CNN: Connecticut lawmakers pass sweeping gun measure
Gun legislation that advocacy groups call the strongest and most comprehensive to be taken up across the nation moved closer to passage early Thursday as the Connecticut House approved the tough gun measure. The vote, 105-44, followed passage by the Senate a day earlier. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, would make Connecticut the third state to pass such a tough measure following the December rampage in Newtown.
ALSO SEE: WaPo: Maryland House passes strict gun-control measure crafted after Newtown massacre
CNN: 2 sought in connection with Colorado prisons chief's death
Colorado authorities are looking for two members of the white supremacist prison gang known as the 211 Crew in connection with the killing of state prisons chief Tom Clements.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office identified the two men as James Lohr, 47, and Thomas Guolee, 31. One or both could be headed toward Nevada, the office said. "They are both known associates of the 211 Crew," said Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer. "They are believed to be armed and dangerous." Clements was widely recognized for cracking down on prison gangs, including the 211 Crew. He was shot at his home by former gang member Evan Ebel, who was out of prison on parole.
CNN: Texas county halts to honor slain district attorney, wife
It's been five days since Kaufman County's top prosecutor and his wife were found shot to death in their own home. Five days of fear as the killer or killers remain at large. Five days of wondering whether another criminal justice official might be the next target. If authorities are any closer to solving the homicides of District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia, or his chief felony prosecutor, Mark Hasse, they haven't said so publicly. But county government offices will shut down Thursday to give the community a chance to honor the McLellands at a public memorial in nearby Mesquite, Texas. A funeral will follow on Friday, marking another solemn chapter in this harrowing saga.
WSJ: State Gas Taxes Head Higher
Maryland's decision last month to raise its gasoline tax highlights a trend taking shape across the country: States are increasingly opting to raise gas taxes and other fees to fund road repairs and maintenance. Gasoline consumption is down nationwide, thanks to more fuel-efficient vehicles and the slow pace of the economic recovery. Gas taxes also have mostly stayed constant in nominal terms, even as the cost of road repairs and construction rises in line with inflation or faster. The combination means money for roads—usually drawn from gas taxes—is increasingly falling short of what is needed.
WaPo: Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester.
Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts. Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them. “If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we’d be out of business in six months to a year,” said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York. “The drugs we’re going to lose money on we’re not going to administer right now.”
Bloomberg: Obama Talks Up Climate Agenda at Keystone Foe’s Home
President Barack Obama told a group of Democratic donors, including an opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, that his administration needs to do more to sell its second-term agenda on climate-change legislation. The top challenge is to convince the public that measures to contain climate change can be pursued without harming the economic welfare of low- and middle-income Americans, Obama said yesterday at a $5,000 per-person fundraiser in San Francisco.
ALSO SEE: Politico: Obama expects to win back the House
CNNMoney: Most individual health insurance isn't good enough for Obamacare
If you buy your own health insurance now, you'll be in for a big change when you sign up for coverage in 2014. Just over half of the individual plans currently on the market do not meet the standards to be sold next year, when many key provisions of President Obama's Affordable Care Act kick in, according to a University of Chicago study. That's because the law sets new minimums for the basic coverage every individual health care plan must provide.
CNN: Five chiefs of staff explain why they didn’t want the job
Though they worked for presidents who would disagree on many issues, the five men who shared a stage Wednesday nightly mostly agreed on at least one thing: they didn't want their job. Each of them had once served as White House chief of staff, but in many cases, only after initially balking at the job offer or outright turning it down. “People came up to me and said, ‘Gosh, you've been serving for five years,’” said Josh Bolten, who had held a variety of positions including budget director in the administration of George W. Bush before ascending to chief of staff. “You must be completely worn out. How can you take the chief of staff job?
CNN: Deal on background checks still possible
Senate negotiators have not given up hope that bipartisan compromise is possible on the issue of background checks for guns, according to sources familiar with the talks, despite not yet finding common ground on the divide over how to handle records from those checks. Central to the talks is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, a pro-gun Republican with a 100% rating from the National Rifle Association. Coburn is on board with the idea of conducting background checks to prevent convicted felons and the mentally impaired from purchasing guns. But he is vehemently opposed to any legislation allowing the federal government to keep track of who owns guns.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Hutchinson clarifies position on background checks
CNN: NRA 'plucks the bird' to weaken gun proposals
It's called "plucking the bird," a strategy based on the analogy of pulling one feather at a time so the bird doesn't notice until it realizes it can't fly. That appears to be how the National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress are trying to overcome what would seem to be overwhelming public support for stronger gun legislation in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre. A sophisticated campaign led by the influential gun lobby shifts the focus of the battle among various provisions, raises new arguments to old issues and proposes solutions that would expand weapons use and training instead of increasing regulation.
ALSO SEE: CNN: NEA chief cool to NRA recommendations
NYT: Upstart Group Pushes Harder Than the N.R.A.
When word surfaced in February that Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, was plotting with Democrats on a bill to expand background checks for gun buyers, Larry Pratt got really mad. Then, Mr. Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, got busy, mounting a lobbying blitz that helps explain why a bipartisan Senate deal on background checks remains elusive. Within days, his staff, working from a nondescript space in a squat office building off the Beltway here — there isn’t even a nameplate on the door — was on the phone with supporters of his organization in Oklahoma. The group’s members were encouraged to inundate Mr. Coburn with e-mails and calls and to otherwise make it exceedingly clear to the senator that an enhanced background check law would not be tolerated.
Roll Call: ICE Union Skewers Bill From Immigration 'Gang'
The union for immigration agents slammed the immigration bill being drafted by the Senate’s “gang of eight” because it does not focus on enforcing immigration laws in the nation’s interior. Chris Crane, the president of the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, said in conference call Wednesday that “the plan of the gang of eight appears to be legalization, or amnesty first, and then enforcement, that is a big problem for us.” The Senate group is hoping to unveil its bill next week. It is expected to create a path to legalization, and eventually citizenship, for current undocumented immigrants that meet certain criteria. The path would be available once the border meets to-be-determined measure and is declared sufficiently secure.
ALSO SEE: Politico: Business balks at immigration deal
CNN: Rand Paul headed to first-in-the-nation primary state
New Hampshire, site of the traditional first-in-the-nation presidential primary, will play host to Sen. Rand Paul in May, making the Kentucky Republican the first potential 2016 presidential hopeful to visit the Granite State. Paul will headline the annual New Hampshire GOP Liberty Dinner May 20. His trip to the state will come a week and a half after a trip to Iowa – home of the first-in-the-nation caucus – where he'll deliver a keynote at the state GOP's Lincoln Day dinner.
CNN: Former President Clinton to receive 'Advocate for Change' Award from GLAAD
Former President Bill Clinton will be the first recipient of GLAAD's "Advocate for Change" award at the organization's Media Awards in Los Angeles. "During his administration, Clinton became the first U.S. president to appoint out gay and lesbian people to all levels of government." GLAAD officials said in a statement. "President Clinton's support of the LGBT community and recognition that DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional and should be struck down shows that the political landscape continues to change in favor of LGBT equality."
CNN: Mark Sanford: I failed in 2009, but last night was a referendum
Going from the Appalachian trail to the comeback trail, Mark Sanford is now the Republican nominee for an open congressional seat in South Carolina, the same state he ran as governor, and where he developed a reputation for fiscal conservatism. Sanford finished his second term in 2011 under the cloud of an extra-marital affair, which came to light only after he had vanished for six days. His staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but Sanford later admitted he was in Argentina with his mistress. …He may have found a measure of forgiveness from voters in his congressional primary victory Tuesday night, with his Argentine former mistress and current fiancée, Maria Belen Chapur, by his side in a rare public appearance. But Sanford still has to survive the May 7 general election against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, who's got some star power on her side – her brother and top fundraiser, comedian Stephen Colbert.
WATCH: VIDEO – Republican Congressional candidate Mark Sanford responds to critics who think his affair turn GOP women against him.
NYT: Daughter Speculates on Reagan’s Gay-Rights Views
As Republican politicians wrestle with same-sex marriage, the daughter of a party icon — former President Ronald Reagan — said in an interview this week that she believes her father would have “been puzzled” by the political fuss and would have supported marriage for gay people.
WSJ: U.S. Dials Back on Korean Show of Force
After a high-visibility display of military power aimed at deterring North Korean provocations, the White House is dialing back the aggressive posture amid fears that it could inadvertently trigger an even deeper crisis, according to U.S. officials. The U.S. is putting a pause to what several officials described as a step-by-step plan the Obama administration approved earlier this year, dubbed "the playbook," that laid out the sequence and publicity plans for U.S. shows of force during annual war games with South Korea. The playbook included well-publicized flights in recent weeks near North Korea by nuclear-capable B-52 and stealth B-2 bombers, as well as advanced F-22 warplanes. The U.S. stepped back from the plans this week, as U.S. officials began to worry that the North, which has a small nuclear arsenal and an unpredictable new leader, may be more provoked than the U.S. had intended, the officials said.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Key dates in U.S. military moves near North Korea
CNN: North Korea said to move medium-range missile to its coast
North Korea kept tensions simmering around its borders Thursday, reportedly moving a medium-range missile to its east coast and continuing to put pressure on a joint industrial complex where hundreds of South Koreans work. The day before, the United States had announced it was sending ballistic missile defenses to Guam, a Western Pacific territory that's home to U.S. naval and air bases. North Korea has cited those bases among possible targets for missile attacks. The South Korean defense minister said the North has moved a medium-range missile to its east coast for an imminent test firing or military drill.
The missile doesn't appear to be aimed at the U.S. mainland, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee, according to the semi-official South Korean news agency Yonhap.
ALSO SEE: NPR: Amid Threats, N. Korea's Neighbors Rethink Defense Policies
Reuters: Pentagon OKs Lockheed or Boeing fighters sale to South Korea
The U.S. Defense Department said on Wednesday it has approved the sale of either the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealth fighter or Boeing Co's F-15 Silent Eagle fighter to South Korea, which is expected to announce the winner of a 60-jet competition later this year. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, which oversees foreign military sales, notified U.S. lawmakers Friday about the possible sales to South Korea as tensions continued to mount with North Korea. The agency said U.S. warplanes would help Seoul "deter aggression in the region," but industry executives and U.S. government officials said the notification was unrelated to the latest flare-up with Pyongyang or its surprise announcement on Tuesday that it would restart a long-shuttered nuclear reactor.
Haaretz: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to suspend unilateral moves at UN to give U.S. mediation a chance
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to suspend all unilateral measures vis-à-vis United Nations agencies to give U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry time to jump-start a new round of Israeli-Palestinian talks. This, according to one high-level official on each side. Both men asked not to be identified.
CNN: U.S. offers $5 million for information leading to Joseph Kony, top associates
The U.S. State Department is offering $5 million for information leading to the "arrest, transfer or conviction" of three top leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, the department announced Wednesday. One of those leaders, Joseph Kony, was the focus of a massive social media campaign called "Kony 2012."
CNN: Search on for person who shot, killed 1 outside Fort Knox building
Authorities continue to look for the person who killed an Army civilian employee in a parking lot outside a Fort Knox building - in a shooting that they said stemmed from a personal dispute. The incident took place Wednesday afternoon outside the Fort Knox's Human Resources Command headquarters in Kentucky. It prompted officials to lock down the army post for an hour. Chris Grey, a spokesman for the army's Criminal Investigation Command, said agents were investigating the incident as "a personal incident and not a random act of violence."
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: New Orleans jail video shows drugs, guns, filth
On shaky, grainy video recordings, a group of men show off a stash of pills, pop open Budweiser tall boys and shoot dice for stacks of cash. One injects what appears to be heroin; another displays a large-caliber pistol, ejecting four bullets from the chamber to show that it's loaded. Here's the punchline: These guys are already in jail. The scenes were captured in 2009 on a camera smuggled into the House of Detention in New Orleans, a decrepit lockup pressed back into service after Hurricane Katrina.
Financial Times: British Airways to get 18 Dreamliners
International Airlines Group on Wednesday announced plans to buy 18 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, as it seeks to modernise the ageing fleet of British Airways, its UK subsidiary. This proposed deal – worth $4bn at catalogue prices – is a boost for Boeing, which is reeling from regulators ordering the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner in January because of a safety scare concerning its batteries.
CNN: Carnival Triumph secured after breaking loose from dock; man reported missing
The Coast Guard is searching for a man knocked into the Mobile River after high winds hit the area Wednesday, blowing the man's security guard hut into the water and causing the Carnival Triumph cruise ship to break loose from its repair dock.
The call to the Coast Guard came in at 1:45 p.m. CT as near hurricane-force winds smacked the Gulf Coast city of Mobile, Alabama. An official with the city's fire department said earlier that the missing man and another person were in a guard shack at the BAE Shipyard that was blown into the Mobile River. One man has been recovered from the water.
Bloomberg: Google Fights U.S. National Security Probe Data Demand
Google Inc. (GOOG), operator of the world’s largest search engine, is challenging a demand by the U.S. government for private user information in a national security probe, according to a court filing. It “appears” to be the first time a major communications company is pushing back after getting a so-called National Security Letter, said the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet privacy group. The challenge comes three weeks after a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that NSLs, which are issued without a warrant, are unconstitutional.
The State: VP Biden, U.S. Sen. Cruz to keynote dueling SC fundraisers
It will be Joe Biden vs. Ted Cruz in Columbia on May 3. The Democratic vice president and Republican U.S. senator both will be in Columbia May 3 to raise money for the state’s largest political parties. Biden will speak at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center during the Democrats’ Jefferson Jackson Dinner. Cruz will speak at the State Fairgrounds during the Republicans’ Silver Elephant Celebration.
Boston Herald: Stephen Lynch mimics Scott Brown
A snub from national Republicans helped get Scott Brown elected to the U.S. Senate, and now U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch is hoping an even bigger Democratic dis propels him to a Senate upset. Lynch, in a Herald interview, accused party bigwigs in Washington of going so far as to sabotage his fundraising to make sure his rival and fellow congressman Edward J. Markey is the Democratic nominee. “No, they haven’t been fair,” Lynch said. “They’ve basically said, ‘Markey’s our guy, don’t give to Lynch.’ ” If Lynch’s strategy of running against party leaders sounds familiar, it’s because Brown used a similar tactic in his 2010 special election race, turning a fundraising brush-off from national Republicans to his advantage.
Charlotte Observer: North Carolina considers returning driving privileges to immigrants here illegally
Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are expected next week to propose a sweeping new state law that would grant driving privileges to residents living in the country illegally but also would adopt Arizona-type enforcement measures authorizing police to check the immigration status of people they question for other suspected offenses. Supporters say the proposal, a sign of a more welcoming approach that some states are taking with their unauthorized residents, would make the roads safer and help identify those who had been living hidden in society.
New Jersey Star Ledger: Mike Rice firing may lead to N.J. hearings, Assembly speaker says
State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver today called for legislative hearings into the firing of Rutgers University men's basketball coach Mike Rice — and why it didn't happen sooner. Rutgers fired Rice this morning, a day after videotapes surfaced showing him cursing at players, using gay slurs and pelting them with basketballs in practice.
Burlington Free Press: Vt. Guard sequestration furloughs delayed
A federal sequestration spending cut at the Vermont National Guard that was set to go into effect this month and result in the partial furlough of 500 Guard members has been delayed. Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, the Guard’s adjutant general, made the disclosure in an email sent to the Guard’s 4,000 members late last week and obtained by the Burlington Free Press on Wednesday. “We do not anticipate any furloughs occurring until mid to late June,” Cray wrote in the email. “There is still the possibility that the furlough would not occur at all but at this time we do not have any additional information.”
The Guardian: Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore
Millions of internal records have leaked from Britain's offshore financial industry, exposing for the first time the identities of thousands of holders of anonymous wealth from around the world, from presidents to plutocrats, the daughter of a notorious dictator and a British millionaire accused of concealing assets from his ex-wife. The leak of 2m emails and other documents, mainly from the offshore haven of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), has the potential to cause a seismic shock worldwide to the booming offshore trade, with a former chief economist at McKinsey estimating that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32tn (£21tn) stashed in overseas havens.
READ THE REPORT: Secret Files Expose Offshore’s Global Impact
CNN: Reported Saudi paralysis sentence 'outrageous,' rights group says
Rights group Amnesty International has condemned a reported Saudi court ruling sentencing a man to be paralyzed as retribution for having paralyzed another man as "outrageous." In a statement issued Tuesday, the rights group called the punishment "torture," adding that it "should on no account be carried out." Local media reports about the case surfaced over the weekend. The Saudi Gazette, an English language daily paper, reported that Ali Al-Khawahir was 14 when he stabbed and paralyzed his best friend 10 years ago.
BBC: NATO air strike 'kills Afghan police and civilian'
Four Afghan policemen and a civilian have been killed in a Nato air strike, Afghan officials say. The air strike took place in eastern Ghazni province, where Nato planes had been called in for support. A spokesman for the provincial governor told the BBC the policemen were in civilian clothes and may have been mistaken for Taliban fighters.
WSJ: As U.S. Departs, Afghan Business Dries Up
The Aria Water Plant, built in 2006 north of Kabul, is a state-of-the-art facility that can produce 100,000 cases of purified drinking water per week—an unusual success story from the decadelong American enterprise in Afghanistan. But with U.S. military involvement in the nation winding down, Aria, like other Afghan companies that sprang up to serve the foreigners, is struggling to survive an uncertain time.
WSJ: Syria Rebels Seek Lethal Aid From Europe, Mideast
Syria's main rebel command began touring Middle East capitals this week, and plans to visit capitals in Europe, to outline specific needs for arms and logistics as it plans to amplify the fight in Damascus, rebels involved in the meetings said. Syria's government has itself begun to step up military operations against rebels in the capital and on Wednesday claimed it regained territory. Rebel coordinators planning the trips said Arab and European military and defense officials sought the meetings, which comprise the first formal tour by the rebels and the first organized push to venture beyond their bedrock Persian Gulf backers for lethal support.
NYT: Power Struggle Gripping Iran Ahead of Vote
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not going quietly. With only three months to go in his second and last presidential term, he has raised a series of controversies intended, experts say, to reshape his public image and secure the support of dissatisfied urban Iranians for his handpicked successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. It is all part of a power struggle ahead of the June election between Mr. Ahmadinejad’s faction and a coalition of traditionalists, including many Revolutionary Guards commanders and hard-line clerics. With the demise of the protest movement that sprang up after the last presidential election, in 2009, Mr. Ahmadinejad and his supporters have emerged in the unlikely role of the opposition.
CNN: French Senate to debate same-sex marriage bill
The French Senate will debate a controversial bill Thursday that would extend the right to marry and adopt to same-sex couples. The lower house has already approved the legislation, in the face of protests from those opposed to the measure. If it passes the Senate, it would mark the biggest step forward for French gay rights advocates in more than a decade. Extending the right to marry and adopt to same-sex couples in France was one of President Francois Hollande's electoral pledges in campaigning last year.
NBC: Cyberattacks on banks signal urgent need for security bill, lawmakers say
A seven-month long assault on America's banking websites reached a new high recently, further proving that Congress needs to act quickly to pass cyber security legislation, the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee told NBC News Wednesday. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., made the remarks to NBC News in response to an NBC News report which found that in the last six weeks, 15 of the nation's largest banks have been offline for a total of 249 hours because of "denial of service" cyber attacks.
CNNMoney: Bank of Japan takes fight to deflation
The Bank of Japan launched what promises to be an aggressive campaign against deflation Thursday, announcing a fresh set of policies designed to spur spending and economic growth. Newly installed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made the central bank's 2% inflation target a top political priority. His directive: "Everything possible" must be done to achieve the goal within two years. The central bank obliged, pledging Thursday to achieve the inflation target at the "earliest possible time."
LA Times: Banks are not complying with mortgage settlement, survey finds
Banks aren't living up to pledges they made in last year's landmark government settlement of mortgage servicing and foreclosure abuses, according to an advocacy group's survey of California housing counselors and lawyers. The California Reinvestment Coalition, which lobbies for low-income Californians, said banks continue to pursue foreclosures against borrowers seeking loan modifications — a practice they had sworn off — and have been ineffective at providing well-informed employees to help troubled borrowers one-on-one. The findings, reported Wednesday by the San Francisco coalition of nonprofits and public agencies, rang true to Joseph A. Smith Jr., the government-appointed monitor for the $26-billion national mortgage settlement.