CNN: Sources: Boston bombs built in older Tsarnaev's home, first target was July 4
The bombs used in the Boston Marathon attack were built in the apartment that suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev shared with his wife and child, a U.S. law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Thursday. The official was not authorized to release the information. Katherine Russell, Tsarnaev's widow, has remained largely out of view inside her parents' North Kingstown home since her husband's death. It remains unclear what, if anything, Tamerlan's widow might have known or suspected, the source added. …Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, initially planned to carry out a suicide-bomb attack on July 4, a U.S. law enforcement official regularly briefed on the Boston bombing investigation told CNN. The source said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told investigators their bombs were ready earlier than they expected and they decided to move up the date.
Boston Globe: $1m proposed for some victims of Boston bombings
The attorney overseeing the $28 million fund to benefit victims of the Boston Marathon bombings plans to unveil a tentative proposal Monday for distributing the money, including payments of “well over $1 million” to each of the families of people who died in the blasts and those who lost more than one limb. Kenneth Feinberg, who was asked to distribute the money collected by The One Fund Boston Inc., said about a dozen victims who lost a single limb would probably receive amounts approaching $1 million under his preliminary proposal. He plans to unveil that proposal in advance of meetings with victims and other members of the community at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square on Monday and Tuesday. People who suffered other physical injuries would receive smaller amounts, depending on how long they stayed in the hospital, under the draft proposal.
Reuters Exclusive: At Texas fertilizer plant, a history of theft, tampering
The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded two weeks ago, killing 14 people and injuring about 200, was a repeat target of theft by intruders who tampered with tanks and caused the release of toxic chemicals, police records reviewed by Reuters show. Police responded to at least 11 reports of burglaries and five separate ammonia leaks at West Fertilizer Co over the past 12 years, according to 911 dispatch logs and criminal offense reports Reuters obtained from the McLennan County Sheriff's office in Waco, Texas through an Open Records Request. Some of the leaks, including one reported in October 2012, were linked to theft or interference with tank valves.
WaPo: In several states, Medicaid expansion remains in limbo as time runs short
In the closing days of their legislative sessions, lawmakers in more than a dozen states are struggling with whether to expand Medicaid under the federal health-care law, with many of them leaning against participating in a program that is key to President Obama’s aim of extending coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the expansion, and 14 are planning to decline. But 16 remain in limbo as lawmakers clash in the final days and weeks of the legislative calendar, when many must come to a decision in time for the provision to kick in next year.
CNN: Roaring winds fuel raging California wildfire, expected to continue Friday
Crews frantically battling fast-moving wildfires in Southern California will get no relief Friday as heavy winds threaten to grow one blaze that has scorched thousands of acres. "Gusty Santa Ana winds will continue to bring extreme fire danger to the area through Friday," the National Weather Service said. "Warnings are in effect for much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties through Friday afternoon, where there will continue to be a threat of rapid wildfire spread." Winds could reach up to 35 mph Friday in the Ventura County area where the Springs Fire is raging. Along with burning 8,000 acres, it threatens some 2,000 homes, fire officials said. The blaze damaged 15 homes and caused the evacuation of others and the campus of California State University Channel Islands, fire officials said.
NYT: Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.
Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm. More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides. Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.
CNN: Economy, security in spotlight as Obama heads to Costa Rica
As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to head to Costa Rica to meet with Central American leaders on Friday, a top official there says he's sensed a shift in how Obama's administration views the region. "In the first term, we noticed indifference," Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo told CNN en Español this week. "This gesture of coming to Costa Rica and meeting with the Central American presidents is a change." So are the priorities officials have said they hope to discuss, Castillo said, including development, trade and improving the climate for investments.
CNN: U.S., Mexican presidents push deeper economic ties; security issues still key
Two issues - security and immigration - often get too much attention when it comes to talking about the U.S.-Mexico relationship, U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday. Now, Obama said, it's time to forge deeper economic connections to create more jobs and more trade on both sides of the border. "That's the focus of my visit," he told reporters after meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in the country's capital. But even as Obama and Peña Nieto pushed to shift the tone more toward trade and economics, security issues loomed large over Thursday's meeting.
Politico: No progress on Obama's big Commerce plans
Last January, President Barack Obama laid out a sweeping plan in an East Room ceremony to eliminate the Commerce Department and replace it with a more agile agency to lead on commerce and trade issues. A week before the election last November, he went further, calling for a “Secretary of Business” to lead a “one-stop shop” that would help companies get loans and deal with trade issues. On Thursday, Obama nominated Penny Pritzker to be his new commerce secretary, hoping his 2008 campaign’s finance chairwoman will be confirmed for the job he has left open for nearly a year. Though there’s nothing unusual about a president putting a longtime friend and political ally at commerce, Obama’s far from delivering on those big promises of rethinking and revamping an agency that’s key to the still-struggling economy.
The Hill: Paul chief of staff moves to campaign role ahead of possible White House bid
Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) chief of staff, Doug Stafford, is leaving the congressional office to manage Paul's political operation, likely to develop it in time for a possible 2016 presidential run. Paul's office confirmed to The Hill that Stafford will handle Paul's outreach and organization in early-primary states and run RAND PAC and Paul's Senate campaign PAC, both of which will grow and could provide Paul with a financial foundation ahead of a run for the GOP nomination. He'll also handle Paul's political schedule and communications, and will continue to guide the Kentucky senator in strategic political decisions.
LA Times: States try to tackle 'secret money' in politics
Early last month, state lawyers and election officials around the country dialed into a conference call to talk about how to deal with the flood of secret money that played an unprecedented role in the 2012 election. The discussion, which included officials from California, New York, Alaska and Maine, was a first step toward a collaborative effort to force tax-exempt advocacy organizations and trade associations out of the shadows. The unusual initiative was driven by the lack of progress at the federal level in pushing those groups to disclose their contributors if they engage in campaigns, as candidates and political action committees are required to do.
WaPo: Biden ponders a 2016 bid, but a promotion to the top job seems to be a long shot
When Vice President Biden arrives in South Carolina on Friday to headline a sold-out dinner for state Democrats, here’s what you can expect to go down: Biden will stoke speculation that he wants to run for president in 2016 by pressing the flesh in the first-in-the-South primary state. He will show himself to be on a first-name basis with many of the local politicians and county activists who will line up to greet him. They will gush over his attributes — genuine, down-to-earth, rock solid on the issues. As Dick Harpootlian, the state party chairman, put it, “We’re tickled pink to have him.” Yet by the time he leaves, the reality of being Joe Biden will sink in: A promotion to the top job is a long shot, at best.
CNN: 2013 meet 2016
The calendar reads May 2013, but in some ways it sure feels a lot closer to 2016. Friday night Vice President Joe Biden keynotes a Democratic Party dinner in Columbia, South Carolina. Less than two miles away, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas headlines a Palmetto State Republican Party dinner. One week later Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky keynotes a GOP dinner in Iowa. The same night Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal headlines a fundraiser for Republican state senators in New Hampshire. Paul heads to the Granite State a week and a half later to keynote a GOP dinner. And three days after Paul's visit, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker headlines a Republican party dinner in Iowa. Two easy questions: What do all these politicians have in common? Answer: They're all contemplating bids for the White House in 2016.
ALSO SEE: The State: 2016 presidential race gets off to its SC start
CNN: NRA gears up for big weekend
The National Rifle Association's annual meeting will surely be in the spotlight this weekend, as it comes just weeks after the Senate voted down a controversial gun control measure–a major blow to the months-long push for tougher firearm laws in the wake of the Newtown elementary school massacre. As thousands meet in Houston for the NRA gathering, anti-gun control advocates are poised to celebrate their victory over the legislation's recent defeat in Congress, while those fighting for tougher gun laws could target the event as a way to shed light on their cause. Retired astronaut Mark Kelly–gun control advocate and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords–addressed the group in advance of the conference Wednesday. He penned an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle, welcoming NRA members to the city but cautioning them against their group's leadership.
ALSO SEE: Houston Chronicle: Message of NRA meeting in Houston: The fight is not over
Politico: GOP prospects pass on Iowa Senate run
Iowa’s 2014 Senate race became a golden opportunity for Republicans when Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced in January he wouldn’t seek another term. It’s a bona fide swing state, and the electorate should lean GOP if past midterms are any indication. So why are so many of the GOP’s top prospects taking a pass? State Agriculture Commissioner Bill Northey is the latest to forgo the race, announcing Thursday that he feels he can better serve the state in his current position. He follows Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who announced just last week that she, too, was sitting the race out.
CNN: More tests will take North Korea closer to nuclear missile, Pentagon says
If North Korea continues with its controversial missile tests, it "will move closer" to its objective of reaching the United States with nuclear weapons, according to a Pentagon report. During recent heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang repeatedly threatened the possibility of nuclear attacks against the United States and South Korea, prompting questions on the stage of its weapons program. North Korea's secretiveness has made it hard for Western intelligence agencies to gauge exactly what is going on inside its research facilities.
CNN: 'He's not a spy,' says sister of U.S. man sentenced in North Korea
The sister of a U.S. citizen sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp defended her brother Thursday, asking leaders of both nations to "please, just see him as one man." Pae Jun Ho, known as Kenneth Bae by U.S. authorities, was found guilty of unspecified "hostile acts" against the reclusive Stalinist state, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported. KCNA said the Korean-American was arrested November 3 after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a port in the northeastern corner of North Korea. North Korean law allows up to 10 days of processing before a sentence is enforced, so it wasn't immediately clear when Bae would report for hard labor, or where he was being held in the meantime.
CNN: Hagel: U.S. rethinking opposition to arming Syrian rebels
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday the Obama administration is rethinking its policy of opposing providing weapons to the Syrian rebels. Hagel's acknowledgment – after weeks of the U.S. resisting arming the opposition, for fear the weapons could end up in the wrong hands – comes days after the White House sent a letter to two U.S. senators saying the intelligence community assessed "with varying degrees of confidence" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government had used the chemical agent sarin on a "small scale." President Obama, asked about Hagel's remarks, said he was only reiterating a position the administration has held for months. "We are continually evaluating the situation on the ground working with our international partners to find the best way to move a political transition that has Assad leaving, stabilizes the country, ends the killing and allows the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, " the president said during a press conference in Mexico.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Chemical weapons in Syria? Why Obama still needs convincing
CNN: Sources: 3 al Qaeda operatives took part in Benghazi attack
Several Yemeni men belonging to al Qaeda took part in the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last September, according to several sources who have spoken with CNN. One senior U.S. law enforcement official told CNN that "three or four members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," or AQAP, took part in the attack. Another source briefed on the Benghazi investigation said Western intelligence services suspect the men may have been sent by the group specifically to carry out the attack. But it's not been ruled out that they were already in the city and participated as the opportunity arose.
ALSO SEE: CNN: State Department to review Benghazi investigation
WSJ: Pentagon Bulks Up 'Bunker Buster' Bomb to Combat Iran
The Pentagon has redesigned its biggest "bunker buster" bomb with more advanced features intended to enable it to destroy Iran's most heavily fortified and defended nuclear site. U.S. officials see development of the weapon as critical to convincing Israel that the U.S. has the ability to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb if diplomacy fails, and also that Israel's military can't do that on its own. Several times in recent weeks, American officials, seeking to demonstrate U.S. capabilities, showed Israeli military and civilian leaders secret Air Force video of an earlier version of the bomb hitting its target in high-altitude testing, and explained what had been done to improve it, according to diplomats who were present.
LA Times: Terror database too vague to flag Boston suspect
When a Russian intelligence service told the CIA that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had become an Islamic radical looking to join underground groups, the agency put his name in the government's catch-all database for terrorism suspects. The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment list, known as TIDE, was the government's attempt after the Sept. 11 attacks to consolidate a hodgepodge of watch lists, and ensure that every law enforcement agency would be alerted when it came into contact with a possible terrorist. But TIDE has ballooned to 875,000 records, and critics say it is so all-encompassing that its value has been diminished.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Video appears to depict plane crash in Afghanistan
U.S. transportation safety investigators arrived on Thursday in Afghanistan to try and help determine why a civilian operated Boeing 747 cargo jet crashed on takeoff from Bagram Air Base, killing all seven crew aboard. Senior aviation investigator Tim LeBaron is leading a team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing, which made the jumbo jet that crashed on Monday. The safety board is an independent government agency that investigates transportation accidents in the United States and often assists foreign governments in major cases, especially in air crashes involving a plane made by an American manufacturer.
WATCH: VIDEO – Did shifting cargo throw a 747 off balance & cause it to crash? CNN's Chris Lawrence looks at possible causes.
NYT: Amtrak Subsidy Gone, States Must Pay the Freight to Keep Rail Routes
The unmistakable wail of a locomotive horn and screeching steel wheels signal the arrival of the evening Amtrak train in this central Pennsylvania town just over an hour west of Harrisburg, the state capital. The train is one of two that stop here daily, a vital link to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the entire Northeast Corridor. “There is no bus service or airports nearby,” said Dee Dee Brown, the mayor of this town of 7,000, who often rides the train to Philadelphia. “It’s just the train, and, quite frankly, we would be a ghost town without it.” But after years of financial losses on the route for Amtrak, Pennsylvania was faced with either picking up the tab or losing it altogether by Oct. 1. Under pressure from Congress to reduce its dependence on federal subsidies, Amtrak is looking at either closing 28 short-haul routes or getting 19 states to cover the costs. Most of the states have already agreed to pick up the costs.
USA Today: Airport body scanners pass company's radiation tests
Controversial full-body X-ray scanners at U.S. airports underwent more than 700 inspections last year with all tests showing radiation levels below standards used by their manufacturer and the Transportation Security Administration, according to a USA TODAY review of the recently released reports. While the TSA and scanner-maker Rapiscan Systems say the reports offer additional proof of safety, some critics remain unconvinced. Regardless, the TSA is in the final phases of removing the last of Rapiscan's backscatter scanners from airport checkpoints by June. Full-body scanners using a different technology that does not involve ionizing radiation, called millimeter wave, will remain in use to screen passengers.
The Hill: Battle rages over ‘slaughtered in the USA’ labels for meat
Agricultural groups and consumer advocates implored the Obama administration on Thursday to press forward with contentious meat labeling regulations despite the threat of damaging international trade sanctions. A coalition of farmers and consumer rights groups called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize a strengthened set of rules requiring meat producers to attach country-of-origin labels (COOL) to their products. At the same time, the group urged President Obama to address the long-simmering issue during his trip this week to Mexico, which, along with Canada, could impose retaliatory tariffs against the United States if no action is taken.
Hartford Courant: Facing Criticism, Malloy Reimburses People Magazine $1,234 For Trip To D.C.
Beset by criticism, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday that he is reimbursing People magazine with a personal check for $1,234 for a weekend trip that the magazine funded to Washington, D.C., for the White House Correspondents' Dinner last Saturday night. Malloy's office announced the reimbursement a day after state Senate GOP leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, blasted the Democratic governor for letting the magazine pay for his airfare, hotel and attendance at the black-tie event.
Baltimore Sun: With Same-Sex Marriage Now Available, State To End Benefits For Domestic Partners
The O'Malley administration has notified state employees in same-sex relationships that they won't be able to include domestic partners in their health insurance anymore. If they want coverage, they'll have to get married. The policy change is the result of the new Maryland law allowing same-sex marriage, which took effect Jan. 1. The thinking is that offering health coverage to an unmarried same-sex partner doesn't make sense anymore, officials said, particularly since an unmarried heterosexual partner doesn't have the same right.
Tampa Bay Times: Elections bill lingers on Legislature's last day
Embarrassed by an elections meltdown, lawmakers headed to the Capitol this year with a pledge to undo a law that helped lead to long lines, angry voters and jeers about "Flori-duh." But the elections cleanup bill that the House passed on the very first day of the legislative session has yet to pass the Legislature as the last day dawns. Lawmakers overwhelmingly support the plan to reverse parts of a 2011 election law by expanding the number of sites and days in which early voting is offered. The bill also gives people a chance to correct an absentee ballot they forgot to sign and would make it easier to prosecute people caught possessing multiple absentee ballots. But there's a major hangup between the House and Senate: a plan to punish elections supervisors deemed ineffective and "noncompliant" with the state's election code.
NYT: Bangladesh Arrests Engineer Who Warned of Dangers
In an unexpected turn in the investigation into the deadly collapse of the Rana Plaza building, the Bangladeshi police on Thursday arrested the engineer who warned a day before the disaster that the building was unsafe. The collapse of Rana Plaza, which housed five garment factories employing more than 3,000 workers, is now considered the deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry, with the death toll so far at 446 and many others still missing. The arrest of the engineer, Abdur Razzaque Khan, was a surprise twist since he was regarded as something of a hero for trying to avert the April 24 disaster. A day before the building collapsed, Mr. Khan had been summoned because cracks had suddenly appeared in the structure, forcing an evacuation. He concluded that the building had become dangerous and should be closed until experts could conduct a more thorough investigation — advice that turned out to be grimly prescient.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Death toll from Bangladesh building collapse rises above 500
CNNMoney: Disney pulls out of Bangladesh factories
The Walt Disney Company has stopped production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh, in response to the spate of fatal factory accidents last fall. The company sent a letter in March to vendors and licensees to transition production out of the "highest-risk countries," like Bangladesh, in order to bolster safety standards in its supply chain. Disney will also halt production in four other countries: Ecuador, Venezuela, Belarus and Pakistan, by April 2014.
CNN: Syrian government reclaims parts of Homs; raid in other city
Syrian troops took control of large swaths of territory in the flashpoint city of Homs on Thursday, encircling an opposition suburb, an activist group said. The Syrian Coalition reported government forces targeted a suspension bridge in Deir Ezzor. State media blamed the attack on terrorists. And in the coastal region of Banias, troops conducted a deadly raid on the village of al-Bayda. President Bashar al-Assad's forces retook the Wadi al-Sayah neighborhood, giving troops direct access to the Old District of Homs, an opposition stronghold, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
CNN: Pakistan prosecutor in Bhutto case gunned down
Gunmen killed a leading Pakistani prosecutor working on high-profile terrorism cases, shooting him multiple times Friday as he was on his way to a hearing. Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali was heading to a court in Rawalpindi, where he was trying the case of former presidential candidate, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated while she was campaigning. Ali's attackers opened fire on his car as it passed through an Islamabad neighborhood, police said. He was rushed to a hospital, but died before arrival, said hospital spokesman Dr. Wasim Khawaja.
WSJ: French Leader François Hollande's Woes Fan European Fears
A new hurdle has popped up in Europe's race to save itself from economic calamity: French President François Hollande, who built his career on an ability to forge consensus, now finds himself in the unaccustomed position of pleasing no one. Mr. Hollande's ruling Socialist Party is in revolt. Party heavyweights are urging him to turn up the heat on Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and defy her prescription of austerity for resolving the euro-zone crisis. The French press last week splashed a Socialist Party draft paper that described Ms. Merkel as "selfish." Mr. Hollande's success or failure to reach consensus with Ms. Merkel—without alienating his leftist majority in Parliament—is likely to have profound repercussions on the euro zone's future. There are widening concerns that France, Europe's second-largest economy behind Germany, risks becoming the next problem child.
CNNMoney: Stocks: Waiting for the jobs report
It's jobs day. The U.S. government is set to release the closely watched monthly jobs report at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney are expecting the report to show the economy added 140,000 jobs in April, up from 88,000 in March, with the unemployment rate remaining at 7.6%. This key economic data point is one of the most widely tracked around the world and exerts a powerful sway over market movements depending on whether it meets or misses expectations
WSJ: Regulators Scrutinize Auto Lenders Over Add-Ons
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued subpoenas to U.S. auto lenders over the sale of extended warranties and other financial products, according to people familiar with the investigation, expanding a civil probe that lenders say could slow the booming car-loan industry. Any new restrictions could affect millions of Americans who use loans to buy new and used vehicles each year. Add-on products, such as extra insurance, are a popular mechanism used by car dealers to boost profits. Though such products are legal, regulators are probing whether terms and prices are adequately disclosed.
NYT: JPMorgan Caught in Swirl of Regulatory Woes
Government investigators have found that JPMorgan Chase devised “manipulative schemes” that transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers,” and that one of its most senior executives gave “false and misleading statements” under oath. The findings appear in a confidential government document, reviewed by The New York Times, that was sent to the bank in March, warning of a potential crackdown by the regulator of the nation’s energy markets.