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May 30, 2014

U.S. veterans affairs chief resigns over healthcare scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, facing calls for his ouster by lawmakers and veterans groups, resigned on Friday after taking responsibility for a healthcare scandal over delays in medical care for U.S. veterans.

President Barack Obama said he accepted the resignation of the soft-spoken, 71-year-old retired Army general after being briefed on the initial findings of the investigation into abuses that were initially found in Phoenix but later identified at other facilities across the country.

May 30, 2014

Veterans Affairs chief apologizes for problems, to meet with Obama

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, condemning a systemic “lack of integrity” at some VA hospitals, apologized to veterans on Friday for abuses that hid the lengthy wait times for patients to see doctors, saying the problem was worse than he thought.

The 71-year-old, soft-spoken retired Army general, who has been under pressure from lawmakers and veterans groups to step down, said he accepted responsibility for the VA’s failures, initially found in Phoenix but now identified in other facilities across the country. But he did not indicate whether he would resign.

May 23, 2014

Congress heads toward showdown over 2015 defense priorities

WASHINGTON, May 22 (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Congress headed
toward a showdown over Pentagon spending on Thursday after the
House and Senate advanced competing versions of the annual
defense policy bill that differ on everything from spending
priorities to closing Guantanamo.

The House of Representatives voted 325-98 to pass a 2015
National Defense Authorization Act that rejected the Pentagon’s
bid to cut long-term costs by reducing military pay raises and
eliminating planes, ships and bases.

May 22, 2014

House rejects Pentagon cost-cutting plans in defense policy bill

WASHINGTON, May 22 (Reuters) – The U.S. House of
Representatives rejected Pentagon cost-cutting proposals on
Thursday with a $601 billion election-year defense policy bill
that offered bigger military pay raises and blocked a
politically tough bid to eliminate planes, ships and bases.

The chamber voted 325-98 to pass the 2015 National Defense
Authorization Act, which rejected Pentagon plans to save tens of
billions of dollars over the next five years as the department
tries to meet a congressional mandate to cut nearly $1 trillion
in defense spending over a decade.

May 22, 2014

U.S. House poised to reject Pentagon’s cost-cutting plans

WASHINGTON, May 21 (Reuters) – The House of Representative
on Wednesday edged toward passage of an annual defense policy
bill that rejects Pentagon plans to retire older weapons systems
and slow the rise in military pay as it implements long-term
spending cuts ordered by Congress.

Most amendments to revive the Pentagon’s cost-cutting
measures died in committee on Wednesday and never made it to the
floor for consideration by the full House, which began debating
the National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday night.

May 21, 2014

Lawmakers clash over budget priorities in U.S. defense bill

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) – Lawmakers in the U.S. House
of Representatives clashed over spending priorities in the
annual defense policy bill on Tuesday, with a top Republican
saying the measure prevented “false short-term savings” and a
key Democrat warning about “creative accounting.”

The legislation, which the full House began debating on
Tuesday night, calls for a Pentagon base budget of $496 billion
for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in October, about the same as
this year. The National Defense Authorization Act also approves
$17.6 billion for nuclear weapons spending and $79.4 billion for
the Afghanistan war.

May 19, 2014

White House raps House defense bill for blocking spending reforms

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) – The annual defense policy
bill making its way through the House of Representatives could
force the Pentagon to maintain a bigger military than it can
afford at a time of shrinking budgets, the White House said on
Monday, warning that a veto was possible.

The Office of Management and Budget, in a statement of
administration policy, said the National Defense Authorization
Act approved by the House Armed Services Committee had
eliminated $50 billion in savings over five years that the
Pentagon had proposed in its 2015 budget.

May 16, 2014

Top U.S. veterans’ healthcare official resigns amid scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned on Friday amid a scandal over allegations of deadly healthcare delays, but critics dismissed the gesture as “damage control” because he planned to retire this year anyway.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement he accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, VA undersecretary for health, and acknowledged the need to ensure more timely treatment of America’s military veterans. The White House said President Barack Obama supported Shinseki’s decision.

May 15, 2014

China blames Vietnam, says will not cede inch of disputed territory

WASHINGTON, May 15 (Reuters) – A top Chinese general on
Thursday defended the deployment of an oil rig that has inflamed
tensions in the disputed South China Sea and triggered deadly
protests in Vietnam, blaming Hanoi and saying China cannot
afford to “lose an inch” of territory.

General Fang Fenghui also pointed blame at U.S. President
Barack Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia as Vietnam and China
grapple with one of the worst breakdowns in relations since the
neighbors fought a brief border war in 1979.

May 14, 2014

U.S. reconstruction push overwhelming Kabul’s finances: watchdog

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has spent $103 billion on rebuilding everything from hospitals to security forces in Afghanistan, but Kabul’s modest finances make it unlikely the projects could be maintained in the future, a top U.S. watchdog said on Wednesday.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said even with the U.S. war effort winding down, U.S. spending in the country is likely to continue at a pace of $6 billion to $10 billion a year. He said $18 billion has been appropriated for Afghan projects and not yet spent.

    • About David

      "David has been a journalist for 30 years, based in Washington, London, New Delhi, Jerusalem and Philadelphia. He covered the first Gulf war, the Palestinian intifada and the conflict in Kashmir. Since 1998 he has been an editor and reporter in Washington, covering politics, the White House and other stories."
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