WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House official tasked by President Barack Obama to look AT the troubled Veterans Affairs health care system has given him a scathing report. A summary of the review by deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors says the Veterans Health Administration must be restructured and that a "corrosive culture" has hurt morale and affected the timeliness. The review largely substantiates claims by whistleblowers and confirms internal reviews and congressional findings.
BAGHDAD (AP) — There's even more pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. Iraq's top Shiite cleric has called on lawmakers to agree on a prime minister before the newly elected parliament meets next week. There's no indication al-Maliki, who has ruled Iran since 2006, is willing to step down. Meanwhile, the Pentagon says armed American drones are flying over Baghdad for surveillance of the potential threat from Sunni extremists.
BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian rebels that the U.S. now wants to arm and train are in poor shape and retreating from the radical al-Qaida breakaway group that has swept over parts of Iraq and Syria. The Obama administration is seeking $500 million to assist "moderate" factions among the rebels. The CIA has already been training a few hundred fighters in Jordan.
BRUSSELS (AP) Despite Moscow's objections, Ukraine's new president has signed a free-trade deal binding his country more closely to Western Europe. President Petro Poroshenko called it "a great day." The Kremlin wants to keep Ukraine, the birthplace of Russian statehood and Russian Orthodox Christianity, in its orbit. Meanwhile, Poroshenko has also signed a three-day extension of the shaky cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where his forces have fought pro-Russia separatists.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA's "flying saucer" is set to be launched Saturday into Earth's atmosphere to test technology that could be used to land on Mars. The disc-shaped vehicle and a giant parachute will be launched from off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. High winds have caused previous delays.
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