By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Janet Yellen came a step closer to final approval as the Federal Reserve's next chair after the U.S. Senate set a Monday vote on President Barack Obama's choice to succeed Ben Bernanke. The Senate is expected to vote at around 5:30 p.m. EST Monday on Yellen, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide. Yellen, who would become the first woman to chair the U.S. central bank, would take the reins on February 1, one day after Bernanke ends a two-term stint during which he reached deep into the Fed's monetary toolbox to try to revive an economy hit by a massive financial crisis that sent it into the worst downturn in decades.
A Chicago-area family got a belated Christmas surprise this week - a book of family photos from the White House meant for the Obama girls' godmother, according to media reports and the White House. Alane Church, who lives north of Chicago, told NBC's "Today" show on Thursday that her family got a box of Christmas presents a week late from an uncle in New York. Church said the gifts appeared to have been re-boxed by the U.S. Postal Service. The photo book was addressed to "Mama Kaye + Papa Wellington from Barack, Michelle + the girls." "Mama Kaye" is the Obama girls' godmother, Eleanor Kaye Wilson, who lives in the south Chicago suburbs.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted his Palestinian partner in peace-making efforts on Thursday, accusing him of embracing terrorists "as heroes," harsh words that clouded the start of Secretary of State John Kerry's tenth trip to the region to negotiate a peace deal he claims is "not mission impossible."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Thursday in his latest bid to reenergize peace negotiations and find scarce common ground between pessimistic Israeli and Palestinian officials. His visit, the 10th to the region in under a year, aims to lay the foundations of a "framework agreement" that addresses the core issues of the decades-old conflict and open the way for an independent Palestine, according to U.S. officials. But on the question of borders, security, refugees and the status of Jerusalem, leaders from both sides have sounded far apart this week. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin on Thursday rejected the creation of a Palestinian state based on the lines pre-dating the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel captured and occupied Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
By Edith Honan NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is coming into City Hall with a sweeping mandate to address the city's most vexing problems, from economic inequality to police and community relations. A winter storm that is due to hit on Thursday, de Blasio's second day in office, could pose the first challenge to the new mayor, as he tries to enact a progressive agenda while ensuring the city of more than 8 million people is well managed. De Blasio succeeds Michael Bloomberg, who had no political experience when he took office in 2001 but had founded and run the successful company that takes his name. De Blasio, a Democrat, most recently was the city's public advocate and, before that, served two terms in the city council.