President Barack Obama departed Washington Monday en route to Poland, the first stop of a trip designed to reassure America's allies in Eastern Europe. Obama was accompanied on his presidential plane Air Force One by his national security adviser Susan Rice, spokesman Dan Pfeiffer, and other senior aides. During the Poland leg of his four-day trip, Obama was to meet with Ukraine's president elect Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday. He later attends the Group of Seven summit in Brussels, where the agenda was to be dominated by Washington's push -- and Europe's reluctance -- to keep the economic screws tightened on Russia because of its seizure of Crimea.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon concluded in 2010 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military curbed any high-risk rescue plans. But the U.S. kept pursuing avenues to negotiate his release, recently seeking to fracture the Taliban network by making its leaders fear a faster deal with underlings could prevent the freedom they sought for five of their top officials, American officials told The Associated Press.
President Barack Obama on Monday said his administration would provide special assistance to children arriving to the US alone after making the treacherous overland journey from Mexico. In response to what he called an "urgent humanitarian situation," Obama ordered federal departments to coordinate relief for the unaccompanied children, including medical care, housing and efforts to reunite them with their parents. Cecilia Munoz, the top White House domestic policy advisers, said that the number of children apprehended along the border had "increased substantially" over the past month, particularly in Texas. "These are children from Central American countries, and they are crossing the border alone," she said.
King Juan Carlos championed strong ties between Spain and its former empire in Latin America, except for the time the departing monarch told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to "shut up." The famous clash took place during an Ibero-American summit in Chile in 2007, when Chavez angered Juan Carlos by calling Spanish conservative ex-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar a fascist. Chavez was having a tense exchange with then prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero when the king chimed in, waving his left hand toward the socialist Venezuelan leader and saying "why don't you just shut up" in front of other regional leaders. The incident caused a diplomat spat between Venezuela and Spain, with Chavez demanding an apology from the monarch and ordering a review of bilateral relations.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - A Russian draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and a humanitarian corridor met with criticism from the West and cool response at the Security Council Monday. Moscow drafted the resolution at the start of its month-long presidency of the Council as Western powers want to enforce humanitarian corridors in Syria -- a prospect blocked by Russia. Moscow said it wanted to stop the violence in Ukraine, which has escalated between pro-Russian separatists and government forces, but its resolution met with strong rebuke from Washington.
Seven video production and aerial photo companies have asked for federal permission to use civilian drones in the United States for the first time, the airspace regulator said Monday. The Federal Aviation Administration said use of these drones could offer "tangible economic benefits" but emphasized that "all the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated." The powerful Motion Picture Association of America, which brings together six of Hollywood's largest studios, backed the request, the FAA said. To get permission to fly, the companies must show their drones would not affect security and that they would be in public interest.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The fate of President Barack Obama's new regulations for curbing greenhouse gas emissions from existing U.S. power plants likely lies in the hands of a Washington, D.C., appeals court he largely reshaped through a series of key appointments. The appeals court has 11 active judges, of whom seven were appointed by Democratic presidents and four by Republicans. Four of the Democratic appointments were made by Obama over the past 13 months. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often referred to as the country’s second most powerful court, hears most major regulatory cases including those made against air pollution rules.
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Malawi, traditionally dependent on Western aid donors, will look for "new friends" in countries such as China and Russia, newly elected President Peter Mutharika said at his inauguration Monday. The ceremony at a stadium in the commercial capital Blantyre was boycotted by outgoing president Joyce Banda, who was soundly beaten by Mutharika in disputed elections held on May 20. Mutharika, who takes power in one of the world's poorest countries where 40 percent of the budget comes from aid, said the donor nations were "welcome to stay here". Foreign policy would be based on what is best for Malawi, he said.
US political and military officials warmly welcomed Bowe Bergdahl's release in Afghanistan, but questions about the circumstances of his kidnapping are becoming more insistent, with some soldiers accusing him of desertion. From the White House to the Pentagon, officials have celebrated the recovery of the 28-year-old army sergeant from his Taliban captors, repeatedly citing the promise never to leave a soldier behind. Some fellow soldiers, including members of Bergdahl's unit, have accused him of abandoning his post, and perhaps even deserting in a bid to flee to India. He is safe, and now it is time to speak the truth," Nathan Bradley Bethea wrote in the Daily Beast.
By Bill Cotterell TALLAHASSEE Fla. (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott used his veto pen sparingly on Monday, signing a record $77 billion state budget that balanced spending on programs favored by his Republican supporters in the state legislature against the concerns of fiscally conservative voters. In announcing his fiscal decisions, Scott emphasized the budget's tax cuts and increases in state education support. Democrats still called it a "pork-filled" election-year budget, pointing out that, although the bottom line for education is higher, the per-pupil state spending is $177 below its level of 2007-08, the first budget year of ex-Governor Charlie Crist, a former Republican now running against Scott as a Democrat. Vetoes included items such as a $2 million seawall intended for Cocoa Beach, or $3.25 million earmarked for a Stetson University science center. By contrast, he vetoed $368 million in budget items last year and $142 million the year before.
The head of Colombia's FARC rebels, long believed to fund guerrilla activities via the drug trade, said Monday that he opposes the trade as "counter-revolutionary." Timoleon Jimenez, known by his nom de guerre "Timochenko," said in an interview posted on the Internet that the FARC is opposed at its core to drug trafficking, "because it has killed many of our colleagues." Jimenez, chief commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, added in the interview that drug trafficking "has slowed development and has done a lot of harm," particularly in terms of "large number of youths" lost to the drug trade.
Spain's Prince Felipe faces an uphill battle to revive the monarchy's popularity when he takes the throne of a nation battered by economic hardships that have shattered faith in political elites, analysts say. King Juan Carlos, 76, announced Monday that he will hand over the crown to his more popular son Felipe, 46, saying he wanted to hand over to "a younger generation" after several turbulent years in Spain. The king is credited with smoothing Spain's transition to democracy after the death of long-time dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975 and was widely respected for most of his nearly four decades on the throne. But anger over a secret luxury elephant-hunting trip to Botswana in 2012, when one in four Spaniards was out of work, and a corruption scandal centred on his youngest daughter Princess Cristina and her husband Inaki Urdangarin, hurt his standing.
Brasília (AFP) - Brazil's foreign minister denied Monday that fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden had applied to the Brazilian government for asylum. Snowden, who is currently in Russia on temporary asylum that expires in August, told Brazil's Globo TV in an interview aired Sunday that he "would love to live in Brazil" and had formally applied for asylum there.