacting Russian government representatives, though operation of the International Space Station is exempt from the ban, officials said on Wednesday. "This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or video conferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted," NASA Associate Administrator Michael O'Brien wrote in a memo to employees that was posted on the NASAWatch.com website. The only major space project under direct U.S.-Russia control is the space station, a $100 billion research laboratory, owned by 15 nations, which flies about 250 miles above Earth.

In Michigan, Obama presses for higher minimum wage

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Pressing his economic case in an election year, President Barack Obama came to Michigan on Wednesday to praise the state's ongoing effort to raise the minimum wage — and to accuse Republicans who oppose that step in Michigan and in Congress of standing in the way of prosperity for millions of Americans.

Urban League: Blacks doing worse in the job market

WASHINGTON (AP) — While unemployment has been a major impediment to African-Americans' economic progress, underemployment is a bigger obstacle for them than it is for whites or Hispanics, the National Urban League says in its latest State of Black America report.

Calm Down, Earthquakes Are Normal

The past week has been a shaky one, with earthquakes reported in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Wyoming, and Chile. It seems like a lot, but the data says we have little to worry about.

Kerry hails 'historic' Afghanistan elections

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he hoped weekend presidential elections in Afghanistan would mark a "historic" democratic transition in the war-torn country. With the US still trying to firm its post-2014 military presence in Afghanistan after a drawdown later this year, Kerry said Saturday's vote marked a "pivotal moment after more than a decade of sacrifice and struggle." "When millions of Afghan men and women go to the polls on April 5 to choose a new president it could mark Afghanistan's first democratic transition of power, and we all have a stake in seeing that milestone achieved," Kerry in a statement. Afghans are to vote on a successor to outgoing leader Hamid Karzai, who has been at loggerheads with the United States over his refusal to endorse a Bilateral Security Agreement governing the terms of a US military deployment in Afghanistan after this year.

Congressional Campaign Rattled By Unearthed 'Vampire' Photos

A Florida congressional candidate who likes to role play as a vampire and dress up as a Gothic-punk character named “Chazz Darling” is fighting back by pointing out that he has also played Jesus in a church play and George Washington in an elementary school...

'NASA suspends Russia ties, except on space station'

NASA has cut all contacts with Russia except for cooperation aboard the International Space Station, according to an internal memo obtained by the online news site The Verge on Wednesday. NASA did not immediately return calls for comment. However, a copy of the memo posted online described a halt to travel to Russia by NASA employees and to visits by Russians to NASA facilities, and a freeze on exchange of email, teleconferences and video conferences. "Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine¹s sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the US government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted," it said.

Israel, Palestinian actions 'unhelpful': White House

The White House said Wednesday it was disappointed by "unhelpful" actions by Israelis and Palestinians that threaten to tear apart a US-led peace effort. Secretary of State John Kerry's bid to save peace talks is in peril after Israel announced plans for new settlement building and the Palestinians took steps towards seeking international recognition. White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest expressed disappointment at "unhelpful, unilateral actions both parties have taken in recent days."

Republicans say Ryan budget can pass House despite Tea Party

By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Republican leaders on Wednesday predicted passage of a budget blueprint offered by Representative Paul Ryan, despite criticism from conservative Tea Party activists who said the plan would not eliminate federal deficits quickly enough. "It'll pass," said Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House who, as Majority Whip, is responsible for rounding up votes for legislation. The Ryan plan, which proposes deep cuts to healthcare, social safety net and other domestic programs in order to reach a small surplus by 2024 while boosting defense spending, could face resistance from the most conservative Republicans in the House. That's the most I can say right now," said Representative Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan, when asked if he would support the plan from Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee.

GM accused of 'criminal' behavior over ignition fault

Senators accused General Motors of "criminal deception" over a decade-long ignition problem linked to 13 deaths, as the US automaker's boss faced a second straight day of congressional anger Wednesday. Defending her company's battered reputation, chief executive Mary Barra repeated her pledge that GM will be forthcoming with results of a sweeping internal investigation into what led it to keep using ignition switches it knew were faulty for years, then change the parts without alerting the public or regulators. They instead noted that GM has yet to sack anyone over the debacle, despite its own evidence that the defects were posing a deadly hazard. The manufacturer is under fire for not recalling Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other GM models fitted with the switches.

In campaign mode, Obama touts wages and Obamacare success

By Jeff Mason ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, needing a spark to nudge Democratic voters to the polls in November, pressed his case on Wednesday for job-creation measures that have little chance of passing Congress. With his shirt sleeves rolled up and his suit jacket off, Obama delivered a campaign-style speech to a gymnasium of young people in Michigan in an effort to rev up his base for critical congressional elections, in which his party risks losing control of the U.S. Senate and seats in the House of Representatives. On Tuesday, he announced 7.1 million people had signed up for coverage under Obamacare, his signature healthcare law, which has dogged him for months because of a disastrous rollout and a glitchy website. Obama, who was to headline a pair of fund-raising events in Chicago later on Wednesday, took note of the healthcare enrollment number.