Posted: Jun 30, 2014 4:00 AM
Updated: Jun 30, 2014 4:00 AM
Obama taps business executive Robert McDonald to oversee troubled Veterans Affairs department
WASHINGTON (AP) Seeking to turn around a troubled agency, President Barack Obama will nominate former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald to lead a Veterans Affairs department gripped by reports of treatment delays and cover-ups.
An administration official said Obama planned to nominate McDonald to the Cabinet post on Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, the 61-year-old McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans' hospitals became apparent.
McDonald's nomination signals that the president put a premium on management experience as he sought a new VA secretary. McDonald also has a military background, graduating near the top of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division.
The administration official insisted on anonymity in order to confirm McDonald's appointment before the president's announcement.
McDonald resigned abruptly from Procter & Gamble in May 2013 amid pressure from investors concerned that he was not doing enough to boost the company's performance.
Prosecutor: reports show Oscar Pistorius not mentally ill when he killed girlfriend in home
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) A panel of mental health experts has concluded that Oscar Pistorius was not suffering from a mental illness when he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home last year, the chief prosecutor at the athlete's murder trial said Monday.
Pistorius' trial resumed after a break of one month during which a psychologist and three psychiatrists also assessed whether the double-amputee runner was capable of understanding the wrongfulness of his act when he shot Steenkamp through a closed toilet door.
The panel's reports were submitted to Judge Thokozile Masipa, and prosecutor Gerrie Nel referred to key parts of the conclusions, noting that the experts believed Pistorius was "capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his act" when he killed Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model.
The evaluation came after a psychiatrist, Dr. Merryll Vorster, testified for the defense that Pistorius, who has said he feels vulnerable because of his disability and long-held worry about crime, had an anxiety disorder that could have contributed to the killing in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013. He testified that he opened fire after mistakenly thinking there was a dangerous intruder in the toilet.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has alleged that Pistorius, 27, killed Steenkamp after a Valentine's Day argument, and has portrayed the Olympic athlete as a hothead with a love of guns and an inflated sense of entitlement. But he requested an independent inquiry into Pistorius' state of mind, based on concern the defense would argue Pistorius was not guilty because of mental illness.
10 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
1. OBAMA PICKS VA CHIEF
If confirmed by the Senate, Robert McDonald, a former Proctor & Gamble executive, would succeed Eric Shinseki, who quit last month as head of the struggling agency.
2. ISLAMIC STATE DECLARED
Displaced Iraqis fight over food as they end first day of Ramadan fast
KALAK, Iraq (AP) Waving pots and pans, police pushed back dozens of hungry Iraqi refugees as they rushed to seize free food, ending their first daylong fast of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in an encampment for the displaced.
Shouting men scrambled Sunday to reach pots of rice, meat and chicken stew in this dusty, hot encampment some 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the northern city of Irbil, the capital of Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region. The chaotic scene underscored the fearful insecurity of displaced Iraqis as they begin Ramadan in a nation gripped by unrest and bitterly divided along sectarian lines.
For Bashir Khalil, a 39-year-old Shiite, and his wife Nidal, a Sunni, Ramadan has been robbed of its rhythm of communal solidarity.
The couple, who fled Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul after it was captured by Sunni extremists earlier this month, has always been poor. But in their impoverished quarter of the city, neighbors shared their food. Here, when the food ended, there would be no more until another charity came by.
"When this food finishes, there'll be nothing else," 34-year-old Nidal Khalil lamented.
Al-Qaida breakaway formally declares establishment of Islamic state straddling Syria and Iraq
BAGHDAD (AP) The al-Qaida breakaway group that has seized much of Syria and Iraq has formally declared the establishment of a new Islamic state, demanding allegiance from Muslims worldwide in a move that could further strain relations with other militant groups.
With brutal efficiency, the Sunni extremist group has carved out a large chunk of territory that has effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria and laid the foundations of its proto-state. But Sunday's declaration, made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could trigger a wave of infighting among the Sunni militant factions that formed a loose alliance in the blitz across Iraq.
The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared the group's chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the leader of the new caliphate, or Islamic state, and called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the organization's control, to swear loyalty to him.
"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas," said the spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, in an audio statement posted online. "Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day."
Al-Adnani loosely defined the Islamic state's territory as running from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad a vast stretch of land straddling the border that is already largely under the Islamic State's control. He also said that with the establishment of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.
North Korea says it is preparing to try 2 detained Americans for committing hostile acts
TOKYO (AP) North Korea said Monday it is preparing to try two Americans who entered the country as tourists for carrying out what it says were hostile acts against the country. Though a small number of U.S. citizens visit North Korea each year as tourists, the State Department strongly advises against it.
Investigations into Americans Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle concluded that suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said in a short report.
KCNA said North Korea is making preparations to bring them before a court. It did not specify what the two did that was considered hostile or illegal, or what kind of punishment they might face. It also did not say when the trial would begin.
Fowle arrived in the county on April 29. North Korea's state media said in June that authorities were investigating him for committing acts inconsistent with the purpose of a tourist visit.
Diplomatic sources said Fowle was detained for leaving the Bible in his hotel room. But a spokesman for Fowle's family said the 56-year-old from Ohio was not on a mission for his church. His wife and three children said they miss him very much and "are anxious for his return home," according to a statement after his detention that was provided by a spokesman for the family.
Criminal case of Benghazi suspect unfolds in nation's capital against political backdrop
WASHINGTON (AP) The first prosecution arising from the Benghazi attacks is playing out in the federal courthouse blocks from both the White House and Capitol Hill, an appropriate setting for a case that has drawn stark lines between President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress.
The criminal proceedings could provide new insights into the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans and will serve as the latest test of the U.S. legal system's ability to handle terrorism suspects captured overseas. Unfolding during an election year, the case against alleged mastermind Ahmed Abu Khattala could also help shape the legacies of Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, and spill over into the potential 2016 presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Even as the court case slogs forward, it may be challenging for the public to untangle the law from the politics, given how prominent the attacks on the diplomatic compound in the eastern Libyan city have become in U.S. political discourse.
"What's going to matter to the public more than anything else is the result, and I think it's going to only diffuse some of the ongoing Benghazi conspiracy theories if the Obama administration is going to be able to successfully obtain a conviction in this case," said American University law professor Stephen Vladeck, a national security law expert.
Still, he said, the case raises the same legal issues as past terrorism prosecutions and should not by itself be viewed as a referendum on the Obama administration.
Owner of sunken South Korean ferry blamed for 5 earlier crashes, but punishments were light
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) In the same narrow waterways where more than 300 people died this spring aboard the ferry Sewol, another ship owned by the same company crashed into an oil tanker 11 years earlier. The ferry's captain had chosen the difficult water path to cut a mere seven miles from its journey.
It was among five crashes, from 2003 to 2011, that government investigators blamed mostly on sailors of Chonghaejin Marine Co. ferries. Three of the incidents occurred within a 12-month span, and after those occurred, a government investigator chided the company for failing to make safety reforms.
None of the crashes caused fatalities, but together, some experts say, they were reason enough for regulators to suspend or even revoke the company's license. That never happened, and in fact Chonghaejin was allowed to expand by adding the Sewol to its fleet last year.
Chonghaejin's punishment for those five failures: two one-month suspensions for sailors, three verbal warnings to captains, one verbal warning to the company and a fine of 7.5 million won ($7,400). The biggest fine that can be issued in ferry-safety cases is just 30 million won ($29,400).
The Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal, an arm of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries that serves as a maritime court, recommended safety changes to the company as well, but they were nonbinding.
Ukrainian city of Lviv withdraws bid for 2022 Winter Olympics; 3rd city to pull out
LONDON (AP) The Ukrainian city of Lviv withdrew its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics on Monday, becoming the third contender to drop out of the race for a games that no one seems to want.
Lviv pulled out because of the continuing political and security crisis in Ukraine, where government forces are battling an insurgency by pro-Russian separatists.
Lviv officials said they would now focus on bidding for the 2026 Winter Games instead.
The decision to withdraw, which had been widely expected, followed talks between Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and IOC President Thomas Bach.
"We concluded that it would be extremely difficult to pursue the 2022 bid under current circumstances but that a future bid would make sense for Ukraine and Ukrainian sport," Bach said in a statement.
Nicki Minaj, Chris Rock, Pharrell: The 6 most memorable moments from the BET Awards
LOS ANGELES (AP) After nearly four hours of prizes, performances and the occasional bleeped expletive, the 2014 BET Awards came to a close. When it was all over, Pharrell Williams had two trophies, as did newcomer August Alsina, and Lil Wayne dropped the mike, apparently breaking it.
Here's a look at some of the memorable moments that emerged from Sunday night's ceremony, broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre on BET:
Accepting her fifth consecutive award for female hip-hop artist, Nicki Minaj gave a rambling speech in which she said she was recently near death.
"The other day, literally I didn't tell anybody this, I really thought I was about to die. Like, I was saying my prayers to die. And I didn't even want to call the ambulance because I thought, 'Well if I call the ambulance, it's going to be on TMZ,'" Minaj said, as some of the audience laughed.
"And I would rather sit there and die," she added, looking to the crowd. "And it made me realize I don't care what anybody got to say. I'm going to do me."