WaPo: Growth of suburbs in pro-gun states changing the political calculus in Congress
Pennsylvania, Georgia and Virginia have long been bastions of gun-rights supporters, with vast rural areas and strong hunting traditions. But in recent days, lawmakers from those states have demonstrated a new willingness to back stricter firearms regulations, setting the stage for what could be the first major gun-control legislation to pass Congress in two decades. The shift underscores a new reality of gun politics in America: The rapid growth of suburbs in historically gun-friendly states is forcing politicians to cater to the more centrist and pragmatic views of voters in subdivisions and cul-de-sacs as well as to constituents in shrinking rural hamlets where gun ownership is more of a way of life.
NYT: With Police in Schools, More Children in Court
As school districts across the country consider placing more police officers in schools, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools where officers are already stationed: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal’s office. Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed “school resource officers” for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.
The Hill: Obama, GOP senators agree to exchange paper in debt talks
President Obama and a dozen Republican senators he met with Wednesday evening agreed the two sides should begin exchanging papers to explore a possible deficit-reduction deal, according to two lawmakers who attended. But both sides acknowledged over dinner at the White House they have only modest expectations for success. One lawmaker who attended the dinner in the Old Family Room said the consensus at the meeting was that the chances of a grand bargain on the deficit is “less than 50-50.”
CNN: Senate overcomes filibuster, clearing the way for debate on gun bill
The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to overcome a Republican-led filibuster against tougher gun laws, clearing the way for a major congressional debate on a package of proposals sought by President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the Connecticut school massacre. The procedural vote followed a breakthrough by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, who reached a compromise on broadening background checks to include private purchases at gun shows and on the Internet. Because of the bipartisan deal, Senate Democrats backing the legislation received support from enough Republicans to approve the cloture motion, 68-31, setting up debate on the proposals and amendments expected to last for two weeks.
Politico: Newtown families: Victims turn lobbyists
When a lobbyist for families of Newtown shooting victims called the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to set up a meeting, the first response was a standard D.C. offer. They could get a meeting with her staff, and a quick and simple “hello” from Collins herself, they were told. The families’ answer: Not good enough. According to their lobbyists, the families have a rule against staff-only meetings: they won’t do them. They insist on sitting down with the senators themselves. That rule is just one of the ways that the Newtown families, political novices just a few months ago, are proving to be savvy, effective advocates as they promote the gun legislation that has finally begun to move through the Senate.
WSJ: Bipartisan Breezes Waft Through Congress
Lawmakers in Congress, long locked in stalemate and saddled with a "do-nothing" label, are now working across party lines on major legislation including immigration, guns and other perennially stalled issues. A big bipartisan majority in the Senate voted Thursday to open the first wide-ranging gun-control debate in years. Bipartisan proposals to overhaul immigration laws are being hatched in the Senate and House. President Barack Obama has been wining and dining Republicans in search of partners for a budget deal. The House and Senate Budget Committee chairmen are preparing to negotiate for the first time in years. While these initiatives may not all reach fruition, some congressional veterans sense a new tone.
Politico: Conservatives lash out at immigration reform
A pocket of conservatives is lashing out privately and publicly against broad immigration reform and could seriously complicate any momentum for a House deal. The blowback began in earnest Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill, where a meeting of the Republican Study Committee turned into a group gripe about the direction in which a bipartisan House group of immigration negotiators is heading. Iowa Rep. Steve King spoke out against the speed with which Republicans are changing their tone on long-held positions on immigration policy.
CNN: Boehner shoots down Republican member's criticism
The head of the House Republican campaign arm, Rep. Greg Walden, is getting pushback from both his own party and the White House for bucking the party line and saying the president was wrong to include entitlement changes in his budget proposal. "I've made it clear that I disagree with what Chairman Walden said," Boehner said in his weekly press conference on Thursday, referring to the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "I've talked to chairman Walden, and we had a conversation," Boehner added. "We'll leave it at that." In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Walden said Wednesday that Obama's budget "lays out kind of a shocking attack on seniors."
CNN: Prominent social conservative urges activists to withhold GOP donations
Prominent social conservative Tony Perkins called on political activists Thursday evening to withhold contributions to Republican campaign committees, as the GOP is embroiled in a debate over social issues. Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, made the request in an email to supporters of his organization, as members of the Republican National Committee met in California to discuss campaign strategy and political messaging. "Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money," Perkins said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.
CNN: Kentucky Democratic official claims liberal group behind McConnell tape
An official with a local Democratic Party group alleged Thursday a Kentucky-based liberal organization was responsible for the secretly recorded tapes of Sen. Mitch McConnell plotting campaign strategy. Jacob Conway, an executive committee member of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party, told CNN that members of Progress Kentucky admitted to him in February they made the recording. …One of those men confirmed to CNN through his lawyer that he was at McConnell’s office after the public event, but said while he did witness his colleague making the recording, he had no direct involvement. The lawyer said his client has been cooperating with the FBI.
NBC/WSJ Poll: 53 percent support gay marriage
Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two highly publicized gay-marriage cases, a majority of Americans continue to say they support same-sex marriage, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Fifty-three percent of respondents favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, which is up 2 points since the NBC/WSJ survey last asked this question in December, though that increase is within the poll’s margin of error. Forty-two percent oppose gay marriage – also up 2 points since late last year. By party, 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents back gay marriage, while 66 percent of Republicans oppose it.
ALSO SEE: NBC/WSJ Poll: Most Women See Bias in the Workplace
Travel Weekly: Hillary Clinton may be keynoter at ASTA convention
ASTA may have a top name in the diplomatic world lined up as a keynote speaker for its annual meeting in Miami this September. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is said to have accepted the chance to address the ASTA Global Convention, scheduled for Sept. 17-19 at the Hyatt Regency Miami. ASTA responded to an inquiry about the news by saying it had no announcement. "I cannot confirm that Hillary Clinton will be speaking at the meeting," said an ASTA spokeswoman.
CNN: Don't air NRA race, senator asks Rupert Murdoch
The National Rifle Association-sponsored NASCAR race slated for this weekend is "inappropriate in the immediate wake of the Newtown massacre," Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut wrote to the race's broadcaster on Thursday. "The race not only brings national attention to an organization that has been the face of one side of this heated debate, it also features the live shooting of guns at the end of the race," Murphy wrote to Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, which owns the channel Fox Sports where the race will be broadcast. In March, the Texas Motor Speedway announced the NRA had sponsored the NASCAR Sprint Cup event on April 13, which marked the first time the gun owners group has sponsored a race in NASCAR's top series.
CNN: Kerry lands in South Korea amid North Korea's nuclear threats
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in South Korea on Friday for a trip likely to focus on North Korea's recent nuclear threats and provocations. Kerry, who landed in Seoul, is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries. The Korean peninsula is rife with tensions over the belligerent threats issued by Pyongyang. Pentagon intelligence assessment suggesting North Korea may have the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon on a missile has set off a flurry in Washington, with top officials trying to play down concerns about the capabilities of the Pyongyang regime. The Pentagon's intelligence arm has assessed with "moderate confidence" that North Korea has the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon with a ballistic missile, though the reliability is believed to be "low."
ALSO SEE: CNN: Mistake in classification led to N. Korea info being revealed
WATCH: VIDEO – U.N. Secy. General Ban Ki Moon delivers a message to North Korea's Kim Jong Un. CNN's Wolf Blitzer has the exclusive.
CNN: U.S. updates military options for Syria
Under pressure from Democrats and Republicans, the Joint Staff of the Pentagon and the U.S. Central Command have updated potential military options for intervention in Syria that could see American forces – if ordered – doing everything from bombing Syrian airfields to flying large amounts of humanitarian aid to the region, a senior U.S. military official said. The first public discussion of the updated options could come soon as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week. The military official emphasized the options are for planning and there is no indication President Barack Obama is about to order any military action.
ALSO SEE: NYT: Rebel Victory in Syria Might Not Stop Conflict, U.S. Officials Say
Fox News: US gives 4 more F-16 fighter jets to Egyptian government despite outcry
Four more F-16 fighter jets left the U.S. on Thursday headed for Egypt as part of a foreign aid package that has generated controversy given the political upheaval in the Mideast country. Critics say the military aid should stop because the president Egyptians elected last year has led the Muslim Brotherhood, called President Obama liar and urged that hatred of Jews be instilled in children. A source who works on the naval air base in Fort Worth, Texas, confirmed to FoxNews.com the departure of the state-of-the-art fighter planes. The new shipment brings the total number of F-16 jets given to Egypt this year to 12. Eight more F-16s will be given to the Egyptian government before the end of the year as part of a billion-dollar foreign aid deal signed in 2010 with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime U.S. ally. The U.S. also will send 200 Abrams tanks.
CNN: Ex-Pakistani President Musharraf admits secret deal with U.S. on drone strikes
Ex-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged his government secretly signed off on U.S. drone strikes, the first time a top past or present Pakistani official has admitted publicly to such a deal. Pakistani leaders long have openly challenged the drone program and insisted they had no part in it. Musharraf's admission, though, suggests he and others did play some role, even if they didn't oversee the program or approve every attack. In an interview this week in Islamabad, Musharraf insisted Pakistan's government signed off on strikes "only on a few occasions, when a target was absolutely isolated and no chance of collateral damage."
WATCH: VIDEO – Former Pakistan leader Pervez Musharraff says the country did sanction some U.S. drone strikes.
WaPo: Guantanamo dogged by new controversy after mishandling of e-mails
The military justice system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been dogged by charges of secret monitoring of proceedings and defense communications, became embroiled in a fresh controversy Thursday when it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of defense e-mails were turned over to the prosecution. The breach prompted Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief military defense counsel, to order all attorneys for Guantanamo detainees to stop using Defense Department computer networks to transmit privileged or confidential information until the security of such communications is assured.
NYT: U.S. Embassy in Turkey Said to Be Targeted
Turkish police said Thursday that they had found evidence of a plot linked to Al Qaeda to bomb the United States Embassy in Ankara, a synagogue in Istanbul and other targets, from a raid on two houses in February, according to news reports. The reports said the police had seized nearly 50 pounds of plastic explosives with detonation systems attached, as well as six laptop computers and other evidence. Twelve people were detained during the operation — two Chechens, two Azeris and eight Turks.
CNN: General defends court martial reversal in sex assault case
The general at the center of a military and legal controversy is telling his side of the story for the first time since throwing out the sexual assault conviction of an Air Force officer. Lt. Colonel James Wilkerson III was found guilty last year by a jury of Air Force officers of sexually assaulting a woman at his home outside Aviano Air Base in Italy. He spent four months in a Navy brig before Lt. General Craig Franklin, the convening authority in the case, threw out the verdict. Franklin was the officer who ordered Wilkerson's court martial at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. But military law allowed him to have the final say.
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New Jersey Star-Ledger: Montclair spy house for sale: 4 BR; 1.5 bath; Cold War character
Charming four-bedroom colonial on a quiet, tree-lined street. Good schools. Access to NYC transportation. Previous owners: A couple working undercover as agents of a foreign government. The Montclair spy house is for sale. The house is listed at $444,900, said Lynzey Donahue, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshal’s Service, which put the house on the market this week. Russian spies Richard and Cynthia Murphy, a.k.a., Vladimir and Lydia Guryev, moved out of the house with their two pre-teen daughters after being charged with spying in June 2010. The couple forfeited the house to the U.S. government under a plea deal later that year, and were returned to Russia in a spy swap that had all the intrigue of a John le Carre novel. … Proceeds from the sale of the Montclair house will go to the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund, which is used to compensate crime victims, fund federal law enforcement initiatives, and recover forfeiture-related costs, Donahue said.
LA Times: Baca played a role in handling of FBI informant, sources say
They called it Operation Pandora's Box. Los Angeles County sheriff's officials learned in the summer of 2011 that the FBI had enlisted an inmate in the Men's Central Jail to collect information on allegedly abusive and corrupt deputies. In an unusual move, sheriff's officials responded by moving the inmate, a convicted bank robber, to a different jail under fake names, including Robin Banks. They assigned at least 13 deputies to watch him around the clock, according to documents reviewed by The Times. And when the operation was over, the deputies received an internal email thanking them for helping "without asking to [sic] many questions and prying into the investigation at hand." Whether Pandora's Box was intended to protect the inmate or neutralize him as an FBI informant is a key issue in a federal investigation into brutality in the jails.
WaPo: FDA finds widespread safety issues at compounding pharmacies
Federal inspectors have found dozens of potentially dangerous safety problems at 30 specialized pharmacies, months after tainted steroid shots made by a Massachusetts pharmacy triggered the worst drug disaster in decades. At a Florida company, Food and Drug Administration inspectors discovered “black particles of unknown origin” in seven vials of an injectable medicine. At other facilities, they found rust and mold in “clean rooms,” inadequate microbial testing and tears in gloves worn by technicians — lapses that raise the risk of possible lethal contamination. The inspections, conducted between February and April, marked the first time that the FDA targeted specialized pharmacies, known as compounding pharmacies, since inspectors found filthy conditions at the New England Compounding Center (NECC), the Massachusetts pharmacy at the heart of the fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 53 people and sickened 680 others.
CNN: Explosive device addressed to Arizona sheriff, officials say
A package with an explosive device addressed to tough-talking Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been intercepted in Flagstaff by law enforcement, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said. A bomb team was deployed, and the device neutralized Thursday night, the sheriff's office said.
CNN: Man arrested in connection with Colorado prison chief's death
Colorado authorities on Thursday arrested a man wanted in connection with the March shooting death of state prison chief Tom Clements. Thomas Guolee - referred to as a "person of interest in the Tom Clements murder investigation" - was taken into custody "on an active felony arrest warrant by local authorities in Colorado Springs" around 5:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. ET), the El Paso, Colorado, County Sheriff's Office said. Two hours later, he was being held on "a no bond hold for violation of parole" at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office Criminal Justice Center. Law enforcement authorities in El Paso County and Colorado Springs did not immediately respond to requests Thursday night from CNN for more information, including on how Guolee was arrested and what the arrest warrant was for.
Sacramento Bee: Federal judges deny California bid to end prison oversight
A three-judge federal court on Thursday rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to avoid the court's order to reduce California's prison population, saying if his administration does not further relieve prison overcrowding, the governor and his top prison officials will face contempt of court. Since the motion was filed in early January, Brown and Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard have said that, if their request was denied, they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
LA Times: Brown wants China aboard California's high-speed rail project
Gov. Jerry Brown's trade mission to China this week is intersecting with one of the most controversial issues of his governorship: California's $68-billion bullet train. The governor has staked part of his legacy on the rail network, a centerpiece of his vision for California. He is hoping that China, which is enjoying an economic boom and spent $77.6 billion on overseas investments last year, according to official figures, will pump some of its cash into the troubled project.
Des Moines Register: Iowa Gov. Branstad to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who leaves Friday on a trade mission to China, will meet there Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The governor’s office issued a statement Thursday which said Branstad will continue building Iowa’s long-term relationship with the Chinese leader during the meeting, strengthening ties to one of the state’s most important economic trading partners. The city where the meeting will occur can’t be disclosed for security reasons, said Branstad aide Jimmy Centers.
New Orleans Times Picayune: Jindal not putting up 'barriers' to income tax elimination plans from legislators
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday he won't put any "barriers" on legislative proposals to eliminate the state's income tax and expressed support for plans to phase it out over a number of years. Those proposals could get the governor's approval even if the lawmakers don't immediately come up with a way to make up the lost revenue, Jindal said at a Thursday meeting with reporters. "We're not putting up any barriers to these bills," Jindal said. "Our point is we want to get rid of the income tax. We're open to talking with any legislator that's interested in doing that and working with any legislator that's interested in doing that and any outside group that's interested in getting that done."
San Francisco Chronicle: California decides chemical BPA is toxic
California on Thursday became the latest state to place restrictions on the chemical known as Bisphenol-A and declare it a reproductive toxicant. The chemical, commonly known as BPA, is found in hard plastic bottles, the cans of food and beverages, sales receipts and dental sealants. Growing research suggests that BPA, believed to be found in the bodies of 90 percent of the U.S. population, is an endocrine disruptor linked to infertility and other harm. Consumer health advocates have pushed the state Environmental Protection Agency for years to recognize that BPA causes birth defects.
Jerusalem Post: Report warns of Hezbollah, Iran threats in Balkans
A leading Balkan-based website covering the region’s politics published in late March a comprehensive study on Israeli-Balkan relations and the threat of Hezbollah, along with its chief sponsor Iran. “While the Israelis are, of course, concerned by the occasional manifestations of neo-Nazism, they are currently focusing on Hezbollah – and behind it, Iran – as the main potential threat to their own interests. Israeli diplomats, tourists and local Jewish populations are all regarded as potential targets. In contrast to the case with Balkan-Sunni extremists, however, relatively little research has been published on Hezbollah in the Balkans today,” wrote Chris Deliso, the author of the study. The new report, titled “Israeli security concerns and the Balkans,” was published on the website Balkanalysis.com.
BBC: Mali refugees endure 'appalling' Mauritania camp – MSF
Thousands of Malian refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Mauritania are facing "appalling" conditions in a UN-run camp, a medical charity has warned. Conditions are so bad that healthy people are getting ill after they arrive, says Medecins Sans Frontieres. There is only one toilet for every 3,000 residents and new arrivals are having to build their own shelters. The situation has worsened, MSF says, since France led a military intervention in Mali in January.
CNN: New death in China bird flu crisis as Hong Kong goes on alert
The death toll in China's bird flu crisis stood at 10 on Friday, as Hong Kong authorities announced plans to test all poultry imported from the mainland. A 74-year-old man died on Thursday afternoon in Shanghai after first being diagnosed with pneumonia and then testing positive for the H7N9 avian influenza virus on Wednesday night, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. He was one of three new infection cases diagnosed in the city, as the total number of cases across eastern China climbed to 38, Xinhua said. The other two patients - an 83-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man - are in a stable condition in hospital.
CNN: Thousands invited to Thatcher funeral; UK police step up security
All former U.S. presidents, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and a raft of global dignitaries are invited to the funeral next Wednesday of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Downing Street said Thursday. The guest list also includes representatives of the Reagan family, Nelson Mandela's family and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, alongside sitting British Prime Minister David Cameron. Any members of Thatcher's Cabinet who are still alive and members of the current UK Cabinet, as well as opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband, will also be asked to attend, Cameron's office said.
WSJ: Saddam's Brethren Get Organized
A decade after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime, some of his associates and followers have banded together with other Sunni groups to launch the most substantial bid for Sunni power since the strongman's downfall. Radicals such as Saad Sami al-Obeidi want to bring an end to the political system established in the years after U.S.-led ground forces first rolled into Baghdad on April 9, 2003, and paved the way for a fragile pan-sectarian democracy. Mr. Obeidi, a former regime loyalist who spent months in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq for planning attacks against American soldiers, is a leader of a movement—dominated by mass protests and attracting militant Sunnis as well—that has swept through Iraq's Sunni Arab-dominated provinces.
Financial Times: Cameron woos Merkel again on EU reform
David Cameron will restart his hastily aborted European charm offensive on Friday, telling Angela Merkel that his desire for EU reform is more than just a “shopping list” of British demands. The summit at the German chancellor’s country retreat will be the first substantive meeting between the two leaders since Mr Cameron’s seminal speech in January, where he set out demands for European reform and pledged to hold an in-out referendum on British membership by 2017.
CNN: Chavez's legacy looms large as Venezuelan campaigns close
For the first time in 14 years, Hugo Chavez isn't running for president in Venezuela. But his legacy has loomed large over weeks of intense campaigning. And his words still echo through the South American country - literally. At rallies, a recording of Chavez's voice belting out the national anthem booms through loudspeakers. A phrase Chavez used has become a campaign slogan for Nicolas Maduro, the man Chavez tapped to be his successor. Thursday was no exception.
Wired: Apple Agrees to Pay $53M to Settle iPhone Warranty Lawsuit
Apple is agreeing to pay $53 million to settle a class action accusing the company of failing to honor warranties on iPhones and iPod Touches, according to an agreement obtained today by Wired. The settlement, set to be filed in a San Francisco federal court in the coming weeks, provides cash payouts to potentially hundreds of thousands of iPhone and iPod Touch consumers who found Apple unwilling to repair or replace their faulty phones under Apple’s one-year standard, or a two-year extended, warranty. Apple chief litigation counsel Noreen Krall signed the agreement Wednesday. Apple admits no wrongdoing in the settlement, which needs a judge’s approval. According to several lawsuits combined in San Francisco, no matter what the problem, Apple refused to honor warranties if a white indicator tape embedded in the phone near the headphone or charging portals had turned pink or red. However, the tape’s maker, 3M, said humidity, and not water contact, could have caused the color to at least turn pink.
Bloomberg: Ex-KPMG Partner London Will Plead Guilty, Lawyer Says
Scott London, the former KPMG LLP partner who led the firm’s audit practice in Los Angeles and was charged with passing inside tips to a friend, will plead guilty, his lawyer said. London, 50, was charged by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles with passing inside information about Herbalife Ltd. (HLF) and Skechers USA Inc. in exchange for cash, jewelry and concert tickets. Harland Braun, London’s lawyer, said after his client’s initial court appearance yesterday that he expects him to plead guilty at his arraignment set for May 17.