CNN: Search for survivors winds down as Oklahoma begins daunting recovery
What began as a hunt for survivors is now an arduous recovery effort. No new survivors or bodies have been found since Monday, the day a mammoth tornado ripped a 17-mile path of destruction in central Oklahoma and pummeled 2,400 homes. The mayor of Moore, which bore the brunt of the tornado's wrath, said he doesn't expect the death toll to climb any higher. At least 24 people, including nine children, were killed, the state medical examiner's office said.
ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: FEMA offers aid to tornado victims
WSJ: Electronic Health Data Gaining Favor
More than half of U.S. doctors have switched to electronic health records and are using them to manage patients' basic medical information and prescriptions, according to federal data set to be released Wednesday. The Department of Health and Human Services says it has reached a tipping point as it seeks to steer medical providers away from paper records. Advocates for electronic health records say they have the potential to make medical care safer and more efficient. In 2015, the federal government will start penalizing providers that haven't begun using electronic health records in reimbursements they get for treating patients.
NYT: Debate Aside, Drone Strikes Drop Sharply
President Obama embraced drone strikes in his first term, and the targeted killing of suspected terrorists has come to define his presidency. But lost in the contentious debate over the legality, morality and effectiveness of a novel weapon is the fact that the number of strikes has actually been in decline. Strikes in Pakistan peaked in 2010 and have fallen sharply since then; their pace in Yemen has slowed to half of last year’s rate; and no strike has been reported in Somalia for more than a year. In a long-awaited address on Thursday at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama will make his most ambitious attempt to date to lay out his justification for the strikes and what they have achieved.
Politico: Jay Carney's blues
President Barack Obama brought in press secretary Jay Carney “to lower the temperature” in the briefing room back in 2011 — but reporters are increasingly skeptical about Carney’s demeanor and the veracity of some answers to questions about recent administration scandals. Carney, as laid back in private as he is buttoned-down in public, has clashed with the White House press corps repeatedly over the past few days as he struggled to address tangled official narratives on the I.R.S. probe of tea party groups and the administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi. Testy West Wing exchanges are nothing new — Carney’s predecessor Robert Gibbs was especially fond of rhetorical brawling. But Carney’s latest dust-up with the media, a particularly contentious Tuesday briefing, exposed long-simmering tensions between a presidential spokesman who often questions reporters’ motives and a press pack who regard him as unwilling or unable to deliver straight answers.
CNN: White House officials discussed IRS communications plans
White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged Tuesday that senior Obama administration officials discussed when and how Lois Lerner, an IRS official, should roll out news that the tax agency had improperly targeted political groups. At the White house briefing, Carney revealed that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Mark Childress twice discussed communications strategy with Treasury Department officials. “In the communications I mentioned yesterday, between Treasury officials in the counsel's office, as well as the chief of staff's office and over here – the chief of staff’s office and the counsel's office, that there were discussions about the timing of the release of this information and the findings of the report,” Carney said.
CNN: Obama against prosecuting journalists, White House says
Following revelations that the Obama administration has launched investigations into journalists from both the Associated Press and Fox News over national security leaks, the White House said Tuesday that President Obama does not believe journalists should be "prosecuted for doing their jobs. I can tell you that in our conversation yesterday, [President Obama] reiterated just how important he believes it is that reporters, that all of you and your colleagues, are able to do your jobs in a free and open way," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney at Tuesday's press briefing.
ALSO SEE: The New Yorker: The Justice Department and Fox News’s phone records
NYT: As Chinese Leader’s Visit Nears, U.S. Is Urged to Allow Counterattacks on Hackers
With President Obama preparing for a first meeting with China’s new president, a commission led by two former senior officials in his administration will recommend a series of steps that could significantly raise the cost to China of the theft of American industrial secrets. If milder measures failed, the commission said, the United States should consider giving companies the right to retaliate against cyberattackers with counterstrikes of their own. The recommendations are from the private Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, which is led by two figures who parted company with the White House on strained terms: Dennis C. Blair, Mr. Obama’s first director of national intelligence, and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former ambassador to China who left his post to run, unsuccessfully, for the Republican nomination for president.
CNN: Immigration reform clears key Senate hurdle
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate floor for consideration and giving the bill's backers their first major legislative victory. Members of the Democratic-controlled panel voted 13-5 in favor of the measure. If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the nation's immigration policy since 1986.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Sessions takes on Senate immigration gang, vows to 'expose' flawed bill
Politico: House immigration talks hang on health care
House immigration negotiators have given themselves until the end of the week to hash out language on what kind of health benefits should be available to undocumented immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship, a crucial issue for the talks. If they can’t resolve this issue, the four-year immigration negotiations could come to a crashing halt. Top Democrats said late Tuesday they do not think Republicans will walk away from the talks.
CNN: IRS official to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing
The official in charge of an embattled Internal Revenue Service division will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a Wednesday appearance before a House oversight panel, a spokesman for the committee said. Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division handling requests for tax-exempt status, made her intentions known in a letter to the committee's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa. Lerner was the first IRS official to publically admit that the tax agency was using extra scrutiny on conservative groups applying to become tax exempt. "The Committee has been contacted by Ms. Lerner's lawyer who stated that his client intended to invoke her 5th amendment right and refuse to answer questions," the committee's spokesman Ali Ahmad wrote in a statement.
WATCH: VIDEO – The central player at the center of the IRS scandal will plead the Fifth. CNN's Dan Lothian reports
WSJ: Senate Advances Call to Arm Some Syrian Rebels
A key Senate committee overwhelmingly approved legislation that calls on the U.S. to provide small arms to moderate Syrian opposition groups, underscoring growing sentiment among lawmakers for a change in the U.S. approach to the conflict. The 15-3 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee showed broad support from both Democrats and Republicans for arming the rebels, though the legislation has to go through many more votes to be adopted, and even then wouldn't compel the administration to provide arms. Some lawmakers from each party voiced concern over the difficulty of ensuring weapons aren't misused and won't slip into the hands of radical Islamists aligned with al Qaeda. The vote came as the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fighting alongside militants from Iran-backed Hezbollah, engaged in a third day of an offensive on the rebel-held city of Qusayr—a battle that, if won by government forces, could give a significant strategic boost to the regime.
Politico: NOAA still planning to furlough storm forecasters
Congress isn’t rushing to stave off looming furloughs for federal weather forecasters, even after they issued tornado warnings credited with saving countless lives in Oklahoma. Some lawmakers are open to looking at sequestration’s effects on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, home to the National Weather Service and its 3,500 forecasters. But they said it’s too soon to know whether Congress has an appetite for making a sequester fix for the forecasters, similar to the ones lawmakers approved for air-traffic controllers and meat inspectors.
CNN: Disgraced ex-congressman Weiner says he's running for NYC mayor
It’s official. After months of speculation, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner announced in a YouTube video posted to his campaign website late Tuesday that he is running for mayor of New York City. “Look, I’ve made some big mistakes and I know I’ve let a lot of people down. But I’ve also learned some tough lessons,” Weiner says in the video. “I’m running for mayor because I’ve been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it for my entire life. And I hope I get a second chance to work for you.”
Politico: N.J. Dem Barbara Buono to launch big ad buy
New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono, the underdog challenger to popular GOP incumbent Chris Christie, is going on air with a $1 million TV ad buy, a media-tracking source told POLITICO. The buy is strictly for the New York City broadcast market, from May 28 through June 4, the source said, for a total of just over $1 million. A Buono spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But Buono has been struggling to raise her name ID against a heavily-funded opponent, who has taken to the airwaves to define her early. Christie also caused a flap by appearing in Hurricane Sandy-related state ads recently, which seemed to promote his leadership.
CNN: U.S. identifies some involved in Benghazi attack, lawmaker says
The U.S. government has identified "a certain number of people" believed involved in the Benghazi, Libya, attack, a senior Republican lawmaker told CNN on Tuesday. The lawmaker said that government investigators have put identities to individuals seen in surveillance video of the attack. "They know the names. That's what we haven't known. These are individuals they know now. Not just the pictures," the senior lawmaker said. The lawmaker, who is familiar with the status of the investigation, could not say how many had been identified. …The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that, according to unnamed U.S. officials, five men have been identified, and that the government has enough information to justify the U.S. military grabbing the suspects but not enough evidence to try them in civilian court.
ALSO SEE: Fox News: Sources challenge White House claim of all-hands-on-deck pursuit of Benghazi suspects
BuzzFeed: Advisers Urged Obama Early On To Release Comprehensive Benghazi Timeline
The White House Counsel’s office advised senior Obama officials to keep quiet about the attack in Benghazi during the weeks preceding last year’s November presidential election, according to two administration sources. BuzzFeed has learned that key members of President Obama’s national security team, including deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, pushed to release a comprehensive timeline of events documenting the attack that would also synthesize the views of the various government agencies into one report. The CIA also wanted the White House to put out such a timeline, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Those plans were quashed, however, when the White House Counsel’s office, which is led by Kathryn Ruemmler, advised the officials to not release any information to the public out of fear it could be used against them in any subsequent investigations and other legal complications.
WaPo: Petraeus’s role in drafting Benghazi talking points raises questions
The controversy over the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attack last year began at a meeting over coffee on Capitol Hill three days after the assault. It was at this informal session with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the ranking Democrat asked David H. Petraeus, who was CIA director at the time, to ensure that committee members did not inadvertently disclose classified information when talking to the news media about the attack. “We had some new members on the committee, and we knew the press would be very aggressive on this, so we didn’t want any of them to make mistakes,” Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.) said last week of his request in an account supported by Republican participants. “We didn’t want to jeopardize sources and methods, and we didn’t want to tip off the bad guys. That’s all.”
Politico: Hagel to exempt DOD sex assault prevention workers from furloughs
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is exempting around 500 civilian sexual assault prevention personnel from this year’s mandatory furloughs, a senior defense official told POLITICO, in a bid to show the Pentagon is serious about cracking down on sexual assault in the ranks. Hagel is expected to make the announcement on Wednesday. His move comes after a rash of arrests and investigations into service members accused of sexual misconduct and a summit of top military leaders at the White House last week, when President Barack Obama called the problem “dangerous to our national security.” Hagel has ordered most of the department’s 800,000 civilian workers to take 11 days off this summer to help offset budget cuts under sequestration.
CNN: Army suspends general due to allegations of misconduct
The Army has suspended the top general at Fort Jackson in South Carolina due to allegations of adultery and assault, an Army spokesman says. Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts was relieved of his duties Tuesday as commanding general of the Army training center and Fort Jackson while the allegations are being investigated, said spokesman Harvey Perritt of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Roberts was suspended by Gen. Robert Cone, head of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Fort Jackson, where Roberts was the senior commander, is where most new Army recruits go through basic training, which includes training about sexual assault prevention.
NYT: Iran and Hezbollah Support for Syria Complicates Peace-Talk Strategy
As evidence grows of increased Iranian support for the Syrian government, the Obama administration’s strategy to bring the bitter fighting there to a close faces more challenges than ever. With White House support, Secretary of State John Kerry has pushed for an international conference in Geneva in June that would bring representatives of the Syria government together with the opposition. The aim would be to negotiate a transitional government that would take over if President Bashar al-Assad vacates his post and to put an end to the civil war that has killed more than 80,000. But the stepped-up support Mr. Assad has received from Iran and Hezbollah in recent months appears to have fortified his belief that he can hang on to power and prevail militarily — or at least control a strategically significant swath of the country.
NBCDFW: Accused Fort Hood Shooter Paid $278,000 While Awaiting Trial
The Department of Defense confirms to NBC 5 Investigates that accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan has now been paid more than $278,000 since the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 32 injured. The Army said under the Military Code of Justice, Hasan’s salary cannot be suspended unless he is proven guilty. If Hasan had been a civilian defense department employee, NBC 5 Investigates has learned, the Army could have suspended his pay after just seven days. Personnel rules for most civilian government workers allow for "indefinite suspensions" in cases "when the agency has reasonable cause to believe that the employee has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed."
CNNMoney: Army plans to launch a reality TV show
Uncle Sam wants you ... to watch reality television. The Army is planning to launch a new reality TV program, "Starting Strong," on June 2, aimed at recruiting 18- to 24-year-olds to enlist in the military. The Army describes it as a "reality-TV inspired" advertisement, but it will look an awful lot like a standard TV show. There will be 10 episodes. Each is roughly 23 minutes long and is broken up by regular commercial breaks, and they're coming to your local TV station. A Facebook page for the series offers some teaser promotional photos.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
NYT: F.A.A.’s Concerns Hold Up Use of Wildfire Drones
As wildfire season begins in Western landscapes that were covered in smoky haze for weeks at a time last summer, the federal government’s firefighters are exploring the use of small remote-controlled drones with infrared cameras that could map a fire’s size and speed, and identify hot spots, a particular danger. With a maximum wingspan of about 52 inches, the drones would supplement and perhaps replace manned surveillance aircraft, potentially reducing the risk to both pilots and firefighters. But the effort is being slowed by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The use of drones in open airspace is regulated by the F.A.A., and its safety requirements effectively preclude unmanned aerial systems, or U.A.S.’s, from operating out of sight of a ground-based pilot. If distance or the smoke of a wildfire obscures a drone from observers on the ground, a piloted aircraft must be sent aloft to keep an eye on it.
LA Times: Immigration cases make up 40% of federal prosecutions, study says
Immigration-related offenses are now the leading type of federal prosecution, constituting more than 40% of cases compared with 22% for drug crimes, according to federal crime data. Many immigrants are now prosecuted because they try to cross the border again after being deported, according to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. Often, they are so desperate to get back to their families in the United States that prison time is not a deterrent, the report said. In the past, people with no prior criminal record would have been deported without being prosecuted. According to the report, "Turning Migrants Into Criminals," immigration prosecutions for illegal entry or reentry increased to more than 85,000 in 2013 from about 12,500 in 2002.
NYT: 2 More Antigay Attacks Are Reported in Manhattan
Just hours after hundreds of people held a rally in Greenwich Village to protest the killing of a gay man last week, two men were violently assaulted in separate attacks in downtown Manhattan because of their sexual orientation, New York City officials said on Tuesday. The attacks added to a troubling increase in reported antigay crimes in the city. “It is a shame that we have to get together to talk about some things that should never occur, that we always thought, you know, we’d gotten beyond that,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.
Hartford Courant: Bill Drafted In Secret Would Block Release Of Some Newtown Massacre Records
The staffs of the state's top prosecutor and the governor's office have been working in secret with General Assembly leaders on legislation to withhold records related to the police investigation into the Dec. 14 Newtown elementary school massacre — including victims' photos, tapes of 911 calls, and possibly more. The behind-the-scenes legislative effort came to light Tuesday when The Courant obtained a copy of an email by a top assistant to Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane, Timothy J. Sugrue. Sugrue, an assistant state's attorney, discussed options considered so far, including blocking release of statements "made by a minor." "There is complete agreement regarding photos etc., and audio tapes, although the act may allow the disclosure of audio transcripts," Sugrue wrote to Kane, two other Kane subordinates and to Danbury State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky, who is directing the investigation of the killings.
Denver Post: Colorado gubernatorial GOP primary getting crowded
At least five candidates are officially challenging Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2014 and another three are mulling whether to jump in the race . That so many are choosing to challenge the popular governor is, Republicans contend, a sign that a Democrat who once seemed invincible is vulnerable. State Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, who hasn't made up his mind whether to enter the race, said Hickenlooper's backing of gun legislation during the 2013 session and concerns that he might halt the execution of a death-row inmate are some of the reasons Coloradans are frustrated.
Tampa Bay Times: Gov. Rick Scott signs elections bill to fix long voter lines
Gov. Rick Scott has finished the fix of the flawed election law that relegated Florida to a late-night joke in 2012 by signing an elections cleanup bill passed on the final day of the legislative session. The measure, signed by Scott late Monday before he left for a trade mission to Chile, reverses several provisions implemented in 2011 by GOP lawmakers in anticipation of the 2012 presidential election. Those changes, criticized by Democrats as an attempt to suppress votes for President Barack Obama, limited the early voting that the president's campaign capitalized on in 2008. The 2011 law also prevented early voting on the Sunday before Election Day and prohibited voters, particularly students, from changing their voting address at the polls. Scott, who had previously signed the 2011 bill into law and refused to use his executive powers to extend early voting in 2012 despite numerous requests, acknowledged the system needed a fix.
Boston Herald: Survivors urged to meet fund deadline
The driving force behind The One Fund Boston has an urgent appeal for hundreds of still traumatized Boston Marathon bombing victims — get your applications for a share of the tax-free $31 million in donations in on time, or you’ll be left out. “You would be amazed at how people in grief, with all sorts of uncertainty about their lives, don’t file. File at the last minute. File claim forms written in crayon,” One Fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg told the Herald yesterday. Loved ones of the four killed in the marathon bombings and manhunt days later and the 260-plus wounded all have until June 15 to apply for their awards. If anyone misses the deadline, they are ineligible, Feinberg said.
Reuters: North Korea sends top Kim Jong-un aide to Beijing
North Korea sent one of its top military officials as a "special envoy" from its leader Kim Jong-un to Beijing on Wednesday, accompanied by a high-powered delegation in what appeared to be a bid to mend frayed relations with its most important ally. The delegation led by Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the country's top military body, was the most senior to visit China since Kim's kingmaker uncle Jang Song-thaek made the trip in August 2012. Ties between Pyongyang and Beijing have been hurt by the North's third nuclear test, carried out in February, and by China agreeing to U.N. sanctions on the North and starting to put a squeeze on North Korean banks.
CNN: Military: 7 kidnapped soldiers freed in Egypt
Seven Egyptian soldiers who were kidnapped six days ago in the Sinai Peninsula have been freed, the spokesman for Egypt's armed forces said Wednesday. The men are now en route to the capital, Cairo, Ahmed Mohammed Ali said on his official Facebook page. Their release is a result of "the efforts made by the Egyptian military intelligence services with the cooperation of the tribal sheikhs and the noble people of Sinai," he said. It's not yet clear who kidnapped the soldiers or how their release was secured.
BBC: Parents quit Singapore probe into Shane Todd death
The family of a US man found hanged in Singapore have withdrawn from an inquiry into his death, saying they no longer have confidence in the system. Shane Todd's death in June 2012 was registered as suicide, but his parents believe he was killed over a project related to sensitive technology. Their withdrawal was announced on Wednesday, a day after they walked out of court, saying they had not had time to prepare for a new witness. The probe will go on in their absence.
CNN: Bombings in Iraq kill 19 people as worries over sectarian violence grow
At least 19 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded Tuesday in bombings in Iraq, police said. The latest attacks come amid a recent uptick in Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq that has killed at least 266 people in the past three weeks, according to a CNN tally. The violence has conjured fears that the all-out sectarian conflict that erupted last decade is starting again. A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest in Tarmiya killed three soldiers and wounded seven others in an attack on a checkpoint. Tarmiya is predominantly Sunni.
NYT: A Founder of the Revolution Is Barred From Office, Shocking Iranians
The decision on Tuesday to bar the presidential candidacy of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution and a former president, shocked Iranians, particularly among the 70 percent of the population that is under 35 and grew up when he served in many leading positions. “They say a revolution eats its children,” said Mehdi, 27, a teacher. “But in the case of Rafsanjani the revolution has eaten its father.” The exclusion of Mr. Rafsanjani and another thorn in the conservatives’ side, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, could foreshadow even greater repercussions, analysts and commentators said.
ALSO SEE: Christian Science Monitor: Exclusive: Iran's frontrunner for president speaks of his life battling US power
Reuters: China's Li offers to help end Pakistan's energy crisis
China and Pakistan should make cooperation on power generation a priority, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, as Islamabad seeks to end an energy crisis that triggers power cuts of up to 20 hours a day, bringing the economy to a near standstill. Li arrived in the Pakistan capital on Wednesday on the second leg of his first official trip since taking office in March after a visit to Pakistan's and China's arch rival, India. Tight security included shutting down mobile phone networks across the city. Pakistan was one of the first countries to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, in 1950, and they consider each other "all-weather friends".
BBC: Tax and energy to dominate EU summit in Brussels
EU leaders are gathering in Brussels for a summit to tackle tax evasion and improve Europe's energy market. After sharp divisions over the EU budget there may be more consensus on these issues, seen as vital in restoring Europe's competitiveness. Tax evasion costs EU states 1tn euros ($1.3tn; £0.85tn) a year – more than was spent on healthcare in 2008. A European Parliament resolution calls on the EU to halve that figure by 2020, by curbing tax loopholes and havens.
The Guardian: Some Afghan interpreters to be allowed to settle in Britain
About half the Afghan interpreters risking their lives for British troops are to be given settlement rights in the UK under a reworked package prepared by the coalition government. The package represents a climbdown from earlier suggestions that most interpreters would have to risk reprisals as collaborators by the Taliban after coalition forces leave a still unstable country at the end of 2014. Under the proposals any interpreters who have put themselves in physical danger working outside British military bases will be offered a resettlement package if they have been working for the UK forces for more than 12 months at the point of their redundancy.
WSJ: Vote Strengthens Dimon's Grip
James Dimon tightened his grip on the nation's largest bank on Tuesday as shareholders of J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +1.40% & Co. overwhelmingly endorsed his dual role as chairman and chief executive. A year after a multibillion-dollar trading fiasco tainted Mr. Dimon's reputation as Wall Street's best risk manager, just 32.2% of shareholders voted for a resolution to split the two positions. That was well below the 40.1% who voted to do so a year ago.
CNNMoney: Bank of Japan maintains policy, cheers Abenomics
Japan's central bank pledged Wednesday to maintain its ambitious quantitative easing program, saying that economic conditions in the country are improving. "Japan's economy has started picking up," the Bank of Japan said in a statement, citing improvement in exports, consumer spending and private investment. The central bank announced in April that it would expand its balance sheet by purchasing longer-term debt and securities like ETFs. The bank also merged its asset-purchase programs and suspended a rule that prohibited the purchase of longer-term debt.
CNNMoney: Apple grilled about tax havens
Apple executives defended the company's tax strategy on Capitol Hill Tuesday, claiming that it pays one of the highest effective tax rates of any major corporation. A Senate panel called the hearing to examine what committee leadership said was the iPhone maker's strategy of shifting income to an Irish subsidiary to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Apple officials said the money resided with its overseas operations, such as those in Ireland, not to avoid taxes but because of the growth of Apple's sales overseas. Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) CEO Tim Cook said the company paid an effective tax rate of 30.5% on profits it made on U.S. sales. He said Apple paid $6 billion in U.S. corporate taxes last year and expects to pay more this year.
WATCH: VIDEO – Apple faced a Senate hearing after it was accused of moving money overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. CNN's Joe Johns reports