US reporter Glenn Greenwald returned to his homeland Friday for the first time since he helped expose Washington's vast electronic spying network, warning that more revelations are yet to come. Greenwald, who maintains regular contact with fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, flew into New York with filmmaker Laura Poitras to receive a journalism award for their coverage. Greenwald and Poitras had feared they could be detained upon arrival but told reporters at a Manhattan hotel that, while US officials "deliberately created" a sense of risk, they faced no problem.
Two prominent US senators introduced legislation Friday that would remove Iraqi Kurdish organizations KDP and PUK from a terrorist blacklist. The Obama administration supports the move, which officials have said requires legislative action rather than an executive order from the White House. Washington designated the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan as terrorist groups in 2001 in part for their insurgent activity in the 1990s Kurdish civil war.
One last snafu for Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the rocky rollout of the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov: The outgoing Health and Human Services secretary found herself missing a page from her farewell speech with President Obama in the Rose Garden today. Thanking the president and acknowledging...
The Philippines said Friday it hopes to complete a new defence accord with the United States ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama this month, as a territorial dispute with China simmers. The chief Philippine negotiator, defence undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, said in a statement the latest round of discussions about an increased US military presence in the country was "very productive". "This round brought us much closer to finding full consensus and the draft provisions on key points of an enhanced defence cooperation will be submitted to the president for his review," Batino said. The agreement proposes allowing more US troops, aircraft, and ships to pass through the Philippines, as well as storing equipment in this country that could help mobilise American forces faster - particularly in the case of natural disasters.
A group of U.S. senators on Friday urged the Department of Justice to oppose any efforts by General Motors Co to skirt financial responsibility related to the company's failure to promptly recall vehicles with ignition switch problems linked to 13 deaths. The five Democratic senators, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, said the Justice Department should "intervene in pending civil actions to oppose any action by GM to deny responsibility for damages." The senators were referring to the possibility that GM could use a legal loophole to avoid paying damages authorized by pending lawsuits. The company was reorganized in bankruptcy proceedings, with the "new" GM not responsible for the "old," pre-2009 GM. The senators also called on Holder to force GM to establish a victims' compensation fund and to ensure that consumers are adequately warned about driving cars that could have faulty ignition switches.
The G20 pressed the United States Friday to ratify crucial IMF reforms after four years of waiting, suggesting they would find an alternative if Washington does not deliver by year-end. "We are deeply disappointed with the continued delay in progressing the IMF quota and governance reforms" agreed in 2010, the group said. The Group of 20 economic powers, which includes the United States, said it would ask the IMF to develop an alternative plan "if the 2010 reforms are not ratified by year-end." The reforms, which include a funding increase and expansion of emerging economies' roles in the IMF, were originally strongly backed by the United States, the Fund's largest shareholder.
By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Friday that an Iranian official who was in the student group that took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 will not be issued a visa to allow him to become Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. President Barack Obama had come under strong pressure from the U.S. Congress not to allow Hamid Abutalebi into the country. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United Nations and Iran had been told "that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Abutalebi." The decision effectively bars Abutalebi of taking up the U.N. position.
By Ellen Wulfhorst NEW YORK (Reuters) - The estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. singer and activist Harry Belafonte said on Friday they settled their dispute over possession of documents of the late civil rights leader that gives ownership to the entertainer. Belafonte had sued the King estate over the documents that he said were given to him by King and his wife during their long friendship. The documents are an outline of King's "Casualties of the War in Vietnam" speech that Belafonte said he had had in his possession since 1967, the undelivered "Memphis Speech" found in King's pocket after his 1968 assassination and a condolence letter sent by President Lyndon Johnson to King's widow. Belafonte and the King estate said in a joint statement that they had reached a confidential compromise that "resulted in Mr. Belafonte retaining possession of the documents." They said they would have no further comment on the case.
By Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday he will promote budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be his next health secretary, who will preside over the next difficult phase of his healthcare law in the months before November congressional elections. Burwell, whose nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate, will replace Kathleen Sebelius, who became the public face of the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans plan to exploit as they seek to take control of the Senate. But Obama made it clear he did not blame Sebelius for the problems. "But under Kathleen's leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself," he said, noting that 7.5 million people have signed up for health insurance under the program, exceeding expectations.
President Barack Obama on Friday nominated budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his new health secretary, seeking to capitalize on an enrollment surge to cement his signature health law. Obama paid tribute to outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, saying she had pulled off a "historic accomplishment" by securing health insurance for millions of Americans for the first time. Despite Obama's warm endorsement, Sebelius is effectively paying the price for the chaotic rollout of Obamacare last year, which forced the administration to launch an emergency effort to fix a malfunctioning enrollment website. The hurried triage paid off, after 7.5 million people eventually signed up through federal and state exchanges to the health care plan by an end-of-March deadline.
The United States on Friday urged the international community to contribute more to Ukraine's economic rescue, stressing the "immediate" need to fund a huge IMF program for Kiev. "The United States is bolstering the IMF program through a complementary aid package, which includes a $1 billion loan guarantee and additional technical assistance," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement to the IMF. "It is critical that the international community -- multilateral development banks and bilaterals -- take immediate steps to also support the IMF program by providing financing support, given the sizeable financing needs." As Ukraine's economy foundered under a new government and threats from neighboring Russia last month, the International Monetary Fund announced a rescue program of $14-18 billion to stabilize the country's crumpled finances and help restore growth.
Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland, who was forced to resign from office a decade ago for corruption, is due in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, on Friday for arraignment on charges he violated campaign laws. Rowland, a 56-year-old Republican who spent 10 months in prison in 2005 and 2006, was indicted on Thursday on charges he tried to conceal payments made to him by two congressional campaigns he worked on in 2009 and 2012. The candidate involved in the 2012 campaign and her husband last month pleaded guilty to charges involving illegal campaign contributions. Rowland served as Connecticut's governor from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned amid another corruption scandal.
North Korea on Friday accused the United States of hypocrisy for remaining silent over a South Korean missile test while condemning Pyongyang's recent launches. "The US double-dealing attitude and despicable mode of action has been brought to light," a spokesman for the North's powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) said in a statement. The statement, carried by the North's official KCNA news agency, comes at a time of elevated military tensions, with Pyongyang threatening a "new" type of nuclear test. "As long as the US persists in its hostile policy... according to its high-handed, arbitrary and gangster-like double standards, (North Korea) will push ahead with countermeasures for self-defence to put an end to the policy," the spokesman said.