CNN Washington AM Note
April 29th, 2013
05:38 AM ET
1 year ago

CNN Washington AM Note

BREAKING OVERNIGHT:

CNN: Bomb targets Syria's PM – but he's unhurt

A bomb apparently targeting Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi went off Monday in a Damascus neighborhood - but the prime minister was unharmed. Both Syrian state television and the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the incident. One person was killed in the attack, the observatory said.

NATIONAL STORIES:

CNN: From dorm to prison cell: Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's new digs

Less than two weeks after he partied with classmates in a college dorm, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev now lives in drastically different surroundings. The 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect is locked inside a 10-by-10-foot cell with a steel door, a slot for food and an observation window, a prison spokesman said Sunday. Tsarnaev is able to speak and has been interacting with staff at the Federal Medical Center Devens, spokesman John Colautti said.

ALSO SEE: CNN: ‘Disgraceful’ decision to end Boston suspect’s interrogation, GOP lawmaker says

CNN: Official: Russia heard Boston suspects' mother 'discussing jihad'

Russia intercepted a communication between the mother of the accused Boston Marathon bombers and someone who may have been one of her sons "discussing jihad" in 2011, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation. This source described the conversation as vague. The Russians turned over the intercept to the FBI in the past few days, the official said. This source was not aware of a reason for the delay and did not offer an opinion about whether it would have given the FBI enough reason to justify a closer look at Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the oldest of the two brothers suspected of killing three people near the finish of the marathon on April 15.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Lawmakers: Perfect system for preventing attacks doesn't exist

WSJ: Officials Seek to Question Suspect's Widow

U.S. authorities are investigating up to six associates of the accused Boston bombers to determine if they had any involvement in the plot or in disposing of evidence, U.S. law-enforcement officials briefed on the probe said, as investigators seek to learn more about the alleged attackers' bomb-making. Chief among those that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are interested in questioning is Katherine Russell, alleged bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, the officials said. Officials are discussing a possible subpoena to try to question her, though they would prefer to negotiate a voluntary interview, the officials said.

WaPo: Antiabortion group releases videos of clinic workers discussing live births

An antiabortion group that mounted a six-month undercover investigation has released videos this week that raise questions about what might happen to a baby as a result of an unsuccessful abortion. One video features a D.C. doctor, Cesare Santangelo, who said that in the unlikely event that an abortion resulted in a live birth, “we would not help it.” Santangelo was answering repeated questions from an undercover operative about what would happen, hypothetically, if she gave birth after an unsuccessful abortion. “I mean, technically, you know, legally, we would be obligated to help it, you know, to survive, but . . . it probably wouldn’t,” Santangelo is shown telling the woman, who was 24 weeks pregnant. “It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point.”

CNN: No suspects in California girl's stabbing death, officials say

Investigators have no suspect in the stabbing death of an 8-year-old girl in her California home Saturday, a law enforcement official said Sunday. Leila Fowler's brother found the child with "severe injuries" in the Calaveras County, California, home Saturday, and she was pronounced dead later at a hospital, according to Calaveras County Sheriff Capt. Jim Macedo. Her parents were "nearby at a public event" at the time, Macedo told reporters. The brother, who was not named, "is not a suspect at this time, but we are continuing to talk to him, which would be normal because he was the last person with the child," he said. Detectives are tracking down dozens of leads phoned into a tip line created Saturday, including some leading to other counties, he said.

WHITE HOUSE:

CNN: Source: Charlotte mayor to be nominated for transportation secretary

President Barack Obama will tap Anthony Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday to become his next transportation secretary, a White House official with knowledge of his decision said Sunday. If confirmed by the Senate, Foxx would replace Ray LaHood, who said in January he wouldn’t serve a second term. LaHood has said he will remain in his post until a successor is confirmed. Foxx, first elected mayor in 2009, helped lead last summer’s Democratic National Convention in the Queen City.

ALSO SEE: Reuters: Froman, Pritzker in line for trade and commerce posts: sources

LA Times: President Obama's Mexico visit comes with backdrop of uncertainty

President Obama travels to Mexico this week amid signs that the relationship between the United States and its southern neighbor's new government faces a new period of uncertainty after years of unprecedented closeness forged by the deadly war against Mexican drug cartels. The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is said to be wary of the level of U.S. involvement in security affairs that characterized the administration of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. As a result, the Mexican government is expected to narrow U.S. involvement in its attorney general's office and Interior Ministry, the agencies that oversee police and intelligence, current and former U.S. and Mexican officials say. Instead, Peña Nieto and officials from his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, want to concentrate U.S. participation in less sensitive but potentially profitable areas such as the economy.

CAPITOL HILL:

CNN: Background checks ‘absolutely’ still alive in Congress, says Manchin

A measure expanding background checks on gun sales that was defeated in the Senate two weeks ago can still be revised and approved in the chamber, one of the bill’s authors argued on Sunday. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said the legislation he wrote with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania had caused confusion among his collegues, which contributed to its failure earlier this month. “The only thing that we've asked for is that people would just read the bill. It's a criminal and mental background checks strictly at gun shows and online sales,” Manchin said on “Fox News Sunday,” saying the confusion arose from a misperception that gun owners’ purchases would be tracked by the federal government.

The Hill: Cuban-American lawmakers press White House to keep Cuba on terror list

Cuban-American lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration to keep Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism as the State Department prepares to release its annual assessment next week. The four Cuban-Americans in the House are drafting a joint letter to Secretary of State John Kerry laying out why they think the communist island still meets the criteria established by the 1979 sanctions law. And the Senate's three Cuban-Americans are also vocally opposed to delisting Cuba, which was first added in 1982. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told The Hill she's collaborating with Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) on a letter urging the State Department to retain Cuba alongside Iran, Syria and Sudan.

CNN: FAA suspends furloughs, typo or not

A typo is keeping President Obama from signing legislation designed to end budget-related FAA air traffic controller furloughs blamed for widespread flight delays, a congressional source told CNN Saturday. But the fix is going into effect anyway, and the system will be back to normal by Sunday, the FAA said. Apparently the holdup boils down to an "s" needing to be added somewhere in the Senate version of the bill - it's not clear which word is the culprit. The House fixed the typo in the version it passed Friday, and the Senate plans to fix it on Tuesday, a senior House GOP aide told CNN. The FAA "is not impacted," the source said.

POLITICAL:

NYT: Massachusetts Voters Reminded Senate Primaries Are at Hand

Getting voters’ attention for a special election at an unexpected time of year is hard enough. It is even harder when the airwaves have been taken over by wall-to-wall coverage of a major disaster of the sort that struck the Boston Marathon two weeks ago. The campaigns for the Senate seat vacated this year by John Kerry, who is now secretary of state, screeched to a halt after the marathon bombings on April 15. They have sprung to life in recent days in a scramble to make up for lost time before voters go to the polls on Tuesday for the party primaries, but state officials still expect a turnout of just 15 percent of the electorate.

Politico: Could Kirsten Gillibrand run for president?

There’s a female politician from New York who is beloved by gay rights activists, has amassed a national fundraising network and is viewed by many Democrats as a viable presidential candidate. And her name is not Hillary Clinton. If Clinton runs for president, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s time won’t be in 2016. But the junior senator from New York, who holds Clinton’s former seat and is often overshadowed by the state’s better-known political figures, is quietly building a résumé that would allow her to be taken seriously should she ever decide to run for president.

The Hill: Paul’s ascent brings new scrutiny ahead of possible 2016 campaign   

Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) rapid ascent to prominence has not been entirely smooth, and Republicans and supporters alike warn that he’ll have to improve his message and the way he communicates it if he hopes to launch a credible campaign in 2016. Paul faced a rocky April, with a widely-criticized speech to Howard University, followed by a call for restraint on immigration reform that baffled some supporters and culminating with him appearing to contradict his prominent opposition to domestic drone strikes. His stumbles have not yet punctured Paul’s trial balloon — a recent poll gave him a slight lead in the Republican field in significant early-primary state New Hampshire. But some political watchers say Paul will have to focus his message over the next three years to maintain that lead.

NY Post: If Hillary is running for prez, I’m out

Gov. Cuomo has quietly told associates that he is resigned to the fact that he can’t run for president in 2016 if Hillary Rodham Clinton enters the race, as is widely expected, sources told The Post. “The governor has told people in recent weeks that there’s not a chance for him to run if Hillary gets in the race because she’ll easily wrap up the Democratic nomination,’’ said a Cuomo administration insider with direct knowledge of the situation. “He knows that and he accepts that, and so he won’t even be thinking at all in those terms — unless Hillary decides not to run, which seems unlikely,’’ the source continued.

NYT: Push to Require Online Sales Tax Divides the G.O.P.

Legislation that would force Internet retailers to collect sales taxes from their customers has put antitax and small-government activists like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Heritage Foundation in an unusual position: they’re losing. For years, conservative Republican lawmakers have been influenced heavily by the antitax activists in Washington, who have dictated outcomes and become the arbiters of what is and is not a tax increase. But on the question of Internet taxation, their voices have begun to be drowned out by the pleas of struggling retailers back home who complain that their online competitors enjoy an unfair price advantage.

NATIONAL SECURITY:

NYT: With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan

For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency. All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader. “We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.” The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.

CNN: Report: U.S. citizen faces trial in North Korea

North Korea plans to begin a trial against a U.S. citizen detained there last year, state media said Saturday, complicating tense relations between the two nations. Pae Jun Ho entered North Korea as a tourist on November 3, according to the Korean Central News Agency. After his detention, evidence revealed he had committed an unspecified crime against the country, the news agency said. The agency said he confessed to the alleged offense, but did not say what it was.

WSJ: U.S. Weighs Syria Response

Lawmakers pressed the Obama administration to intervene in Syria's civil war, citing the regime's alleged chemical-weapons use, as the White House weighed its response against a sobering fact: Damascus has developed a world class air-defense system. That system, built, installed and maintained—largely in secret—by Russia's military complex, presents a formidable deterrent as the White House draws up options for responding to a U.S. intelligence report released last week concluding that Damascus likely used chemical weapons on the battlefield. Leading Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Sunday said they didn't believe the U.S. should send American troops into Syria. They and the Obama administration are wary about U.S. involvement in another Middle East conflict after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But some called for a no-fly zone and more humanitarian aid.

ALSO SEE: CNN: McCain: ‘Angry and bitter’ Syrians need America’s help

NYT: Israel Says It’s Not Seeking U.S. Intervention in Syria, Despite Chemical Arms

A senior Israeli official said Sunday that Israel was not urging the United States to take military action in Syria, despite intelligence assessments asserting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad recently used chemical weapons in the civil war gripping its country. The official, Yuval Steinitz, the minister of strategic and intelligence affairs and international relations, also said that his government saw no comparison between American policy toward Syria and the Obama administration’s announced intention to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capability. “We never asked, nor did we encourage, the United States to take military action in Syria,” Mr. Steinitz said at a conference in New York sponsored by The Jerusalem Post. “And we are not making any comparison or linkage with Iran, which is a completely different matter.”

BuzzFeed: General David Petraeus' New Campaign

There is a quiet and conventional path from shame to redemption for American political figures brought down by personal sins, and David Petraeus has, just six months after resigning as director of the CIA, followed it with his signature focus on strategy and on his own image. The former Iraq and Afghanistan commander, who resigned after an indiscreet extramarital affair, has mounted a two-pronged campaign on Washington, D.C. From the outside, he has chosen a safe and important charitable cause, the reintegration of veterans into American life. Meanwhile, on the inside, there are signs of just the right sort of Washington insurgency: Petraeus has not attempted the kind of brash, frontal, and unapologetic return former Rep. Anthony Weiner is trying in New York. Instead, he's barely visible, working with the ubiquitous Beltway fixer Bob Barnett, though he has no book project or paid speaking tour in the works.

CNN: All 4 service members killed in Afghanistan plane crash are Americans

Four NATO service members killed over the weekend in a plane crash in southern Afghanistan were Americans. The MC-12 crashed Saturday. The cause of the crash is under investigation but there was apparently no enemy activity in the area.

AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:

CNN: Web of small town intrigue envelops Mississippi ricin case

Was it a tiff between an Elvis impersonator and a martial arts instructor in the birthplace of the King that caused headlines around the world? We may find out Monday when a former tae kwon do instructor from Tupelo, Mississippi, appears in court, accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and others. James Everett Dutschke, 41, has been charged with possession and use of a biological agent as a weapon in connection with the investigation. He had denied the allegations. His arrest last week was just the latest head-scratching twist in a tale of small-town intrigue, interconnected relationships and calculated moves targeting public officials.

WaPo: Panel seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders

A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Face­book and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort. Driven by FBI concerns that it is unable to tap the Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals, the task force’s proposal would penalize companies that failed to heed wiretap orders — court authorizations for the government to intercept suspects’ communications. Rather than antagonizing companies whose cooperation they need, federal officials typically back off when a company is resistant, industry and former officials said. But law enforcement officials say the cloak drawn on suspects’ online activities — what the FBI calls the “going dark” problem — means that critical evidence can be missed.

CNN: Boeing Dreamliner takes flight in Japan for first time in months

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off Sunday from a Tokyo airport, the first such flight in Japan since safety issues grounded the Dreamliner fleet, officials told CNN. Japan had authorized passenger airlines to resume flying the embattled aircraft in the country starting Friday, authorities said. The first test flight in Japan was Sunday, All Nippon Airways officials said.

REGIONAL HEADLINES:

Baltimore Sun: Investigators say gang turned city jail into 'stronghold'

Corrections officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center were preparing for a middle-of-the-night search of jail cells, aimed at rooting out drugs, cellphones, weapons and any other contraband inmates had stashed away. But the officers weren't the only ones getting ready. Hours before the planned checks in January, an FBI affidavit says, word reached Tavon White, an inmate who prosecutors say reigned as the jailhouse leader of a violent gang called the Black Guerrilla Family. White's alleged tipster, according to court records: a corrections officer at the jail. The advance warning vividly illustrates the success with which federal authorities believe the BGF turned the downtown Baltimore detention center into a gang "stronghold."

Boston Globe: Boston Police commissioner to be UMass keynote speaker

Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis will be the keynote speaker for the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s spring undergraduate commencement, the school announced Sunday.  In a press release, UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan referred to Davis as “a symbol of strength” for his leadership during the Boston Marathon bombings.  Before becoming head of the Boston Police Department in 2006, Davis was superintendent of the Lowell Police Department for 12 years and helped reduce crime there by 60 percent, according to the university. Davis, a native of Lowell, holds criminal justice degrees from Southern New Hampshire University and Anna Maria College and completed a National Institute of Justice fellowship at Harvard University.

INTERNATIONAL:

CNN: In ruins of collapsed building, a desperate search for survivors in Bangladesh

Seventy-two hours. In any calamity, the first 72 hours are critical. The chances of finding survivors dwindle significantly after that. But in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, Sunday marks day four of a catastrophic building collapse. And miraculously, from the rubble of mangled metal and cement, the living continue to emerge. Authorities rescued four people from the crumbled nine-story building Sunday morning - and rumors flew that more have been spotted in a small pocket in the sandwiched structure. If true, the new survivors will add to the growing total of people pulled out alive, which already stands at more than 2,400.

BBC: Last South Korean workers 'set to leave Kaesong'

South Korea is set to pull the last of its workers out of a joint industrial zone in North Korea, as Seoul announced moves to help affected firms. A total of 125 South Koreans left the Kaesong complex on Saturday, and the remaining 50 are expected to withdraw on Monday, officials say. The move came after North Korea pulled out its own workers and rejected talks on the industrial park. Tensions are high following Pyongyang's third nuclear test in February.

CNN: Another pre-election bombing in Pakistan leaves 6 dead

A man in a motorcycle detonated explosives Monday near a police van in northwest Pakistan, killing at least six people and wounding more than 30, police said. The explosion took place on a busy road in the city of Peshawar. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. It was the latest deadly blast to rattle the country ahead of national elections next month. On Sunday, at least eight people were killed as the Pakistani Taliban continued to attack candidates in that country's upcoming vote, police said.

CNN: Taliban kill 3 officers in spring offensive, vow more attacks

The Taliban have launched their spring offensive, their annual spate of attacks targeting foreign bases, government officials and Afghan police, a Taliban spokesman said Sunday. On Sunday morning, a roadside bomb killed three police officers in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, provincial spokesman Nabi Jan said. A Ghanzi deputy police chief was among those killed, and two other officers were injured, Jan said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack - and said more will come.

CNN: Blasts near outdoor markets kill 13 in Iraq

At least 13 people were killed and more than 40 others were wounded Monday when three car bombs exploded in two Shiite provinces, Iraqi officials said. In Amara, located in Maysan province about 350 kilometers (217 miles) south of Baghdad, two car bombs exploded near a busy outdoor market, killing seven people and wounding 20 others. In Diwaniya, about 200 kilometers south of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near another outdoor market, killing six people and wounding 24 others. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, nor was it clear whether they were related. But Iraq has seen an uptick in violence in recent months.

CNN: Libya's foreign ministry cut off by men wielding anti-aircraft guns, official says

Armed men in trucks with anti-aircraft guns mounted on them surrounded the Libyan Foreign Ministry in Tripoli early Sunday and refused to allow ministry staff to enter the building, a ministry official said. Gunmen diverted traffic away from the ministry in central Tripoli as they continued the siege through the day. In a news conference at the scene, protesters said they had a list of demands. Their main goal was to push the General National Congress to pass a proposed law that would ban Gadhafi-era officials from holding government posts.

ALSO SEE: The Guardian: Libya faces growing Islamist threat

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu to visit China, 1st PM visit in 6 years

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday he will travel to China next Sunday, in the first prime ministerial trip there since Ehud Olmert visited in 2007. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet the top Chinese leadership during a five-day trip that will take him to Shanghai, the country’s commercial capital, and Beijing. While diplomatic issues such as Iran and Syria will undoubtedly come up in the talks, the focus – according to diplomatic officials – will be on bilateral and economic issues.

WSJ: Cash Lifelines Sent by Immigrants Remain Stagnant

The amount of money that immigrants sent home to families in Latin America and the Caribbean rose less than 1% in 2012 amid a tepid U.S. economic recovery, a declining number of newcomers and record deportations by the Obama administration. The $61.3 billion remitted last year to the region—from around the world but mostly the U.S.—is far below the $65 billion peak in 2008, according to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank being released Monday. But a rebound in the U.S. construction sector and an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws could rev up the amount of remittances later this year and in 2014, experts say. …The money immigrants send home has played a significant role in reducing poverty in developing countries, with a substantial portion of the funds used by families for daily necessities, such as food, shelter and clothing, experts say.

CNN: Italy set to approve new government as economic turmoil grips country

After months of political uncertainty and economic crisis, Italy's parliament is expected to confirm Prime Minister Enrico Letta's new government on Monday. Letta was sworn in on Sunday - the same day a gunman shot and wounded two national police officers outside the prime minister's office. But Letta was being sworn in at the presidential palace a short distance away and was not present at the time of the shooting, state-run news agency ANSA said. Italy has been hampered by political uncertainty since February, when elections left none of the candidates with enough support to form a government.

CNN: Greece to cut 15,000 jobs for bailout

Greek lawmakers on Sunday agreed to cut thousands of government workers to secure another 8.8 billion euros ($11.5 billion) in bailout funds. The vote clears the way for 15,000 civil servants to be fired by the end of 2014, the first time Greece's cash-strapped government has said it will cut its workforce of about 700,000. The right to a permanent position once hired by the public sector had been protected by the Greek constitution before Sunday, and about one in four Greeks is on the public payroll. Cutting that figure is part of the loan agreement between the government and its creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

CNNMoney: China cracks down on military use of luxury cars

Top military officials in China might soon be forced to trade in their luxury cars for something a little less flashy. China has banned the use of military license plates on expensive cars, according to official state media. The new guidelines were issued by the Central Military Commission, and are the latest anti-corruption measures undertaken by the image-conscious government of President Xi Jinping. Military license plates had been something of a golden ticket in the past, with some owners openly flouting traffic rules and skipping required toll payments. Some reports suggest the plates were occasionally auctioned off to civilian buyers. Xinhua, China's state news agency, suggested the problem is one of image.

BUSINESS:

Financial Times: François Hollande to woo French business with tax cut

President François Hollande plans to slash capital gains taxes to try to convince investors that France is open for business and repair relations after protests against his policies last year. Business leaders have been frustrated since the government imposed €20bn in tax increases in the 2013 budget and insisted on sticking to Mr Hollande’s promise to introduce a temporary 75 per cent marginal rate on incomes above €1m. The tax cut plan comes as Mr Hollande struggles to persuade investors and his European partners that the Socialist government is committed to reforms to revive the stalled economy. It follows an online protest against his decision to raise capital gains tax last year by Les Pigeons, a group of young entrepreneurs.

WSJ: Tame Inflation to Keep Fed on Course

Federal Reserve officials are likely to continue their easy-money policies at the central bank's policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, in part because several recent inflation measures have fallen well below the Fed's 2% target. With inflation now lower than the Fed wants, officials are likely to conclude their policies show no sign of overheating the economy. That allows them to maintain their $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program, which the central bank is employing to ease credit conditions and spur spending, investment and hiring.

CNNMoney: Stocks on track to cap 4th month of gains in 2013

Central bankers are a closely watched lot. This week, when the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting kicks off Tuesday, it will be no different. Stock market investors will be especially keeping a close eye on how the bankers view the U.S. economy's progress. Recently, there have been signs that economic growth is losing steam - job growth slowed in March, retail sales slumped and the manufacturing sector showed signs of weakness. Still, stocks are on track to end April on a positive note this week, the fourth month of gains for 2013.


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