The Envoy
  • President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron gave a news conference in London May 25, 2011. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)President Obama kicks off three days of hosting duties for visiting UK Prime Minister David Cameron by giving him a taste of some "March Madness" in Dayton, Ohio. The two will watch a first-round game on Tuesday night of the US collegiate national championship basketball tournament with the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers facing the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils.

    But for all the chummy appearances and invocations of "the special relationship" Cameron's American tour is scripted to offer, the United States and UK have been going through something of a rough patch the past few years, say some scholars. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and American anger over Scotland's 2009 release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya strained normally placid U.S.-U.K. ties. More recently, Obama's declared intention to pivot American foreign policy's orientation to Asia has caused some anxiety at 10 Downing Street. In the same vein, the United States has lamented its closest military ally's planned steep cuts to defense spending as part of UK austerity measures.

    Only the second European leader the Obama White House has hosted for a state dinner, after Germany's Angela Merkel, the visit by Cameron and his wife is meant to underscore both the personal rapport between the two young leaders and their wives, as well as "an alliance the world can count on" around the globeas Obama and Cameron wrote in a joint Washington Post op-ed Tuesday. But the visit is now likely to be overshadowed by fallout from the shooting rampage in Afghanistan by a U.S. soldier Sunday, analysts said. The United States and United Kingdom are the two largest troop contributing nations to the troubled ten year old security force in Afghanistan. Britain has already been traumatized by the killing of six U.K. troops in Afghanistan last week.

    Amid all the presidential-prime ministerial phone calls and consultations, "one feels there's been something missing" in the so-called special relationship, at least until recently, Heather Conley, director of European programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told Yahoo News in an interview last week.

    "Beyond the headlines of the week's visit, the U.S.-U.K. friendship is undergoing a profound test," she wrote in a more extensive analysis of the visit Tuesday, sent to Yahoo News, which set out a list of issues concerning the allies behind the scenes.

    Read More »from Obama hosts U.K.’s Cameron at ‘March Madness,’ but Afghanistan casts pall on upbeat visit

  • The U.S. Army staff sergeant suspected of perpetrating the worst war crime in the ten year history of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan could face the death penalty, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

    Panetta was speaking to reporters traveling with him en route to Kyrgyzstan, CNN reported.

    On Monday, ahead of the trip, Panetta said the U.S. and its NATO allies are being tested by a string of distressing incidents in Afghanistan "almost every other day," but it's important to stick to the strategy the alliance has laid out.

    "War is hell," Panetta said, according to CNN. "These kind of events and incidents are going to take place. They've taken place in any war. They're terrible events. This is not the first of those events, and they probably won't be the last."

    Read More »from Panetta on Afghanistan massacre: ‘War is hell;’ suspect could face death penalty
  • Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey took to--what else?!--a new video release Monday to defend the advocacy group's mega-viral "Kony 2012" film from some of the criticism it received. The slickly produced 30-minute documentary on guerrilla leader Joseph Kony chronicles the atrocities of his Lord's Resistance Army in Central Africa over the past two decades and drew over 70 million viewers. But, it also sparked criticism about everything from the group's finances to whether it inspired low-effort "slactivism" or (arm-chair activism) among the group's mostly college-age millennial fan-base, to whether Invisible Children promotes a modern-day version of colonial thinking about the need for white foreigners to solve Africa's problems.

    In the latest video offering, Invisible Children CEO Keesey addresses each of the major concerns, while the video itself avoids--for better or for worse--any of the qualities that made "Kony 2012" such a social networking phenomenon in the first place. Slick it is not. Straightforward, and even a little tedious, it is.

    "So my responsibility is to translate all the resources given to us to allocate them to give the maximum impact they can," Keesey says in a segment on the new video referring to the group's finances. "Since the beginning, we put our audited finances and annual report straight on the website."

    Read More »from Invisible Children defends Kony 2012 film in new video


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  • Chiefs lose quarterback Smith for pivotal game
    Chiefs lose quarterback Smith for pivotal game

    With their slim NFL playoff hopes at stake, the Kansas City Chiefs will face San Diego without quarterback Alex Smith because he has a lacerated spleen, the team announced Friday. Smith had practiced earlier this week after suffering the injury in the third quarter of Kansas City's 20-12 loss to Pittsburgh. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said that Smith felt an injury but did not consider it serious and worked out twice before having it checked. Reserve quarterback Chase Daniel will start against the visiting Chargers (9-6), who will swipe the final American Conference playoff spot with a victory.

  • Soccer-Di Maria may miss United trip to Spurs

    (Adds quotes) LONDON, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Manchester United will await tests on winger Angel Di Maria to see if he has a chance of facing Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday after the Argentine suffered a pelvic injury in training. Record signing Di Maria was injured on Wednesday and ruled out of Friday's 3-1 home victory over Newcastle United in the Premier League. He had only just returned from a hamstring injury and played in the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa last week. "In the last training session he stepped out of the warm up," manager Louis van Gaal said. ...

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