CNNMoney: Honda, Nissan and Toyota in massive recall
Japanese automakers Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Mazda are recalling around 3.4 million cars due to airbag defects. Toyota (TM) said it was recalling 1.7 million cars around the world, including some popular Corolla, Matrix and Camry models. Nissan recalled around 480,000 cars, while Mazda added another 45,000. Honda (HMC), which is recalling more than 1.1 million autos, said the recall was necessary to replace passenger front airbag inflators.
CNN: NASA shoots for asteroid, new manned missions
NASA plans to capture an asteroid and start sending astronauts aloft again by 2017, even with a tighter budget, the U.S. space agency announced Wednesday. The Obama administration is asking Congress for just over $17.7 billion in 2014, down a little more than 1% from the nearly $17.9 billion currently devoted to space exploration, aeronautics and other science. The request includes $105 million to boost the study of asteroids, both to reduce the risk of one hitting Earth and to start planning for a mission to "identify, capture, redirect, and sample" a small one. The plan is to send an unmanned probe out to seize the asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon, where astronauts would study it.
CNN: Fierce weather spawns tornadoes in Missouri, Arkansas
Residents in Missouri and Arkansas are grappling with the aftermath of a series of storms that spawned at least two tornadoes. At least 24 homes in Hazelwood, Missouri, sustained severe damage from Wednesday night's storms, the St. Louis County Office of Emergency Management said. One tornado touched down in the St. Louis suburb, ripping the roofs off of several homes, Hazelwood communications manager Tim Davidson said. No serious injuries were immediately reported. Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri after a series of storms pummeled the St. Louis area and elsewhere across the state. Nixon will tour damaged areas Thursday, his website said.
Houston Chronicle: Forecasters: Busy hurricane season on tap
Forecasters agree: The coming Atlantic hurricane season looks like a busy one. A number of factors, principally higher-than-normal temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean where most tropical storms form, indicate this season will see a flurry of tropical activity. "A wild season is on the way," predicted Joe Bastardi, a noted hurricane forecaster with Weather Bell, a weather website. That viewpoint was affirmed Wednesday when longtime seasonal forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach, of Colorado State University, issued their first numerical prediction for the upcoming season, which begins June 1. They are calling for 18 named storms, nine of which will be hurricanes and four of which will develop into major hurricanes. That's about 50 percent more activity than during a normal season.
CNN: Would background checks have stopped recent mass shootings? Probably not
Newtown. Aurora. Columbine. Tucson. Virginia Tech. The tragic shootings in each of these and other towns have ignited public sentiment for some kind of gun reforms and fired up gun advocates to protect what they see as their constitutional right of easy access to firearms. According to recent polls, more than 90% of Americans favor some form of background checks for firearm purchases, particularly at gun shows, but the efficacy of the measure remains dubious by both law enforcement and gun control advocates. But, as Congress wrestles with what new measures - if any - should be passed to control gun purchases, one question looms: In those and other mass shootings, would background checks have made any difference? Looking back, background checks did not stop three mass shootings that claimed more than 40 lives since 2011.
CNN: Pass the salt: GOP senators dine with Obama
On a day with gun control and the federal budget in the spotlight, President Barack Obama continued his congressional outreach at dinner with a dozen Senate Republicans in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House. Wednesday's event marked Obama's second dinner meeting with Senate Republicans in a little more than a month, though the guest list was different from the last meet-up. Senators began arriving at the White House around 6:45 p.m., and a White House official said the dinner ended at 9:17 p.m. "Tonight, the President enjoyed a constructive, wide-ranging discussion with Republican Senators that included reducing the deficit in a balanced way, reforming our broken immigration system and adopting common-sense measures to reduce gun violence," the official said. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia was asked to arrange the 12 invitations.
WATCH – Senator Isakson will discuss his dinner with President Obama on CNN’s Starting Point at 7am.
Reuters: Obama signs order for $109 billion in 2014 sequester cuts
Just hours after proposing a budget that would replace automatic spending cuts required by law, President Barack Obama on Wednesday set in motion the next $109 billion of the reductions to military and domestic programs for the year starting on October 1. The White House announced that Obama signed the sequester order, which directs that total discretionary spending for fiscal year 2014 be cut by $91 billion to a total of $967 billion – the lowest level since 2004. Obama was required by law to sign the order after submitting his budget request to Congress.
CNN: Obama budget adds domestic same-sex partners to Obamacare
Buried deep inside President Obama's 2014 budget released on Wednesday is a new proposal to expand federal health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Framed as a measure to reduce the deficit, the proposal would amend the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program beginning in 2015 to add a "self plus one" enrollment option in addition to the "self" and "family" options. Like the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act that the administration has endorsed in prior budgets, this new FEHB formulation would work within the current legal constraints of the Defense of Marriage Act by adding a new classification for additional enrollees beyond family. Currently, the Office of Personnel Management is legally prevented from providing coverage to same-sex domestic partners due to both the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Politico: HHS seeks Obamacare funds — but is ready to scramble
Here’s today’s billion-dollar question: Are Republicans going to allow the administration to spend more money on Obamacare? Don’t count on it. The landmark health law may have survived the Supreme Court, countless repeal efforts and a presidential election — but none of that required Republicans to shower money on Obamacare. And with at least 33 states refusing to build the critical health insurance exchanges, the federal government is unexpectedly on the hook to set them up — and short of money to do so. The White House requested $1.5 billion more for the health law implementation in its budget Wednesday, but health officials know they’re not likely to get it.
CNN: Compromise sets up likely Senate debate on gun laws
In a breakthrough on gun legislation, two U.S. senators - a Democrat and a Republican - announced Wednesday they had worked out a compromise on expanding background checks on firearms buyers to include gun shows and Internet sales. The deal reached by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, sets up the likelihood of a major Senate debate on gun legislation starting as soon as Thursday, when the chamber is expected to overcome a GOP filibuster attempt to block the proposals. President Barack Obama and leading Democrats have pushed for tighter gun laws in the aftermath of the December school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first-graders and six educators. In an emotional scene later on Wednesday, Manchin choked up while meeting with relatives of Newtown victims who praised him for his political courage in taking on the powerful gun lobby.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Gun filibuster appears to misfire for conservative backers
CNN: Gabby Giffords coming to Washington next week
Gabby Giffords is planning to come to Washington, D.C., next week, just as the Senate will be immersed in debate over new gun legislation, which she has been lobbying senators to support. Giffords, who plans to travel with husband Mark Kelly, will attend an unveiling of a bust of Gabe Zimmerman, one of her former aides who was killed along with 5 others the day she was shot in 2011. The bust will be displayed inside a room named for Zimmerman inside the Capitol Visitors Center.
ALSO SEE: CNN Poll: Importance of guns soars, as do gun owner concerns
WaPo: Sen. Joe Manchin bridges gun-control divide to pave way for expanded laws
Before Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin III was not known for crafting complicated legislation. He was known for shooting it. That is not a metaphor. In 2010, Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, filmed a campaign ad that highlighted his outsider politics, his distance from President Obama, and his love of firearms, all in one memorable act of man-on-bill violence. He used a hunting rifle to blast a hole in a copy of Obama’s favored “cap and trade” climate proposal. On Wednesday, Manchin was at a Senate podium, playing a vastly different role. In a Senate where dealmaking is a nearly dead art, this old outsider had cut a deal that could pave the way for a major expansion of U.S. gun-control laws.
WATCH – Senator Manchin joins CNN to discuss the latest on his gun control efforts at 8am on Starting Point.
The Hill: Sen. Mikulski to ignore sequester
The Senate Appropriations Committee will write fiscal 2014 bills according to the top-line discretionary spending level in the Senate and White House budgets, ignoring the sequester cuts in current law. By crafting bills at the $1.058 trillion level set by the Obama and Senate budgets, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is setting the stage for a showdown with the House, which intends to use the $966 billion level set by sequestration.
Reuters: Senate immigration plan creates complex road to citizenship
An immigration bill being written in the Senate aims to wipe out nearly all illegal crossings along the southwestern border with Mexico while maintaining a 13-year timetable for existing illegal residents to win citizenship, sources said on Wednesday. The carefully crafted language is intended to attract Republican support in Congress for comprehensive immigration legislation this year, while accommodating Democrats' desire to help the estimated 11 million foreigners living in the United States illegally. The idea is to create tough law-and-order provisions that backers could argue would finally fix a porous U.S. border, as well as keeping foreigners who have obtained visas from overstaying them. A bipartisan group of eight Democratic and Republican senators writing the bill is hoping to sign off on the measure in coming days.
Fox News: Republicans blast hearing schedule for immigration bill, demand details on cost
Republican senators complained Wednesday that plans to hold just one hearing on a yet-to-be-unveiled immigration overhaul are "unacceptable" - as they continued to press for more details on how much the legislation could cost taxpayers. Fox News has learned the proposed bill could be unveiled as early as Thursday. In anticipation of the release, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced his committee will hold a hearing on the legislation April 17. Though Leahy noted this hearing would be the committee's fourth on immigration this year, Republican senators complained it would only be the first - and possibly last - on this specific bill.
National Review: Ryan: Obama Never Followed Up
Representative Paul Ryan hasn’t heard from President Obama since their lunch meeting in early March, the House budget committee chairman told reporters on Wednesday. “Not that I know of,” Ryan said when asked if the president had made any effort to follow up on their meeting, which he noted was “the first time we ever had a conversation” since Obama took office. “I don’t really know him very well.” During a briefing at National Review’s Washington, D.C., office, Ryan said he had hoped Obama would “lean into the problems a little bit more” at the start of his second term, but “unfortunately we got more of the same.” He also dismissed the president’s latest budget, which was unveiled today, as little more than a “status quo” document that fails to address the nation’s debt problem. “I want to get an agreement,” Ryan said. “It’s been a long time, and we’re all getting a little frustrated about that.”
CNN: Carson won't deliver Johns Hopkins commencement address
The conservative neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who last month equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality in a television appearance, withdrew as Johns Hopkins University's medical school commencement speaker on Wednesday. "Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interests of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year," Carson, a surgeon at Hopkins, wrote in an email to the medical school's dean Paul Rothman. "My presence is likely to distract from the true celebratory nature of the day. Commencement is about the students and their successes, and it is not about me. I want to make certain that remains so."
CNN: Even with guns, all politics is local
In a small gun range 20 minutes outside New Orleans, a steady stream of gun enthusiasts fill the air with the scent of gunpowder and the sharp bang of shots. Many of the customers - a range of ex-military men, off-duty law enforcement officers and a sprinkling of women learning how to handle a firearm for self-protection - said they have grown up around guns and are leery of interference by the federal government on gun rights. "Just like drug use is illegal but people still get their hands on drugs - so, the bad guys are still going to have guns," said Meredith Timberlake, who came from a family of Marines. "Well, I'm going to have a gun too." Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) is well aware of those concerns. The veteran Democrat will face her states' voters in a 2014 election, and despite her three terms in the Senate, Landrieu's seat is widely considered vulnerable.
WATCH: VIDEO – CNN's Jim Acosta reports on a proposed gun bill that would expand background checks and how it affects senators.
CNN: Cheney to address RNC as GOP maps a political path forward
Former Vice President Dick Cheney will address members of the Republican National Committee gathering here in California this week for strategy sessions on how to broaden the GOP’s appeal with voters. It is unclear what topic Cheney will speak on, but this is the first formal gathering of national party members since RNC Chairman Reince Priebus issued a report last month examining all aspects of the national party, including what steps the GOP should take to reach out to new voters, specifically Asian Americans, blacks, Hispanics and young people.
Politico: Republican National Committee rejects most rule changes
An activist-led push to repeal all of the rule changes pushed through by Mitt Romney’s envoy at last summer’s Republican National Convention failed here Wednesday. But a coalition of libertarians and conservatives on the Republican National Committee’s Rules Committee voted to remove one of the most controversial requirements: that the winner of a state caucus or primary automatically gets to control its delegates. A nearly four-hour fight at the RNC Spring meeting, which unfolded in a windowless ballroom of a fancy hotel, showcased the mounting tension between the establishment and movement conservatives, for now in cahoots with Rand Paul supporters, over the direction of the party in the wake of last November’s electoral thumping.
CNN: Rand Paul: GOP must reconnect with African Americans
Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who's considering a 2016 presidential bid, made a pitch for his party Wednesday at the historically black Howard University, arguing why the GOP and African Americans should fall in the same column. "I came to Howard today not to preach and to prescribe to you some special formula, but to say I want a government that leaves you alone," the Kentucky senator said. "My hope is that you'll hear me out. You're going to see me for who I am and not a caricature that's sometimes presented by political opponents." Paul acknowledged that his visit was uncommon–he was the first major Republican to address the school since Colin Powell gave a speech in 1994–and seemed to embrace the fact that he was speaking before what he presumed to be a largely Democratic audience.
CNN: North Korea nears 'dangerous line,' Hagel says
North Korea is "skating very close to a dangerous line" after weeks of saber-rattling, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Wednesday as northeast Asia watched for an expected missile test. "Their actions and their words have not helped defuse a combustible situation," Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon. He said the United States and its allies want to see North Korean rhetoric "ratcheted down," but if that doesn't happen, "our country is fully prepared to deal with any contingency." "We have every capacity to deal with any action North Korea will take to protect this country and the interests of this country and our allies," Hagel said.
ALSO SEE: BBC: Korea and Syria high on agenda at London G8 talks
WATCH: VIDEO – There is concern in the International Community that Iran and North Korea are cooperating on nuclear development. CNN’s Jill Dougherty reports.
CNN: New cybersecurity bill clears House committee
The House Intelligence Committee has overwhelmingly passed a new cybersecurity bill that would enhance data sharing between the government and private industry to protect computer networks and intellectual property from cyber attacks. By a vote of 18-2, the panel on Wednesday approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The measure, which now goes to the full House for consideration, sets up a voluntary system for companies to share threat information on their networks with the government in exchange for some liability protections. The bill also allows the government to share intelligence and other cyber threat information with industry.
NYT: Move to Widen Help for Syrian Rebels Gains Speed in West
A long-debated move by Western nations to expand support for Syria’s opposition gained momentum on Wednesday, with the United States poised to increase its nonlethal aid to rebel groups and pressure building to lift a European Union embargo on sending arms to Syria. In Washington, administration officials said President Obama had not yet signed off on a specific package of measures, but had agreed in principle to increase assistance to the military wing of the Syrian opposition that could include battlefield gear like body armor and night-vision goggles, but not arms. … In London, where the British foreign secretary, William Hague, hosted a meeting with the Syrian opposition on Wednesday, there were signs that Britain and France were prepared to let the European Union arms embargo expire by the end of May so that they could increase their assistance.
ALSO SEE: CNN: White House signs off on new aid for Syrian rebels
CNN: State Department budget reflects end of war, ramped up security
A greatly reduced role in Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war means the State Department can shift financial resources to priorities in the Mideast and Asia and enhance security at high-threat diplomatic posts. President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for $47.8 billion for the State Department and international programs in fiscal 2014, a 6 percent budget decrease from fiscal 2013 levels. The most dramatic reduction would come from the Iraq and Afghanistan accounts, known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The new budget for that line item requests $3.8 billion, a 67 percent reduction from what was received last year. Although U.S. forces left the country in 2011, Iraq is home to the largest American embassy in the world.
CNN: Soldier priest to get ultimate medal
Capt. Emil Kapaun served in the U.S. Army in World War II and Korea but he didn’t carry a rifle and never fired a shot. His weapons were a Bible and his faith. Capt. Kapaun was also Father Kapaun, a Roman Catholic chaplain who will be awarded the Medal of Honor on Thursday, 60 years after his death while a North Korean prisoner. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in the U.S. military.
WATCH: VIDEO – The Medal of Honor will be awarded posthumously to an Army chaplain from the Korean War. CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Sources: Sheriff slaying suspect's mental health history was not in database
Ten months after being released from a mental institution, the suspect in the slaying of a West Virginia sheriff was able to purchase a gun that authorities say was used in the crime because his mental health information was not entered into a federal database, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN. Tennis Maynard, 37, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Sheriff Walter E. "Eugene" Crum and with attempted murder after he allegedly pointed a gun at a sheriff's deputy who chased him. His family admitted him to a mental hospital in February 2010, according to both sources. That would have disqualified him from buying a firearm or even being in the presence of guns, authorities say. But in December 2010, Maynard was able to purchase a .40-caliber handgun at a licensed gun dealer in neighboring Logan County, according to the same source, despite a required, computerized background check.
Bloomberg: Parents Not Informed Premature Babies at Risk in Study
A study in 1,316 premature infants has drawn a reprimand from U.S. officials who say parents of the babies weren’t adequately advised of “reasonably foreseeable risks,” including blindness and death. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter dated March 7, said a research team led by Richard Marchase at the University of Alabama at Birmingham “failed to adequately inform parents of the reasonably foreseeable risks and discomforts of research participation.” In the study, infants were given different amounts of oxygen, a critical component of their care. The parents weren’t told previous research suggested more oxygen may be tied to blindness and lower levels might boost the risk of death. The department’s letter was made public yesterday by Public Citizen, a watchdog group that criticized the HHS response as insufficient and urged U.S. officials to apologize to the families of the infants.
USA Today: Postal service delays plan to end Saturday mail delivery
The nation will continue to get its Saturday mail through at least Sept. 30, the U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday. The Postal Service backed down from its plan to cut mail delivery starting this summer from six days a week to five, saying Congress had prohibited such a move. A measure passed by Congress last month to fund government operations while the budget remains in limbo included language that barred changing the delivery schedule, the Postal Service board of governors said in a written statement Wednesday. The Postal Service had proposed delivering only packages on Saturdays. The new schedule was to begin Aug. 5.
CNN: Student to appear in court over alleged knifing of classmates at Texas campus
A college student who allegedly wielded a knife at classmates on his Texas college campus is expected to have his first court appearance Thursday. Dylan Quick, 20, went on a stabbing spree Tuesday at Lone Star College near Houston, authorities said. By the time police took him into custody, 14 people had been injured at the CyFair campus. It's unclear how many of those harmed were stabbed and how many suffered other injuries.
CNN: Parents to appear in court after allegedly abducting kids, sailing to Cuba
Two parents accused of abducting their two sons and sailing to Cuba will make their first court appearance in Florida on Thursday to face charges of kidnapping, auto theft and child neglect. Josh and Sharyn Hakken spent Wednesday in Florida's Hillsborough County jail after U.S. authorities brought the family back from Cuba. The two children, Chase and Cole, are with their grandparents in Tampa, where they were living before the alleged kidnapping on April 3. Police say their father broke into the home and tied up their grandmother before whisking the two children away - one day after he and his wife lost their parental rights.
Seattle Times: Boeing email warns 787 tech staff of layoffs
Manufacturing engineers on the 787 Dreamliner program Wednesday became the latest group at Boeing to hear bad news of imminent downsizing. It came early in the morning, in an email from a senior manager that thanked them for saving the troubled jet program, then announced layoffs are coming. Boeing manager Kevin Ettwein sent the note, a copy of which was obtained by The Seattle Times.
Arizona Republic: New details in Mexico teenager's death by Border Patrol
A new witness and new evidence seem to bolster the case that a Mexican teen shot to death by the Border Patrol in October in Nogales, Sonora, was walking down the street at the time he was killed — not, as the Border Patrol has maintained, throwing rocks over the fence at agents. The new information also suggests that more than one agent may have opened fire on Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16. That information arrived as the family of the youth held a march on Wednesday in Nogales to protest what they called the FBI and Border Patrol’s “veil of silence” about the killing. Both the bureau and the patrol have declined to comment on the boy’s death, citing an ongoing FBI investigation.
Baltimore Sun: At Loch Raven, Duncan says communities must confront school violence
School safety session is secretary's second visit to county
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told parents, students and educators in Baltimore County on Wednesday that while Americans might not agree on gun control legislation, they must work together so that children can grow up without fear of violence in schools. At a town hall-style meeting before a packed auditorium at Loch Raven High School, Duncan said communities must have tough conversations to address the violence that has hit schools across the country — including those in the county that hosted him Wednesday. "If we, as a country, don't do something different now, I don't know when we will," Duncan said. "I don't know what it will take."
WaPo: Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s role in GreenTech scrutinized
Having never held elective office, Democrat Terry McAuliffe touts his leadership of an electric car company and other business ventures as proof that he has the executive experience needed to run Virginia as governor. His role in GreenTech Automotive, however, has drawn intense scrutiny over the past few days, when it was learned that he quietly resigned as chairman months ago and that the company owed back taxes on land it owns in Mississippi. More trouble surfaced Wednesday in the form of e-mails that Virginia economic development officials exchanged about the project in 2009, when McAuliffe considered locating the facility in the commonwealth.
Palm Beach Post: Slot machine-like games outlawed after Scott signs Internet cafe ban
Slot-like machines in storefront gaming centers became illegal today after Gov. Rick Scott quietly signed into law aimed at shutting down Internet cafes. Scott signed the bill less than a month after state and federal authorities arrested 57 people in connection with Allied Veterans of the World, a St. Augustine-based non-profit accused of posing as a charity while running a $300 million illegal gambling ring. The investigation also prompted Jennifer Carroll, Scott’s hand-picked running mate, to resign as lieutenant governor. Carroll had consulted for Allied Veterans while she was a member of the House.
Miami Herald: Absence of fleet during “Fleet Week” a loss for sailors and the community
Picture the scene of a Fort Lauderdale beachside hotel and in strut a couple of Navy sailors — in uniform — straight off the ship. They spot a table full of young women in swimsuits sipping cocktails and listening to music. One sailor dares the other: bet you can’t get them to dance with you. “I went over to the table and I said ‘Ladies, I can’t ask just one of you to dance with me,’” (Ret.) Senior Chief Petty Officer Chuck Black, recalled of his visit to Fort Lauderdale in the 1980s. ‘“I’m going to ask all of you to dance with me.’ “And they did. It was so much fun.” The welcoming atmosphere Black found in Fort Lauderdale lured him back, and today Black is a permanent resident of South Florida and loyal supporter of Fleet Week, that beloved annual tradition that brings thousands of sailors to our shores each year. This year it starts April 29 — but without its heart and centerpiece: the U.S. Navy. Yep, you read that right — we are going to have a fleet less Fleet Week. Due to the federal budget cuts known as sequestration, the U.S. Navy won’t be sending ships.
Chicago Tribune: Daughter of former Obama pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright indicted
The daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — the controversial former pastor to President Barack Obama — was indicted today in an expanding federal probe of a state grant tied to a former suburban police chief. Jeri Wright of Hazel Crest is accused of helping former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans convert fake paychecks from Evans’ nonprofit to Evans’ personal use, allegedly hiding money that was supposed to be used to train minority and female workers in the building trades.
Boston Globe: GOP Senate debate gets personal
The three Republican candidates for US Senate unpacked their opposition research files on Wednesday night, rifling through one another’s careers for damaging information and flinging accusations during the primary’s second televised debate. Gabriel E. Gomez, a Cohasset investor and former US Navy SEAL, held himself up as the antipolitician and repeatedly labeled his opponents as the kind of career politicians responsible for the dysfunction in Washington. State Representative Daniel B. Winslow of Norfolk alleged that Michael J. Sullivan, a former US attorney, had lobbied for the gun industry, a charge Sullivan denied. And Sullivan quoted a letter that Gomez sent to Governor Deval Patrick, putting his name forward for an interim Senate appointment and voicing support for President Obama’s policies on gun control and immigration.
Austin American Statesman: Fetal pain bill to limit abortions gets first Texas hearing
Legislation to ban abortions in Texas after the 20th week of pregnancy drew a sharp response during a House hearing Wednesday night. Abortion opponents praised the bill, which says that the ban is justified because “substantial medical evidence” has found that a fetus can feel pain by 20 weeks after fertilization. Opponents of the bill, however, told the House State Affairs Committee that the bulk of scientific studies has found that a fetus cannot experience pain until far later in a pregnancy. The fetal pain bill is a top priority for abortion opponents and has been endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he will not “idly stand by while our unborn are being put through the agony of having their lives ended.”
CNN: Same-sex marriage bill awaits president's signature in Uruguay
Uruguayan lawmakers have approved a same-sex marriage measure, leaving just one more key step - the president's signature - before such couples can wed in the South American country. A marriage equality bill passed the lower house Wednesday, with 71 of 92 lawmakers supporting the measure. The house approved a different version of the measure in December. Last week, Uruguay's senate approved the bill in a 23-8 vote. If signed by President Jose Mujica, who has indicated he supports the measure, the proposal would make Uruguay the second country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage and the 12th country in the world to do so.
Reuters: U.N. talks with Syria on chemical arms probe at impasse
Discussions between the United Nations and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government on a possible investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria have reached an impasse, U.N. diplomats said on Wednesday. Syria and the United Nations have been exchanging letters for weeks but the two sides are far from agreement on how the investigation should be run, diplomats said on condition of anonymity. Syria has asked the United Nations only to investigate what it says was a rebel chemical attack near Aleppo last month. The opposition has blamed President Bashar al-Assad's forces for that strike and also wants the U.N. team to look into other alleged chemical attacks by the government.
CNN: Rights group accuses Syrian military of targeting civilians
Syria's air force has repeatedly carried out "indiscriminate, and in some cases deliberate" airstrikes against civilians, Human Rights Watch said in a new report. The attacks are serious violations of international humanitarian law, and those who commit such violations with criminal intent are responsible for war crimes, the rights group said. The claims are laid out in an 80-page report titled "Death from the Skies," based on visits to 50 sites of government airstrikes in opposition-controlled areas in Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia provinces. The group's researchers carried out more than 140 interviews with witnesses and victims.
The Guardian: Egypt's army took part in torture and killings during revolution, report shows
Egypt's armed forces participated in forced disappearances, torture and killings across the country – including in Cairo's Egyptian Museum – during the 2011 uprising, even as military leaders publicly declared their neutrality, according to a leaked presidential report on revolution-era crimes. The report, submitted to President Mohamed Morsi by his own hand-picked committee in January, has yet to be made public, but a chapter seen by the Guardian implicates the military in a catalogue of crimes against civilians, beginning with their first deployment to the streets. The chapter recommends that the government investigate the highest ranks of the military to determine who was responsible.
LA Times: Intrigue swirls as Iran prepares to choose next president
The reform movement that took to the streets to protest alleged vote-rigging in Iran's last presidential election has been crushed. The supreme leader has made it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated this time. But that doesn't mean the maneuvering to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an election set for June 14 has been without intrigue. Ahmadinejad, who was reelected in the disputed 2009 balloting, is barred by law from seeking a third term and is publicly promoting a trusted aide to replace him. It is far from clear, however, whether the president's preferred successor will even be allowed to run.
NYT: Nearly 70 Years Later, a New Round of Auschwitz Prosecutions
They worked as guards at the Holocaust’s most notorious death camp, and nearly seven decades later they may finally be brought to account before a court of law. Germany’s Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes has prepared a list of 50 former guards who worked at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and are still alive, said Kurt Schrimm, the head of the office. Staff members searched old court records and Holocaust-related documents looking for names, and even traveled to Poland last year to try to augment their lists. One checked the names of the Auschwitz guards against databases to determine which were still alive. The next step is ruling out those who were already tried, either by the occupation authorities or the German legal system.
Financial Times: Lagarde warns over three-speed world
A three-speed global economy faces risks from a currency crisis in emerging markets or unsustainable debt in the US and Japan, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde has warned. Speaking ahead of the International Monetary Fund's spring meeting in Washington next week, Ms Lagarde said that the world was dividing into three groups - some countries doing well, some on the mend and some still in trouble. Her speech highlights a new phase for the global economy in which the uneven pace of growth around the world is creating new financial imbalances that could sow the seeds of a future crisis.
CNNMoney: Federal Reserve goofs and releases minutes early
Oops. The Federal Reserve accidentally emailed the minutes from its March meeting to 154 people a day early, and those people included employees at some of the world's largest banks. While no major news was expected to come from the minutes, they are nevertheless a key document that can move markets from time to time. Wall Street players often dig deep into the minutes for hints about when the central bank may pull back on its bond-buying policy or raise interest rates. For that reason, the minutes are usually highly protected by the central bank and their release is supposed to be executed carefully. A Fed spokesman told CNNMoney the mistake was "entirely accidental," and it was a "human error," not a technological one.
Financial Times: Cyprus to dive into its gold reserves
Cyprus has agreed to sell gold worth €400m from its reserves as a contribution to an international bailout, roiling the precious metal markets as investors feared it could set a precedent for other troubled eurozone countries. Nicosia's plan to dispose of most of its gold holdings would be the first such sale by a country seeking international assistance since the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, when South Korea asked the public to donate jewellery to the central bank for the good of the nation. "I think this could be a turning point," said Jonathan Spall, director of precious metals at Barclays Capital. "Central bank stocks of gold which had looked to be ringfenced in the bailout process could now seemingly come in to play." A draft bailout document seen by the Financial Times, said: "The Cypriot authorities have committed to sell the excess amount of gold reserves owned by the Republic."