CNN: Bridge collapses in Washington state
The bright green suits of scuba divers on board a speedboat pierced the dusk, as they perused a mangle of steel girders of a section of bridge that lay collapsed in the waters of a Washington state river late Thursday. Three people who plunged with their vehicles, a truck and an SUV, into the Skagit River along with the truss structure have been rescued, state authorities said. …What made the section give way is under investigation, but a traffic mishap may have weakened the structure.
CNN: Boy Scouts to allow gay youths to join
Openly gay youths will be allowed to join scouting, a historic decision the Boy Scouts of America says will keep it unclouded by "a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue." More than 60% of the group's 1,400-member national council voted Thursday at an annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, for the change, which takes effect Jan. 1. "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," says the resolution. The BSA, however, will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders. "The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," the 103-year-old organization said in a statement after the vote. The BSA said there are no plans for further review of the issue.
CNN: Obama, Christie to tour Jersey Shore next week
President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will survey the Jersey Shore coastline together next week, a White House Official told CNN Thursday. Their Tuesday meeting comes about seven months after the late October storm displaced tens of thousands and caused billions of dollars in damage. It also comes on the heels of the Memorial Day weekend, when several portions of the shore popular among tourists are set to reopen. Obama "will speak about the importance of reigniting and expanding economic opportunity for middle-class families who were hard hit by the storm, and meet with business and homeowners who have benefited from the recovery efforts," the White House official said.
Baltimore Sun: Obama to address Naval Academy commencement
President Barack Obama will travel to Annapolis to speak at the Naval Academy commencement on Friday, addressing the class at a time when the military faces complicated internal challenges the graduating midshipmen will soon inherit. It is the second time Obama has spoken at the academy's graduation — the first was in 2009 — and it is the 22nd time a president has attended the ceremony since James A. Garfield spoke to the class of 1881. U.S. military involvement around the world has changed dramatically since Obama last spoke in Annapolis — combat operations in Iraq ended in 2010, and the administration is working to wind down the nearly 12-year-old war in Afghanistan. At the same time, the Pentagon is wrestling with billions of dollars in federal budget cuts — including $42 billion that are the result of sequestration. Those cuts will affect the graduation ceremony itself this year: Military officials announced months ago that the Blue Angels will not perform their traditional flyover.
CNN: Obama: U.S. will keep deploying drones - when they are only option
Drone strikes are a necessary evil, but one that must be used with more temperance as the United States' security situation evolves, President Barack Obama said Thursday. America prefers to capture, interrogate and prosecute terrorists, but there are times when this isn't possible, Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington. Terrorists intentionally hide in hard-to-reach locales and putting boots on the ground is often out of the question, he said. Thus, when the United States is faced with a threat from terrorists in a country where the government has only tenuous or no influence, drones strikes are the only option - and they're legal because America "is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban and their associated forces," Obama said.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama heckled by Code Pink leader
Politico: Furlough Friday: 4 agencies closed for business
If four federal agencies closed their doors, would anyone notice? This is no philosophical experiment Friday when, thanks to sequestration, the IRS, EPA, HUD and OMB turn a normal workday into an unpaid holiday for nearly all of their employees. In all, about 115,000 people — roughly 5 percent of the federal workforce — won’t be on the clock for the day. Staffers for the Labor and Interior departments will also get an extra unpaid day for their Memorial Day weekend. It’s an important moment for Congress and the Obama administration as they continue to battle over mandatory budget cuts, that Democrats continue to warn will mean real consequences while most Republicans claim Democrats are just crying wolf.
Wired Exclusive: Congressman Preps Bill to End Terror War Authority
In the wake of President Obama’s big speech about restraining the war on terrorism, a member of the House intelligence committee is working on a bill to undo the basic authorities to wage it. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is preparing a piece of legislation that would “sunset” the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), a foundational law passed in the days after the 9/11. “The current AUMF is outdated and straining at the edges to justify the use of force outside the war theater,” Schiff tells Danger Room. Repealing the AUMF would be the boldest restriction of presidential war powers since 9/11. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have relied on the document to authorize everything from the warrantless electronic surveillance of American citizens to drone strikes against al-Qaida offshoots that did not exist on 9/11. Getting rid of it is certain to invite fierce opposition from more bellicose members of Congress, who have repeatedly demagogued efforts to roll back any post-9/11 wartime authority, let alone the most important one.
CNN: House immigration plan's near death experience
A House bipartisan immigration plan survived a near collapse Thursday, after negotiators reached agreement on a controversial sticking point over health care costs for undocumented workers. Last week four House Democrats and four House Republicans who have been working for months on a comprehensive immigration reform plan announced an "agreement in principle," but in recent days that deal appeared to be in jeopardy. A partisan split emerged over how to ensure taxpayer dollars at both the federal and state level would not be used to cover the health care for undocumented immigrants who can't afford to pay for it on their own. GOP members worried state or local governments would be stuck with the costs and Democrats were concerned an undocumented worker who was seriously injured or diagnosed with cancer and couldn't pay for insurance would be deported.
ALSO SEE: Politico: Wild, wacky world of House immigration talks
NYT: Bank’s Lobbyists Help in Drafting Financial Bills
Bank lobbyists are not leaving it to lawmakers to draft legislation that softens financial regulations. Instead, the lobbyists are helping to write it themselves. One bill that sailed through the House Financial Services Committee this month — over the objections of the Treasury Department — was essentially Citigroup’s, according to e-mails reviewed by The New York Times. The bill would exempt broad swathes of trades from new regulation. In a sign of Wall Street’s resurgent influence in Washington, Citigroup’s recommendations were reflected in more than 70 lines of the House committee’s 85-line bill. Two crucial paragraphs, prepared by Citigroup in conjunction with other Wall Street banks, were copied nearly word for word. (Lawmakers changed two words to make them plural.) The lobbying campaign shows how, three years after Congress passed the most comprehensive overhaul of regulation since the Depression, Wall Street is finding Washington a friendlier place.
CNN: Day 3: McCain vs. tea party senators
Republican ideologies clashed on the Senate floor for the third straight day Thursday as a group of tea party insurgents took on one of the GOP's most senior and established members in an acrimonious dispute over how to move forward on the budget and the debt ceiling. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who has served in Congress for 30 years, lectured and chided his junior colleagues for not understanding the legislative process and for insisting the Senate accept their policy positions. At issue was whether and how to begin negotiations with the House over the chambers' competing budget proposals. The group of younger senators, led by Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, said they would refuse to agree to let those conference committee talks begin unless they were guaranteed negotiators would not agree to raise the debt limit as part of those talks.
CNN: Alabama congressman stepping down for university job
Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Alabama, will resign his seat to take a job with the University of Alabama system, he said in a statement Thursday to CNN affiliate WPMI. He will serve out the summer and step down on August 15, the statement read. The National Republican Congressional Committee and Alabama Republican Party issued congratulatory statements Thursday afternoon. Bonner was previously chairman of the House Ethics Committee and served on the influential Appropriations Committee.
CNN: IRS official Lois Lerner placed on administrative leave
The Internal Revenue Service official overseeing the unit that targeted conservative groups for several years beginning in the spring of 2010 has been placed on administrative leave, according to Congressional sources in both parties. Lois Lerner was the director of exempt organizations when the agency filtered applications for tax exempt status for words such as "patriot" and "tea party." She publicly revealed the targeting two weeks ago in her answer to a planted question at a bar association event in Washington shortly before an inspector general report on the matter was made public. The agency's new acting director announced late Thursday he was appointing Ken Corbin, who was deputy director of unit which processes tax returns and payments, to oversee the exempt organizations unit.
NYT: Cheers and Taunts in Candidate’s Circuslike Return to Political Stage
He was the wisecracking know-it-all, asking a voter originally from Wyoming if his old neighbors “have running water and indoor plumbing there yet.” He was the hyperkinetic policy proposer, telling a middle-aged man that the solution to affordable housing was to “have a tax for the very, very superwealthy apartments — $10 million ones.” And he was the civic superman, swooping up a nanny’s stroller in his arms and carrying it down a flight of subway stairs. “Have a great day,” he told her, as cameras captured every second. Anthony D. Weiner, the exiled, ostracized and written-off former congressman, re-emerged on New York City’s political stage on Thursday as his essential, unvarnished self, at once gratingly self-mythologizing and charmingly self-effacing. Above all, he seemed incapable of concealing an unquenchable, Kochian need for affirmation.
ALSO SEE: NYT: A Wife With Powerful Ties Is an Unexpected Architect of a New York Comeback
National Journal: Republican Blueprint for 2014? Scandal, Most of the Time
Since last year's election, the Republican Party's political leaders offered a blueprint of how they can rebuild the party after disappointing across-the-board 2012 losses, proposing a retooled platform that would better appeal to the middle class and be more welcoming to minorities. But the controversies besieging the White House present an alternative strategy—simply running against the Democratic problems at the expense of dealing with the long-term challenges the party faces. Republican officials are now sending strong signals they're planning to highlight the Democratic scandals more than any major policy push heading into next year's midterm elections. Opting for the easy way out could achieve short-term success, but the party risks avoiding the hard work necessary to make it more appealing to moderates and independents in the long run.
Roll Call: National Republicans Send Staff to Massachusetts
National Republicans have dispatched staff to Massachusetts to assist with the Senate special election that has become tantalizingly close. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has committed at least four staffers to help nominee Gabriel Gomez in the final weeks of the June 25 contest. The moves come amid fresh polling that showed Gomez running just behind Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey in this solidly Democratic state. Money remains a major hurdle for Gomez to overcome against the well-funded Markey. So the NRSC sent two fundraisers to help Gomez open some financial doors. Sarah Morgan, a regional political director, arrived Wednesday to organize volunteer efforts over the next few weeks. And Kevin McLaughlin, a senior adviser, is in Boston to assist with communications and general strategy.
ALSO SEE: BuzzFeed: Gabriel Gomez: Ed Markey Is “Dirty And Low…Pond Scum”
ALSO SEE: Boston Globe: Markey misses a string of votes in House
Weekly Standard: Benghazi Investigation Deepens: Lawmakers Seek Interviews of 13 Officials Involved
As the investigation into the Obama administration’s handling of the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi intensifies, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are seeking to conduct transcribed interviews with thirteen top State Department officials in the coming weeks in order to learn more. Those named in the letter include a wide range of current and former State Department personnel, from senior advisers to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to mid-level career officials with responsibility for diplomatic security. Among those officials: Jacob Sullivan, then deputy chief of staff and director of policy planning (and currently national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden); Victoria Nuland, then State Department spokesman; Raymond Maxwell, deputy assistant secretary of state for near east affairs; Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management; and Eric Boswell, former assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security. In a letter dated May 17, 2013, Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry to request formally that Kerry make these current and former State Department employees available.
ALSO SEE: The Hill: Issa's panel inching closer to asking for Hillary Clinton's testimony on Benghazi
CNN: State official caught up in Benghazi controversy in line for new post
The State Department spokeswoman who earlier this month found herself in the middle of the controversy surrounding key revisions to the Benghazi talking points appears to be in line for a promotion. The White House announced Thursday that President Barack Obama intends to nominate Victoria Nuland as assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Nuland, who has served as the State Department spokesperson from 2011 until earlier this spring, came under fire from Obama administration critics last week after leaked e-mails revealed she raised concerns with the CIA-prepared talking points on the deadly terror attack last September 11.
Jerusalem Post: 'Kerry Initiative can create breakthrough in peace process'
Despite the many hurdles on the path to renewing Israeli-Palestinian talks, the Kerry Initiative can lead to a breakthrough, President Shimon Peres said Friday morning in a meeting with British Secretary of State William Hague. Though the process is slow and long, Peres said, one must not ignore the positive developments on the part of the Israelis, Palestinians and Arab world. Peres thanked Hague for Britain's clear position on the Iranian nuclear issue, the war on terrorism and the need to advance the peace process. Relations between Israel and Britain are very good, he stressed, calling Hague's visit timely and important.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Kerry at Mideast corner of optimism and skepticism
NYT: C.I.A. to Focus More on Spying, a Difficult Shift
For more than seven years, Mike — a lean, chain-smoking officer at the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Virginia — has managed the agency’s deadly campaign of armed drone strikes. As the head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, Mike wielded tremendous power in hundreds of decisions over who lived and died in far-off lands. But under a new plan outlined by the Obama administration on Thursday, the Counterterrorism Center over time would cease to be the hub of America’s targeted killing operations in Pakistan, Yemen and other places where presidents might choose to wage war in the future. Already, the C.I.A.’s director, John O. Brennan, has passed over Mike, an undercover officer whose full name is being withheld, for a promotion to run the agency’s clandestine service. It is a sign that Mr. Brennan is trying to shift the C.I.A.’s focus back toward traditional spying and strategic analysis, but that is not an easy task.
WSJ: Iran Hacks Energy Firms, U.S. Says
Iranian-backed hackers have escalated a campaign of cyberassaults against U.S. corporations by launching infiltration and surveillance missions against the computer networks running energy companies, according to current and former U.S. officials. In the latest operations, the Iranian hackers were able to gain access to control-system software that could allow them to manipulate oil or gas pipelines. They proceeded "far enough to worry people," one former official said. The developments show that while Chinese hackers pose widespread intellectual-property-theft and espionage concerns, the Iranian assaults have emerged as far more worrisome because of their apparent hostile intent and potential for damage or sabotage.
NYT: North Korea Envoy Agrees to Dialogue, China Says, in Possible Sign for Nuclear Talks
A North Korean envoy visiting China said his country would “accept the proposal” by Chinese officials to open up dialogue, the state-run China News Service reported Thursday, a possible signal that the North would agree to talks on its nuclear program. The comments were reported after the envoy, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, met Liu Yunshan, who is a member of the Communist Party Standing Committee in China and the politician who heads ideological affairs for the party. Mr. Liu was quoted as repeating a frequent appeal by China for a resumption of talks that would result in the removal of nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula “as soon as possible.” Few diplomats believe that the North is prepared to be involved in so-called six-party talks that aim to strip it of its nuclear weapons. The international six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program — involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia — collapsed in 2008 after North Korea walked out. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed an interest in talks of some nature with North Korea.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
NBC: Holder OK'd search warrant for Fox News reporter's private emails, official says
Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday. The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists. "I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," Obama said. "Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs."
ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama, 'troubled' by leak investigations, asks for review
ALSO SEE: WaPo: Fox News’s Roger Ailes responds to Justice Dept. investigation
Fox: Homeland Security bulletin warns 3D-printed guns may be 'impossible' to stop
EXCLUSIVE: A new Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin warns it could be "impossible" to stop 3D-printed guns from being made, not to mention getting past security checkpoints. A May 21 bulletin distributed to numerous state and federal law enforcement agencies and obtained by FoxNews.com states that the guns, which can be made by downloading blueprints into cutting edge computers that mold three-dimensional items from melted plastic, "poses public safety risks" and are likely beyond the current reach of regulators. The guns threaten to render 3D gun control efforts useless if their manufacture becomes more widespread. "Significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printer files for firearms components, and difficulty regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns," warns the bulletin compiled by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center.
Financial Times: China clears Boeing’s Dreamliner for commercial flight
China has cleared the 787 Dreamliner for commercial flight for the first time, giving Boeing a boost as its prized but problem-hit jet gets back into regular service. The Civil Aviation Administration of China announced late on Thursday that it had certified the 787, paving the way for domestic airlines to start taking deliveries one month after US regulators approved Boeing’s redesign of its battery system. The 787 Dreamliner was grounded worldwide in January after the lithium-ion batteries on two of the innovative wide-body jets burnt up.
The Detroit News: Detroit school reform agency embellished bid to get $35M in funds
Education Achievement Authority officials overstated their authority to take over failing schools across Michigan in a bid to win a $35.4 million federal grant — six weeks before they began operating in September. The application to the U.S. Department of Education for a five-year teacher merit pay program claimed the reform district with 15 Detroit schools had legislative permission to grow to 60 schools in 10 urban districts by 2017, which it doesn't. The grant application took liberties with other facts, claiming to be an IRS-authorized charitable organization and that EAA Chancellor John Covington "has been given the mandate and authority to take control of persistently poor performing schools throughout Michigan" — an issue still being debated in the Legislature. EAA spokesman Bob Berg said the inaccuracies were "screw-ups" in a hastily written application submitted in late July and approved in October.
Des Moines Register: Walker: GOP must be relevant, optimistic, courageous
Battle-tested Republican Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who last summer became the first governor in the nation to survive a recall election meant to oust him from office, told Iowans on Thursday night that there are three ingredients for success for the GOP. “We need to be more optimistic, we need to speak in terms that are more relevant, and I think we need to be more courageous,” Walker said during a speech at the Polk County GOP’s Robb Kelley Club dinner. “Those are keys to success in 2014, in 2016 and beyond.” Iowa GOP operatives say that Walker, who has yet to say whether he’ll seek the White House in 2016, seems to have the resume, philosophy and personality to make him popular with Republicans in Iowa. He has impeccable credentials with social conservatives and tea partiers, two must-please factions for anyone trying to win the GOP caucuses here.
NY Post: Bank of Bloomberg
How rich is billionaire Mayor Bloomberg? So rich that the IRS paid him interest of between $1,000 and $5,000 last year when it was late on a refund. So rich that the 35-acre estate he bought in Southampton for $20 million a couple of years ago wasn’t big enough, so he spent at least $1 million more for two additional pieces of land next door. So rich that he donated $370 million to charity in 2012, or $59 million more than in 2011. Reporters turned prospectors yesterday to extract those financial nuggets from Bloomberg’s 2012 tax returns, which are made available each year in such heavily redacted form that it’s impossible to calculate the mayor’s true wealth.
CNN: Brutal, fatal cleaver assault in London called a terrorist attack
They first hit the man, thought to be a British soldier, with a car in broad daylight. Then the two attackers hacked him to death and dumped his body in the middle of a southeastern London road. As the victim - dressed in what appeared to be a T-shirt for Help for Heroes, a charity that helps military veterans - lay prone, one of the two attackers found a camera. "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone," said a meat-cleaver-wielding man with bloody hands, speaking in what seems to be a London accent. "The only reasons we killed this man ... is because Muslims are dying daily," he added, in video aired by CNN affiliate ITN. "This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth." One witness, Michael Atlee, described the gruesome, frenzied and ultimately fatal sequence of events Wednesday afternoon as "a bloody mess." British Prime David Cameron called it a terrorist attack.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Soldier slain in London was a machine gunner, Royal Palaces drummer, father
CNN: Stockholm sees fourth night of rioting
Sweden's capital endured a fourth consecutive night of rioting Wednesday, with fires and clashes with authorities decreasing in the original flashpoint in the northern suburbs but increasing to the south, police said. Rioters continued to set fires to vehicles and other structures in Stockholm and suburbs, and they pelted responding firefighters and police with rocks and other objects, Stockholm police press officer Kjell Lindgren said Thursday. Early media reports said the four days of riots, which started in the high-unemployment, low-income northern suburb of Husby on Sunday, might have been triggered by last week's shooting death of a man by police. But police said Wednesday they were not sure of the cause.
WSJ: Asia Goes on a Debt Binge as Much of World Sobers Up
After eschewing credit for years following the 1990s financial crisis, Asia's economies are once again amassing debt to fuel growth. The trend is a stark counterpoint to the debt reduction taking place in the U.S. and Europe. Some economists are growing concerned that the Asian debt revival could eventually trigger another crisis, or at least hinder growth in some of the world's fastest-growing economies. Few predict an imminent crisis in Asia, and sanguine observers note that rapid economic growth can make debt loads more manageable. Unlike in the 1990s, Asia has for the most part refrained from borrowing in foreign currencies, which can bring trouble if local currencies lose value.
CNN: Russia's Far East rocked by powerful earthquake
A magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck the Russian Far East on Friday, the U.S. Geologicial Survey reported. The epicenter for the extremely powerful quake was located in the Sea of Okhotsk, just to the west of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and about 600 kilometers (nearly 375 miles) underground. The quake was felt for five minutes in the region, Russia's Ria Novosti news agency reported. Many people ran into the streets as the temblor shook. No tsunami warnings were issued in the quake's immediate aftermath.
NYT: S.E.C. Changes Continue as Obama Names 2 Senate Aides for Posts
President Obama continued his shake-up of the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, naming two Senate aides to senior posts at the Wall Street regulatory agency. The nominees to the five-member agency are Kara M. Stein, a Democrat, and Michael Piwowar, a Republican. If confirmed by the Senate, they will succeed commissioners whose terms are set to expire. The move comes just months after Mr. Obama named Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor turned Wall Street defense lawyer, to be chairwoman of the agency. In recent weeks, Ms. White has started to overhaul the staff, naming co-heads of the agency’s enforcement unit, new leaders of other major divisions and her own chief of staff. She also hired a general counsel, Anne K. Small, who rejoined the S.E.C. from the White House.
Reuters: Google faces new federal antitrust probe: source
U.S. regulators are in the early stages of an antitrust probe into whether Google Inc, the top player in Web display advertising, breaks antitrust law in how it handles some advertising sales, a source told Reuters on Thursday. The source said that it was unlikely that the Federal Trade Commission had sent out civil investigative demands in relation to the probe, which would be the sign of a formal and more serious investigation. The new line of inquiry focuses on tools acquired when Google bought display ad company DoubleClick in 2007; other firms which specialize in helping Web publishers sell ads to put on their websites are complaining to the FTC, the source said.
WSJ: Latin American Trade Bloc Cuts Tariffs
The leaders of a regional trade bloc that encompasses Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico moved Thursday to lower import tariffs among the member countries, a decision that could boost economic integration efforts in Latin America. The Pacific Alliance, as the group is known, includes some of the most open economies in Latin America. The member countries already have free-trade pacts with each other, but the leaders are moving now to simplify the trade rules and unify regulatory standards for industries like agriculture. The Pacific Alliance nations agreed to the elimination of 90% of all import tariffs among the member countries, a proposal that will have to be approved by June 30 by lawmakers in some of the nations. The remaining 10% will be more gradually eliminated, although Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said that this will take place "in the shortest time frame possible."
Yes, because like our military and life in general they are not already there.