CNN Washington AM Note
May 14th, 2013
06:24 AM ET
5 years ago

CNN Washington AM Note


CNN: Doctor found guilty of first-degree murder in Philadelphia abortion case

A Philadelphia abortion provider who killed babies by cutting their spinal cords with scissors was found guilty of first-degree murder on Monday. The conviction on three counts of first-degree murder means Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, could be sentenced to death. Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore sobbed after the verdict in the high-profile case was announced. Gosnell appeared shocked. He let out a sigh and shook his head back and forth. Defense attorney Jack McMahon told CNN it's too soon to tell whether he will appeal the conviction.

CNN: Minnesota legislators vote for same-sex marriage

Minnesota is expected to join eleven states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage after the state Senate on Monday voted 37-30 in favor of approving it. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bill. After the vote, he posted online, "Join us tomorrow as we make history on the Capitol steps." The bill follows a failed attempt last year to define marriage as between one man and one woman with an amendment to the state constitution. The state House approved the measure last Thursday.

CNNMoney: City of Detroit is financially 'insolvent'

The Detroit city government is weeks away from running out of the cash it needs to operate, according to an initial report from the emergency manager overseeing its finances. The report from Kevyn Orr, the bankruptcy attorney appointed by the state in March, lays out a bleak financial position for the city. "The city has effectively exhausted its ability to borrow," he writes in the report, adding that the city "is clearly insolvent." To avoid running out of cash before the end of its fiscal year on June 30, it must "defer payments on its current obligations," including more than $100 million in pension payments that are due.

NY Daily News: Caroline Kennedy to sit on crack-dealer trial jury

Caroline Kennedy is doing her duty — jury duty. Former First Daughter Caroline Kennedy will help decide the fate of a small-time crack cocaine dealer after getting chosen Monday to sit on a Manhattan jury. The only surviving child of President John F. Kennedy and the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was selected to serve on the (Manhattan) Supreme Court panel hearing the case of Nelson Chatman. “I have not been convicted of a crime,” Kennedy said during jury selection at the Centre St. courthouse. When asked if she or any member of her family had been a victim of a crime, Kennedy did not publicly mention the assassinations of her father and her uncle, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.


CNN: Obama cautious on Syria, Britain ups urgency for peace

President Barack Obama was cautious on Monday about whether the international community could broker peace in Syria, while British Prime Minister David Cameron applied new urgency for diplomacy, saying the war-wracked country's history is being "written in the blood of her people." Obama and Cameron appeared at a joint news conference at the White House where questions about Syria touched on accelerating peace efforts and whether Russia, a close ally of Damascus, would reverse course and put pressure on the regime of Bashar al-Assad to abandon power. Obama said the political situation is complex and identifying any solution satisfactory to the groups comprising Syria's opposition and finding common ground on the scope and timing of transition away from al-Assad would be challenging.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama: Benghazi talking points fight a 'side show'

CNN: In New York, Obama raises more than $3 million for Democrats

President Barack Obama told donors at a trio of fundraisers Monday evening that the U.S. can learn lessons from the resilience of Boston in the marathon bombing and the town of West, Texas, in the deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant. Altogether, the fundraisers netted more than $3 million for national Democratic groups. …One of Obama's fundraisers was at the home of film mogul Harvey Weinstein, a well-known backer of the president. That event was attended by musician-actors Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, pool reporters in the room said.

WaPo: John, Cameron have seats at Obama’s table

Commerce Department General Counsel Cameron Kerry — brother of Secretary of State John Kerry — will become acting secretary of commerce when the outgoing acting secretary, Rebecca Blank, leaves at the end of this month. This may be the first time — we’re checking — that two brothers served in the Cabinet at the same time. Of course, President John F. Kennedy had brother Robert Kennedy as attorney general, but that’s not quite the same. (And it won’t happen again, because that move sparked a 1967 law, dubbed the “Bobby Kennedy law,” banning relatives of the president from getting such jobs.)


CNN: Issa: IRS, Benghazi show needs for congressional oversight

A series of explosive headlines – from Benghazi e-mails to IRS scrutiny of conservative groups and complaints about the Justice Department looking at journalist phone records – show the Obama administration must work with Congress to improve transparency and prevent recurring controversies. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room " that he and his colleagues have full plate of concerns to look into. "There's a lesson here: Government is hard, it's big, and it's hard to run," he told Wolf Blitzer. "Forgetting about politics, if you're going to get the bureaucracy to behave, it takes the House, the Senate and the White House working together."

ALSO SEE: CNN: First hearings on IRS targeting Friday

ALSO SEE: Politico: Scandal politics sweep Capitol Hill

Fox: Republicans want new Clinton testimony on Benghazi, float possibility of subpoena

Calls are growing for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to return to Capitol Hill - under subpoena, if necessary - to answer new questions that have surfaced about her role in the response to the Benghazi terror attack.  “I believe she was disconnected and dispassionate about what was happening,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told Fox News on Monday.

ALSO SEE: CNN Poll: Americans divided on Benghazi accounts, but many not watching

LA Times: GOP slams fundraising, other efforts to promote Obama health law

Congressional Republicans have opened a new line of attack on President Obama's healthcare law, charging that the administration has improperly sought help from the healthcare industry and other outside groups to implement the landmark statute. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for months has been asking foundations, consumer and business groups, insurance companies and others to help enroll uninsured Americans in health insurance this fall, a key goal of the Affordable Care Act. Administration officials say those actions were entirely appropriate. The effort has included suggestions in several cases to make financial contributions to a nonprofit organization called Enroll America, created in 2010 to support the enrollment push.

Politico: Gang of 8 looks to defend guest worker plan

The Senate Gang of Eight has largely controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration markup, and the group’s next step: shielding a painstakingly negotiated agreement for a new guest worker program. This week, the gang will have to fend off amendments from both the right and left to fiddle with the program, either to appease businesses or insert stronger protections for labor. Much as they did with border security measures last week, the four members of the gang on the Judiciary Committee, who brokered the immigration deal will aim to band together and defeat changes that could prove fatal to the overall bill.

The Hill: Senate Democrats: Nuclear option for filibuster is back on the table

Senate Democrats frustrated with the GOP’s blocking of a string of President Obama’s nominees are seriously weighing a controversial tactic known as the “nuclear option.” The option — which would involve Democrats changing Senate rules through a majority vote to prevent the GOP from using the 60-vote filibuster to block nominations — was raised during a private meeting Wednesday involving about 25 Democratic senators and a group of labor leaders. The labor officials demanded that Democrats break the logjam by stripping Republicans of the ability to filibuster.

HuffPo: Nancy Pelosi: If John Boehner Were A Woman, People Would Call Him 'The Weakest Speaker In History'

Not only is House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a weak leader, but if he were a woman, people would be calling him "the weakest speaker in history," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday. During an interview on MSNBC's "All In With Chris Hayes," Pelosi, who served as House speaker for four years before Boehner took over, was asked point-blank if she thinks Boehner is a weak speaker. "I will say this about John Boehner, and I have a good relationship" with him, Pelosi said. "If he were a woman, they'd be calling him the weakest speaker in history."


CNN: Obama: Alleged IRS political targeting 'outrageous'

With a congressional hearing set for week's end, President Obama vowed Monday to hold the Internal Revenue Service accountable if reports of political targeting turn out to be true. "If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous. And there's no place for it," Obama told reporters. "And they have to be held fully accountable. Because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they're ... applying the laws in a nonpartisan way."

ALSO SEE: National Review: McConnell to IRS Boss: ‘Resign’

WATCH: VIDEO – The IRS is accused of going after conservative groups. Jim Acosta has the latest.

Cincinnati Inquirer: Ex-Cincinnati IRS workers: Scrutiny of orgs is normal

The mushrooming controversy over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status shines a harsh light on the usually super-secret culture and procedures at the government’s tax collecting agency. While lawmakers are planning investigations, those who worked at the IRS offices in Cincinnati and other nonprofit tax experts say extra scrutiny of particular groups of applicants is fairly routine in an effort to root out cheating – even if the choice of search terms and specific questions in this case may have been questionable. Retired IRS attorney Ronald Ran of Villa Hills said that such searches are not meant to single out groups with a particular political philosophy. Instead, Ran said, the agency used searches and other procedures to ensure groups were following IRS regulations, including limiting or banning political activity by nonprofits.

WaPo: IRS officials in Washington were involved in targeting of conservative groups

Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved in the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea party-affiliated groups.  IRS employees in Cincinnati also told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.

ALSO SEE: Washington Examiner: Rumsfeld: IRS also retaliates against outspoken business leaders

NYT: Uneven I.R.S. Scrutiny Seen in Political Spending by Big Tax-Exempt Groups

Over the last two years, government watchdog groups filed more than a dozen complaints with the Internal Revenue Service seeking inquiries into whether large nonprofit organizations like those founded by the Republican political operative Karl Rove and former Obama administration aides had violated their tax-exempt status by spending tens of millions of dollars on political advertising. During the same period, the agency singled out dozens of Tea Party-inspired groups that had applied for I.R.S. recognition, officials acknowledged on Friday, subjecting them to rounds of detailed questioning about their political activities. None of those groups were big spenders on political advertising; most were local Tea Party organizations with shoestring budgets. For the I.R.S.’s bipartisan legion of critics, the agency’s record has underscored its contradictory and seemingly confused response to the fastest-growing corner in the world of unlimited political spending: tax-exempt groups that have paid for at least half a billion dollars in campaign ads during the last two election cycles.

ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: What's behind the IRS tea party scrutiny flap

WATCH: VIDEO – CNN's Brian Todd reports on the IRS's exempt organizations division, as it comes into the media spotlight.

Politico: Kerrey: IRS advocate to blame for scandal

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat who helped author legislation restructuring the agency in 1998, said the mess isn’t just the fault of the Obama administration or agency officials. He’s pointing a finger at IRS taxpayer advocate Nina Olson. Kerrey said her office was created in the 1990s to protect taxpayers from these very sorts of actions, and recent reports that the IRS singled out conservative groups show the structure failed, he said. “That was the whole idea of the creation of the taxpayer advocate — that somebody could intervene on behalf of the taxpayer, and it looks like the intervention didn’t happen,” Kerrey told POLITICO. Olson leads an independent office within the IRS that acts as an ombudsman for taxpayers struggling to resolve problems with the agency. She has run the office since 2001.

National Journal: Obama's Struggles Hampering Democratic Recruitment

Imagine you’re a red-state Democrat contemplating a run for Senate. Here’s what you’ve seen during the opening months of President Obama’s second term: A still-tepid economic recovery, a culturally polarizing agenda on immigration and guns, and fears of the health care law's possibly haphazard implementation. The White House’s uneven start to the second term shows little sign of improving. …All this doesn’t add up to a welcoming environment for Democrats next year–at least not when the party is already contending with defending seven Senate seats in states Mitt Romney carried, facing a midterm cycle inherently favorable for Republicans. And it could help explain why some of the party’s top recruits in the country’s GOP-heavy quarters have, at least so far, opted against campaigns.

ALSO SEE: NYT: I.R.S. Targeting of Conservative Groups Could Resonate in 2014

CNN: Rubio comes to Ayotte’s defense on guns

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whose votes on gun background checks have haunted her back at home in New Hampshire, will receive some support from another GOP senator seen as a rising star. Sen. Marco Rubio's political committee Reclaim America will begin running a TV ad Tuesday in her defense, joining a commercial the National Rifle Association put on the state's main broadcast channel last week. Reclaim America’s ad is the first to run in a six-figure buy, sources close to Rubio said.


ABC: Marine Captain to Face Court Martial Over Urination Video

The Marine captain in charge of the men who were allegedly caught on camera urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters will face his own court martial, the Marine Corps announced today. Capt. James Clement will be tried for alleged dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming of an officer and failure to stop misconduct by those under his command, the Corps said. The video, which was reportedly taken in July 2011 and appeared online in January 2012, appears to show four men in uniform looking around before urinating on three dead bodies. At least one of the men chuckles as they do so.

WSJ: Navy Catches the Drone Bug

The U.S. Navy will take a big step into the drone age Tuesday when it catapults a batwing prototype of an unmanned plane off the deck of an aircraft carrier for the first time. The flight of the X-47B will mark what Navy officers and independent analysts see as a key moment in the transformation of naval air power that will better equip U.S. forces to counter the challenges of Iran and China. Eventually, the Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers. They will be used at first for surveillance but later will be armed and used in combat roles. Officers said Tuesday's test off the coast of Virginia, if successful, would represent a milestone in naval aviation, which began with Eugene Ely's 1910 flight off the deck of the USS Birmingham.


WSJ: Kabul's Tax Levies Raise Flags From U.S. Watchdog

Afghanistan's cash-strapped government has levied nearly $1 billion in taxes and fees on U.S.-funded reconstruction projects and military contracts over the past five years, often in violation of bilateral agreements with Washington, according to a new audit by a U.S. government watchdog. Since 2008, the Afghan Ministry of Finance has assessed over $921 million in business taxes and associated penalties on 43 contractors that receive U.S. taxpayer dollars to build roads, schools and health clinics in Afghanistan or support military operations, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, said in a report to be released Tuesday. While the report said that it wasn't possible, in most cases, to show whether the taxation was legitimate, such activities are often exempt from taxation under bilateral agreements. But the report concludes that U.S. government agencies haven't provided unified guidance to contractors about their tax obligations, allowing the Afghan government to "exploit the inconsistencies" by seeking revenue from contractors, driving up the costs that are often eventually borne by American taxpayers.

CNN: AP blasts feds for phone records search

The Justice Department secretly collected two months of telephone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press, the news service disclosed Monday in an outraged letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. The records included calls from several AP bureaus and the personal phone lines of several staffers, AP President Gary Pruitt wrote. Pruitt called the subpoenas a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into its reporting. "These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," wrote Pruitt, the news agency's CEO. The AP reported that the government has not said why it wanted the records.

ALSO SEE: BuzzFeed: Republicans In Congress Killed A Media Shield Law That Would Have Protected The Associated Press

HuffPo: FBI Exigent Letters Memo Should Be Kept Secret, Justice Department Argues

The legal basis for the FBI's past use of emergency requests to obtain telephone records should be kept secret, the Justice Department said in a court filing last week. The Justice Department has admitted that the issuing of those "exigent letters" was a mistake. But now it is fighting to keep the reasoning by which its Office of Legal Counsel approved such use under wraps. Critics argue that continues a degree of increased secrecy begun in the George W. Bush administration around the influential OLC memos, which in practice often set government policy on matters like drone killings. The FBI improperly made use of the exigent letters hundreds of times from 2003 to 2006 to gain access to records about phone calls, although not their actual contents, the Justice Department's inspector general found in a 2010 report. But even after the inspector general began his investigation, the OLC wrote a secret memorandum suggesting that the letters could sometimes be legally justified.

CNN: Passport, pressure cooker problematic for traveler

A Saudi man is jailed in Detroit following his arrest over the weekend by authorities who alleged he altered his passport and was not truthful about why he had a pressure cooker in his luggage. According to a criminal complaint, Al Kwawahir Hussain reportedly could not explain to U.S. Customs officers at Detroit Metropolitan airport why pages were missing from his Saudi passport on Saturday. He told them only his family had access to it and he kept it locked in a box, and that he was planning on visiting his nephew, according to the court filing. During followup security screening, customs officers discovered a pressure cooker in his luggage. Pressure cookers are not illegal but have been in the spotlight since authorities said they were used in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Financial Times: Watchdog probes 1m US swap contracts

A top US financial regulator has launched a broad inquiry into the legitimacy of more than 1m energy and metals transactions by the biggest traders in commodities markets over the past two years. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has issued a “special call” asking Wall Street banks and other traders to provide documents that would prove recent derivatives transactions known as “exchanges of futures for swaps” were legal. Lawyers at the CFTC enforcement division are also scrutinising the trades for possible violations.  “They are looking at a huge amount of trading,” an industry lawyer said. The CFTC push shows how authorities are clamping down on previously unregulated derivatives dealing in markets from commodities to interest rates after the financial crisis.


Arizona Republic: Controversial Arizona laws rack up big legal fees

Arizona has led the nation in recent years with laws targeting illegal immigrants, abortions and school choice. But being the first comes with a cost. Lawsuits defending some of the state’s most controversial laws have cost millions of dollars and thousands of hours of state employee time, diverting them from other important work. And with some lawsuits ongoing — and state lawmakers continuing to test the legal boundaries — costs will continue to climb.

New Jersey Star Ledger: Roller coaster sitting in the sea to be dismantled same day as Prince Harry's visit to Seaside

Hours after Prince Harry strolls through Seaside Heights on Tuesday, crews are set to start demolition of the town’s most iconic image of Hurricane Sandy damage: the JetStar roller coaster. As part of his tour of the United States, Britain’s Prince Harry is set to walk through the ruins of Mantoloking with Gov. Chris Christie and then head south to Seaside Heights before noon. By 2 p.m., representatives from Casino Pier – where the roller coaster is located – and the town will join officials from Weeks Marine to explain the removal operation.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Leaving Las Vegas: Prince Harry puts scandal behind him on U.S. tour


CNN: 'Shredded bodies' in 'horrific' Benghazi blast

Children were among the victims Monday when a car bomb blew up near a hospital in the Libyan city of Benghazi, a security official told state TV. "Children with shredded bodies and wounds to the head," Benghazi Security Directorate spokesman Tareq Khraz told state TV Libya Al Ahrar. "I cannot even describe the scene to you, but believe me, it was horrific." The car bomb detonated near Al Jalaa hospital but not immediately in front of the building. Officials don't know at this point who or what was targeted.

CNN: Video: Syrian rebel cuts out soldier's heart, eats it

The ghastly video shows how barbaric the Syrian civil war can be. A man, said to be a well-known rebel fighter, carves into the body of a government soldier and cuts out his heart and liver. "I swear to God we will eat your hearts out, you soldiers of Bashar. You dogs. God is greater!" the man says. "Heroes of Baba Amr ... we will take out their hearts to eat them." He then puts the heart in his mouth and takes a bite. A group loyal to President Bashar al-Assad posted the video online Monday. The group describes the mutilation as a "crime that crosses all lines."

Jerusalem Post: Iran to chair UN nuke disarmament conference

Iran will chair a United Nations conference on disarmament in Geneva this month, raising eyebrows from Western powers skeptical of Iran’s own nuclear ambitions. The UN conference addresses not only nuclear proliferation but policies concerning the race to weaponize space, the production of radiological weapons and the stockpiling or use of other weapons of mass destruction. In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the United States said it would withdraw ambassadorial representation at the conference in protest so long as Iran retained its chair.

CNN: Iranian-American launches bid for Iran's presidency

An Iranian-American college professor hopes to be Iran's next president. But the motivation for Hooshang Amirahmadi's quixotic campaign is to re-establish trust between the United States and Iran. In a weeklong registration process that ended Saturday, presidential candidates registered at the Ministry of Interior, where the Guardian Council - the most influential clerical body in Iran that operates under the watchful eyes of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei - will assess and announce whom it deems to be qualified nominees in the coming week.

CNN: Former Prime Minister Sharif set to return to power in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister whose government was overthrown by a military coup more than a decade ago, appears to be back on top in Pakistan, election officials have said, despite claims by other parties of vote rigging. According to unofficial results disclosed Sunday from the country's violence-marred elections over the weekend, Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), looks to have won most of the seats in the National Assembly. One of the country's leading industrialists and richest men, Sharif has been prime minister twice before and was overthrown in a coup when Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999. Sharif was subsequently jailed before going into exile in Saudi Arabia. He returned to Pakistan in 2007.

CNN: Bangladesh building collapse: An end to recovery efforts, a promise of a new start

Across from the detritus of Bangladesh's deadliest industrial disaster, up four flights of narrow stairs, and inside the makeshift offices of the recovery operations, stands a dry erase board that marks, in neat black handwriting, each life a nine-story building claimed when it pancaked to the ground last month. On some days, as rescue workers pulled body after body from the mountain of steel and concrete, the number would spiral past 100. On Monday, it settled at zero.

ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: H&M, Tommy sign Bangladesh factory safety pact

CNN: Boats carrying scores of Rohingya capsize in Myanmar, U.N. says

Three boats carrying as many as 150 people are believed to have capsized near the western coast of Myanmar as local residents scrambled to avoid a storm that's approaching the area, a U.N. agency said Tuesday. The boats containing Rohingya, a long-suffering Muslim minority, are reported to have hit rocks and turned over on Monday night as they traveled from Pauktaw township in Rakhine state, said Kirsten Mildren, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Bangkok.


Reuters: Cameron to publish EU vote bill in bid to defuse party revolt

Britain's ruling Conservatives will unveil a draft bill on Tuesday that could make Prime Minister David Cameron's promise of a referendum on Britain's European Union membership legally binding. In a political gamble aimed at shoring up Cameron's leadership, the bill would pave the way for an in-out vote by the end of 2017 that will decide Britain's geopolitical and economic destiny for decades ahead. However, the Conservatives are part of a two-party coalition and do not have a parliamentary majority, so the bill's chances of success aren't guaranteed. Rebels from other parties would need to support it too for it to become law.

Financial Times: Bloomberg users’ messages leaked online

More than ten thousand private messages sent between users of Bloomberg’s financial terminals have leaked online, undermining the company’s attempts to restore faith in its ability to keep client data confidential as it scrambles to allay clients’ privacy concerns. Two long lists showing confidential Bloomberg messages between traders at dozens of the world’s largest banks and their clients have been online for several years, the Financial Times has learnt. The documents from one particular day in 2009 and also from 2010, contain messages sent in by clients so Bloomberg could extract price data for their use on bonds, credit default swaps and other financial products from traders’ messages.

WSJ: Angola Looks to China as Oil Sales to U.S. Decline

Angola is depending increasingly on oil sales to China as its exports to the U.S. decline, according to the country's oil minister, reflecting a shift in the global oil market as North America produces more of its own energy. "There is a reduction in petroleum imports to the United States," petroleum minister Jose B. de Vasconcelos said in an interview. "Emerging markets India and China have been growing, and they have absorbed a large part of Angolan exports." Angola's oil exports to the U.S. fell 34% last year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Over a longer period, the West African nation has steadily increased its exports to China, according to data from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, becoming the giant economy's second-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia.


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