Category Archives: Breaking News

Democrats Scramble To Defend Hillary Clinton Over Email Flap

Democrats Scramble To Defend Hillary Clinton Over Email Flap, Democrats scrambled on Tuesday to contain the fallout for Hillary Clinton, their favored 2016 presidential candidate, after allegations she inappropriately used her personal email for work while secretary of state.

The Clinton camp quickly sought to discredit a New York Times report published late Monday that said her exclusive use of a personal email account from 2009 through 2013 and a lack of email preservation may have run afoul of the Federal Records Act.

The report got wide play, largely because it fuels a political narrative from Republicans that Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are obsessed with secrecy and seek to play by a different set of rules.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill, however, said Clinton had followed both the “letter and spirit of the rules” while she was secretary of state.

The State Department also defended Clinton, with spokeswoman Marie Harf saying, “There was no prohibition on using a account for official business, as long as it’s preserved.”

Democratic lawmakers and party loyalists tried to cast Clinton’s use of personal email as nothing unusual. They noted that previous secretaries of state, including Colin Powell, used personal accounts. They also pointed out that when Republican George W. Bush was president, senior adviser Karl Rove had used an address through the Republican National Committee to conduct some business.

A National Public Radio report said Chuck Hagel had not used an official account when he was defense secretary.

It is unclear what the damage from the report will be. The rules governing high-level officials’ emails have been in flux in recent years, so it is far from certain that any formal action will be taken against Clinton

Netanyahu Goes To Congress

Netanyahu Goes To Congress, In a direct challenge to the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood before Congress on Tuesday and bluntly warned the U.S. that an emerging nuclear agreement with Iran “paves Iran’s path to the bomb.” President Barack Obama pushed back sternly, saying the U.S. would never sign such a deal and Netanyahu was offering no useful alternative.

In the U.S. spotlight for a day, the Israeli leader showed no uncertainty. “This is a bad deal. It is a very bad deal. We are better off without it,” he declared in an emotionally charged speech that was arranged by Republicans, aggravated his already-strained relations with Obama and gambled with the longstanding bipartisan congressional support for Israel.

Two weeks ahead of voting in his own re-election back home, Netanyahu took the podium of the U.S. House where presidents often make major addresses, contending that any nuclear deal with Iran could threaten his nation’s survival.

In a tone of disbelief, he said that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, “tweets that Israel must be annihilated – he tweets.”

Republicans loudly cheered Netanyahu in the packed chamber, repeatedly standing. Democrats were more restrained, frustrated with the effort to undercut Obama’s negotiations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did little to hide her unease and later issued a blistering statement criticizing what she called Netanyahu’s condescension.

At the White House, Obama said there was value in the current economic sanctions against Iran and also in the negotiations in Switzerland aimed at restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“Sanctions alone are not sufficient,” Obama said. “If Iran does not have some sense that sanctions will be removed, it will not have an interest in avoiding the path that it’s currently on.”

The administration says there is no deal yet, but Netanyahu insists he is privy to what is being put forth.

“If the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran, that deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons – lots of them,” he declared. He acknowledged that any deal would likely include strict inspections, but he said “inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them.”

Obama declined to meet with the leader of Israel, a key U.S. ally, during this visit. Vice President Joe Biden was on a trip to Central America and so his seat as president of the Senate was filled by Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, the Senate president pro tempore.

As Netanyahu spoke, Secretary of State John Kerry was holding a three-hour negotiating session with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Swiss resort of Montreux in hopes of completing an international framework agreement later this month to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

According to Netanyahu, the deal on the table offers two major concessions: Iran would be left with a vast nuclear infrastructure and restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would be lifted in about a decade.

“It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb,” Netanyahu thundered. “It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

He said the U.S. and the other five nations in talks with Tehran should keep pressuring with economic sanctions because Tehran needs the deal most.

“Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table – and this often happens in a Persian bazaar – call their bluff. They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.”

LAPD Killing Lays Bare Enduring Horror Of Skid Row

LAPD Killing Lays Bare Enduring Horror Of Skid Row, A grainy cell-phone video of several LAPD officers shooting and killing an unarmed black man made national headlines Monday, reigniting the debate about race and law enforcement that was sparked last summer by similar incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City.

But the sad news from L.A. should also call attention to a systemic, festering problem that devastates more Angelenos, day in and day out, than sporadic police shootings ever could.

It’s called Skid Row, and it’s where the man identified only as “Africa” was shot.

“I think this tragic event is more a reflection of Skid Row itself than a reflection of the police or the man who was killed,” the Rev. Andy Bales tells Yahoo News. (Bales runs the Union Rescue Mission shelter and has worked on Skid Row for 10 years.) “We’re asking the LAPD to maintain peace in a horrible environment. Skid Row is full of people trapped in an untenable living situation – a Twilight Zone they can’t escape.”

If you don’t live in Los Angeles and you think you know what L.A.’s Skid Row is like, think again. Nothing anywhere else in America compares. San Francisco’s Tenderloin is tiny. Seattle’s once-destitute Skid Row is full of cool galleries and caf├ęs. And the Bowery in New York is now home to the New Museum of Contemporary Art and a sprawling Whole Foods complete with its own craft-beer emporium.

In downtown L.A., however, as many as 54 blocks – between Third Street and Seventh Street, from Alameda to Main – are almost entirely given over to the homeless, the limbless, the drug-addicted and the mentally ill. Battered tents line the boulevards. Mountains of garbage block the sidewalks. The air smells like urine, feces and burning crack. And everywhere there are people – dazed, disheveled, disabled; stretched out on lawn chairs or sprawled on the pavement; some scoring heroin from marked tents, others injecting it between their toes in plain sight, mere blocks from some of the hippest new bars and restaurants in town.

O’Malley Rules Out Senate As Decision Over White House Bid Looms

O’Malley Rules Out Senate As Decision Over White House Bid Looms, Former Maryland Governor and possible Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said on Tuesday he will not seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski.

O’Malley, who left office in January and has said he is considering a run for the White House, told reporters in an email he hoped other candidates would step up to represent the mid-Atlantic state, but “I will not be one of them.”

The move allows O’Malley, 52, to keep the door open for a potential presidential campaign. He told the Associated Press last month he would decide by spring whether to seek the nomination.

Despite winning two terms as governor in the heavily Democratic State, his future is somewhat complicated by his successor’s surprise loss to a Republican in the November election.

O’Malley is popular among Democrats and spent much of the last year actively campaigning for fellow liberals across the country, especially in New Hampshire and Iowa, the first two states with presidential nominating contests.

Representatives for O’Malley have said he plans to visit New Hampshire again in March.

Mikulski, who has represented Maryland in Congress for nearly 40 years, said on Monday she will retire after her current term ends in late 2016.

Jailed Ukrainian Pilot ‘May Be Transferred To Hospital’

Jailed Ukrainian Pilot ‘May Be Transferred To Hospital’, A Ukrainian airforce pilot who has been on hunger strike in a Russian jail for 81 days might be transferred to a civilian hospital if her health deteriorates, the prison service said Tuesday.

The statement by Russia’s prison service raised the possibility of Nadia Savchenko, who is also a member of the Ukraine parliament, being transferred from the hospital of a Moscow prison where she has been held for nearly nine months.

Speaking later in the day, one of her lawyers said she may stop the hunger strike if her health sharply worsens.

The 33-year-old helicopter navigator has been charged with involvement in the deaths of two Russian reporters in a mortar attack in east Ukraine.

She denies the charges, saying she was kidnapped and brought to Russia. In protest of the detention she launched a hunger strike on December 13.

“As soon as we see that there are serious complications we will request that civilian medical institutions take her and treat her,” first deputy chief of the prison service, Anatoly Rudy, told Russian reporters.

He insisted that as of now Savchenko’s condition was stable. The prison service confirmed his comment.

Human rights activists and lawyers, however, have sounded the alarm, with the Kremlin’s rights council urging the Investigative Committee to allow the pilot’s release from jail on humanitarian grounds.

Yelena Masyuk, a member of the council, said late last week that Savchenko could “die within days.”

On Tuesday, one of the Ukrainian woman’s lawyers said she had promised him to stop refusing food if she felt worse.

“I have obtained a promise from her that if things become completely awful she will listen and stop,” Mark Feigin said on Twitter. “That’s what she said.”

Few had expected Savchenko, who has described herself as “very stubborn,” to relent and end her strike.

In a phone call with President Vladimir Putin late Monday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French leader Francois Hollande urged the pilot’s release.

UN Moves To Slap Sanctions On South Sudan

UN Moves To Slap Sanctions On South Sudan, The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution to slap sanctions on South Sudan’s warring factions, ratcheting up pressure as a deadline loomed to reach a peace deal.

Drafted by the United States, the resolution sets up a sanctions committee which would submit to the council the names of those responsible for blocking peace efforts, and who should be punished with a global travel ban and assets freeze.

Regional mediators have given South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar until Thursday to reach a final deal to end 14 months of war that have killed tens of thousands of people.

US Ambassador Samantha Power told the council that the resolution would give African mediators leverage in their push for agreement by making clear that “those who frustrate peace must begin to pay the price.”

The resolution was approved by all 15 council members, including veto-wielding member China, which had criticized the move as unhelpful at a time when the warring factions were involved in complicated negotiations.

Diplomats said the move toward sanctions won the backing of all council members after African governments, deeply frustrated with the lack of progress in peace talks, threw their support behind the measure.

Russian envoy Pyotr Ilyichev expressed skepticism, saying that the move could be “hasty” and that sanctions could backfire in the effort to bring peace.

The resolution states that those who “threaten the peace, security and stability of South Sudan” could be targeted for UN sanctions.

These include leaders of officials who obstruct peace talks, impede humanitarian aid deliveries, recruit child soldiers or attack UN peacekeepers.

The resolution raises the possibility of imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan, a measure strongly backed by European countries despite concerns that the ban could penalize Kiir’s forces more than the rebel fighters.

Criticizing the move, South Sudan’s Ambassador Francis Deng urged the council to refrain from taking the next step and actually imposing sanctions, arguing that the punitive measures would not help bring about peace.

Thousands Evacuated As Chile Volcano Erupts

Thousands Evacuated As Chile Volcano Erupts, A volcano in southern Chile erupted early Tuesday, spewing fiery plumes of lava into the night sky and forcing the evacuation of some 3,600 people from nearby towns.

In its first major eruption in 15 years, the Villarrica volcano, one of Chile’s most active, began spewing lava and ash around 3:00 am (0600 GMT), prompting authorities to declare a red alert, the National Emergency Office said.

As sirens sounded, bright yellow-orange lava spewed from the volcano about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

A column of ash rose as high as three kilometers above the volcano, which is about 2,800 meters (9,200 feet) high.

Authorities closed roads leading to the area as residents streamed into shelters at designated safe zones well removed from the volcano.

But within about seven hours the eruption calmed, and there were no longer any visible signs of activity.

“It’s an active volcano, but at this point it has calmed down,” said President Michelle Bachelet after flying into the region for an emergency meeting with local officials.

Bachelet held an early-morning meeting with the country’s emergency committee in Santiago before travelling to the affected area, flying over the volcano along the way.

She declared an “agricultural emergency” for part of the region, enabling local governments to access national emergency funds to deal with the effects of the eruption and a drought gripping the area.

Once the eruption died down, authorities partially lifted their red alert, keeping it in place for a 10-kilometer radius around the volcano but allowing residents of the main towns in the area to return home under “yellow alert.”

But schools remained closed in the towns of Villarrica, Pucon, Curarrehue and Conaripe, which surround the volcano.

The eruption “was fairly intense but short in duration,” said Luis Lara, the head of Chile’s volcano monitoring network.

“It was basically a small eruption,” he said from the National Emergency Office’s headquarters in Santiago.

He downplayed the risk of widespread flooding, which sometimes occurs when lava melts the snow cover around a volcano, causing the surrounding rivers to rise.

But about 45 families were stranded in one community after a swollen river washed out a bridge.

Officials classified the eruption as level two on a scale that runs from zero to eight.

It was less intense than the 2011 eruption of Caulle, another volcano in southern Chile that spewed ash so high that it was visible across the continent in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

Ex CIA Chief Admits Sharing Military Secrets With Mistress

Ex CIA Chief Admits Sharing Military Secrets With Mistress, Former CIA Director David Petraeus, whose once-bright political future was all but destroyed over an affair with his biographer, has agreed to plead guilty to charges he shared classified material with her for her book.

The plea agreement – which carries a possible sentence of up to a year in prison – represents another blow to the reputation of the retired four-star Army general who led American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and was perhaps the most admired military leader of his generation.

Petraeus, 62, agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. The agreement was filed in federal court Tuesday in Charlotte, where Paula Broadwell, the general’s biographer and former mistress, lives with her husband and children.

In court papers, prosecutors recommended two years of probation and a $40,000 fine. But the judge who hears the plea is not bound by that and could still impose a prison sentence. No immediate date was set for a court hearing for Petraeus to enter the plea.

As part of the deal, Petraeus agreed not to contest the detailed set of facts laid out by the government to underpin their case against him.

Prosecutors say that while Broadwell was writing her book in 2011, Petraeus gave her eight binders of classified material he had improperly kept from his time as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Days later, he took the binders back to his house.

Among the secret information contained in the “black books” were the names of covert operatives, the coalition war strategy and notes about Petraeus’ discussions with President Barack Obama and the National Security Council, prosecutors said.

Those binders were later seized by the FBI in a search of Petraeus’ Arlington, Virginia, home, where he had kept them in the unlocked drawer of a desk in a ground-floor study.

Prosecutors said that after resigning from the CIA, Petraeus signed a form falsely attesting he had no classified material. He also lied to FBI agents in denying he supplied the information to Broadwell, according to court documents.

Petraeus’ lawyers, David Kendall and Robert Barnett in Washington, declined to comment. A telephone message left for Broadwell was not immediately returned. Her lawyer, Robert Muse of Washington, said he had no comment.

Petraeus admitted having an affair with Broadwell when he resigned as CIA director in November 2012. Both have publicly apologized and said their romantic relationship began only after he had retired from the military.

Broadwell’s admiring biography of him, “All In: The Education of David Petraeus,” came out in 2012, before the affair was exposed.

He held the CIA post less than a year, not long enough to leave a significant mark on the spy agency. The core of his identity has been a military man.

A Ph.D. with a reputation as a thoughtful strategist, Petraeus was brought in by President George W. Bush to command multinational forces in Iraq in 2007, a period when the war began to turn in favor of the U.S., though recent events have proven how ephemeral that was.