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McDonald tapped to oversee VA department

Monday, June 30, 2014 - Updated: 10:08 AM

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 today. 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.

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: Pistorius not mentally ill during killing

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 today.

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.

Al-Qaida breakaway declares Islamic state

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 to try 2 detained Americans

TOKYO (AP) -- North Korea said today 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

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.

     

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