By Elise Labott
American teacher Ronnie Smith has been shot and killed in Benghazi, according to the Facebook page of the international school in Libya where he worked.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the killing, and identified the educator as Ronald Thomas Smith II.
"The untimely death of Ronnie Smith has been felt by the whole school community," the International School Benghazi posted on its Facebook page. "He was a much loved teacher who supported students in their learning and always had time to help when asked. Ronnie was a professional who gave his time freely and without question. We do not understand why this has happened and it is extremely difficult for his students and his colleagues to accept."FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
The U.S. plans to begin sea trials by the end of the month of a merchant marine ship with special equipment on board that can destroy much of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, according to a U.S. Defense Department official who briefed reporters.
The ship, the M/V Cape Ray, is now in port in the Norfolk area of Virginia being outfitted with a chemical weapons "neutralization" system developed by the Pentagon. If the trials go well and the Pentagon plan is accepted by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the ship could head to the region in January. The official, along with two others who briefed reporters, declined to be identified because the plan has not been approved by those international organizations.
The neutralization technology is called the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. It mixes chemical agents with water and other chemicals to significantly lower any toxicity. The remaining material will then be destroyed in a commercial waste disposal site. "Absolutely nothing will be dumped at sea," the official said, adding that the technology is "safe and environmentally sound."
By Elise Labott
Jerusalem (CNN) - John Kerry’s ninth trip to Israel since becoming secretary of state could be among the most difficult.
He needs Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s buy-in for the two issues U.S. President Barack Obama has declared the centerpiece of his second term foreign policy – Iran and Middle East peace.
But at a time when the Israeli leader’s confidence in the United States is shaken over the Iran deal, his trust in the administration as broker of a peace deal with the Palestinians may waver.
By CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott
John Kerry felt a happy hour at a Moldovan winery would serve as a fruitful backdrop for his message, not just to his hosts but to the demonstrators on the streets of Kiev.
This week the secretary of state had planned to visit the Ukrainian capital. But President Viktor Yanukovich's decision not to sign a political and trade agreement with the European Union drew the largest protests in Ukraine since the 2004 Orange Revolution and a violent government in response.
By Jennifer Rizzo and Shirley Henry
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said Wednesday he clearly understands a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 - known as the "zero option" - is a "possibility" given Afghan President Hamid Karzai's current unwillingness to sign the security pact that would govern some troops remaining in his country beyond that time frame.
But Dempsey also said he has not been told to plan for such a withdrawal.
By Jennifer Liberto
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday announced that he's trimming the budget for Pentagon headquarters by 20% starting in 2014, leading to jobs cuts and reduction in contracts with private companies.
The cuts will happen even if Congress ends sequester, according to the defense agency. Hagel said the time is right to "pare back overhead and streamline headquarters," after the fast growth of the agency in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"These reductions are only a first step in DoD's efforts to realign defense spending to meet new fiscal realities and strategic priorities," Hagel said.
The cuts would trim $1 billion from 2014 through 2019. Hagel said the first jobs to be cut will about 200 workers from his own team of 2,400.FULL STORY
By Michael Pearson. Holly Yan and Mariano Castillo
The United States has "deep concerns" over China's newly declared East China Sea air defense zone, Vice President Joe Biden privately told Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing on Wednesday, according to a pool report citing senior administration officials traveling with the delegation.
According to the pool account of a background briefing by the officials, Biden also told Xi that the United States doesn't recognize the zone - which includes uninhabited islands that have been the site of tense disputes between China and Japan, both of which claim the lands for their own.
"President Xi was equally clear in laying out their view of the zone and of territorials disputes in the region," one of the officials said, according to the pool report. "Ultimately, President Xi took on board what the vice president said. It's up to China, and we'll see how things will unfold in the coming days and weeks."
Biden had assured Japanese leaders on Tuesday that he would raise the issue with Xi, but it was not mentioned publicly by either leader.
By Elise Labott
The protests in Ukraine against President Viktor Yanukovich's last-minute decision not to sign a political and trade agreement with the European Union are the biggest in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution that booted Yanukovich, then Prime Minister, from office.
And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was tough Tuesday in his criticism of the government's use of force against the peaceful demonstrators, saying "violence has no place in a modern European state."
But his decision to skip a visit to Kiev and attend a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe wasn't necessarily a response to the political upheaval and a voice of support for the protesters, nor was it an indictment of the government's heavy-handed methods to combat it.
The snub was, in effect, a U.S. protest of the government's moves to align its trade interests with Moscow by deciding not to join the EU agreement. The so-called Eastern Partnership is designed to forge closer EU ties to Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The U.S. military, facing continuing protests over drone strikes, has halted military cargo shipments from Afghanistan, citing a potential risk to drivers and contractors along the route once it enters Pakistan.
"We are aware protests have affected one of the primary commercial transit routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have voluntarily halted U.S. shipments," Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright said.FULL STORY
By Laura Koran
The inspiration for the leading female role in the 80s blockbuster movie “Top Gun,” has soared to new heights in real life.
Christine Fox has become the first woman appointed to the Pentagon’s No. 2 job, set to serve in an acting capacity until a permanent successor is named.
Her boss, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, called Fox, "a brilliant defense thinker and proven manager."
Fox most recently held a top-level defense post where she played a large role in determining budget priorities.