CNN Washington AM Note
April 26th, 2013
05:39 AM ET
2 years ago

CNN Washington AM Note

NATIONAL STORIES:

CNN: Answers sought over Tsarnaev questioning, court appearance

The Justice Department faces questions over whether it prematurely ended interrogation of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzohkhar Tsarnaev before a court appearance at his hospital bed. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said he was "concerned that these proceedings, which included mandatory administration of Miranda rights, could have been conducted in a manner that prematurely cut off a lawful, ongoing FBI interview." Tsarnaev faced a judicial "first appearance" on Monday at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center three days after being taken into custody for the April 15 bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Latest developments in the Boston bombing investigation

ALSO SEE: NBC: Source: Bombing suspect showed no fear or remorse during hospital hearing

Boston Globe: Mass. antiterror units were not notified of 2011 probe into bombing suspect

Antiterror intelligence units in Massachusetts were never notified that FBI agents had examined the activities of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, further evidence of gaps in the network of post-9/11 measures that may have contributed to insufficient scrutiny of the suspected Marathon bomber. The Boston Regional Intelligence Center and the Commonwealth Fusion Center in Maynard, which are supposed to serve as clearinghouses for information about potential threats, were unaware that the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev as part of a three-month investigation after Russian agents alerted US officials to his increasing radicalization, officials said. “We were not privy to the tip,’’ said David Procopio, the spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, which oversees the Fusion Center. “They didn’t share that information with us.”

ALSO SEE: NYT: Investigators Seek Boston Bombing Suspect’s Laptop

ALSO SEE: CNN: Boston bombing suspects planned Times Square attack, Bloomberg says

CBS: Tamerlan Tsarnaev didn't agree with every "Misha" on Islam

In the aftermath of the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers, his family has spoken of a man by the name of "Misha" who may have influenced Tsarnaev into becoming radicalized. It is unclear who or where this Misha is, but there is one Misha that Tsarnaev did not appear to be a fan of. Tsarnaev, who was killed in a shootout with the Boston authorities Friday, commented two months ago on a YouTube video uploaded on February 13, 2013, entitled: "Mikael: How I converted to Islam and became a Shiite."

WATCH: VIDEO – Brian Todd reports on "Misha," who allegedly radicalized one of the Boston bombing suspects, according to relatives.

Boston Herald: Lawmakers to eye welfare records

The Patrick administration is still keeping the welfare records of the slain marathon bombing mastermind under wraps — after agreeing, under political and public pressure, to release the information only to a House oversight committee where it will remain a secret. Gov. Deval Patrick’s top spokesperson said last night there is an “exception in the law” that allows the welfare records to be shown to state legislators, but that’s where the transparency ends. “The Legislature is not allowed to share it,” said Jesse Mermell, the governor’s director of communications.

CNN: Whereabouts of Boston bombing suspects' father unclear

The father of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was to fly to the United States on Friday to cooperate in the investigation. But his wife called an ambulance for him Thursday and CNN has had no contact with the family since. Anzor Tsarnaev agreed to fly to the United States after FBI agents and Russian officials spoke with them for hours this week at the family's home. Russian authorities have previously expressed suspicions that his wife, Zubeirdat Tsarnaev, and their elder son, Tamerlan, the deceased suspect in the attacks, were following radical ideologies.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Boston suspects' mother shares doubts over Marathon attack

Boston Globe: Carjacking victim describes harrowing night

The 26-year-old Chinese entrepreneur had just pulled his new Mercedes to the curb on Brighton Avenue to answer a text when an old sedan swerved behind him, slamming to a stop. A man in dark clothes got out and approached the passenger window. It was nearly 11 p.m. last Thursday. The man rapped on the glass, speaking quickly. Danny, unable to hear him, lowered the window — and the man reached an arm through, unlocked the door, and climbed in, brandishing a silver handgun. “Don’t be stupid,” he told Danny. He asked if he had followed the news about the previous Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. Danny had, down to the release of the grainy photos of suspects less than six hours earlier. “I did that,” said the man, who would later be identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev. “And I just killed a policeman in Cambridge.”

CNN: Records: Texas plant hadn't told feds about explosive fertilizer

The fertilizer plant that blew up in Texas last week warned state and local officials but not federal agencies that it had 270 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate on site, according to regulatory records. The April 17 fire and explosion at West Fertilizer Co. killed 14 people and devastated the small town of West, Texas. Investigators have said they're not sure how much ammonium nitrate was actually on site at the time of the explosion, however, since plant records were destroyed in the blast. The company sold ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia, both commonly used as fertilizers. It had notified state and local emergency management officials of its stock of both in its most recent declaration of hazardous chemicals, filed in February.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama tells families of Texas blast victims that nation will help them recover

LA Times: HIV vaccine trial shut down

In another major setback for efforts to develop an HIV vaccine, federal researchers have shut down a key clinical trial after an independent panel of safety experts determined that volunteers who got an experimental vaccine appeared to be slightly more likely to contract the human immunodeficiency virus than those who got a placebo. Investigators involved in recruiting volunteers and running the trial at 21 sites across the country were ordered Tuesday morning to stop immunizing volunteers with the genetically engineered HVTN 505 vaccine and to inform the nearly 2,500 people who participated in the study whether they got the vaccine or the placebo. All of the volunteers were men or transgender people who have sex with men.

Bloomberg: Cancer Therapy Cost Too High for Patients, Doctors Say

Cancer medicines that cost more than $100,000 a year aren’t morally justifiable and may keep patients from getting life-saving treatments, a group of more than 100 leukemia doctors said. Of the 12 cancer medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, 11 cost more than $100,000 annually, the physicians said in an article in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology, published online. The paper highlights the debate over how much leeway drugmakers such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE) should have in setting the prices of new cancer medicines and whether pricing practices harm patients and health-care systems. While companies should be allowed to profit, a product that can help a patient survive should be priced affordably, the cancer specialists wrote.

WHITE HOUSE:

NYT: Democratic Senators Tell White House of Concerns About Health Care Law Rollout

Democratic senators, at a caucus meeting with White House officials, expressed concerns on Thursday about how the Obama administration was carrying out the health care law they adopted three years ago. Democrats in both houses of Congress said some members of their party were getting nervous that they could pay a political price if the rollout of the law was messy or if premiums went up significantly. President Obama’s new chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, fielded questions on the issue for more than an hour at a lunch with Democratic senators.

Haaretz: U.S. denies plan to convene 4-way Mideast summit in June

The Obama administration Thursday denied a Haaretz report about plans to convene a four way Middle East peace summit in which President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah will participate. Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council Spokesperson said "We have the seen the media reports of a planned Middle East Peace summit in Washington. These reports are not true. We remain committed to working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations."

CNN: Biden reassures gun groups

Vice President Joe Biden reassured leading gun control groups Thursday that the administration remains committed to pushing an expansion of background checks for gun purchases through Congress, according to one of the event's attendees. Biden, who has led the administration's efforts on gun control in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, told the meeting of about 15 participants that despite last week's defeat of a bi-partisan measure in the Senate to expand checks at gun shows and online sales, that this was just the beginning.

ALSO SEE: Des Moines Register: NRA chief in Iowa: Obama's 'tantrum' over gun reform was unseemly

CAPITOL HILL:

CNN: House set to vote on proposal to end air traffic controller furloughs

Lawmakers are expected to take up a proposal Friday aimed at ending budget-related air traffic controller furloughs that have been blamed for widespread flight delays. The U.S. Senate approved the measure Thursday. The House of Representatives is set to vote Friday, ending a major effort by both chambers as delays snarled traffic at airports. The bipartisan agreement giving Transportation Department budget planners new flexibility for dealing with forced spending cuts cleared the chamber unanimously.

WSJ: House Immigration Differences Emerge

Tensions between the House and Senate approaches to overhauling immigration law emerged Thursday, as a House committee chairman said he would undertake a piecemeal approach rather than pursue a single comprehensive measure, as the Senate is considering. Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R., Va.), who leads the House Judiciary Committee, said he plans to start with a measure creating an agricultural guest-worker program, followed by a bill requiring employers to use a federal system to determine prospective employees' legal status. Mr. Goodlatte declined to say how many bills he would pursue or whether one would provide a pathway to legal residency for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S. He said he doesn't back granting citizenship to the group—as the Senate legislation would allow—but would be in favor of some form of legal status.

CNN: Top House Democrat calls on Boehner to retract Benghazi report, apologize to Clinton

A senior House Democrat wants Republicans to retract a report claiming that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally signed off on security cuts at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which later was targeted in a deadly terror attack. Republicans argued the conclusion, released this week, contradicted her congressional testimony on the matter, which was the subject of intense scrutiny. Maryland Rep Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the GOP finding was false and lacked a basic understanding of State Department procedure.

NYT: Senators Quietly Seeking New Path on Gun Control

Talks to revive gun control legislation are quietly under way on Capitol Hill as a bipartisan group of senators seeks a way to bridge the differences that led to last week’s collapse of the most serious effort to overhaul the country’s gun laws in 20 years. Drawing on the lessons from battles in the 1980s and ’90s over the Brady Bill, which failed in Congress several times before ultimately passing, gun control supporters believe they can prevail by working on a two-pronged strategy. First, they are identifying senators who might be willing to change their votes and support a background check system with fewer loopholes. Second, they are looking to build a national campaign that would better harness overwhelming public support for universal background checks — which many national polls put at near 90 percent approval — to pressure lawmakers.

Fox News: Reps challenge DHS ammo buys, say agency using 1,000 more rounds per person than Army

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz said Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security is using roughly 1,000 rounds of ammunition more per person than the U.S. Army, as he and other lawmakers sharply questioned DHS officials on their "massive" bullet buys.

"It is entirely ... inexplicable why the Department of Homeland Security needs so much ammunition," Chaffetz, R-Utah, said at a hearing.  The hearing itself was unusual, as questions about the department's ammunition purchases until recently had bubbled largely under the radar - on blogs and in the occasional news article. But as the Department of Homeland Security found itself publicly defending the purchases, lawmakers gradually showed more interest in the issue.  Democratic Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., at the opening of the hearing, ridiculed the concerns as "conspiracy theories" which have "no place" in the committee room.  But Republicans said the purchases raise "serious" questions about waste and accountability.

ALSO SEE: Washington Free Beacon: GOP Bill Seeks to Cut Back Government Ammo Purchases

Politico: The Tea Party Caucus returns

The Tea Party Caucus is back in action with a new strategy and a growing membership. Roughly 20 House Republicans attended a closed-door meeting Thursday evening in the Rayburn House Office Building, along with staffers from nearly 40 congressional offices, including those of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul. It comes as conservatives continue to flex their muscle, making life difficult for GOP leaders in the House on issues like Obamacare, and as the debate on immigration legislation heats up.

Roll Call: GOP at Cross Purposes on 'Obamacare'

To repeal or dismantle? That is the internal debate roiling House Republicans as they plot their strategy on the landmark 2010 health care law, as its implementation accelerates. Recognizing that neither President Barack Obama nor the Democratic Senate will entertain legislation that fully repeals the Affordable Care Act, House GOP leaders are pushing their conference to embrace a series of messaging bills altering or dismantling pieces of the law to publicize for voters what Republicans argue are the statute’s many failed and damaging policies. Their goal is to turn the law into an issue they can use against Democrats in the 2014 midterms.

POLITICAL:

WaPo: Cuccinelli to air first TV ad of Va. race

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II plans to launch the first television ad of the Virginia governor’s race with a spot set to start airing statewide Monday. The 30-second commercial features Teiro Cuccinelli, wife of the presumptive Republican nominee, talking about his work with the homeless and the mentally ill and about his efforts to combat sexual predators.

CNN: 5 presidents on hand for Bush Center dedication

Some may disagree whether George W. Bush was a "uniter, not a divider," as he liked to say, but he did get all five living presidents together for the dedication of his presidential library. At Thursday's event in Dallas, Democratic former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton praised Bush for his initiatives in Africa, and Bush defended his record.

WATCH: VIDEO – Former first lady Laura Bush gives CNN's John King a tour of the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

NATIONAL SECURITY:

CNN: U.S.: Intelligence points to small-scale use of sarin in Syria

The United States has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday. But numerous questions remain about the origins of the chemical and what effect its apparent use could have on the ongoing Syrian civil war and international involvement in it. When asked whether the intelligence community's conclusion pushed the situation across President Barack Obama's "red line" that could trigger more U.S. involvement in the war, Hagel said it's too soon to say.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Sarin in Syria: What's the United States' next move?

WATCH: VIDEO – CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Jordan about what the United States is going to if it needs to secure chemical weapons.

NYT: North Korea Issues Threat at Ceremony for Military

On an anniversary known for military showmanship, North Korean generals on Thursday declared that their forces were ready to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles and kamikazelike nuclear attacks at the United States if threatened.  “Stalwart pilots, once given a sortie order, will load nuclear bombs, instead of fuel for return, and storm enemy strongholds to blow them up,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted its Air and Anti-Air Force commander, Ri Pyong-chol, as saying during a ceremony in observance of the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People’s Army. Another general, Kim Rak-gyom, the Strategic Rocket Force commander, reiterated the claim that the North is “one click away from pushing the launch button.”

ALSO SEE: CNN: North Korea shuns South's offer of talks on joint industrial zone

AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:

CNN: Former federal employee charged in Cuba spy conspiracy case

A former U.S. federal employee helped recruit Cuban spies, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday. A grand jury indictment alleges that Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, a former legal officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development, received orders from the Cuban Intelligence Service, helped pass documents about U.S. defense to Havana and helped a spy for Cuba obtain a position in the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

CNN: Japan OKs Dreamliners to fly again

Japan has authorized passenger airlines to resume flights of Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the country starting Friday, authorities said. The move follows the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's online posting Thursday of a directive outlining the modifications necessary for the Dreamliner to fly again after faulty battery systems grounded the aircraft earlier this year. The directive goes into effect upon publication Friday in the U.S. Federal Register.

CNN: Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs law restricting drones

A new Florida law restricts police use of drones within the state's borders. Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure Thursday, saying it will protect the state's residents from "unwarranted surveillance." Before local or state law enforcement agencies can use surveillance drones, the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act requires a judge to approve in nearly all cases. The legislation makes exceptions in cases involving "imminent danger to life or serious damage to property" and when "credible intelligence" from the federal Department of Homeland Security points to "a high risk of a terrorist attack."

WaPo: Often unloved, ATF critical to solving major crimes like Boston bombing

It’s the agency that Congress and the National Rifle Association love to hate. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which hasn’t had a director in seven years, has been at the heart of two searing events over the past two weeks — the investigations of the Boston Marathon bombing and the explosion that leveled a fertilizer plant and part of a town in central Texas. In the hours after the coordinated blasts near the finish line of the April 15 marathon, ATF agents were on their hands and knees on Boylston Street. They were scouring the debris for remnants of the bombs, the first excruciating steps in reconstructing the devices. Two days later, a massive explosion occurred at a fertilizer plant in West, Tex. Since then, dozens of ATF investigators, along with local and state agents, have been sifting through a deep crater that was once a factory and the vast expanse of charred ground that spreads out from the center of the blast.

REGIONAL HEADLINES:

Hartford Courant: Gov. Malloy To Announce Support For Minimum Wage Increase

Gov. Daniel P. Malloy Friday will announce he supports raising the state minimum wage to $9 over the next two years. Sources who have been briefed on the proposal said Thursday evening the governor will endorse a plan to increase the current state level of $8.25 in increments over the next two years until it reaches $9 in 2015. He does not, however, support indexing it to inflation afterward, which was a policy included in the federal budget proposal President Obama released earlier this month. Obama's proposal also calls for raising that federal minimum wage to $9 by 2015.

Baltimore Sun: Report warned of jail officer's alleged gang ties in 2006

One of the corrections officers accused this week of helping Black Guerrilla Family members smuggle drugs into a Baltimore jail was flagged seven years ago for alleged gang ties. A state investigator raised concerns in 2006 that Antonia Allison might have been linked to the Bloods. Federal prosecutors this week accused Allison of working with a BGF member who was an inmate at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The fact that Allison continued to work at the jail after the investigator's report raised new questions as the state continues to grapple with the corruption scandal at the troubled state institution.

Denver Post: Colorado court upholds firing for off-the-job medical marijuana use

Coloradans who use medical marijuana off the clock can be fired from their jobs for doing so even if they aren't impaired on the job, an appeals court ruled Thursday in a major decision. A divided Colorado Court of Appeals panel upheld the firing of a quadriplegic man for off-the-job medical-marijuana use, concluding that, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, employees have no protection to use it anytime. The 2-1 decision — which is precedent-setting — has broad implications not just for the state's nearly 109,000 medical-marijuana patients but for any adult using marijuana in Colorado since voters legalized the substance in November. The case is the first to look at whether off-duty marijuana use that is legal under state law is protected by Colorado's Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. The statute says employers can't fire employees for doing legal things off the clock.

Tampa Bay Times: U.S. Department of Labor blasts Florida's unemployment aid program

The U.S. Department of Labor slammed the state of Florida for making it difficult for some unemployed people to get jobless benefits, particularly the disabled and those who speak Spanish or Creole. Federal officials found that Florida violated the civil rights of unemployed individuals, beginning in 2011, when it required them to apply online for benefits and take an "assessment" before receiving any unemployment check. In response, the state Department of Economic Opportunity has agreed to enter negotiations with the Labor Department to make appropriate changes. Failing to do so could lead to Florida losing millions of dollars in federal aid for the program.

Salt Lake City Tribune: Mormon church endorses Scout plan: let gay boys join, keep out gay leaders

The compromise proposal from the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay youths to join local troops — while continuing to exclude gay leaders — has picked up a powerful backer: the LDS Church. The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the nation’s largest Scouting sponsor, announced late Thursday that it is "satisfied" with the BSA’s plan. “Over the past several weeks BSA has undertaken the difficult task of reviewing its membership standards policy. In their own words, this undertaking has been ‘the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history.’ “While the church has not launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change, we have followed the discussion and are satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain ‘among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.’

NY Post: Condos eyed at mosque

Developers behind the controversial and stalled “Ground Zero mosque” may scrap plans to turn their properties into an Islamic cultural center — and instead make them condos. Sharif El-Gamal has been in talks about turning the property at 43 Park Place into residential units — with a mosque and possible community-center element, according to brokers familiar with the developer’s plans. El-Gamal’s lawyer, Adam Leitman Bailey, told The Post that his client is currently considering all his options. “He has not yet determined his use of the property,” Bailey said. “But condos are a possibility.”

INTERNATIONAL:

National Post: Canada tried, failed to deport VIA Rail terror suspect nine years ago

Canadian immigration authorities tried to deport one of the Toronto VIA Rail terror suspects nine years ago but never did so because, as a stateless Palestinian, he could not be sent to any other country, documents first obtained by the National Post show. As reported in the Post, Raed’s father, Mohammed Jaser, was born in Jaffa, in what is now Israel, to Sunni Muslim Palestinian parents. His mother is a Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia. As an infant, Mohammed Jaser moved with his parents to the Gaza Strip, which was then controlled by Egypt. Jaser told Canadian immigration officials years later that his family was forced to leave Israel when it was established as a state, and all their land and belongings were seized. Raed Jaser was allegedly working illegally under several aliases when he was arrested in August, 2004, on an outstanding immigration warrant. Officials wanted to deport him because he had a string of criminal convictions but were ordered to set him free after two days.

ALSO SEE: Reuters: Canada train plot suspect traveled to Iran -U.S. officials

CNN: Death toll in Bangladesh building collapse keeps rising

The death toll from the building collapse near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka continued to creep steadily higher on Friday as rescuers kept up their grim search for survivors trapped in the ruined structure. About sixty people were recovered alive from the wreckage Friday morning and rushed to hospital, the national news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) reported citing police. But hundreds more were feared to still be trapped inside the pile of rubble, over which the stench of death hovered.

CNN: Serbia's president declines to define killing of 8,000 in Srebrenica as 'genocide'

Serbia's president apologized Thursday for the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, but declined to characterize the killings as an act of genocide. "I kneel and ask for forgiveness," President Tomislav Nikolic told Bosnian TV. "I apologize for the crimes committed by any person in the name of Serbia." Nikolic came under fire last year short after he was elected by declaring, according to published reports, there was no "genocide" in Srebrenica. He has since been urged by Bosnian leaders to acknowledge the killings, which the prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have described as a systematic extermination.

CNN: Kurdish rebels to start withdrawing from Turkey in May

The Kurdish rebel group that has fought a guerrilla war against the Turkish state for the past 30 years announced it would begin withdrawing its fighters from Turkey to neighboring countries. The field commander of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, argued that the withdrawal demonstrated his movement's commitment to peace. "It is the ultimate goal of not only ours but also of everyone siding with peace, brotherhood, democracy and freedom to accomplish this historic step, which will enable a solution to the Kurdish question, bring democracy to Turkey and pave the way for peace in the Middle East," said PKK leader Murat Karayilan, according to the pro-PKK Firat News Agency.

CNN: U.N. Security Council signs off on 12,600 peacekeepers for Mali

The U.N. Security Council signed off Thursday on a 12,600-member peacekeeping force in Mali that will be authorized "to use all necessary means" to protect civilians and cultural artifacts. "We know it's going to be a fairly volatile environment," Herve Ladsous, the U.N. undersecretary for peacekeeping operations, said. The resolution was proposed by France, which deployed about 4,000 troops to Mali in January to drive out Islamist militants who attempted to take control of the country.

BBC: Musharraf remanded over Benazir Bhutto case

A Pakistani court has ordered house arrest for ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf in connection with the death of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. He was arrested late on Thursday over the long-standing accusation of failing to provide enough security for Ms Bhutto after she returned from exile. Her assassination at an election rally in Rawalpindi that year was blamed by his government on the Taliban. Under the terms of the order he will be held under house arrest for three days.

BUSINESS:

Financial Times: Latin America leads in fight to run WTO

The race to lead the World Trade Organisation has narrowed to Herminio Blanco of Mexico and Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil, giving Latin America the top job in global trade for the first time and offering further evidence of the region’s mounting economic clout. People familiar with the matter on Thursday said Mr Blanco, Mexico’s former trade and industry minister, and Mr Azevêdo, Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO edged out candidates from New Zealand, Indonesia and South Korea in the latest round of the contest. A final decision is expected by the end of May, allowing a successor to be in place by the time Pascal Lamy departs his post as WTO head on August 31.

Reuters: First-quarter GDP seen at 3 percent but momentum ebbs

Economic growth probably gained steam in the first quarter on strong consumer spending, but the momentum is already ebbing and could slow further as the impact of automatic government spending cuts kick in. Gross domestic product likely expanded at a 3.0 percent annual rate, according to a Reuters poll of economists, after growth nearly stalled at 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter. Part of the expected acceleration in activity will reflect farmers filling up silos after a drought last summer decimated crop output. Removing farm inventories, growth would probably be around a mediocre 2 percent rate, economists said.

The Guardian: Accountancy firms 'use knowledge of Treasury to help rich avoid tax' – MPs

The so-called "big four" accountancy firms are using knowledge gained from staff seconded to the Treasury to help wealthy clients avoid paying UK taxes, a report by the influential Commons public accounts committee says. Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers have provided the government with expert accountants to draw up tax laws. But the firms went on to advise multinationals and individuals on how to exploit loopholes around legislation they had helped to write, the public accounts committee (PAC) found. Margaret Hodge, the PAC's chair, said the actions of the accountancy firms were tantamount to a scam and represented a "ridiculous conflict of interest" which must be stopped.

Financial Times: Google search proves to be new word in stock market prediction

Searches of financial terms on Google can be used to predict the direction of the stock market, according to an analysis of search engine behaviour stretching back nearly a decade. The research, by UK and US academics, is the latest attempt to mine online behaviour patterns for clues about future movements in financial markets. The findings appeared to show that people do more searches on terms such as “stocks”, “portfolio” and “economics” when they are worried about the state of the markets, said Tobias Preis, associate professor of behavioural science and finance at Warwick Business School.

 


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