KABUL, Afghanistan -- Secretary of State John Kerry sought today to broker a deal between Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates as a bitter dispute over last month's runoff election risked spiraling out of control.
Kerry, who arrived predawn in Kabul on a hastily arranged visit, is meeting with former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah as well as the current leader, President Hamid Karzai.
The objective is to convince both candidates to hold off on declaring victory or trying to set up a government until the United Nations can conduct an audit of extensive fraud allegations in the voting.
For the United States, the political crisis is threatening to undermine more than a decade of efforts to leave behind a strong Afghanistan capable of containing the Taliban insurgency and preventing extremist groups like al-Qaida from using the territory to endanger the American homeland.
"We are in a very, very critical moment for Afghanistan," Kerry told reporters after meeting the UN chief in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis. "Legitimacy hangs in the balance. The future potential of the transition hangs in the balance. So we've a lot of work to do."
The hope, Kerry said, was to create a process that confers legitimacy on whoever emerges as the rightful leader of Afghanistan. "But I can't tell you that's an automatic at this point."
Moves ahead on suing Obama: House Republicans took the initial step on Thursday to sue President Barack Obama over the administration's decision to delay the employer mandate of the health care law. The office of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a draft of the resolution that would authorize the House to file suit amid GOP criticism that the president has declined to faithfully execute the laws of the country.
Sentenced to 15 years for espionage: U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White has sentenced California chemical engineer Walter Liew to 15 years in prison and fined him $28.3 million for a rare economic-espionage conviction for selling China a secret recipe to a widely used white pigment. White said Thursday in Oakland that Liew, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had "turned against his adopted country over greed." A jury previously convicted the 56-year-old Liew of receiving $28 million from companies controlled by the Chinese government in exchange for DuPont Co.'s pigment technology for making cars, paper and a long list of everyday items whiter. Along with the $28.3 million Liew was ordered to forfeit and pay to DuPont, the engineering company launched by him and his wife was fined $18.9 million.
Defends "legitimate rape" remarks: Todd Akin, a former Missouri Republican congressman whose "legitimate rape" comments during the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign were roundly criticized, now says he was wrong to apologize. Akin writes in a new political memoir that his remarks on whether abortion should be legal in cases of rape were taken out of context and led to his "political assassination" and betrayal by GOP allies. The 67-year-old Akin, who spent 12 years in Congress and another dozen as a state lawmaker, lost to Democrat Claire McCaskill. Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom will be released next week.
"Consensus" reached on union: United Auto Workers leaders said Thursday they have reached a "consensus" with Volkswagen and expect the German automaker to recognize the union if they sign up enough workers at a new local for the company's assembly plant in Tennessee. The union in February suffered a bitter setback in its effort to organize its first foreign-owned plant in the South when workers at the Chattanooga plant rejected UAW representation by a 712-626 vote. Gary Casteel, the UAW's secretary-treasurer, stressed that no employee will be required to join, and that no dues would be collected until after a collective bargaining agreement is reached.
Sobbing Japanese politician resigns: Japanese politican Ryutaro Nonomura, who was seen sobbing over dubious spending in a video that went viral, resigned today. Nonomura, 47, a Hyogo Prefectural assemblyman, submitted his resignation and the assembly will decide whether to accept it, assembly office spokeswoman Chika Fukuyama said. Nonomura burst into tears and screamed nonsensical phrases when he was asked at a news conference last week about the number of trips he took to a hot springs at taxpayers' expense. One site for the video had drawn 2.7 million views as of today.