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NEWS   SUNDAY, MAY 24, 2015   NEWS

Obama Popularity On The Upswing
President Barack Obama's popularity with the public is on the upswing, according to a new Gallup poll that found him enjoying his strongest approval rating in nearly two years. He's now seen favorably by 53% of Americans, a four-point increase since March and the best number he's seen since September 2013, when 58% of Americans viewed him favorably. That breaks down predictably along party lines, with 90% of Democrats viewing him favorably while only 13% of Republicans say the same. The overall boost in popularity seems to be driven in part by a steady improvement in his standing with independents — he's now seen favorably by 52% of independents, up 6 percentage points since April and 17 percentage points since last fall. CNN
VOA VIEW: The poll is a fraud - Obama's popularity is not up.

U.S. Bird Flu Causes Egg Shortage, Emergency Measures
As a virulent avian influenza outbreak continues to spread across the Midwestern United States, some egg-dependent companies are contemplating drastic steps - importing eggs from overseas or looking to egg alternatives. A spokeswoman for Archer Daniels Midland Co said that as egg supplies tighten and prices rise, the food processing and commodities company has received numerous inquiries from manufacturers about the plant-based egg substitutes it makes. With a strong dollar bolstering the buying power of U.S. importers, some companies are scouting for egg supplies abroad. "The U.S. has never imported any significant amount of eggs, because we've always been a very low-cost producer," said Tom Elam of FarmEcon, an agricultural consulting company. "Now, that's no longer the case." Reuters

ABC Spokeswoman In Stephanopoulos Flap Worked In Clinton White House
The ABC News spokeswoman who slow-walked The Washington Free Beacon’s request for comment on George Stephanopoulos’ undisclosed donations to the Clinton Foundation also worked in the Clinton administration. Heather Riley -- spokeswoman for ABC News programs “Good Morning America” and “This Week” -- worked in the White House press office from 1997 to 2000, according to her LinkedIn profile, and is a member of the Facebook group “(Bill) Clinton Administration Alumni.”
The Free Beacon, a conservative-leaning publication, contacted ABC News on the afternoon of May 13 to request comment on George Stephanopoulos’s previously undisclosed donations to the Clinton Foundation. Fox
VOA VIEW: Both should be fired from ABC for serious ethics and bias violations.

Want To Travel To Cuba? Keep These Things In Mind
Next week, Cuba comes off the U.S. government's official State Sponsors of Terrorism list, in a move expected to jumpstart the path to normal relations. But if you're thinking of rearranging your summer travel plans, the island 90 miles off Florida might still be a world away, reports CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. Cuba has enjoyed brisk international tourism for decades, but business is picking up. After President Obama acted to remove certain travel restrictions last December, more Americans are looking to see what they've been missing out on for half a century. "It's close and you have gorgeous beaches, but you also have history. Forts dating back to the 1600s... but all the recent history that's so interesting as well," Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said. CBS

Carter Says Iraq's 'Will To Fight' At Issue After Ramadi
The Islamic State group's takeover of Ramadi is evidence that Iraqi forces do not have the "will to fight," Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, in the harshest assessment yet from a high-ranking Obama administration official of Iraqi fighters and the loss of the provincial capital. Iraqi forces outnumbered their opposition in the capital of Anbar province, but failed to fight and pulled back from the city in central Iraq, Carter said on CNN's "State of the Union" which aired Sunday. The Iraqis left behind large numbers of U.S.-supplied vehicles, including several tanks. "What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered," Carter said of the Iraqi forces. "In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves." San Diego Union
VOA VIEW: Removing Hussein may have been a mistake.

Iraqi Lawmaker Slams US Criticism Of Iraqi Military
An Iraqi lawmaker says U.S. military commanders are pointing fingers for their own failure to properly support the Iraqi military in the fight against the Islamic State group. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stirred controversy Sunday morning by claiming in a television interview that Iraqi soldiers had superior numbers but lost the city of Ramadi to the Islamic State group because they "showed no will to fight." Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the parliamentary defense and security committee, calls Carter's comments "unrealistic and baseless." He said the U.S. should bear much of the blame for the fall of Ramadi for failure to provide "good equipment, weapons and aerial support" to the soldiers. Now he says the U.S. military is seeking to "throw the blame on somebody else." SF Gate
VOA VIEW: The US has no responsibility to fight Iraq's battles - nor should American taxpayers found Iraq's defense and American military die for Iraq.

Replica Of Wall Gives Hundreds An Opportunity To Remember Those Who Died In Vietnam
In the shadow of Kansas City’s monument to the “war to end all wars,” another monument to a more recent war drew hundreds of people on Saturday. They made their solemn vigils to a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which is being displayed on the grounds of the National World War I Museum. The display closes with a ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Monday. Although it is an 80 percent scale replica of the wall in Washington, D.C., it evokes 100 percent of the same emotional experience for many. “You see a lot of grown men cry,” said Bob Collier of Kansas City, one of the volunteers on hand Saturday to assist wall visitors. Robert Tignor of Independence was one of them. “This is hard,” Tignor said, his voice clutching with emotion. “They were all special.” Tignor came to find the names of two childhood friends, James Thomas and Charles Pope Jr., among the names of more than 58,000 Americans etched into the wall. Kansas City Star


Senate Blocks House Bill On NSA Surveillance
The Republican-led Senate blocked a House-passed bill and several short-term extensions of the USA Patriot Act early Saturday. The big stumbling block was a House-passed measure to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of domestic phone records. Instead, the records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell favored retaining the program, but fellow Kentuckian and Republican presidential contender Rand Paul blocked any extension no matter how brief past the midnight May 31 expiration. "This week, I stood on the floor for roughly 11 hours in defense of the Fourth Amendment and successfully blocked the renewal of the Patriot Act,” Paul said in a statement. Fox News

Cleveland Officer Not Guilty In Killing Unarmed Pair
A white Cleveland police officer who stood on a car and shot the vehicle's two unarmed black occupants after colleagues already riddled the car with bullets in 2012 was found not guilty Saturday in their deaths -- with a judge ruling his actions were constitutionally justified. Cuyahoga County Judge John P. O'Donnell, who reached the verdicts after a several-week trial, declared Officer Michael Brelo not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams following a 20-minute car chase. Brelo's actions -- jumping onto the stopped car and firing 15 shots into the vehicle after he and his colleagues fired more than 100 times -- were constitutionally justifiable because it wasn't yet clear that any perceived threat to the officers was over, O'Donnell ruled. Emotions ran high outside the courtroom in Cleveland -- where public outrage over several recent police shootings has been palpable -- after the verdict was read. One woman wept inconsolably on its steps. CNN
VOA VIEW: The law is clear - no running down police.

Senate Passes Two-Month Transportation Spending Patch
The U.S. Senate early on Saturday passed a two-month spending extension for federal transportation projects that puts off a decision on long-term funding for road, bridge and rail transit projects until the height of the summer construction season. The unanimous voice vote sends the measure to President Barack Obama for signing into law before current transportation spending authority expires on May 31. The White House said Obama would sign the short-term fix if work continues towards a long-term bill. Obama has requested a six-year, $478 billion transportation bill, and last week said he was in talks with congressional leaders and willing to look at all revenue sources to fund it. Reuters


Resounding Result In Ireland's Vote On Same-Sex Marriage
Ireland has voted resoundingly to legalize same-sex marriage in the world's first national vote on the issue, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday even as official ballot counting continued. Senior figures from the "no" campaign, who sought to prevent Ireland's constitution from being amended to permit same-sex marriages, say the only question is how large the "yes" side's margin of victory will be from Friday's vote. "We're the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world of liberty and equality. So it's a very proud day to be Irish," said Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland's conservative Catholic constitution. CBS

Baltimore Cop: Morale ‘In The Sewers’ Since Freddie Gray Riots
An anonymous Baltimore police officer said Friday that police force morale is “in the sewers” following riots that occurred after the death of Freddie Gray. Mr. Gray, 25, died April 19 from injuries he received during his April 12 arrest. The officer told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that morale is “the worst of the worst I’ve ever seen in my career,” and that proactive policing has stopped. Baltimore police, for all intents and purposes, are only responding to 911 calls and no longer engaging in the community, the officer told the “AC360” host. He said when officers do respond to a call, they go in pairs for their own safety. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: Officers are rightfully sending a message and protecting themselves.

Veterans Hospital Dubbed 'Biggest Construction Failure' Gets $100 Million Bailout
A project dubbed the "biggest construction failure" in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs -- already $1 billion over budget and more than a year behind schedule -- is getting another $100 million taxpayer bailout. Construction will continue on a new veterans medical center near Denver, expected to serve 400,000 former military service members and their families. Ahead of Memorial Day, contractors had prepared to stop work on the project as approved funding dried up after repeated overruns and delays. The Republican-led Congress approved the cash infusion this week before leaving Washington, D.C., for the holiday; President Obama on Saturday morning signed on the dotted line. ABC

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Insurers Blasted For Not Giving Low-Mileage Discounts
National consumer group says people who drive less aren't getting the price breaks they deserve from most of the big auto insurance companies. A new study by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) found customers who drive less than 5,000 miles a year may not get any discount at three of the five largest auto insurers - Farmers, Progressive and Allstate - unless they live in California, where mileage is required to be used as a rating factor. State Farm was the only big insurance company that consistently gave a significantly lower price quote to low-mileage drivers. MSNBC

Drudge Rips GOP Leadership: ‘Night Of The Republican Suicide’
Media giant Matt Drudge blasted Republican leadership on Twitter Friday night after the GOP-led Senate approved a new free trade bill giving President Obama the authority to pass a Pacific trade deal. “Twisted DC: Electing Republicans is guarantee of MORE powers for Obama… of course none of them read ‘secret’ bill!” Mr. Drudge tweeted. The Drudge Report founder slammed House Speaker John Boehner who expressed support for the bill after it passed the Senate. “Disrespect for voters is staggering. Boehner will not make public ‘most important’ trade deal in history? Hides behind ‘classified’ status..,” Mr. Drudge tweeted. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: Both the Senate and House Republican leadership is weak.

Yemeni Official: President Will Not Attend Peace Talks
Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said Saturday that embattled Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi will not attend upcoming peace talks in Geneva as Saudi-led airstrikes continued to hit multiple provinces in Yemen. The announcement is a blow to the planned talks, which are aimed ending weeks of airstrikes against an Iran-supported rebel group amid a growing humanitarian crisis that has left millions short of food and fuel. Badi says Hadi will not attend due to the security situation and because Shiite Houthi rebels have not satisfied a government pre-condition to pull out of towns and cities they occupy — including the capital, Sanaa. ABC

Target, MasterCard Data Breach Deal Fails To Win Bank Support
An agreement reached last month between MasterCard Inc. and Target Inc. failed to garner sufficient support from banks. MasterCard informed Target that a 90 percent threshold to complete the deal wasn’t reached by the May 20 deadline, the Minneapolis-based retailer said Friday in an e-mailed statement. “Target has nothing further to share at this time,” Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, said in the statement. Jim Issokson, a MasterCard spokesman, said in an e-mail that the Purchase, New York-based payments network will “continue to work to resolve the matter.” Las Vegas Sun


Obama Includes Vice President Biden In Regular Golf Game
A surprise player has joined President Barack Obama's regular weekend golf game: Vice President Joe Biden. The White House says the Nos. 1 and 2 leaders of the free world teed off Saturday at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, a private golf club in Potomac, Maryland. Two aides rounded out Obama's foursome. Obama usually plays with aides at when he's at the White House. His golf party often includes bigger names when he plays away from home. Biden was spending a rare weekend in the nation's capital. The vice president and his wife, Jill, usually spend weekends at their Wilmington, Delaware, home. Las Vegas Sun

BlackBerry Cuts Jobs Worldwide In Smartphone Consolidation
BlackBerry Ltd. is cutting jobs at offices around the world as it brings together the different parts of its shrinking smartphone business. The cutbacks come as the Waterloo, Ontario-based company works to make its device unit profitable again, BlackBerry said Friday in an e-mailed statement. Lisette Kwong, a spokeswoman for the company, declined to say how many employees were affected. The company had 7,000 employees as of September 2014. “We have made the decision to consolidate our device software, hardware and applications business, impacting a number of employees around the world,” BlackBerry said in the statement. Bloomberg

Perry Seeks To Win Over Iowa, A Handshake At ATime
Rick Perry is working his way through small-town Iowa one handshake, bear hug and backslap at a time. The early, hands-on approach from the 2016 presidential prospect contrasts with his failed bid four years ago, when he entered the race relatively late and stumbled in the debates. The former Texas governor says he has more policy knowledge under his belt buckle now and more time for the early states. "Nobody came to Iowa more in 2014 than I did," Perry said after speaking to about 20 people at a Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center this past week. "And I will suggest to you that will probably be the case in 2015. If somebody is going to spend more time in Iowa than I am, they better bring their lunch." Tampa Tribune

Negotiator Says Iran Agrees To 'Managed Access' To Military Sites
Iran has agreed to grant United Nations inspectors "managed access" to military sites as part of any deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, a negotiator said Sunday, the Associated Press reported. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi's televised comments appear to contradict comments by the nation's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Wednesday said the country would not allow the international inspection of military sites or for inspectors to interview Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement. "Iran has agreed to grant managed access to military sites," state TV quoted Araghchi as saying Sunday, according to the AP. He added: "Americans are after interviewing our nuclear scientists. We didn't accept it." USA Today
VOA VIEW: "Managed" access means no accountability.

Irish Gays Wake Up To Whole New World: When's The Wedding?
Ireland's gay citizens woke up Sunday in what felt like a nation reborn — some with dreams of wedding plans dancing in their heads. Many weren't rising too early. The Irish gay community's biggest party in history came late Saturday, after the announcement that the nation's voters had passed a gay marriage referendum by a landslide.
Ireland's unexpectedly strong 62 percent "yes" to adding same-sex marriage to its conservative 1937 constitution is expected to lead to a wave of gay weddings this summer. The Justice Department confirmed Sunday it plans to publish a marriage bill this week that will be passed by both houses of parliament and signed into law by June. Houston Chronicle

Kim Jong Un Expresses 'Great Satisfaction' After Salmon Farm Tour
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un heaped praise on salmon farms on Saturday, just days after losing his temper over the "incompetent" management of a turtle farm in Pyongyang. The two interconnected fish farms are under the supervision of the Korean People's Army Unit 810, reported Yonhap. Kim commended both operations, according to KCNA, expressing his "great satisfaction" over the recycling of water used in an incubation area for the salmon, to another location where rainbow trout were being raised. North Korean state media claimed the first farm Kim visited incubates 4.3 million salmon eggs annually. When the newly hatched become fry, they are sent to the adjacent Naksan sea salmon farm, reported South Korean television network SBS. UPI

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Tsipras Urges European Creditors To Compromise On Greek Deal
Greek society can’t absorb more austerity, and the country’s creditors must compromise to break the impasse over the release of funds for its cash-strapped economy, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said. Tsipras sought to placate critics within his Syriza party after returning from a European Union summit in Riga, Latvia, where talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande failed to yield a breakthrough on measures to unlock bailout funding. Some members of his party advocate defaulting on loans rather than backing down from the anti-austerity policies that swept it to power in January even if that leads the country out of the euro. Bloomberg

Accidental Email Blows Bank Of England's Secret EU Exit Plans
A secret Bank of England task force is investigating the financial implications of the United Kingdom's possible exit from the European Union if a planned public referendum passes in the coming year or so. Dubbed "Project Bookend," the bank accidentally blew its covert operation Friday when an email was mistakenly sent to The Guardian, detailing information about the task force as well as how media questions regarding the so-called Brexit -- a British exit from the EU -- should be addressed. UPI

ISIS Rises, The Economy Falters, And Obama’s Legacy Falls Apart
Deep into the seventh year of his tenure, Barack Obama is thinking about his post-presidential legacy. We know this because he’s telling us so.
In an interview this week with The Atlantic about the potential deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program, the president sought to use the fact of his relative youth and his consciousness about how history might judge him to his advantage: “Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this. I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.” NY Post
VOA VIEW: Obama's legacy will be the worst president in history.

Pay-As-You-Go Tuition Option Expanding At Georgia Public Colleges
Students at more of Georgia’s public colleges and universities will be able to spread out their tuition and fee payments under expanded installment plans available in the fall. The University System of Georgia began using the installment system as a pilot program at Georgia Tech three years ago. Since then, the program was expanded to Georgia State in January and about 20 other schools within the system. The University of Georgia and other state institutions will implement programs in the fall, system officials reported this week during a monthly meeting of the state Board of Regents. Under the installment plans, students pay a set amount of expenses before a semester begins, another portion a few weeks later and a final payment usually midway through the semester. The installment plan does not affect a student’s eligibility for financial aid, and any financial aid is applied to balances first. Atlanta Journal

Russians Celebrate The Saints Who Gave Them Their Alphabet
Thousands of Russians have filled Red Square to join the patriarch of Russia's Orthodox Church in celebrating Slavic literature and the two ninth-century monks considered to be the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet. The religious and patriotic holiday celebrations were in keeping with Kremlin efforts to promote national pride and consolidate society as Russia is under pressure from the West and its economy is heading toward recession. The Orthodox Church, which has grown close to the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin, plays a vital role in these efforts. In a meeting with Putin on the holiday, Patriarch Kirill said the "consolidation of our society around fundamental moral principles" was the "result of our joint labors." The patriarch also held church services on Sunday's holiday celebrating Saints Cyril and Methodius. Charlotte Observer

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Netanyahu Thanks Kerry For US Blocking Of Anti-Israel Nuclear Resolution
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US Secretary of State John Kerry for blocking an Egyptian-led drive on a possible Middle East nuclear arms ban at a United Nations conference, an Israeli official said on Saturday. It was a rare message of thanks from Netanyahu, who has repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of undermining Israel's security by attempting to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. A month-long review conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in failure on Friday over disagreements on the issue of a Middle East atomic weapons ban. Washington blamed the failure on Egypt, which in turn blamed the US, British and Canadian delegations. Jerusalem Post

Nasrallah: Hezbollah In Worst State Since 1982 Onslaught By Israel
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah is in a dire state - its worst since the onslaught of the 1982 First Lebanon War - and is on the brink of mobilizing its troops for reinforcement in a battle for survival, the Arab-language daily as-Safir reported Saturday. Nasrallah said his party is in the midst of fighting an existential battle against ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria and on Lebanon's border. Also challenging Hezbollah's regime are Sunni Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, which Nasrallah said have joined forces against Lebanon's Shi'ite group. Jerusalem Post

Iraq Militias Start Fightback Against IS In Ramadi
About 3,000 militia members in Iraq have begun moving against Islamic State militants after the fall of the city of Ramadi last week, officials say. The pro-government forces say they have retaken Husayba, east of Ramadi. Ramadi - the capital of Anbar province - is only 110km (70 miles) west of Baghdad. Its fall was seen as a major embarrassment for the government. About 500 people died in the city, and more than 40,000 - a third of the population - have fled. BBC

Russia's Putin Signs Law Against 'Undesirable' NGOs
The Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill which allows foreign organisations to be banned from operating in the country. The law allows the authorities to prosecute foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or firms designated as "undesirable" on national security grounds. Individuals working for NGOs could face fines or up to six years in prison. Critics say it is a Kremlin move aimed at stifling dissent. The definition of "undesirable" is open to interpretation, but the Interfax news agency said it would apply to organisations deemed to pose a threat to the "foundations of Russia's constitutional order, defensive capacity and security". BBC

In Hanoi, Ban Says Viet Nam And UN 'Natural Partners' In Quest For Global Peace
In a year of critical efforts against climate change and growing global security challenges, Viet Nam's strong commitment to sustainable development and international peace have made it a “natural” partner of the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. Completing his trip to Hanoi, the Secretary-General celebrated his final day in the Southeast Asian state by inaugurating the energy efficient and sustainable “Green One UN House,” which he has lauded as “an example of how the UN and Viet Nam can work together to combat climate change and deliver as one for the people of Viet Nam.” UN News

UN Chief Disappointed As Member States Unable To Reach Agreement On Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed disappointment at the inability of Member States to reach consensus on a “substantive outcome” on a non-proliferation treaty key for global nuclear disarmament, according to a United Nations spokesperson. In a statement issued earlier today regarding the conclusion of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the UN spokesperson said the Secretary-General particularly regretted that States parties were “unable to narrow their differences on the future of nuclear disarmament or to arrive at a new collective vision on how to achieve a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.” UN News

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