The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
CNN: President Obama tweets his pitch to the public
It was a mini Twitter town hall. After delivering remarks on his clean-energy policy in Newton, Iowa, President Barack Obama sat down at a laptop and answered a handful of questions on Twitter that had been submitted hours earlier by the tweeting public. "This is barack-let's get this started!" Obama typed.
CNN: Senate rejects dueling student loan relief bills
The Senate, in the latest round of political maneuvering on a popular campaign issue, Thursday rejected competing Democratic and Republican proposals to prevent student loan rates from doubling to 6.8% in July.
CNN: Romney thinks twice after 'fire people' comment
It brought nearly immediate attacks from his rivals, and even a mocking ringtone: Mitt Romney's January comment that he "likes being able to fire people." But in an interview published Wednesday, the GOP candidate acknowledged that it is one moment that makes him "try and be a little more careful in what I say."
CNN: Man behind GSA's lavish Las Vegas conference gone from federal agency
The man behind a lavish General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas that critics have lambasted as a waste of taxpayer money and emblematic of government excess has left the agency, a federal spokesman said Thursday. Jeff Neely, a regional commissioner, had been placed on administrative leave in March for his part in organizing a 2010 conference in Nevada that cost $800,000.
CNN: Suspect in killing of Etan Patz expected to make initial court appearance
A man arrested in the killing of a 6-year-old who vanished decades ago is expected to make his initial court appearance Friday, 33 years to the day the boy disappeared in New York. Etan Patz went missing on May 25, 1979, a block from his home in a Manhattan neighborhood.
CNN: Feds: AWOL soldier found guilty in Fort Hood bomb plot
A U.S. soldier charged with plotting to blow up troops from the nation's largest Army post has been found guilty of a battery of federal charges, prosecutors announced Thursday. Naser Jason Abdo was found guilty of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder of federal employees, and weapons charges, the U.S. attorney's office in Waco, Texas, said. Prosecutors said the 22-year-old private first class wanted to bomb a restaurant frequented by soldiers from Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas.
CNN: Tape showed Zimmerman's anger over black man's beating
George Zimmerman gave a scathing review of the Sanford Police Department and accused its chief of engaging in a cover-up during a public meeting in January 2011. Zimmerman's anger stemmed from the case of Sherman Ware, a black homeless man who was beaten by the son of a white police lieutenant. Since Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in February, Zimmerman's family has pointed to his efforts to "get justice" for Ware in response to people around the country who have accused him of racially profiling the 17-year-old.
CNN: Texas man gets 20 years for trying to contact al Qaeda
A Texas man convicted of seeking now-deceased Yemeni-based cleric Anwar al-Awlaki's advice about raising money for jihadists has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced Thursday. Barry Walter Bujol Jr., a 30-year-old Hempstead, Texas, resident and former student at Prairie View A&M University, had been convicted in November of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as an aggravated identity theft charge.
CNN: Chinese activist Chen gives first in-depth TV interview since escape
In his first in-depth TV interview since his dramatic escape from house arrest, Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng told CNN about his departure from China and his continuing concern for family and friends he left behind. He also spoke about tasting freedom recently.
CNN: Bud becomes a major hurricane
Bud flexed its muscles as it closed on the southwestern coast of Mexico late Thursday, becoming a major hurricane with winds of 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The Category 3 storm was about 170 miles (270 km) southwest of Manzanillo and about 230 miles (370 km) south of Cabo Corrientes at 8 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) It was moving north-northeast at a rate of about 10 mph.
CNN: Iran, world powers agree to meet again on nuclear issue
"Significant differences" remain between world powers and Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday. But, Ashton said, "it's clear that we both want to make progress." The parties "agree on further discussions to expand common ground," she said, and have a clear direction going forward.
CNN: New French president visits Afghanistan to meet troops and Karzai
The new French president, François Hollande, arrived in Kabul on Friday to meet with French troops stationed in the country and hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. This visit follows Hollande's announcement at the NATO conference in Chicago that French combat troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by the year end of the year.
CNN Money: Euro leaders fall short (again!) as crisis spirals
European politicians are facing renewed criticism for being slow to respond as the debt crisis in the eurozone has taken a turn for the worse. The latest informal gathering of European Union leaders ran into the early hours Thursday morning, but it failed to produce any new solutions to the region's most pressing problems.
CNN Money: Facebook sees modest gains
Facebook's stock made modest gains on Thursday, but it's still down at least 15% from the price of its initial public offering. Facebook closed at $33.03 on Thursday, up 3.22% from Wednesday. Despite posting two straight days of gains, it's still far from $38 - the price of its Friday IPO. The stock closed its first day at $38.23.
CNN Money: 30-year mortgage rate hits another record low
Buying a home got even cheaper this week as interest rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage set a record low for the fourth week in a row. The 30-year fixed mortgage, the most popular mortgage product, dipped slightly to 3.78% from 3.79% last week, according to a weekly survey by Freddie Mac.
In case you missed it…
Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng gives his first in-depth television interview to CNN's Anderson Cooper.