Venezuela will require American citizens to apply for visas, limit activities of U.S. diplomats

CARACAS — Venezuela will shrink the size of the U.S. Embassy staff, limit the activities of U.S. diplomats and require American citizens to apply for visas if they want to come bask on the beach. Speaking before a crowd that rallied to protest imperialism, President Nicolas Maduro said Saturday that “gringo” meddling had forced him to adopt the series of restrictive measures, which include requiring U.S. diplomats to seek approval from the Foreign Ministry for meetings they conduct here. Maduro said he was imposing the new tourist visa requirement for national security reasons, saying that in recent days authorities had detained several U.S. citizens who he alleged were involved in espionage, including an American pilot. The president and other officials gave no specific information on any Americans in custody, and the U.S. Embassy did not respond to a request for comment. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

British politician wants to continue representing constituents via Skype after move to U.S.

It will be a hell of a commute! A British politician is refusing to quit his $15,000-a-year job — even though he is moving to the U.S. Suffolk County Council lawmaker Brian Riley claims he'll still be able to fully service his voters in Hadleigh from almost 4,000 miles away in Raleigh, N.C., reports ITV News. The 71-year-old former banker says he'll be on hand to help solve issues via Skype, cell phone and email. And he's also willing to regularly make the near 8,000-mile transatlantic round-trip to fly back for other major problems. The Conservative Party politician's stance has sparked an angry backlash, and he's now facing calls to resign. "It's ridiculous for anybody to claim to represent the people of Hadleigh from somewhere other than Hadleigh," said opposition Labour leader Sandy Martin. "But to do so from 4,000 miles away is completely bonkers. He'll not be able to attend all the meetings or visit schools or see people in their homes," Martin told the Cambridge News. "It is all very well him saying he will use Skype, but a lot of people don't like talking over the phone or by computer. You get much more rapport by talking face to face," Martin added. But Riley, whose wife is American, said that modern technology meant there were plenty of ways for him to keep in touch with people. "I shall be coming back to the UK every six or seven weeks to keep up with my council work," he told the Cambridge News. And, as long as he attends at least one meeting every six months, there is no way he can be removed until the next county council election in May 2017, reports ITV News. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

South Korean who slashed U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert indicted on attempted murder charges

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday indicted a man who slashed the U.S. ambassador in Seoul last month on charges of attempted murder. Kim Ki-jong, 55, was also indicted Wednesday on charges of assaulting a foreign envoy and obstruction, according to an official at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, who did not want to be named, citing department rules. South Korean law requires the trial to start within 14 days, and there is a possibility that it could start as early as next week, according to an official at the Seoul Central District Court, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules. He said it was too early to comment on the potential penalties Kim could face. Prosecutors have also been investigating whether Kim violated a controversial law that bans praise or assistance for North Korea. The court official said it was possible prosecutors may add such charges against Kim during the trial. Police say Kim attacked Ambassador Mark Lippert with a knife during a breakfast forum on March 5. He suffered deep gashes on his face and arm and was treated at a Seoul hospital for five days. Police say Kim chose Lippert as a target to highlight his opposition to ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills. North Korea has angrily reacted to the drills, calling them an invasion rehearsal. Anti-U.S. activists such as Kim have long blamed the presence of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South as a deterrent to the North for the continuing split of the Korean Peninsula. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Comcast, Time Warner Cable to meet U.S. Justice Dept officials over merger: WSJ

Representatives of Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC.N) are preparing to meet U.S. Department of Justice officials to discuss competition concerns raised by the planned $45 billion merger of the two cable giants, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. The meeting next Wednesday would aim to negotiate possible concessions addressing those concerns, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. The paper said it would be the first time the two cable giants have met with regulators since announcing their proposed deal a year ago. Staffers at both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission remain concerned the combined company would have too much power in the Internet broadband market and would have unfair competitive leverage against TV channel owners and businesses offering online video programming, the Journal said. Representatives of the two companies and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment on the Journal report. News of the planned meeting followed a report by Bloomberg on Friday that staff attorneys at the Justice Department's antitrust division were nearing a recommendation to block the deal. A spokesman for Time Warner Cable questioned the Bloomberg report, saying on Friday the company had been working productively with both the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission. A source close to Comcast said on Friday that discussions with the DOJ had been positive and that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was still gathering material from companies, making it early for any discussion of conditions for a deal. The Bloomberg report said Justice Department attorneys were citing concerns for consumers as they lean against it and their review could be handed in as soon as next week. A final decision would be made by senior officials. Continue Reading

U.S. drone strike transparency needed after 2 hostage deaths: human rights groups

Human rights groups on Thursday called for the White House to be more truthful about targeted killings after President Obama announced the deaths of two hostages, including an American, from a U.S.-led air strike. The commander-in-chief has apologized for the January counterterrorism operative against Al Qaeda that accidentally killed Dr. Warren Weinstein, of Maryland, and Italian captive Giovanni Lo Porto, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "I profoundly regret what happened," Obama said Thursday during a television address, adding that he takes "full responsibility" for the deaths. But it's an empty apology, influential human rights organizations said. "It's right that the White House has come clean and admitted its tragic mistake in killing these hostages, and our hearts go out to their families," said Alka Pradhan, an attorney who represents civilian drone attack victims. "It's worth remembering, however, that Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto are far from the first innocents to die by our drones, and in no other case has the U.S. apologized for its mistake,” Pradhan, a member of the human rights group Reprieve, added. The U.S. "quite literally didn't know who it was killing" in the January attack, American Civil Liberties Union chief Jameel Jaffer said. The new disclosures raise "troubling questions" about the reliability of U.S. intelligence used to justify air strikes, he said. Thousands of innocent civilians are tragically killed each year from air strikes, including a bride in Yemen and dozens of her wedding guests in December 2013, experts say. But the number of casualties remains blurry because of the lack of transparency. "We've never had a word of acknowledgement by the U.S. government, let alone apology," Amnesty International spokeswoman Naureen Shah said. Covert strikes have killed nearly 4,000 people in Pakistan and more than 1,000 in Yemen, Continue Reading

VIDEO: Bronx Zoo features first gelada baboon born in U.S. in 13 years

This is one bouncing baby boy. The Bronx Zoo is showing off a new addition — the first gelada baboon born in the U.S. in 13 years. Video shows the adorable youngster jumping off rocks and playing with his mother, Fayola, in the zoo's Baboon Reserve. "This is an exciting birth for the Bronx Zoo and our visitors," said Jim Breheny, executive vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the facility. "To watch the young gelada race around the hillside, jumping and interacting with the adults is an experience not to be missed. It is an inspiring sight that transports you to the East African highlands." The young baboon was born in the fall but spent most of the winter off exhibit bonding with his mother, according to zoo officials. Gelada baboons are found only in the highlands of Ethiopia, and the Bronx Zoo is the the only wildlife facility in the U.S. that has a group of geladas. The grass-eating apes are sometimes called “bleeding heart baboons” because of the red patch of skin on their chests, which becomes more conspicuous on females during mating season. Males are known for their impressive mane of back hair. The youngster, who has not yet been named, will join the other monkeys on the exhibit if the weather permits. For more information go to or call (718) 367-1010. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Florida mailman lands gyrocopter on U.S. Capitol lawn, causing brief lockdown

WASHINGTON - Neither rain nor snow nor protected airspace stopped a Florida mailman from landing a small manned "gyrocopter" outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Doug Hughes, 61, of Ruskin, Fla., planned the flight to protest the influence of money in politics, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Hughes told the paper he wanted to deliver letters to every member of Congress to outline his complaints, which focus on the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens’ United ruling and its impact on campaign finance laws. The U.S. Capitol Police said they took the pilot of the gyrocopter, apparently Hughes, into custody. "The USCP bomb squad has cleared the gyro copter with nothing hazardous found," Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokesman said in a statement. Schneider said police moved the gyrocopter from the Capitol's West Lawn to an undisclosed secure location. A White House spokesman said that President Obama was briefed on the incident, which caused a brief lockdown of the Capitol and closure of nearby streets. Hughes has said his gyrocopter can travel at about 45 miles an hour and as high as 300 feet in the air. He flew to the Capitol from the Gettysburg Regional Airport, some 80 miles away, after driving from Florida with the machine in a trailer. A video obtained by the Associated Press shows it flying fast and low over the National Mall toward the Capitol, alarming tourists. Hughes mapped out his protest in 2013, according to plans he divulged to the Times in case he was arrested or killed in the attempt. "I have thought about walking away from this whole thing because it's crazy," told the paper. "But I have also thought about being 80 years old and watching the collapse of this country." "No sane person would do what I'm doing," he said. The Times reported that they called the Secret Service and Capitol Police Wednesday Continue Reading

California cop busted in U.S. Immigration and Customs drug probe

A Northern California cop betrayed his profession to keep a drug-dealing relative a step ahead of the law, authorities say. The Yuba City officer and his family member were part of a cocaine trafficking operation, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officer Harminder Phagura was arrested on Wednesday with the relative after federal agents raided three locations in Yuba City and nearby Roseville allegedly linked to the pair. Phagura, 35, and Gursharan Phagura, 39, face drug conspiracy charges. It wasn’t immediately clear how the two are related. The federal probe had first focused on Gursharan Phagura but expanded to pull in his “law enforcement” friend, according to court documents. Phagura was hired as a patrolman in 2012 and his duties included hostage negotiation, the Sacramento Bee reported. His older relative was a known drug smuggler and failed federal informant, authorities said. The disgraced cop intercepted law enforcement radio messages and used them to tip off Gursharan, according to the complaint. The officer was placed on administrative leave, the Bee reported. He posted $100,000 bail on Wednesday. His relative was held pending a hearing on Thursday. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Sen. Mark Kirk says he will support Loretta Lynch’s U.S. attorney general nomination, should be enough votes to confirm

Sen. Mark Kirk said Thursday he would support Loretta Lynch for U.S. attorney general, a stance that should assure Lynch has enough votes to win confirmation. Kirk (R-Ill.) said in a statement he believes Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, will be a "valuable partner in confronting violence that is robbing families of their children every day in Chicago." He is the fifth GOP senator to announce plans to support Lynch's confirmation. With all 46 Democrats on board, Lynch has enough votes to overcome GOP opposition tied to her support for President Obama's executive actions on immigration. The Justice Department's indictment Wednesday of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on corruption charges had raised concerns Menendez would abstain from voting on Lynch's confirmation. Menendez said Wednesday he would vote for Lynch despite his indictment. Democrats have complained that Republicans have delayed a vote on Lynch for nearly five months. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE Continue Reading


MICHELLE KWAN officially earned her third shot at a gold medal yesterday, even if it was by way of a significant shortcut. Kwan, who skipped the nationals this month because of a groin injury, sufficiently impressed five monitors with a long and short skating program at her rink in Artesia, Calif., nailing four clean triple jumps and falling only once, on a double axel. The performance was flawed, but promising enough to elicit a unanimous decision in her favor - and to keep Olympic alternate Emily Hughes, 16, from Great Neck, L.I., on the bench in Turin next month. "It was pretty intense today at the rink," said Kwan, a five-time world champion and nine-time national titlist. "It was a situation I've never been in before . . . I told myself, 'You can do it . . . you've done the jumps before.' There was no audience, no feedback. I was glad it wasn't competition today, because I don't like making mistakes." Kwan, 25, skated yesterday before only the monitors, her parents, her sister, her coach, some rink regulars and a couple of pool reporters. She had received a good-luck call in the morning from an old rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Back in 1994, Kwan lost her spot on the Olympic team to Kerrigan, who was elevated onto the team after missing nationals because of the famous knee-whacking incident. "Michelle could win the Olympics, she is definitely qualified to win a medal," said U.S. Figure Skating international committee chairman Bob Horen. "We really do believe that. She's skating very well. Not every element was performed perfectly, but they were at a high level. We weren't really keeping score. We were looking for her competitive fitness. She did a triple lutz-double toe combination several times." Kwan has won everything in the world except an Olympic gold medal. She was upset by Tara Lipinski in Nagano and then finished third in Salt Lake City behind another gold-medal American, Sarah Hughes. Kwan hasn't entered any of the Grand Prix competitions this Continue Reading