U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice will visit Israel in May as head of a U.S. delegation consulting on a range of issues involving the two countries, the White House said on Wednesday. "Coming out of the very productive consultations between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama during their bilateral meeting this week, President Obama has asked National Security Advisor Susan Rice to travel to Israel in May to lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Israel Consultative Group," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
By Roberta Rampton BOSTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama gently chided Democratic donors on Wednesday for paying too much attention to the next presidential race in 2016 and not enough attention to the upcoming midterm elections in 2014. Reminding Democrats at a fundraiser in Boston that "we got whalloped" in the 2010 midterms, when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Obama warned that "it could happen again if we don't fight on behalf of the things we care about in this election." "No one could be more invested than me in having a Democrat succeed me," Obama told about 70 supporters at a dinner where tickets cost $5,000 to $20,000. But he stressed to Democrats they need to invest time, money and energy on the November midterms. Too often, when there's not a presidential election, we don't think it's sexy, we don't think it's interesting, people tune out," Obama said.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is a tough but thin-skinned leader who is squandering his country's potential, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, a day after she likened his actions on the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine to those of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
The professional body for diplomats has given the State Department until Thursday to certify that all nominees for plum US ambassadorships are competent to serve, amid anger over the number of political appointees. Otherwise, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) says it will sue the US administration to force it to prove that all the nominees have so-called "certificates of demonstrated competence." "AFSA remains concerned about the qualifications of several recent nominees," the body said in a statement. "AFSA's goal is to ensure that the nation has the most qualified persons serving as ambassadors.
The US House of Representatives will vote Thursday on authorizing an aid package for Ukraine, but legislating economic sanctions into reality against an over-aggressive Russia is far from settled. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday he wanted to move swiftly, then promptly announced on Twitter he would hold the vote the next day on the proposed $1 billion in loan guarantees to assist crisis-hit Kiev's new government. The White House had previously unveiled the aid plan. Speaker John Boehner said the goal was to help President Barack Obama "strengthen his hand" in dealing with Europe's most severe security crisis since the Cold War.
By Patricia Zengerle and Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers could vote within days on legislation to aid the government of Ukraine as it seeks to rebuild the country and struggles to halt Russian military incursions, but they are still undecided as to how Washington should best deal with Moscow. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives made a rare show of support for President Barack Obama earlier on Wednesday, saying they would work with the White House to address the crisis in Ukraine. Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the House would soon consider a $1 billion loan guarantee package for Ukraine, which the administration has called for, and look at measures to "put significant pressure on Russia to stop the flagrant aggression to its neighbor." "The world community should stand united against this invasion, America should be leading and we'll vote soon on legislation to aid the Ukrainian people," he told reporters.
By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Skeptical U.S. lawmakers told Pentagon leaders they did not like the department's proposed 2015 defense budget on Wednesday but acknowledged that painful cuts to military personnel and popular weapons systems were due to spending caps approved by Congress. Reacting to the new Pentagon budget unveiled this week, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern about plans to slash the size of the Army, curb the growth of military compensation and retire popular weapons systems such as the entire fleet of A-10 "Warthog" tank-killer aircraft. Even the panel's Democratic chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, questioned whether the resources provided to the Defense Department were "adequate to enable our military to meet its national security missions." The Pentagon's 2015 spending plan unveiled on Tuesday begins to look beyond the wars of the past 13 years, calling for a smaller overall military to generate savings that can be used to ensure training and modernization at a time of reduced budgets.
The US State Department sought the propaganda edge Wednesday evoking writer Dostoyevsky to denounce what it called Russian President Vladimir Putin's "fiction: 10 false claims about Ukraine." In a mounting war of words between the former Cold War foes, US and Russian officials have in recent days put out starkly different versions surrounding the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. Putin's insistence that he had not sent troops into Ukraine drew incredulity from US Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference Tuesday after his brief visit to Kiev to show support for the new interim government. But the Russian leader's assertions that the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev was "an armed seizure of power" prompted the State Department Wednesday to publish what it called a "Fact Sheet" accusing Putin of ignoring or distorting reality.
The uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had been losing influence before he was executed in a shock purge last year, according to a Pentagon report released Wednesday. The execution of Jang Song-Thaek as a "traitor" in December by the Pyongyang regime came as a surprise to outside governments but the report said his downfall "is unlikely to lead to major changes in defense policy or internal stability in the near term." Although Jang was a four-star general he had little control over military matters and his main focus had been on attracting investment and foreign currency into the country, said the Pentagon's annual report to Congress on North Korea. Jang "was believed to be a relatively pragmatic advisor to Kim Jong-Un, but his influence probably waned in 2013," the report said.
The US Supreme Court appeared sharply divided Wednesday on whether stockholders should be allowed to file class action lawsuits over alleged financial market fraud. The court, known for a gentle approach to the business community, was weighing whether to take up a class-action case against US energy giant Halliburton. In the case, a group of investors charged that they lost money when Halliburton's shares plunged following what the plaintiffs said was an erroneous characterization of earnings. But at issue at the top court was whether the class-action suit should move forward at all.
The White House on Wednesday unveiled another delay in implementing President Barack Obama's signature health law -- apparently to shield vulnerable Democrats in mid-term elections. The Obama administration said that insurers could continue to market health care plans that do not meet the minimum standards of the new law until October 1, 2016. Officials had already offered an extension to people who had the existing plans, amid a political furor over Obama's frequent and now discredited promise that if people liked their health coverage under the new law, they could keep them. The administration said that the move would give consumers more choice in America's health care marketplace.
Potential Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday tried to clarify comments that left the impression she had compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to German dictator Adolf Hitler. Clinton, as President Barack Obama's secretary of state in his first term, was a key player in a U.S. effort to reset relations with Russia, a policy that critics say now appears to be a glaring failure. On Tuesday, Clinton had said Putin's incursion into the Crimea region of southern Ukraine was akin to moves Hitler made in the years before World War Two. Putin justified sending forces into Crimea by saying he wanted to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, which Clinton said was similar to Hitler's vow to protect ethnic Germans in eastern Europe.
California Governor Jerry Brown told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he hoped Israeli water technology could help his state deal with a devastating drought. Netanyahu, on a visit to Silicon Valley, and Brown signed a memorandum of understanding for research and development cooperation in various technological fields, including water conservation. "Israel has demonstrated how efficient a country can be, and there is a great opportunity for collaboration," Brown said. Netanyahu said Israel's expertise in wastewater recycling, desalination and drip irrigation had solved its water problems.