WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late Wednesday called for international cooperation to combat piracy like this week's attack on a U.S. ship and crew off the coast of Somalia.
"We are deeply concerned and we are following it very closely. Specifically we are now focused on this particular act of piracy and the seizure of the ship that carries 21 American citizens," Clinton said at the State Department. "More generally we think the world must come together and end the scourge of piracy."
The secretary of state, speaking at a photo op with the Foreign Minister of Morocco, referred back to problems with piracy that both countries had faced together back in the late 1700s. "I think Morocco was the very first country that recognized us, going back a long time. We worked to end piracy off the coast of Morocco all those years ago. And we are going to work together to end that kind of criminal activity anywhere on the high seas," Clinton said.
(CNN) - A Missouri congressman is denying former Cuban president Fidel Castro's claim that a member of the fact-finding delegation described the U.S. as "racist."
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is one of the seven lawmakers who visited the island nation on a congressional delegation. Members of the CBC met with President Raul Castro and three of which met with brother, Fidel, at the home of the Cuban revolutionary leader.
In a statement released by the Cuban government, Fidel Castro praised the seven Democratic congressional delegates and alleges that one member said that despite President Obama's electoral victory, "America continues to be racist." The former Cuban president would not disclose the name of the delegate who allegedly made such statement.
Cleaver denied such a comment was ever made at a news conference following the delegation's return Tuesday night.
"That did not happen," Cleaver said
Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the CBC who led the delegation to Cuba, said she did "not have any comment with regard to that. I am not privy to anyone saying that in any meaning. I don't remember that."
Cuban-American Republican lawmakers blasted the CBC members' visits with Raul and Fidel Castro.
"Regardless of one's position on US Cuba policy, one would expect that any US official or Member of Congress visiting Cuba would have the courage to meet with members of Cuba's struggling independent civil society and raise concerns about the regime's systematic violation of human rights with Cuban officials," Florida Sen. Mel Martinez said in a statement issued Wednesday.
"To meet with the Castro brothers and not bring up the subject of their appalling human rights abuses is a shameful missed opportunity," Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also said in a statement.
(CNN) - Newt Gingrich said Tuesday the Obama administration is "intensely secular" and "anti-religious," the former House Speaker's second hard-hitting criticism of the new administration this week.
In an interview with FOX News, Gingrich said he strongly disagreed with Obama's choice of Harry Knox - an outspoken activist for gay rights - to the White House advisory council on faith-based initiatives.
"I think their goal is to have a very secular America in which government dominates everything," he said. "Why wouldn't you put an anti-religious, left-wing zealot on a faith-based group? It's a perfect pattern for this administration."
Since 2005, Knox has served as the director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. He is also a former Methodist pastor.
Obama formally named Knox to the 25-member advisory council on Monday, a move that has not sat well with some Christian conservatives. The conservative Catholic League called him "unfit to serve," especially taking issue with Knox's recent comment characterizing Pope Benedict XVI as a "discredited leader" because of his opposition to gay marriage.
In a statement released earlier this week, Knox said, "The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is eager to help the administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty; fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - One day after a federal judge erased the verdict against former Senator Ted Stevens, and criticized the Justice Department's internal ethics office, Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday announced a new head of that office.
Aides to Holder said the change at the helm of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and other announced personnel changes have nothing to do with the Office's internal investigation into the mishandling of the Stevens case.
"It is absolutely not related," said Matthew Miller, the top spokesman for Holder.
OPR, as it is known in Washington, is responsible for investigating allegations of impropriety and misconduct by Justice Department attorneys, and recommending disciplinary action.
(CNN) - "It's time to talk to Cuba."
That frank assessment from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, has resonated loud and clear from the island of Cuba - 90 miles from the southernmost point of Florida - to the halls of Congress.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, relations between the two nations, which has a history steeped in tension, have seemed to ease a bit.
And that was no more apparent than this week, as a delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to the communist country on a fact-finding mission, with plans to deliver a report to the White House.
"Our purpose was to see if there were preconditions on the Cuban side. We heard that there were no preconditions," Lee said Wednesday. "And, in fact, we wanted to find out if they were interested. We have to remember that every country in Latin America, 15 countries, have normal relations with Cuba. ... We're the country which is isolated."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Tomorrow night President Obama will attend what could be the first White House seder in the old family dining room of the residence, a White House official tells CNN. And it won't be the President's first.
The same White House official tells CNN that the event will be a reunion of sorts. Last year, in the thick of the Pennsylvania primary a group of traveling Obama campaign staff couldn't get home for seder. Instead, like the Jews in Exodus, they had to prepare a seder in haste. One junior staffer found space for the impromptu meal in the basement of a Harrisburg Sheraton. He gathered the traditional seder foods from the hotel kitchen, and from a cousin who was in college nearby.
The staffers invited then-candidate Obama. But they were surprised when he showed up, along with aide Valerie Jarrett and Obama family friend Marty Nesbitt. All three reportedly plan to attend the gathering tomorrow night.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - There is evidence that the country's economic outlook is improving. But you have to look very closely.
CNN's Larry King asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday if the economy is turning around. She said yes. "I do believe it is," she said. "I do believe it is. And I think the American people have confidence that it will." Do they?
The number of Americans who say things are going well in the country has crept up a few points, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. In December, 20 percent of Americans said things in the country were going "well." Now, 23 percent do.
But let's take a magnifying glass and look more closely. The number who say things are going "pretty badly" has shot up, from 39 percent in December to 51 percent now. The number who say very badly has gone down, from 40 to 26 percent.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A team of about 15 landed in Detroit Wednesday to continue the process of business diligence with the new management team from General Motors, an administration official tells CNN.
The official asked that their name not be given because they were not authorized to speak for attribution.
The team, the official said, is being led by Harry Wilson from the Treasury Department and includes experts from both Boston Consulting Group and Rothschild Inc.
They will be in Detroit through the end of the week and will be returning next week as well. The goal is to accelerate the process that the President laid out last Monday," the official said.
(CNN) - Has public opinion shifted on gun control?
Yes. And in a very surprising way.
Binghamton . . . Pittsburgh . . . Oakland . . . Samson, Alabama . . . Carthage, North Carolina . . . sensational incidents of gun violence all over the country.
Are we seeing an impact on public opinion?
Since 2001, a majority of Americans has favored stricter gun laws. Though support has been trending slightly down. Eight years ago, 54 percent of Americans wanted stricter gun laws compared to 50 percent in 2007, according to a Gallup poll.
And now? A sharp, sudden drop. Only 39 percent of Americans now favor stricter gun laws.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama called University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams from Air Force One on Tuesday night to congratulate him and his team for winning the NCAA championship.
The White House said Obama thanked Williams and the rest of the Tar Heels squad "for vindicating him in front of the entire country."
Obama, of course, went on ESPN and picked UNC to win the national championship. He did the same in 2008, but the Heels came up short.
"The President told him he'd done a great job and asked the Coach to tell the players how proud he was of them and that he looked forward to seeing them at the White House soon," said a release from the White House.