Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama to hold Twitter town hall meeting

or read here at Yahoo!

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama will hold a "Twitter town hall" meeting next week at the White House on jobs and the economy as he hones his message on the key 2012 election issue.

The White House announced the July 6 event on Twitter on Thursday and solicited questions on the micro-blogging site under the hash tag #AskObama, which the president will answer on a live webcast.

Obama pioneered the use of social media in his 2008 election campaign and is developing new techniques to reach voters without a media filter as he gears up his reelection campaign.

He has previously conducted moderated town hall-style meetings via webcast and in April held a Facebook town hall event at the social networking giant's California headquarters.

Bill Clinton expects to see Obama re-elected

or read here at Yahoo!

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former US president Bill Clinton said Thursday that he expects to see fellow Democrat Barack Obama re-elected to the White House in 2012.

"I'll be surprised if he's not re-elected," Clinton told ABC News. "I've always thought he would be."

Clinton, who led the country from 1993 to 2001, was the last Democratic president to be re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940s.

According to Clinton, the economy will have improved enough by November 6, 2012 -- US election day -- for voters to favor Obama for a second term, even though unemployment will likely remain relatively high. Currently unemployment is at 9.1 percent.

"When President Obama took office, we were in the midst of avoiding having a financial collapse turn into a depression. So, the unemployment rate was higher (than during Clinton's presidency) and people were scared to death about what was going to happen," he said.

Clinton said that Obama's stimulus measures have "outperformed expectations, not underperformed, but it wasn't big enough to lift this whole economy out of the hole it was in. The auto restructuring is working. And I think he'll be able to point to that."

The former president, whose wife Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and is now Obama's secretary of state, also said he believed that whichever Republican is nominated to face Obama will be constrained by the party's ideology.

"You won't just be able to say, 'Vote for me, I'm the non-Obama.' I think he's going to be able to point to a lot of very specific things that are better. I think that he's going to be able to convince people that it takes a little longer after that kind of collapse to recover," Clinton said.

"It took Japan a decade to recover.... We're coming back quicker than that."

Clinton had nice things to say about Republican presidential hopefuls Jon Huntsman -- whom he described as "impressive" and "non-ideological, practical" -- and Mitt Romney, who is "doing a better job as a candidate this time than he did four years ago."

He also said he was not surprised by the early success of congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who officially joined the 2012 Republican nomination race earlier this week.

"I've been watching her speak," Clinton said. "She comes across as a real person."

American Political News for Thursday, June 30, 2011

2012 Election

Quinnipiac Poll finds Va voters split on Obama’s re-election and Kaine-Allen race in 2012

Fox News Poll: Romney Remains Top GOP Preference as Perry Draws Close Behind

Huntsman fights Romney cash juggernaut

Terry Branstad wants a governor for president

Bill Clinton sizes up the GOP field

GOP governors begin 2012 talks

Fundraising lags in 2012 GOP presidential primary

Democrats catching up in election spending race

Down to the wire, GOP hopefuls collect last bucks

Obama vs. Romney in Pennsylvania

Barack Obama

Obama uses combative new tone to retake reins on economic, foreign policy issues

Obama Administration Appeals Bankruptcy Ruling Against Gay Marriage Ban

Obama again stops short of endorsing gay marriage

Obama Turns Up Heat On Congressional Republicans (Audio)

Obama Debt-Ceiling Pitch Sounds Re-Election Themes

Congress Reacts To Obama's Presser

In Deficit Plan, Taxes Must Rise, President Warns

Obama frames 2012 campaign

Mark Halperin apologizes for Obama gaffe (Video)

Obama defends record on gay rights

Analysis: Weak economy shadows Obama even in bright areas

Analysis: Obama's jobs plan aimed at voters, not debt talks

Obama to bid farewell to Defense Secretary Gates

Obama call for stimulus may complicate debt talks

Obama weighed military and political risk for Afghan plan

Bill Clinton expects to see Obama re-elected

Obama to hold Twitter town hall meeting

Obama hits two fundraisers as crucial quarter ends

Michele Bachmann

Bachmann: Voters like me because ‘they feel like they can trust me’

Michele Bachmann reveals miscarriage while speaking at South Carolina town hall

Michele Bachmann: Left thinks tea partiers 'hillbillies'

How Michele Bachmann's Surge Reshuffles the GOP Presidential Race

Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Urges Action Against Israel Protesters

Perry asks U.S. to intervene in an Israeli-Palestinian fight

Factbox: Legislative scorecard for Texas governor Perry

Mitt Romney

The $20 million Mitt?

Romney camp urges earlier Utah primary

Jon Huntsman son attended Mitt Romney rally

Romney to visit shuttered Pennsylvania steel plant to attack Obama’s jobs record

Romney blasts Obama on jobs in key swing state


Pakistan stops US from using 'drone base'

Pakistan to US: No more drone strikes from base


U.S. Monthly Combat Deaths in Iraq at 3-Year High

Three US soldiers killed in southern Iraq

US Debt

Bill Clinton Network Exclusive: Proposes Debt Impasse Deal, but Fears GOP Too Hamstrung by Ideology (Video)

Obama's Scolding of Republicans Inflames Debt Talks

Obama adviser expects new debt ceiling guidance

Obama, Congress work against, and with, the clock

Plouffe: Defaulting could be "catastrophic"

Obama warning over US debt deadlock (Video)

Republicans, Democrats plotting strategies that will hinder budget agreement

Could Obama ignore Congress if they refuse to raise the debt ceiling? Yes, and he should, some experts say

Is the debt ceiling unconstitutional?

Other News

2012 GOP candidate Cain: cut taxes, create jobs

Iran facing new U.S. sanctions

US, EU warn against Libyan arms flow to Al-Qaeda

Curtains Closing on Robert Gates' Years as Defense Secretary (Video)

Kaine, Allen neck-and-neck in U.S. Senate race

Federal Reserve Orders Banks to Lower Retailers' Debit Card Fees

Rhode Island Passes Civil Unions Bill as Governor Plans to Sign

Senate may cut short July 4th break

High court could make gay marriage a 2012 issue

New plan to defeat al-Qaida: 'Surgical' strikes, not costly wars

Is GOP Resolve On Taxes Showing Cracks? (Audio)

White House Pushes For Higher Fuel Efficiency (Audio)

Dysfunctional Congress 'worse' than ever?

U.S. recognizes Muslim Brotherhood

US: 'Limited' engagement with Muslim Brotherhood

U.S. drone targets two leaders of Somali group allied with al-Qaeda, official says

U.S. caught China buying more debt than disclosed

Clinton urges world democracies to stand together

Palestinians defy US Senate's statehood warning

US refocuses on home-grown terror threat

Culture of Debt? As Congress Scrambles to Avoid Government Default, Some U.S. Leaders Have Financial Difficulties Too

On Last Day as Defense Chief, Gates Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Aviation Industry Assails Obama for 'Cynical' Call to End Corporate Jet Tax Break

Kansas Set for New Abortion Limits Friday Unless Court Case Favors Challengers

Chuck Schumer unveils jobs plan

David Axelrod: President Obama booted me from Osama bin Laden briefing

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Obama stops short of endorsing gay marriage

or read here at Yahoo!

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama says gays are our friends and neighbors and should be treated like every other American.

But days after New York state legalized same-sex marriage, the president stopped short of endorsing gay nuptials himself.

He said that the decision in New York was "a good thing" because people debated their views and came to a decision. The president said other states and communities will come to their own conclusions.

The president, who supports civil unions, has said his views on gay marriage are "evolving." The White House is holding a reception later Wednesday for Gay Pride groups but Obama wasn't ready at a news conference to announce a new position.

The president defended his record, including repealing the prohibition on openly gay people serving in the military.

Obama: Ending tax breaks for wealthy not radical

or read here at Yahoo!

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama says it is not a radical idea to end tax breaks for the wealthy and high earning oil and gas companies.

Speaking at a White House news conference, Obama says the government cannot reduce its deficit by keeping all current tax breaks. Obama says if millionaires and billionaires get to keep their tax breaks, senior citizens and the poor will bear the brunt of the burden from additional cuts.

The White House is pushing for some tax increases on the wealthy or the elimination of tax breaks for big companies and wealthy individuals as part of a deficit-cutting plan being negotiated with bipartisan lawmakers.

Obama says he is still confident that lawmakers can reach a deal that will get the government to live within its means.

Obama to hold press conference Wednesday

or read here at Yahoo!

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama will seek to grab the initiative in his showdown with Republicans over debt and spending Wednesday with a full-scale White House press conference.

Obama will also likely face questions on his decision to bring nearly 33,000 surge related troops home from Afghanistan by next summer in the session with reporters in the ornate East Room of the White House at 11.30 a.m. (1530 GMT).

He may also be under pressure to justify US involvement in the Libya campaign against Moamer Kadhafi after a bruising confrontation with Congress over the issue.

Talks on raising the US government's $14.29 trillion borrowing limit known as the debt ceiling have broken down, raising fears of no deal by an August 2 deadline which could force the United States into a damaging default.

Obama, who is dealing with the showdown as he cranks up his 2012 reelection campaign, met the top Democrat in the Senate Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart Senator Mitch McConnell Monday, but there was no sign of a deal.

He will again meet Reid again along with Senate Democratic leaders later on Wednesday.

As political tensions rise, the White House has warned of "calamitous" consequences to the global economy if the talks do not seal an agreement and Washington is forced into default and runs out of money to pay its bills.

It accused Obama's Republican foes of siding with billionaires and private jet owners, and challenged the lawmakers to take on "some of their sacred cows."

But Republicans, who quit talks with the White House last week accusing Obama of pushing tax hikes, again demanded big spending cuts in return for agreeing to lift the debt limit.

In the United States, Congress has to agree to lifting the cap on government borrowing, and has done so repeatedly in recent years at the urging of successive Democratic and Republican presidents.

But this time, congressional Republicans elected last November in an anti-government backlash and on a platform of sweeping spending cuts, are demanding big concessions from the White House.

The White House says Republican budget plans would place the very survival of popular social entitlement programs like Medicare health plans for the elderly at risk.

Republicans claim Obama is motivated by preserving big government programs and wants tax increases which would harm the economy. They are demanding large cuts to the annual deficit, projected to hit $1.6 trillion this year.

The US government hit its legal borrowing limit on May 16 and a succession of meetings chaired by Vice President Joe Biden tried but failed to secure congressional approval to raise the ceiling.

The Treasury, which has performed a number of intricate financial measures since then, says it will run out of maneuvering room on August 2.

Financial rating agencies have warned of a possible downgrade of the top US debt rating without an increase in the debt ceiling.

US Fed extends crisis aid for ECB, BoE

or read here at Yahoo!

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Federal Reserve said Wednesday it was extending its emergency liquidity facility for its leading Western counterparts as Europe's sovereign debt crisis continues to fester.

The US central bank said its existing temporary US dollar liquidity swap arrangements with the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Canada would be extended for one year from August 1, the expiration of the current pact.

The standby facility allows the foreign central banks to borrow dollars to onlend to their own commercial banks to shore up their own short-term liquidity.

The foreign central banks, and not the commercial banks, are liable for the borrowings.

The agreements were crucial in supporting non-US banks during the height of the financial crisis when they found themselves unable to obtain US dollars in the short-term loan market to cover their own exposure to US liabilities.

The extension of the facility comes as Europe's commercial banks struggle to protect themselves from exposure to bonds issues by the financially-challenged governments of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and others.

American Political News for Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2012 Election

Utah's Lt. Gov. Friends with Both Romney and Huntsman; In A Pickle

American Conservative Union plans regional CPAC in Orlando

New Hampshire poll: Mitt Romney steady, Michele Bachmann moving

Poll: GOP voters still not happy with choices

David Axelrod: Romney "favorite," but Bachmann could win Iowa

Four signs the White House is worried about 2012

Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman may be on Ames straw poll ballot

Tim Pawlenty's home-state backing aimed at Michele Bachmann

Gov. Nikki Haley to South Carolina Republicans: Pay for your own primary

Barack Obama

A glance at Obama's news conference answers

Obama ALMOST approves of same-sex marriage

President Obama on Gay Rights (Video)

President Obama Speaks on the Economy (Video)

Obama warns of 'significant' default impact

Obama vows to keep pressure on crippled Al-Qaeda

Obama turns spotlight on Republicans for not being willing to give up ’sacred cow’

Amid budget impasse, Obama holds news conference

Obama says US companies need freedom to relocate

Obama not ready to declare victory in Afghanistan

Obama: Congress should extend payroll tax cut

Obama: Ending tax breaks for wealthy not radical

Obama optimistic on debt deal, end to tax breaks

Libya actions do not violate War Powers Act: Obama

Obama: A lot of the 'fuss' over Libya is politics

Obama stops short of endorsing gay marriage

Adm. McRaven: Obama administration has no plan for captured terrorists

Obama Takes Manufacturing Jobs Message To Iowa (Audio)

Obama may be losing the faith of Jewish Democrats

Obama gives first press conference in 3 months

Boeing labor dispute turns into headache for Obama

Mixed Message: Should Obama Stop Trying to Defend the Recovery?

Obama schedules news conference amid budget talks

Obama to draw more tourists to overburdened Bali

Obama's oil reserves plan took shape in May: official

Poll: Obama approval at 47% (Video)

Obama to hold a news conference on Wednesday (Video)

Obama Gay Marriage Stance a Nod to 2012 Battlegrounds (Video)

Pro-Obama group launches 5 state ad campaign

Obama honors WNBA Seattle Storm's championship run

Michele Bachmann

Tom Petty to Bachmann: Stop Using My Song

Poll Shows Bachmann Gaining Momentum Among NH GOP Voters

Bachmann's husband got $137,000 in Medicaid funds (Video)

Solid Start Puts Bachmann In Front-Runner Territory (Audio)

Michele Bachmann checks the Boeing box

Fact Checking Michele Bachmann on Minimum Wage (Video)

Michele Bachmann: People want to see me 'mud-wrestling' with Sarah Palin

Full Transcript: Michele Bachmann Speaks To NPR

Michele Bachmann campaigns against gay marriage in South Carolina

Team Bachmann: 'Irresponsible' to not accept Medicaid

Michele Bachmann spoke with Jim DeMint, Nikki Haley

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin in Iowa: Will she or won’t she?

Palin fuels presidential bid speculation in Iowa

The Sarah Palin waiting game

Palin says she's still thinking about whether to run in 2012 (Video)

Palin says she still hasn’t decided about 2012, contrary to what her daughter says

Sarah Palin unfettered (Video)

Herman Cain

Herman Cain to release a memoir in October

Herman Cain signs book deal

2012 GOP candidate Cain promotes his business plan

Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty speech lays out aggressive foreign policy vision

Ex-Bachmann chief backs Pawlenty for prez

Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, potential 2012 candidate, to hold private meetings on West Coast

Texas' Perry, with eye on 2012, makes Calif. swing


Libya mission brings John McCain and John Kerry together again (Video)

Senate Panel Approves Libya Resolution

GOP, administration lawyer joust on Libya


Senators level new criticism at Pakistan for sheltering terrorists

Pakistan tells US to leave 'drone' attack base


General: Obama Afghan withdrawal plan not among options presented by Petraeus

U.S. drone and copter, coalition snipers helped Afghans

US Debt

Debt Ceiling Clock Ticks Down as Talks Heat Up on Capitol Hill

Budget Standoff Continues On Capitol Hill (Audio)

Treasury: Debt ceiling deadline is real

Anatomy of a Debt Default in the United States (Video)

IMF urges US lawmakers to raise $14.3B debt limit

Raise taxes on wealthiest, Obama challenges GOP

Exclusive: S&P to deeply cut U.S. ratings if debt payment missed

Other News

Gingrich signs Cut, Cap and Balance pledge

Mitt Romney meeting seven senators on Capitol Hill

Huntsman messed with Texas

US sees bigger role for India as trade partner

US military's $20bn air con bill (Audio)

California Lawmakers Close Budget Deficit on Rosy Projections

Gov. Brown To Sign Pared-Down Calif. Budget Deal (Audio)

Calif. budget disliked by Democrats, Republicans

Lawmaker Apologizes for Liberal 'Hatred of God' Quip

Cost of US wars since 9/11? At least $3.7 trillion, study finds

Dodd-Frank Rekindles Old Debate

White House dumps 'secret shopper' survey of doctors

Priorities USA launches ads attacking Republicans on Medicare

Top US military officer to visit China in July

Commander: Elite U.S. forces stretched too thin

Do corporate interests rule Washington?

Dem group hits back at Rove

Congress moves forward on free trade deals

Majority against reelecting Chris Christie

US Fed extends crisis aid for ECB, BoE

Clinton pushing human rights on 4-day Europe trip

I.M.F. Offers a Different Take on U.S. Growth

Senate tries to speed confirmation for fed workers

Venezuela condemns US human trafficking report

US appeals court upholds Obama health care law

Senate Democrats rap 'pro-business' Supreme Court

Geithner calls GOP debt limit plan 'irresponsible'

Economic crisis in Greece could reach United States, IMF warns

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

House Republicans Sign Letter Asking Obama Not to Use Autopen to Approve Legislation

or read here at Yahoo!

Vanessa Evans– Monday, June 27, 5:58 pm ET

Almost a month after an autopen was used to sign an extensionof the Patriot Act into law for President Barack Obama, House Republicans are raising objections to the practice of using facsimiles of the presidential signature instead of the real thing. They have now requested that Obama re-sign the law by his own hand.

Obama reportedly sanctioned the use of the autopen to avoid passing the midnight deadline of the original Patriot Act on May 27, after unexpected delays left him with only a few minutes to approve the law or have the act expire. Traditionally, presidents have now and then had a particular piece of legislation flown to them wherever they were for their official signature. It marks the first time in U.S. government history that an autopen has been used to sign actual legislation rather than being consigned to its usual routine of miming the president's signature for letters and photographs.

Autopens have been in use by the government and various corporate entities for decades. All the presidents since at least Ronald Reagan have been confirmed as having used the device during their terms in office, although the specific instances of the use of an autopen are usually kept rather quiet to preserve the idea of connectivity between a president and their constituents.

The move to use an autopen to sign legislation is turning out to be a controversial one. More than 20 House Republicans have now signed a letter to the president requesting that he re-sign the legislation, citing the necessity of strictly adhering to the statutes of the U.S. Constitution. The controversy surrounds one passage of the Constitution in particular, Article I, Section 7. That section mandates that "If he approves, he shall sign it, but if not, he shall return it."

For their part, the administration is pointing to a 2005 opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, during President George W. Bush's second term in office. That document concluded that the use of an autopen would not violate the Constitution. As such, White House spokespeople have stated that using that legal opinion, President Obama did not feel it was necessary to re-sign the law.

Convicted Blagojevich faces prospect of prison

or read here at Yahoo!

By MICHAEL TARM and KAREN HAWKINS, Associated Press– Tue Jun 28, 6:39 am ET

CHICAGO – Stunned and nearly speechless after hearing the verdicts against him, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will wake up Tuesday to the stark reality that he is likely headed to federal prison within months, leaving behind his wife, two young daughters and comfortable home in a leafy Chicago neighborhood.

A jury convicted him Monday on 17 charges, including trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat and attempting to shake down executives for campaign cash. The convictions carry a combined maximum prison sentence of around 300 years, but legal experts say a federal judge is likely to send him away for around a decade, give or take a few years.

An irrepressible Blagojevich had said before the retrial began that he refused to even contemplate the prospect of prison. But red-eyed, his face drawn and frowning, he hurried out of the courthouse after the verdict was read.

The broke and impeached ex-governor told reporters that he and his wife, Patti, "have to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out." His two daughters are 8 and 14.

Uncharacteristically, the 54-year-old Democrat had little more to say, adding only that he was stunned by the verdict.

"Well, among the many lessons I've learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less, so I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short," Blagojevich said.

He is almost certain to appeal the convictions, and his defense attorneys filed a number of motions to lay the groundwork for that.

If he does end up in prison, Blagojevich would follow a path well-trodden by Illinois governors, including Blagojevich's predecessor, former Republican Gov. George Ryan — now serving 6 1/2 years in a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

In Illinois's book of political infamy, though, Blagojevich's chapter may go down as the most ignominious because of the allegations he effectively tried to hock an appointment to Obama's Senate seat for campaign cash or a job.

Blagojevich will probably receive around 10 years in prison, with little chance he would get more than 15, said former Chicago-based federal prosecutor Jeff Cramer said. Another former prosecutor, Phil Turner, said Judge James Zagel might look to Ryan's sentence and mete out a similar one for Blagojevich.

Zagel did not set a sentencing date, but Gal Pissetzky, a Chicago attorney who defends clients in federal court, said it's likely Blagojevich would be sentenced late this year. When he is, Pissetzky said there is a chance he could end up serving in the same prison as George Ryan.

The verdict, coming after his first trial ended last year with the jury deadlocked on most charges, was a bitter defeat for Blagojevich, who spent 2 1/2 years professing his innocence on reality TV shows and later on the witness stand. His defense team insisted that hours of FBI wiretap recordings were just the ramblings of a politician who liked to think out loud.

After hearing the verdict, Blagojevich turned to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky and asked "What happened?" His wife, Patti, slumped against her brother, then rushed into her husband's arms.

Before the decision was read, the couple looked flushed, and the former governor blew his wife a kiss across the courtroom, then stood expressionless, with his hands clasped tightly.

The verdict capped a long-running spectacle in which Blagojevich became famous for blurting on a recorded phone call that his ability to appoint Obama's successor to the Senate was "f---ing golden" and that he wouldn't let it go "for f---ing nothing."

The case exploded into scandal when Blagojevich was awakened by federal agents on Dec. 9, 2008, at his Chicago home and was led away in handcuffs. Federal prosecutors had been investigating his administration for years, and some of his closest cronies had already been convicted.

Blagojevich was swiftly impeached and removed from office.

The verdict provided affirmation to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, one of the nation's most prominent prosecutors, who, after the governor's arrest, had condemned Blagojevich's dealings as a "political corruption crime spree."

The key question for the jury was whether to accept the defense suggestion that Blagojevich's activities amounted to "the kind of political wheeling and dealing that is common in Illinois and around the country."

"That," said Fitzgerald, his voice rising, "couldn't be any further from the truth. ... Selling a Senate seat, shaking down a children's hospital and squeezing a person to give money before you sign a bill that benefits them is not a gray area. It's a crime."

Fitzgerald pledged to retry the governor after the first jury failed to reach a decision on all but the least serious of 24 charges against him.

The jury voted to convict on 17 of 20 counts after deliberating nine days heading into Monday. Blagojevich also faces up to five additional years in prison for his previous conviction of lying to the FBI; Pissetzky said Zagel would almost certainly sentence Zagel for all the convictions at once.

Judges have enormous discretion in sentencing and can factor in a host of variables, including whether a defendant took the stand and lied. Prosecutors have said that Blagojevich did just that.

Blagojevich was acquitted of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive. The jury deadlocked on two charges of attempted extortion related to that executive and funding for a school.

Zagel has barred Blagojevich from traveling outside the area without permission. A status hearing to discuss sentencing was set for Aug. 1.

All 12 jurors — 11 women and one man — spoke to reporters after the verdict, identifying themselves only by juror numbers. Their full names were to be released Tuesday.

Jurors said the evidence that Blagojevich tried to secure a high-paying, high-powered position in exchange for the appointment of Obama's successor in the Senate was the clearest in the case.

"There was so much more evidence to go on," said Juror No. 140. Jury members said they listened and re-listened to recordings of Blagojevich's phone conversations with aides. They also acknowledged finding the former governor likable.

"He was personable," Juror No. 103 said. "It made it hard to separate what we actively had to do as jurors."

Richard Kling, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law who watched much of the trial, said the defense had no choice but to put Blagojevich on the stand, even though doing so was risky.

"The problem was with some of his explanations," Kling said. "It reminded me of a little kid who gets his hand caught in a cookie jar. He says, `Mommy I wasn't taking the cookies. I was just trying to protect them and to count them.'"


Associated Press Writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.

Pawlenty criticizes Obama, GOP on foreign policy

or read here at Yahoo!

Associated Press

Tuesday, June 28, 8:05 am ET

NEW YORK – Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty says President Barack Obama has lacked a clear vision in dealing with the citizen uprisings across the Middle East.

Pawlenty is set to make a major foreign policy address Tuesday morning in New York. His campaign released excerpts of the speech.

The former Minnesota governor criticized Obama for his silence in 2009 when the Iranian government cracked down on pro-democracy protesters. And tensions between Israel and the Palestinians are worse now than when Obama took office, Pawlenty said.

But Pawlenty also had tough words for some Republicans like rival GOP hopeful Mitt Romney who advocate reducing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

Pawlenty said isolationism will cost far more in the long run than what it would save in the U.S. budget.

Tea Partiers say Perry, Bachmann excite them

or read here at Yahoo!

Alex Pappas--The Daily Caller– Monday, June 27, 6:15 pm ET

Move over, Sarah Palin. Tea Partiers have their eyes on Rick and Michele for 2012.

In interviews with The Daily Caller at a Tea Party gathering Monday, many activists admitted that they don’t believe Palin is running and that they think Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are generating the most excitement in the Republican presidential field.

“He has no experience in Washington and isn’t contaminated by that,” said Jebb Young, an activist wearing a Rick Perry 2012 button, of the Texas governor.

JoeRae Perkins of Oregon said she’s behind Bachmann because she’s an “everyday, ordinary American” who knows “what its like to raise a family.”

But a large contingent of activists interviewed also say they haven’t made up their mind about who to support in the 2012 presidential election.

We do know, however, that Tea Partiers also like Herman Cain and Ron Paul and they don’t like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. (Tea Partiers storm NRSC offices)

This was all on display at a press conference Monday at the Washington-based FreedomWorks when a reporter asked the 60 or so Tea Partiers there to express their 2012 preferences.

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, and Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congressman who officially launched her campaign today, got the most applause when activists were asked if they supported either.

“I think everybody wants somebody who is plain talking and focused on the problems,” said Alan Guillaudeu, a businessman from Texas.

Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, on the other hand had only dismal support.

“She’s not running,” yelled out one activist.

Both businessman Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were applauded and had sizeable support, but not quite as much as Perry or Bachmann. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was booed. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was booed. And so was Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker.

What about former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum? Both got scattered applause and variations of people suggesting both are nice but not their top pick for president. (FreedomWorks forming rival debt commission to Obama’s group)

Palin, however, did have several supporters who wish she’d get in.

“My person’s not in the race,” said Darcy Kahrhoff of Texas, who said she’d support Palin because “she’s independent.”

Twitter to get its own (unofficial) 2012 GOP debate

or read here at Yahoo!

By Dylan Stableford | The Cutline – Monday, June 27, 2011

The lead-up to the 2008 presidential election included debates sponsored by YouTube and Facebook--and now it appears 2012 will have at least one debate conducted via Twitter.

A GOP debate that organizers are calling the "First Presidential Townhall on Twitter" has been slated for July 20.

The virtual event—organized by the Republican Liberty Caucus and sponsored by—is scheduled to take place between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET.

So far, only Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain have been announced as participants. But organizers say others are slated to announce their involvement later.

"We will be releasing the names of the confirmed candidates after the 4th of July holiday to give the few remaining candidates who haven't confirmed time to get acquainted with the platform," media director Dustin Stockton said in a statement.

The platform will isolate and organize tweets from the candidates and moderator (radio host Rusty Humphries), as well as those from the Twitterverse, on the website.

"We basically have an online tool that tracks all tweets for a specific account name and hashtag," Adam Green, founder of 140 Dev, the company that developed the platform, told "It takes all those tweets, aggregates them into a database, separates the ones who are the lead speakers and puts them in one stream, and then puts the others in a separate stream."

More from Mashable's explanation of debate protocols:

A lefthand column will display real-time stats, such as how many followers, mentions and retweets each candidate is receiving. A center column will show the debate as it happens, with the moderator in blue and candidate in white. A righthand column will feature a tweet box, so the public can comment as the debate is going on.

Tweets from the event will be aggregated on the @140TownHall Twitter feed, too.

Green claims that the candidates themselves will be participating in the debate, not representatives or campaign aides.

While the platform will be utilizing Twitter's API, Twitter itself is not an official sponsor for the debate.

In the 2008 campaign cycle, CNN and YouTube partnered for a debate series in which candidates replied to questions submitted through YouTube. And ABC News and Facebook co-sponsored the 2008 New Hampshire Debates (with both parties debating on the same night, back-to-back), during which viewers were encouraged to interact on Facebook pages dedicated to the event.

Earlier this month, CNN hosted a GOP debate in New Hampshire, displaying live tweets and Facebook status updates on a large screen inside the hall.

American Political News for Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2012 Election

Rick Perry sells out in Alabama, Karl Rove pitches for the RNC

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid raise money for Super PACs

Paul, Cain, Huntsman step up online fundraising

Twitter to get its own (unofficial) 2012 GOP debate

Pawlenty and Romney granted final extensions to disclose financial assets

Tea Partiers say Perry, Bachmann excite them

Field Of Dreams: Obama, Palin, Bachmann Cut A Path Through Iowa

Two candidates diverged in a Gallup poll

Romney, Huntsman to overlap in N.H.

Barack Obama

Obama pushing behind scenes to win over big-dollar donors

White House Insists Obama's Iowa Stop for Economy, Not 2012

Obama’s White House Fundraising ‘Unseemly but Perfectly Legal’

Details Emerge on Obama Tax Hike Plan

Obama 2012 campaign to go beyond email, text

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney may not return to Iowa before August

Mitt Romney a favorite in Nevada

Romney: Labor board case could cost Iowa jobs

Romney downplays money expectations and praises Bachmann

Romney calls for working ‘across the aisle’ as cure for political polarization

Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty: GOP can't be 'devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal'

Pawlenty criticizes Obama, GOP on foreign policy

Republican Pawlenty assails Obama on Middle East

Pawlenty hits Obama on "Arab spring"

Pawlenty: Obama has 'failed' in the Middle East

Michele Bachmann

Wrong John Wayne: Mix-up is opening day headache for Bachmann

GOP Primary Voters Explore Bachman's Campaign (Audio)

Michele Bachmann's Moment: Can She Sustain It?

Michele Bachmann: Review minimum wage

Michele Bachmann stands by slavery comment

Republicans saving Michele Bachmann's seat?

Bachmann says never 'a cross word' with Palin

Michele Bachmann’s thin legislative résumé

Bachmann concedes she misspoke on Wayne's hometown

Bachmann: I’m scholarly

Michele Bachmann, evangelical feminist?

Why Michele Bachmann is no Sarah Palin

Michele Bachmann's former chief-of-staff: She's 'so not ready'

Herman Cain

Two top Herman Cain staffers resign

Cain: Stewart Impression Shows 'Problem' With Black Conservatives, But Not Racist

Rod Blagojevich

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich 'stunned' by corruption conviction (Video)

Rod Blagojevich's Tongue Finally Meets Its Match - 17 Federal Convictions

Convicted Blagojevich faces prospect of prison


Timing Is Questioned in Seeking House Vote on U.S. Role in Libya

Senate weighing in on Obama policy on Libya

War Powers Showdown Heats Up in the Senate Over Libya Operations

Obama Adviser Defends Libya Policy to a Frosty Senate


US military deaths in Iraq war at 4,466

US forces 'disappointed' by Iraq freeing bomb suspects

US Debt

GOP, Democrats seem to harden debt stances

Revenue vs. cuts in debt debate

Negotiators Wrangle on Taxes

Ideology Aside, House and Senate Physically Out of Sync

Obama, Biden plan debt session with Senate Dems

Other News

Is Sarah Palin Meeting With Iowa Activists?

General Named to Head U.S. Afghan Force OKs Drawdown

Pakistan says stop "blame game" at U.S., Afghan talks

Iran: Our missiles can reach US bases, Israel

Philippine-US joint naval drill amid tension with China

US, Philippines start navy drills amid China row

China rejects US Senate criticism over sea dispute

Clinton raises concern over flashpoint Sudan region

California’s new independent redistricting process could endanger 5 Republican House seats

APNewsBreak: Sources tell AP that SC governor will veto bill to use tax money on primary

Government: No Known Terror Threat Tied to July 4

U.S. Expands Human Trafficking Blacklist

Lieberman, Coburn to Pitch Plan to Stabilize Medicare, Save $500 Billion Over 10 Years

Opening Round of Ad War Suggests 'Total Brawl' Coming in 2012 Presidential Race

Clinton Hails 'Momentous' New York Vote on Gay Marriage

Human Rights Defender Now Fights For U.S. Policy (Audio)

Report: Anthony Weiner playing powerbroker

New Senate push for 'Dream Act'

GOP shows no interest in DREAM Act

In Washington, war always wins

W.H. mum on Dalai Lama meeting

Bob McDonnell, Rick Perry at latest Koch brothers summit

New Jersey Anti-Union Bill Approved, Governor Chris Christie To Sign Into Law

US hopes to avoid repeat of 2010 flotilla debacle

Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Calif. announces retirement

House Republicans Sign Letter Asking Obama Not to Use Autopen to Approve Legislation

Jury weighs first US foreign bribe sting case

Those reckless Republicans

Reuters: No deal yet on stalled trade deals

Texas Legislature Approves Anti-Pat-Down Bill

IMF picks Christine Lagarde as new leader

U.S., India pledge cooperation on market access

Lawmakers make another run at immigration bill

Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson could face jail time for ethics violations

U.S., EU condemn violence in northeastern Nigeria

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blagojevich jury reaches verdicts on 18 counts

or read here at Yahoo!

By MICHAEL TARM, Associated Press

CHICAGO – More than two years after his arrest while still in office, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will hear the verdict in his corruption retrial Monday, after jurors informed the judge that they had reached agreement on 18 of the 20 counts against him.

Judge James Zagel said the verdicts will be read Monday afternoon. The jury had returned to the federal courthouse Monday morning after nine days of deliberations. They had been talking through the evidence over a three-week period.

Blagojevich arrived at the courthouse accompanied by his wife, Patti, and walked past the crowds that lined the street outside the building.

The former governor, 54, faces allegations that he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat in exchange for a high-paying job, and schemed to shake down executives for campaign donations. He took the stand at the retrial and denied all the charges.

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and dozens of reporters filed into the courtroom Monday after the court announced it had received word of a note from jurors.

"The jury has come to a decision on 18 of the 20 counts," Zagel said, clutching the note and reading it aloud. Jurors added they were deadlocked on two counts and "were confident" they couldn't agree on those charges "even with further deliberations."

The note didn't say which charges they agreed on or disagreed on.

Asked how he should respond, both prosecutors and the defense indicated to Zagel that the jury had deliberated long enough and should be asked to deliver the verdicts.

It was only the third note from jurors in their deliberations. The two other gave no hint about how deliberations were proceeding.

Jurors at Blagojevich's first trial last year came back deadlocked after deliberating for 14 days. They agreed on just one of 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich of lying to the FBI. He faces up to five years on that conviction.

If found guilty on all the counts this time, he faces up to 350 years in prison — though guidelines would dictate he get far less.

Blagojevich was arrested in December 2008, after the FBI had wiretapped hundreds of his telephone calls at work and home. The Illinois Legislature impeached him a month later.

Both trials hinged on whether the former governor's bold ramblings to aides and others on the telephone was just talk, as he insisted, or part of "a political crime spree," in the words of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Before a national audience, the Blagojevich saga exacerbated Illinois' reputation for graft. A conviction would mean Blagojevich is the second Illinois governor in a row facing a prison sentence for corruption. His predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, is serving a 6 1/2 year sentence.

The case also became a media spectacle, as the indicted governor and his wife appeared on TV reality shows, and as the loquacious Blagojevich made theatrical appearances daily outside the courthouse during the first trial to profess his innocence and hug his remaining fans.

In a case full of high-level name dropping, defense attorneys in the retrial pulled into court Chicago's new Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Emanuel's appearance on the witness stand, the most anticipated by a Chicago mayor in a federal courtroom in decades, was over in just five minutes. Jackson was done in about half an hour.

Overall, though, the retrial had far less of the circus-like atmosphere that accompanied the initial trial. Blagojevich himself also was more subdued this time.

Other major differences were in the prosecution's dramatically streamlined case, and the fact that the defense put on a case after not doing so the first time around.

Prosecutors dropped racketeering counts against the ex-governor and dismissed all charges against his then co-defendant brother, Robert Blagojevich. They presented just three weeks of evidence — half the time taken at the first trial. They called fewer witnesses, asked fewer questions and played shorter excerpts of FBI wiretaps that underpin most of the charges.

There was also a new variable at the retrial: The testimony from Blagojevich himself. At the first trial, the defense rested without calling any witnesses and Blagojevich didn't testify despite vowing that he would.

Retrial jurors saw a deferential Blagojevich look them in the eyes and deny every allegation, telling them his talk on the recordings was mere brainstorming. This time, jurors must decide if they believe him.

A Guide to Properly Insulting the 2012 GOP Candidates

or read here at Yahoo!

Atlantic Wire

Elspeth Reeve

When Chris Wallace asked Michele Bachmann if she's a "flake," many were outraged. Some thought it was sexist. But Jacob Weisberg said it was simply inaccurate. "Bachmann's not a flake, she's a wacko," he tweeted. "Newt's a flake." Given that Newt Gingrich's top campaign staff quit because he didn't want to put in the time shaking hands and kissing babies required to run a presidential campaign, it's hard to argue with Weisberg: Gingrich probably is more deserving of the flake tag. So as a service to any Sunday talk show anchors who might be nervous about which exact put-down to throw in a candidate's face, here's our glossary for the preferred and accepted zinger for each Republican presidential contender, per the current conventional wisdom.

Philippines, Singapore off US trafficking watchlist

or read here at Yahoo!

by Shaun Tandon

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States on Monday removed the Philippines and Singapore from a human trafficking watchlist that drew concerns from the close allies, but it reported persistent abuses around Asia.

The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report has become increasingly sensitive for Southeast Asian governments, which face a cutoff of US assistance if they are found to be unresponsive in fighting trafficking.

The latest report elevated the Philippines, Singapore and Laos off the watchlist to so-called Tier 2, which means that the countries do not fully meet standards on human trafficking but are making efforts to do so.

Indonesia and Cambodia stayed at Tier 2, but Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam stayed on the watchlist. The only Asian jurisdictions on Tier 1, meaning full compliance, were South Korea and Taiwan.

Releasing the report, the State Department said that millions of people around the world remained trapped in modern-day slavery for sexual exploitation or labor and called on governments around the world to take action.

The report "embodies the United States' continued dedication to fighting traffickers no matter where they may be, because fighting slavery and standing up for human rights is part of our national identity," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a forward to the report.

But US allies have sometimes responded indignantly. Singapore last year lashed out at being put on the watchlist and urged the United States -- which again this year listed itself as Tier 1 -- to examine its own record, including the treatment of its millions of illegal residents.

In the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino took the unusual step of announcing in April that his country was off the watchlist, leading US officials to clarify that no decision had yet been made.

In Monday's report, the State Department praised an "intensified effort" by the Philippines. It said the Philippines convicted 25 trafficking offenders, compared with nine the previous year, including first-ever convictions for forced labor.

Elsewhere in Asia, the State Department removed Sri Lanka and Fiji from its watchlist. It praised Sri Lanka -- often on the receiving end of criticism over human rights -- for its first convictions under an anti-trafficking law on the island, which is a major source of workers to abuse-prone Arab countries.

On the other hand, the United States downgraded the Federated States of Micronesia to Tier 3, meaning that some assistance will be suspended to the nation of more than 600 islands that is closely linked to the United States.

The report said that Micronesian traffickers have forced women into prostitution in the United States with promises of well-paying jobs.

The State Department said that Micronesian waters are seen as easy for traffickers but that no figures are available as the government has not conducted any investigations into the problem.

Myanmar, North Korea and Papua New Guinea remained at Tier 3. In a change that begins next year, countries that stay on the watchlist for two consecutive years automatically will drop to Tier 3, causing a cutoff in aid.

Conservative Bachmann joins White House race

or read here at Yahoo!

by Emmanuel Parisse

WATERLOO, Iowa (AFP) – Firebrand Republican Representative Michele Bachmann on Monday formally launched a bid for the White House, warning the United States "cannot afford four more years" of President Barack Obama.

"I seek the presidency not for vanity, but because I think America is at a crucial moment," Bachmann, a darling of the archconservative "Tea Party" movement, said in a speech to some 200 supporters in the key heartland state of Iowa.

The outspoken Minnesota lawmaker, 55, pointed to the swelling US national debt, soaring gasoline prices, historically high unemployment and took aim at Obama's signature health law, the target of conservative voter anger.

"We can't afford four more years of millions of Americans who are out of work," she said to voters in Iowa, home to a first-in-the-nation caucus that shapes the Republican presidential field. "We cannot afford four more years of Barack Obama."

"We can't afford the unconstitutional health care law that costs so much and delivers so little," said Bachmann, a prodigious political fundraiser who at times has raised eyebrows with superheated rhetoric and verbal missteps.

She was to tour Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, important states in the Republican presidential nomination fight, bolstered by a weekend poll showing her virtually tied in Iowa with frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Bachmann garnered 22 percent support among likely caucus participants compared to the former Massachusetts governor's 23 percent, according to the poll organized by the Des Moines Register newspaper.

Before the dramatic Iowa survey results, Bachmann, a darling of Christian conservatives, had averaged just seven percent of the vote in June surveys, far behind former Massachusetts governor Romney (26 percent), according to analyst Nate Silver.

The latest poll results show she is a serious contender for the Republican nomination, especially after she emerged as a clear victor in the first major debate among Republican presidential hopefuls on June 13.

Bachmann, who organized the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, stepped boldly into the 2012 White House race to challenge Obama by stealing the show at the Republican debate.

"Since the debate, people have paid attention and they've recognized that I am very serious about what I want to do, because the country is on the wrong track," Bachmann told "Fox News Sunday."

To the jubilant rally crowd Monday she pledged that "we can win in 2012 and we will," insisting that the Tea Party was not the right-wing side of the Republican Party, but rather "people who simply want America back on the right track again."

"I like her what I heard," gushed supporter Becky Bostwick, who attended the announcement rally with her five children.

"I can relate to it because I have five little kids and I'm worried about the future," she told AFP.

"I feel she is rational, she's smart, and she's competent to get us out of here. Some hard decisions have to be made."

One rival Sarah Palin, a Tea Party superstar who was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has kept people guessing on a possible presidential run.

In her absence, Bachmann hopes to sew up the sizeable support of the party's conservative wing.

Like Palin, the 55-year-old Bachmann is capable of blunders, including a claim that the first shots of the American Revolutionary War took place in New Hampshire, not Massachusetts.

She is the only woman so far to have declared a Republican bid, and despite remaining relatively unknown to the broader US public, her telegenic image could generate greater appeal.

As an example of the added scrutiny she now faces, the Los Angeles Times reported that the acclaimed fiscal conservative had benefited from government funds and federal farm subsidies.

Bachmann deflected the allegations, insisting neither she nor her husband had received public funds.

American Political News for Monday, June 27, 2011

2012 Election

Inside Nancy Pelosi’s drive to win the House majority back for Democrats

2012 contenders shun Hill support

Three Ways Democrats Could Choose to Lose in 2012, and What They Can Do to Avoid It

2012ers hit the road

The 2nd-quarter dash for dollars

Democrats look to take back House in 2012, target GOP on Medicare in early ad campaign

A Guide to Properly Insulting the 2012 GOP Candidates

Barack Obama

In setting Afghan troop pullout goals, Obama left key details on July departure to commanders

Obama to meet with Senate leaders on debt, deficit

President Obama hasn’t always agreed with Senator Obama

Officials: Obama Leaving to Commanders Details on Afghan Departure

Obama to discuss debt ceiling with Senate leaders

Obama Turns His Attention To Deficit Reduction (Audio)

President Obama planning health care mystery shoppers?

Barack Obama laments his lost 'cool'

How Obama Can Fix the Housing Market and the Economy

What If President Obama Just Ignored the Debt Ceiling?

Obama enters fray as debt showdown drags on

Mitt Romney

Romney will lead GOP in first-quarter fundraising

Republican Romney to tap ex-pat wealth in London

Michele Bachmann

Fox News Asks Michele Bachmann 'Are You A Flake?'

Bachmann: 'Flake' Label is 'Insulting' (Video)

Bachmann won't take Fox host's apology

Fox host apologizes for Bachmann 'flake' question

Years after questioning Obama’s patriotism, Bachmann says 2012 bid not ‘anything personal’

Bachmann: 'Scare Tactics' in Debt Ceiling Issue

Bachmann's campaign tests Tea Party power limits

Bachmann says poll shows Iowa voters are taking her seriously

Bachmann to launch campaign in Iowa hometown

Bachmann gets big laughs for teleprompter joke

Straw poll is 'big deal' for Bachmann

Bachmann's farm income, according to Bachmann's disclosures

Michele Bachmann zeroes in Iowa

Bachmann Enters Race in Strong Poll Position

Michele Bachmann and "facts" about lost jobs

2012 GOP primary spotlight shines on Bachmann

Bachmann well-positioned for Iowa, and maybe beyond

Michele Bachmann Announces 2012 Bid (Video)

Is Michele Bachmann Just Another Mike Huckabee?

Can Michele Bachmann Win the Republican Primary?

Michele Bachmann Facts and Figures

Jon Huntsman

Huntsman loses DeMint

Jim DeMint won’t back Jon Huntsman’s 2012 bid

Jon Huntsman gaming out the second quarter

Schultz denies coordinated Huntsman hit

Salt Lake Trib gives Huntsman health care record mixed review

Jon Huntsman's 'insurmountable' 'toughness gap'


Security fears ahead of US exit from Iraq (Video)

Spike in U.S. Deaths in Iraq Raises Worries

US soldier dies in southern Iraq


Pentagon Sends Drones, Anti-Terror Equipment to Counterterror Forces Dealing With Somalia

US sends $45 million in gear for Somalia terror fight


Suspected US missile strike kills 8 in Pakistan

US: Pakistan must show it wants Afghan peace

US drone kills 12 at Pakistan militant camp: officials


Egyptian Leader Assures McCain and Kerry on Transition

McCain: Egypt military wants civilian government

US Debt

President Obama, Mitch McConnell square off on debt

Budget and debt talks move to the White House

Tax hikes bedevil US debt talks

Is the US in denial over its $14tn debt?

Other News

Analysis: Hugs, politics: Michelle Obama's savvy helps husband

Is Newt Gingrich Run for President a Scam to Sell Books?

Blagojevich jury reaches verdicts on 18 counts

A decade on, no clear answers in Afghanistan

White House: warrants show Gadhafi not legitimate

N.C. Dems brace for GOP remap

For Dems, health law is chronic pain

US space entrepreneur accused of aiding Iran

Key US lawmaker urges recall of envoy to Syria

Obama jokes about Biden f-bomb in video about dinner contest

US should engage N.Korea: Kerry

Philippines, Singapore off US trafficking watchlist