CNN: Israeli military: Syrian rockets hit Golan Heights
Several Syrian rockets landed early Wednesday in the Mount Hermon area of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, on the border with Syria, the Israeli military said. "Initial reports indicate that the rockets are a result of (the) domestic situation in Syria," a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces said. "As a result the Hermon side of the mountain will be temporarily closed for visitors." The Israel Defense Forces has been in touch with the U.N. force stationed between the two countries, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, over the incident, it said.
CNN: Boston fire chief gets vote of 'no confidence' in handling of bombings
Thirteen out of 14 Boston deputy fire chiefs have signed a letter of "no confidence" in Fire Chief Steve Abraira's handling of the Boston Marathon bombings, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN Tuesday night. The exact content of the letter is unclear, but was sent to Mayor Thomas Menino's office in April, according to the source. The twin blasts at the end of the Boston Marathon on April 15 killed three and wounded more than 260 others.
CNN: Abortion doctor convicted of murder waives appeal, avoids death sentence
A Philadelphia abortion provider found guilty of first-degree murder has agreed give up his right to appeal in exchange for avoiding a possible death sentence, Philadelphia's district attorney's office announced Tuesday. Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was convicted Monday on three counts of murder for killing babies by cutting their spinal cords with scissors. The next step in the case was to have been the penalty phase, when jurors would have weighed whether to give Gosnell a death sentence. The arrangement erases a need for that phase.
CNN: Tougher drunk-driving threshold proposed to reduce traffic deaths
A common benchmark in the United States for determining when a driver is legally drunk is not doing enough to prevent alcohol-related crashes that kill about 10,000 people each year and should be made more restrictive, transportation safety investigators say. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended on Tuesday that all 50 states adopt a blood-alcohol content (BAC) cutoff of 0.05 compared to the 0.08 standard on the books today and used by law enforcement and the courts to prosecute drunk driving. "Most Americans think that we've solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it's still a national epidemic," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said.
Reuters: Cleveland women held captive will suffer long-term damage: sources
Two of the women imprisoned in a Cleveland house in conditions described as similar to a prisoner of war camp suffered from severe malnutrition and will require long-term therapy for injuries such as hearing loss and joint and muscle damage, two sources with direct knowledge said. The basement where the women were held had chains coming from the wall, and dog leashes attached to the ceiling, the sources said. The women were restrained with them and duct tape in "stress positions" for long periods that left them with bed sores and other injuries, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, who asked not to be identified. Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were in worse condition than Amanda Berry when they emerged from at least nine years in captivity at the home of Ariel Castro, accused of kidnapping and raping the women. Castro appeared to treat Berry better than the other two, the sources said.
CNN: Parents sue South Carolina for surgically turning child into a female
The adoptive parents of a child born with male and female organs say South Carolina mutilated their son by choosing a gender and having his male genitalia surgically removed. The surgery took place when the child was 16 months old and a ward of the state, according to a lawsuit filed by the parents against three doctors and several members of South Carolina Department of Social Services. The child's biological mother was deemed unfit, and the biological father had apparently abandoned him, according to the suit. So others made the decision. The child, now 8 years old, feels more like a boy and "wants to be a normal boy," his adoptive mother said.
CNN: Minnesota governor signs same-sex marriage bill into law
Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriages Tuesday after Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, signed a bill giving same-sex couples the right to marry. "It's history," his Twitter account read, along with a photo of him signing the bill on the Capitol steps. The state Senate on Monday voted 37-30 in favor of approving the legislation.
CNN: Obama struggles with rocky start to second term
Secretly accessing phone records of journalists. IRS targeting of conservative groups. Misleading statements last year about the Benghazi terrorist attack. News headlines of the past week portray an administration engulfed in potential scandal, providing opponents of President Barack Obama with plenty of ammunition to try to derail his agenda in the early months of his second term. The scenario invites comparisons to previous presidents who faced controversies in their "lame duck" second terms, such as the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration and Bill Clinton's impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. However, a rocky start to a second term doesn't mean certain derailment of a president's goals or agenda.
ALSO SEE: Politico: Obama's dangerous new narrative
CNN: Chaffetz doesn’t rule out impeachment for Obama
Rep. Jason Chaffetz reiterated Tuesday that the impeachment of President Barack Obama is possible as the White House faces scrutiny over its role in responding to the terror attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. “Look, it's not something I'm seeking,” the Republican congressman from Utah said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” “It's not the endgame; it's not what we're playing for. I was simply asked, is that within the realm of possibilities, and I would say ‘yes.’ I'm not willing to take that off the table. But that’s certainly not what we’re striving for.”
ALSO SEE: Politico: D.C. turns on Obama
WaPo: Justice Department subpoena increases tension between White House and news media
It was an article of faith among conservatives before Senator Obama became President Obama, and it has persisted through his reelection: When it comes to the supposedly liberal mainstream media and the first African American Democratic president, it’s a veritable love fest. The reality, at least among those who cover the president, has been quite a bit different. Reporters have grumbled for several years about being ignored, dismissed and even insulted by White House press officials. More than usual, the White House’s relationship with the press corps has been marked by simmering tension and even mutual contempt. And now the temperature has been raised to a boil. The Justice Department’s revelation that it secretly subpoenaed the Associated Press’s phone records in order to hunt down the source of a national security leak has elicited nearly unanimous criticism and condemnation of the department’s action from news organizations.
WaPo: Senate immigration bill includes amendment prompted by Boston bombing
The Senate panel plowing through a huge immigration reform bill on Capitol Hill agreed on Tuesday to tighten the monitoring requirements of foreign students in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. The amendment would require the Department of Homeland Security to transfer all student visa information to border control agents at the nation’s 329 ports of entry. The measure, proposed by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), was prompted by an alleged accomplice of the accused Boston bombers, who was in the country on an expired student visa.
Politico: On tech visas, Orrin Hatch holds some cards
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday largely kept intact an agreement on high-tech visas in the Gang of Eight immigration bill, making modest changes while defeating measures that would dramatically alter the compromise. But one major flash point remains on tech-friendly amendments backed by a key Republican senator. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a major advocate for the tech industry, is viewed as a potential swing vote for the underlying Gang of Eight bill, and he clearly knows he has some leverage in this battle. But Hatch’s plans run right up against Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a top critic of H-1B visas and a Gang of Eight negotiator who has repeatedly stated his opposition to the heart of Hatch’s measures.
ALSO SEE: The Hill: Strain shows between Rubio, Gang of Eight on immigration reform legislation
CNN: Immigration bill is Democratic plot, House conservative says
A prominent House conservative said Tuesday that the immigration reform bill under consideration in the Senate is part of an ongoing plot to build a massive new Democratic voting bloc. America's growing Hispanic vote is "a huge boon for Democrats. They have known that for a long time," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Their message has been that "we are going to recruit all you folks. That we are going to give amnesty to (you) to become Democrats." Democratic leaders "are in the process of seeking to establish another monolithic voting bloc," he said. Republicans backing the bipartisan Senate bill "completely ignore that fact."
CNN: Obama says some IRS employees 'failed,' orders accountability
Lax oversight at the Internal Revenue Service allowed for the singling out of some conservative groups, resulting in lengthy delays in the processing of their applications for federal tax-exempt status, according to a report by the agency's inspector general released Tuesday. The report found that for more than 18 months beginning in early 2010 the IRS developed and followed a faulty policy to determine whether the applicants were engaged in political activities, which would disqualify the groups from receiving tax-exempt status. "The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention," according to the report. President Barack Obama called the report findings "intolerable and inexcusable."
CNN: GOP going after Dems in ads over IRS scandal
As the Obama administration takes heat for the recent Internal Revenue Service controversy, the House Republican campaign arm is making sure some Democrats in Congress face pressure, as well. The National Republican Congressional Committee is rolling out a slew of web ads, calling on House Democrats to condemn the IRS' targeting of conservative groups that filed for tax-exempt status in the last few years. However, a number of the targeted Democrats have issued such statements.
Politico: Anthony Weiner hires campaign manager
Anthony Weiner’s new campaign manager for his nascent mayoral bid is a recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee adviser who spent four months working on a failed Staten Island congressional race last year, two sources familiar with the hire told POLITICO. Danny Kedem, who worked on Mark Murphy’s congressional run in New York’s 11th District last year, has been brought on as Weiner’s campaign manager for a race he is likely to announce next week, according to multiple sources. Kedem’s resume includes a handful of other congressional runs and mayoral races, as well as field organizing work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential run.
CNN: Army investigates sergeant for alleged sexual assault
The Army announced Tuesday that a sergeant first class assigned to an assault prevention program at Fort Hood, Texas, is under investigation for sexual assault. The soldier, who was not named in an Army statement, has been suspended from all duties. Specifically, the soldier is under investigation for "pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates," the statement said. Special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are conducting the probe. No charges have been filed. …"There is a distinct possibility," that some sort of prostitution-related activity was involved, an administration official told CNN. But investigators have not yet determined the scope of that possibility or the potential criminal misconduct.
CNN: North Korea says jailed American is now in 'special prison'
North Korea said Wednesday that the U.S. citizen it sentenced last month to 15 years of hard labor has begun his stay at a "special prison." Kenneth Bae, who the North Koreans refer to as Pae Jun Ho, was arrested in November in Rason city, a port in the northeastern corner of North Korea. North Korea accuses him of seeking to bring down the regime of Kim Jong Un, but the United States and his family say he was just working as a tour operator.
Reuters: Exclusive: Sanctions delay North Korea's atom bomb work, U.N. says
Increasingly tough financial sanctions, an arms embargo and other international restrictions on trade with North Korea have significantly delayed expansion of Pyongyang's illicit nuclear arms program, according to a confidential report by a U.N. panel of experts seen by Reuters on Tuesday. The latest annual report by the U.N. sanctions-monitoring group comes as the United States seeks to persuade China that applying economic and other sanctions against its neighbor is crucial to halting the program.
CNN: Russia orders expulsion of U.S. diplomat accused of being CIA agent
Wigs, dark glasses, a compass and a large bundle of foreign cash - it's the stuff of any Cold War-era spy novel. That's the "spy arsenal" Russia's counterintelligence agency says it found with a U.S. diplomat when he was caught allegedly trying to recruit a Russian special services staff member. The diplomat in question, Ryan Fogle, third secretary of the Political Department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was declared "persona non grata" Tuesday. Russia's Foreign Ministry has demanded his "early expulsion."
CNNMoney: Defense Department trims furlough days to 11
Defense Department employees are getting a little bit of a reprieve. Workers now face 11 days of furloughs, cut down from an expected 14 days, Defense Department Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday. Starting July 8 through the end of September, workers will be forced to stay at home one day each week - a 20% pay cut over 11 weeks. "I have made this decision very reluctantly, because I know that the furloughs will disrupt lives and impact DoD operations," Hagel said in a memo to employees on Tuesday. The Pentagon is the nation's largest federal agency and has to cut as much as $40 billion by Sept. 30 because of forced spending cuts that went into effect on March 1. The furloughs will save the agency $1.8 billion, according to a senior defense official.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Justice official defends AP phone records subpoenas
The Justice Department on Tuesday defended its decision to subpoena phone records from Associated Press bureaus and reporters, saying the requests were limited and necessary to investigate a leak of classified information. The AP revealed Monday that federal agents had collected two months of telephone records for some of its reporters and editors without notifying it of the subpoena. In a letter to Gary Pruitt, the news service's president, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the Justice Department had balanced the public's right to know with national security.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Bomb plot story at heart of probe, AP says
CNNMoney: U.S. charges 89 with defrauding Medicare of $223 million
Federal officials announced charges Tuesday against 89 people who allegedly bilked Medicare for $223 million. The cases arose from operations in eight cities and included charges against doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers. An investigation in Miami netted 25 suspects accused of securing $44 million worth of false billings by a variety of methods, including fake invoices for home health care, mental health services and physical therapy.
USA Today: Airlines bag $3.5 billion in luggage fees
Those fees passengers dole out to check a bag or change a flight proved a windfall for U.S. carriers last year, with airlines reaping a record amount from those extra charges. U.S. airlines earned $3.5 billion in fees for checked luggage and another $2.6 billion in fees charged for changing a reservation, according to a release of preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Delta was in the top spot, bringing in $865.9 million in baggage fees, and another $778.4 million in ticket-change fees.
CNN: Family wants answers after father of 4 dies during arrest
The 911 call is accusatory. The woman flatly tells the dispatcher she just witnessed several police officers in East Bakersfield, California, beat a man to death. The woman - identified by the local newspaper as Salina Quair, 34 - happened upon the scene as she left Kern Medical Center, where the father of four would later die. "There's a man laying on the floor, and your police officers beat the sh-t out of him and killed him," said Quair, according to a tape of the 911 call obtained by CNN affiliate KERO-TV. "I'm right here on the corner of Flower and Palm right now and you have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight sheriffs. The guy was laying on the floor, and eight sheriffs ran up and started beating him up with sticks. The man is dead laying right here, right now," she continues.
Denver Post: Colorado Tea Party groups believed to be targeted by IRS
At least two Colorado Tea Party groups believe they were caught up in a politically targeted campaign by the Internal Revenue Service to make it hard for small, conservative groups to incorporate as tax-exempt organizations. The Western Slope Conservative Alliance and the Colorado Tea Party Patriots applied for 501(c)4 — a nonprofit, "social welfare" — status in 2010 and, more than two years later, both groups are waiting for official permission to operate under the tax code.
Des Moines Register: Matt Schultz flies to D.C. to size up GOP Senate bid
Iowa Republican Matt Schultz took another step toward a U.S. Senate run today, traveling to Washington, D.C. Schultz, who is the state’s secretary of state, told The Des Moines Register he’ll be “in meetings discussing potential US Senate run.” Some Republicans consider Schultz, 33, a young Steve King because they share similar conservative philosophies. For a long stretch, King, a congressman from western Iowa, was the heavy favorite for the GOP nomination for the Senate seat that will be open in 2014. But King decided to stay in a chamber where his party has control, flinging the doors wide open for lesser-knowns to take a shot at the seat.
Reuters: U.N. General Assembly to vote on Syria resolution; Russia opposed
The U.N. General Assembly is set to vote on Wednesday on a draft resolution that condemns Syrian authorities and accepts the opposition Syrian National Coalition as party to a potential political transition. Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is opposed to the resolution, which was drafted by Qatar and other Arab nations and circulated among the 193 U.N. member states. Some Western diplomats said it was unlikely to win as many votes as a resolution that passed last year with 133 in favor. No country has a veto in the General Assembly.
CNN: Nigerian president declares emergency in 3 states during 'rebellion'
Nigeria's president declared states of emergency Tuesday for three states, blaming "terrorists" aimed at "rebellion" who have caused "fear among our citizens and a near breakdown of law and order in parts of the country." The order, issued by President Goodluck Jonathan, applies to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in northeastern Nigeria. He also noted a rise of insurgent violence in eight other states as well, including Nasarawa, where scores of police officers were killed last week. "We have taken robust steps to unravel and address the root causes of these crises, but it would appear that there is a systematic effort by insurgents and terrorists to destabilize the Nigerian state and test our collective resolve," Jonathan said in a televised speech.
WSJ: Turkey-Kurd Deal On Oil Riles Iraq
A Turkish state-run oil firm struck a deal with Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM +1.12% and Iraq's semiautonomous Kurds to develop projects in northern Iraq, Turkey's leader said Tuesday, an agreement fraught with political risks for the energy-rich region. The deal thrust Turkey into a long-standing feud between Iraq's central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government over who has rights to northern Iraq's vast oil resources and raised tensions with Baghdad, which called it illegal. The deal could help underpin a peace accord that Turkey is negotiating to end a three-decade conflict with its own Kurdish population as it enters a delicate phase, analysts say. It could also help Turkey meet rising energy demand and raise Ankara's sway in northern Iraq.
Jerusalem Post: 'Hamas, Fatah to form unity gov't within 3 months'
Fatah and Hamas agreed on Tuesday to form a unity government within three months, a senior Hamas official told Palestinian news agency Ma'an. Moussa Abu Marzouq, deputy chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, told Ma'an that Hamas and Fatah held positive talks in Cairo and that the parties agreed to a timeline to implement reconciliation by July. Marzouq said that no names were discussed for the new government in the Tuesday talks. Last year, Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement in Doha, Qatar, to form a unity government that would pave the way for new presidential and parliamentary elections. The agreement stipulates that Abbas would serve as prime minister in addition to his job as PA president.
Der Spiegel: Deadly Side Effects: New Details Emerge in East German Drug Test Scandal
Until the fall of the Wall, Western pharmaceutical companies conducted drug trials in East German hospitals. More than 50,000 patients served as subjects, often without their knowledge, and many died. The human experiments haven't been fully investigated to this day despite fresh evidence of wrongdoing.
BBC: EU to pledge 520m euros for Mali reconstruction
The European Union will pledge 520m euros (£442m; $673m) to help rebuild Mali at a conference of international donors in Brussels on Wednesday. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the money would help the West African state become "stable, democratic and prosperous". The conference is the first since France sent troops to oust Islamist rebels from northern Mali in January.
CNNMoney: Deficits falling faster than expected
Annual deficits are falling even faster than the Congressional Budget Office predicted back in February. And the country's total debt is set to fall as share of the economy for a few years. But the downward trend won't last since lawmakers haven't implemented measures to address the long-term drivers of the country's debt. In its updated budget outlook released Tuesday, the CBO now estimates the annual deficit for this fiscal year will be $642 billion or 4% of GDP. That's $203 billion less than the agency estimated a few months ago. The CBO attributes the improved estimate to higher-than-expected tax revenues and an increase in payments to the Treasury by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
WSJ: Euro-Zone Recession Extends Into 2013
Economic output contracted in the euro zone for a sixth-straight quarter, as a slight recovery in Germany failed to offset recessions in France and Italy. Gross domestic product fell 0.2% in the first quarter from the final three months of 2012, according to a report Wednesday from the European Union's statistics office Eurostat. GDP fell 0.6% in the fourth quarter. The current downturn has now stretched for longer than the 2008-2009 recession, though the drop in output isn't yet as severe as it was four years ago. Business surveys for April suggest the bloc's economy will likely decline again this quarter. Euro-zone GDP last expanded during the third quarter of 2011, a time when Germany was growing at rates of 3% or more and recessions were largely limited to small countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
Daily Telegraph: BP, Shell and Statoil investigated over suspected oil price manipulation
The EC said it had “concerns” that several companies may have manipulated the oil price benchmark in violation of EU antitrust rules, potentially having a “huge impact” on oil and petrol prices. Shares in the oil giants fell in early trading on Wednesday after European regulators began an investigation into whether the companies may have manipulated the price of oil for more than a decade. Shell was down 1.7pc, while BP fell 0.2pc. The Commission said that on Tuesday it had raided the offices of “several companies active in and providing services to the crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels sectors”.