CNN: Obama to Oklahoma: 'We've got your back'
Oklahomans will "rise again" and will have the nation behind them as they struggle to bounce back from tornadoes that tore through the state last week, officials said Sunday, a day of quiet reflection and prayer. "As fellow Americans, we're going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore who have been impacted," said President Barack Obama. "And when we say that we've got your back, I promise you that we keep our word." The president described himself as a messenger speaking on behalf of the entire nation as he toured storm damage Sunday. He praised local officials, first responders and school principals for their work in the wake of the storms, which killed 24 people, injured more than 375 others and damaged 12,000 residences in and around the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Okla. governor aims to cut red tape
CNN: Prosecutor: Oregon teen planned Columbine-style attack at his school
Sniffer dogs will search an Oregon high school for explosives before students return from the Memorial Day weekend, because one of their classmates was planning to attack them with bombs, police said. The 1999 shooting spree at Colorado's Columbine High School served as Grant Acord's benchmark and inspiration, Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson said. But the prosecutor said the teen wanted to top Columbine in a planned attack at West Albany High School. With the help of explosive devices, checklists and diagrams, Acord's "goal was to model the Columbine shootings with some adjustments that would make it a greater success," Haroldson said. The prosecutor said police found six types of explosives in the 17-year-old's possession after they arrested him Thursday night at his mother's house in Albany, Oregon.
WaPo: Political intelligence firms set up investor meetings at White House
Wall Street investors hungry for advance information on upcoming federal health-care decisions repeatedly held private discussions with Obama administration officials, including a top White House adviser helping to implement the Affordable Care Act. The private conversations show that the increasingly urgent race to acquire “political intelligence” goes beyond the communications with congressional staffers that have become the focus of heightened scrutiny in recent weeks. White House records show that Elizabeth Fowler, then a top health-policy adviser to President Obama, met with executives from half a dozen investment firms in 2011 and 2012. Among them was Kris Jenner, a stock picker with T. Rowe Price Investment Services who managed its $6 billion Health Sciences Fund. Separately, an officialin the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid spoke in December with managers of hedge funds, pension plans and mutual funds in a conference call.
WaPo: White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler: From outsider to protector of the presidency
Kathryn Ruemmler does not fit the mold of an Obama confidante. She doesn’t know Barack Obama from his days in Chicago, and she never toiled on his campaigns. She doesn’t golf with him on weekends or blow off steam with him on the basketball court. Yet this blunt-spoken former prosecutor has become a trusted member of President Obama’s inner circle. As White House counsel, Ruemmler guides the president’s decisions on issues ranging from the war on terrorism to Cabinet and judicial nominations to immigration policy. And in the second term, when scandal and failure historically abound, Ruemmler has emerged as the protector of the presidency — and the focus of growing criticism of the White House’s insular and often secretive posture.
The Hill: Dems prepare game plan as House investigates Benghazi audit
Democrats vow they won't be caught flat-footed when the co-author of the State Department's independent audit on Benghazi appears for a closed-door interview with congressional investigators next month. Retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering has agreed to be deposed by Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) Oversight panel on June 3 after being threatened with a subpoena. Democrats say they're wary of a trap, and want to be able to counter what they say is Issa's habit of leaking “cherry-picked” portions of witnesses' testimonies to the press. “If it's true to form, if it's a closed deposition, his staff [will] cherry pick content and leak it once again to the press that's only too willing to print it,” panel member Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told The Hill. “It might be grossly inaccurate. In fact, it may be the opposite of what's being asserted. But by the time somebody gets around to reporting that – if they ever do – the damage is done.” To stop that from happening, Connolly said, “I would hope Pickering and his attorney would refuse to be deposed without Democrats present.” Republicans on the committee say Democrats will be allowed to sit in on the deposition, just like they have for other formal interviews.
NYT: Partisan Gridlock Thwarts Effort to Alter Health Law
Almost no law as sprawling and consequential as the Affordable Care Act has passed without changes — significant structural changes or routine tweaks known as “technical corrections” — in subsequent months and years. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, for example, was fixed in the first months after its passage in 1997. But as they prowl Capitol Hill, business lobbyists like Mr. DeFife, health care providers and others seeking changes are finding, to their dismay, that in a polarized Congress, accomplishing them has become all but impossible. Republicans simply want to see the entire law go away and will not take part in adjusting it. Democrats are petrified of reopening a politically charged law that threatens to derail careers as the Republicans once again seize on it before an election year. As a result, a landmark law that almost everyone agrees has flaws is likely to take effect unchanged.
CNN Poll: Do you support or oppose the health care law?
A majority of Americans still oppose the nation's new health care measure, three years after it became law, according to a new survey. But a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday also indicates that more than a quarter of those who oppose the law, known by many as Obamacare, say they don't support the measure because it doesn't go far enough. According to the poll, 43% of the public says it supports the health care law, a figure that's mostly unchanged in CNN polling since the measure was passed in 2010 by a Congress then controlled by Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they oppose the law, also relatively unchanged since 2010.
CNN: GOP should be ‘Closed for repairs,’ says Dole
National Republicans have shifted so drastically in the past decade that the party’s most vaunted figure – former President Ronald Reagan – would no longer find a home in the GOP, former Sen. Bob Dole claimed Sunday. “Reagan couldn’t have made it,” Dole said, adding he too would also have faced challenges in today’s Republican Party. Instead of operating day-to-day in a nonelection year, the national party should focus on broader plans to rehabilitate itself after the losses of 2012, the former Kansas lawmaker said. “I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year. Spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas,” Dole, who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
NYT: Groups Targeted by I.R.S. Tested Rules on Politics
When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress. The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application. And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature. Representatives of these organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications. But a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.
NY Post: Trump researching 2016 run
Donald Trump has spent more than $1 million on electoral research for a potential presidential run in 2016. Sources said the tough-talking “Celebrity Apprentice” host is increasingly being asked to speak at Republican events, and he appeared at the Oakland County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Novi, Mich., last week to a record crowd of 2,300. …Trump considered a run for the White House last year against Obama, but ultimately didn’t enter the race, instead making his attention-grabbing $5 million offer to the president to turn over his birth records. And when asked if he’d consider a political run, Trump recently said it was “highly unlikely.” But Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump, told us they commissioned the $1 million in research into Trump’s standing in each state, and to gauge those he would need to win over.
CNN: Kerry pushes $4 billion West Bank development plan
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry outlined Sunday a $4 billion economic development plan for the West Bank that he hopes will help encourage peace in the region. Details were scant on the proposal, which he announced in Jordan during a meeting of the World Economic Forum. "The fact is that we are looking to mobilize some $4 billion of investment," Kerry said. A team is looking at opportunities in tourism, construction, energy and agriculture, among other industries, and will make recommendations to the Palestinians, he added. Experts believe the plan could increase the Palestinian GDP by as much s 50% over three years and cut unemployment to 8% from 21%, Kerry said.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Sources: News Corp long aware of Fox News subpoenas
The parent company of Fox News was aware years ago that the Justice Department was targeting one of its reporters in a leak investigation, sources said. One law enforcement source said the Justice Department notified a media organization three years ago of a subpoena for detailed telephone records, and a second told CNN that organization was Fox News. After that news broke, a Fox News executive said the Justice Department notified Fox's parent company News Corporation of the subpoena in May 2010. But Fox News itself apparently never got the word. …News Corporation spokesman Nathaniel Brown responded Sunday night in a carefully worded statement. “While we don't take issue with the DOJ's account that they sent a notice to News Corp, we do not have a record of ever having received it,” Brown said. “We are looking into this matter.”
ALSO SEE: LA Times: News Corp. ex-counsel denies being alerted to probe of Fox reporter
ALSO SEE: NYT: News Corp. Says It Was Not Told of Subpoena for Reporter’s Phone Records
CNN: Choice of Holder to lead leak review questioned
Attorney General Eric Holder’s direct involvement in the decision to search a reporter’s e-mail records should bar him from leading a review of how the government investigates national security leaks, Republicans argued Sunday. The decision to apply for a warrant to search Fox News reporter James Rosen’s private correspondence was vetted at the Justice Department's highest levels, including Holder, a Justice official said last week, although the later decision to issue the warrant was made by a federal magistrate judge. The Obama administration's aggressive posture against leaks to reporters on national security matters has come under scrutiny as probes of Rosen and Associated Press reporters have come to light. It prompted Obama to announce on Thursday that he has directed Holder to review federal guidelines for investigating leaks and reporters. That review will include assembling a panel of media representatives.
LA Times: Supreme Court might dismiss Prop. 8 case on a technicality
Lawyers leading the fight for gay marriage in California have been quietly preparing state officials for the possibility the U.S. Supreme Court might dismiss the case on a technicality next month without deciding the fate of Proposition 8. The justices could decide that the sponsors of the ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage had no legal right, or standing, to defend it in federal court. That would end the case in Washington, but it is not clear what it would mean for California. If state officials declared Proposition 8 dead, relying on U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker's 2010 ruling against the measure, same-sex weddings could commence within weeks or months. Or there could be another legal fight over the reach of Walker's ruling.
LA Times: Tax on airline flights could increase
The cost of flying might be going up, but this time it's not the airlines raising prices. The Obama administration has proposed raising the taxes on air travel by about $14 per flight, a move airlines strongly oppose. Higher taxes are needed to help reduce the deficit, pay for improvements at the nation's airports and add thousands of new immigration and customs officers to reduce wait times to process foreign visitors, the administration says. Airlines say higher taxes will backfire and hurt the economy.
Des Moines Register: Grassley aide Young will seek Senate seat
Iowa native David Young will soon leave his job as Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate himself. “It’s the easiest job I ever took, working for Chuck Grassley, and it’s the hardest job to leave,” said Young, who will be off the payroll at the end of this week. A man who has always been behind the scenes, working on policy and rarely talking with reporters, is now in the spotlight, entering Iowa’s first open U.S. Senate race in 40 years.
San Francisco Chronicle: Seizures fight crime, anger libertarians
A nationwide network of agents and attorneys is working around the clock to seize cash, stocks, real estate, vehicles and other valuables from people and businesses. In 2012, their average daily take was almost $13 million – for a total of more than $4.7 billion. The vast money-harvesting machine they work for? The federal government. Federal asset forfeiture is both an effective crime-fighting tool and a civil-liberties nightmare, a Hearst Newspapers investigation has found. It has retrieved millions of dollars stolen from victims of complex financial crimes. But it has also victimized innocent citizens who have lost their property without criminal charges or even a courtroom hearing. Fifteen federal agencies have the power to seize assets. Over the past dozen years, those agencies have taken more than $20 billion in cash, securities and other property from scruffy drug dealers, pinstriped Wall Street tycoons – and ordinary Americans who have not been accused of a crime, much less convicted.
New Jersey Star Ledger: New Jersey officials slam Rutgers amid reports that Julie Hermann abused players
Political leaders from across the state reacted with a mix of dismay and astonishment yesterday that Rutgers found itself flush with yet-more controversy after Julie Hermann, the school's athletic director in waiting, had been accused of mental and verbal abuse by former players while she was the volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee. Still struggling to patch raw wounds left behind from the Mike Rice episode, Rutgers was again left open to criticism after a story in The Star-Ledger detailed the players' lingering grievances against Hermann. Rice was fired as the men's basketball coach in April after practice videos became public, showing him hitting his players, pummeling them with basketballs and screaming homophobic slurs.
CNN: Kenya: Before British soldier's slaying, suspect was tied to terror
Years before two men allegedly hacked a British soldier to death on a London street, Kenyan authorities arrested one of the suspects on suspicion of terror ties. In 2010, Kenyan police detained Michael Adebolajo and six others suspected of links to Somalia's Al-Shabaab terrorist group, Kenyan government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said. Kenyan counterterrorism sources told CNN that Adebolajo traveled to Kenya in November 2010 and was arrested for trying to cross illegally into Somalia. Authorities have offered different accounts of what happened next.
ALSO SEE: CNN: After soldier's slaying, Britain forms extremism task force
CNN: UK mosque burns, police make arrests on possible arson
Flames erupted at a mosque in a town in Britain late Sunday, while inciting messages circulated in social media, police said. Officers arrested two men in Grimsby on England's east coast on suspicion of arson, according to Humberside county police. No injuries have been reported due to the fire. After the mosque blaze, police said they were aware of online postings "by a small minority of individuals" that were intended to "incite trouble," Humberside County police said.
CNN: Protesters against same-sex marriage fill central Paris plaza
Protesters filled Paris' Esplanade des Invalides on Sunday, rallying against a new law that will allow same-sex marriage in France starting Wednesday. Paris police estimate 150,000 demonstrators marched along three different routes before converging in the sprawling plaza along the Seine River. The arguments against same-sex marriage in France sound similar to those expressed in other countries, with many opponents saying they're for more civil rights, but against homosexuals officially getting married. Other protesters called themselves "a defender of the family," or said they "are not homophobic, (but) just want to protect children." CNN's French affiliate BFM said 4,500 police were deployed Sunday to keep the peace after extremist threats, but the event proved to be calm.
CNN: Syria, opposition agree 'in principle' to attend peace conference
Both the Syrian government and the opposition Syrian National Coalition indicated Sunday they are interested in a peace conference next month in Geneva, Switzerland, though both sides tempered any optimism about the summit with caveats. "We have in principle agreed to participate in Geneva, pending hearing more clarity about the purpose and the intentions of the Syrian regime - the Assad regime. So far, the signals have been not positive," coalition spokesman Louay Safi said from Istanbul, where opposition leaders have been meeting to discuss the pending summit and to determine new leadership for the coalition. "The Assad regime has to make it clear that they are there to engage in talks about transition to democracy, and as part of Geneva, understanding that would mean that all the powers that resides today with Bashar al-Assad will be given to the transitional government. Until this point, this is not clear," he said.
ALSO SEE: Reuters: Syrian opposition shake-up falters ahead of peace conference
CNN: Rockets strike Beirut suburb as sectarian strife flares in Lebanon, Syria
Four rockets struck strongholds of the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon on Sunday, highlighting fears of sectarian tensions in the country that seem to mirror the strife in the Syrian civil war. The first two struck a predominately Shiite Beirut suburb of Dahiye, Lebanon's state news agency reported. One of the rockets injured five people, including three Syrians, the National News Agency reported. The number of casualties from the second one was not immediately known. Two more rockets pounded a residential area in the northern city of al-Hermel, also a Shiite neighborhood, causing property damage, NNA reported. Syrian rebels have shelled al-Hermel in the past, saying they are responding to military support of the Syrian regime by Hezbollah, which is a Shiite militia. Authorities have not identified any suspects in Sunday's attacks. Concerns that sectarian strife in Syria may trigger ethnic conflict within Lebanon's borders escalated Saturday, when Hezbollah declared it is going to war in Syria on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
BBC: Syria conflict: EU to discuss amending arms embargo
European Union foreign ministers are to discuss British and French calls for them to ease sanctions against Syria so weapons can be supplied to the rebels. At a meeting in Brussels, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to argue that the current sanctions regime, which is due to expire at the end of this week, is no longer working. He wants it amended so arms can be sent to "moderate" forces in the opposition. However, several EU states are totally opposed to ending the arms embargo. Earlier, Syria's foreign minister confirmed the government would "in principle" attend an international peace conference which the US and Russia hope will take place in Geneva next month.
CNN: Iraq violence kills 8, wounds dozens
Explosions and gunfire across Iraq on Sunday killed eight people and wounded 27, authorities said. Gunmen opened fire in a Shiite neighborhood in northwestern Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding one more. Also in the Iraqi capital, gunmen shot a teacher dead outside his house, and a police officer was killed by gunfire at a checkpoint. Some 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the west, in Falluja, a roadside bomb exploded on an Iraqi army convoy, killing an Iraqi soldier and wounding two others. A similar incident happened near Haditha, about 250 kilometers west of Baghdad. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and another two were wounded in a convoy bombing there. And a car bomb went off while Iraqi federal police were conducting a house-to-house search in southern Mosul, about 560 kilometers northwest of Baghdad. That explosion wounded 22 people, including seven federal police officers.
CNN: Indian politician suffered brutal treatment in Maoist attack, police say
A senior official from India's governing Congress party suffered brutal treatment at the hands of Maoist insurgents during an audacious and deadly attack on a political motorcade over the weekend, police said Monday. The assault Saturday by hundreds guerrillas on the convoy of Congress politicians in a forested area of the eastern state of Chhattisgarh killed at least 24 people and wounded 33, according to authorities. Among the dead was Mahendra Karma, a top local party leader and the founder of a controversial anti-Maoist militia named Salwa Judam, or the Purification Hunt.
CNN: Poor farmers could be the winners in deal between Colombia, rebels
Peace negotiators trying to end Colombia's blood-drenched, five-decade old civil war Sunday announced an agreement on land reform between the Colombian government and FARC rebels. The land reform agreement is the first of six points that negotiators need to broker to reach a peace deal. "It's a historic change, a rebirth of the Colombian countryside which could lead to an end to the conflict," said the government's lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle. Under the agreement, land not being used would be turned over to poor Colombians to cultivate. The government would provide loans and credits to the farmers. Impoverished areas of the countryside would also receive improvements in infrastructure, health care
Financial Times: Brussels probes Apple’s iPhone tactics
Brussels is investigating whether Apple is muscling out rival smartphone makers from the European market with anti-competitive iPhone sales tactics and technical restrictions on the handset, according to documents seen by the Financial Times. The scrutiny adds to the pressure Apple is facing from government regulators, coming in the week that US senators questioned Apple chief executive Tim Cook for the technology company’s tax accounting practices. According to a questionnaire sent last week to several EU mobile network operators, the European Commission’s probe is focusing on distribution terms that might favour Apple by ensuring no rival can secure a better sales deal.
Financial Times: China's premier Li Keqiang warns Europe over trade war
China's premier has waded into an intensifying trade dispute with Europe, warning that EU investigations into Chinese-made solar panels and telecommunications equipment would backfire by hurting European consumers. "The cases over these two types of products will hurt Chinese industries, business and jobs and also damage the vital interests of European users and consumers," Li Keqiang said en route to Berlin on Sunday during his first foreign trip since becoming premier. "We express firm opposition." Mr Li's comments mark the first time that China's top leadership has weighed in on the trade disputes, and come as the solar case - the EU's biggest ever trade investigation – enters a critical phase.