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Nation roundup for December 11


Kerry, Congress spar over Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration and Congress clashed Tuesday over the historic nuclear deal with Iran, exposing deep rifts over a U.S. pledge to refrain from any new sanctions over the next six months in exchange for concessions on enriching uranium. The disagreement could have broad consequences for the U.S. diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

In his first congressional testimony since last month’s Geneva agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the diplomacy as having halted and rolled back central elements of Iran’s nuclear program for the first time. He pleaded with Democrats and Republicans alike not to scuttle the chances of a peaceful resolution to a crisis that has regularly featured U.S. and Israeli threats of potential military action.

“Let me be very clear: This is a very delicate diplomatic moment and we have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We’re at a crossroads. We’re at one of those really hinge points in history. One path could lead to an enduring resolution in the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. The other path could lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict.”

Kerry’s appearance came as lawmakers increasingly threatened to undermine the six-month interim pact, which gives Iran $7 billion in sanctions relief over the next half-year in exchange for the Islamic republic’s neutralizing its higher-enriched uranium stockpiles, not adding any new centrifuges and ceasing work at a heavy water reactor that potentially could produce plutonium used in nuclear weapons.

Barra first woman to head auto firm

DETROIT (AP) — Mary Barra has spent the past three years as General Motors’ product chief, making cars that drive better, last longer and look good in showrooms.

Now she will take on an even bigger job. On Tuesday, the board named the 33-year company veteran CEO, making her the first woman to lead a U.S. car company.

Barra replaces Dan Akerson, who moved up retirement plans by several months to help his wife, Karin, battle advanced cancer.

When Barra starts her new job Jan. 15, she will lead a company that’s made nearly $20 billion since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, much of it from the cars and trucks she helped develop. But she still faces challenges of paring down GM’s costs and winning over buyers in international markets such as India and South America.

Akerson, 65, said he had planned to stay at least until spring, but his wife’s diagnosis changed that. He said the board unanimously picked Barra from several internal candidates because of the breadth of her experience, her management record, her people skills and her understanding of GM’s operations.

“This is an executive who has a vision of where she wants to take the organization,” he said.

Since February 2011, Barra has held what many say is the most important job at GM — senior vice president for global product development.

Palin’s mayoral SUV sold online

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska community’s sale on eBay of a vehicle used by former Mayor Sarah Palin has caused a stir in small-town politics.

The city of Wasilla, just north of Anchorage, auctioned off the 1999 Expedition used by Palin during her second term as mayor on the website. A Fairbanks woman bought it for $10,300, about $8,000 over its value.

The city will use the money to replenish its vehicle replacement fund. But Deputy Mayor Colleen Sullivan-Leonard proposed using the funds to restock the local food pantry.

That proposal died Monday when Mayor Verne Rupright declined to break a 3-3 council tie.

Sullivan-Leonard says it’s unfortunate Rupright is capitalizing on Palins’ name to fatten city coffers. Rupright says it’s just good business when you can get more money than expected for surplus equipment.

 

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