CNN: Waning Andrea to dump heavy rain across East Coast
Tropical Storm Andrea is expected to drench the East Coast with heavy rains Friday as its strength weakens. A broader swath of the East Coast - including parts of 13 states, from Georgia to Maine - is under flash-flood watches. Flash flood warnings extend from Florida through coastal communities north to Virginia. The warning means a sudden deluge of rain could overwhelm sewers, and cause rivers and creeks to overrun their banks through the weekend. The watch area includes Washington, which the National Weather Service predicts could get up to 6 inches of rain Friday, and New York City, where forecasters say 1 to 2 inches of rain an hour could fall at times into Saturday.
CNN: As search in building collapse ends, lawsuits and investigations begin
Her family says she was brilliant, caring and had the ability to find beauty in everything. Anne Bryan was in her first year as a full-time student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She was among the six people killed Wednesday when a building collapse spilled rubble into a thrift store. Roseline Conteh, Borbor Davis, Kimberly Finnegan, Juanita Harmin and Mary Simpson also died, according to Mayor Michael Nutter. Nutter promised Thursday morning a "wide-ranging" investigation into the collapse of a four-story wall of a partially demolished building that toppled onto a Salvation Army store. For more than a dozen hours, searchers had climbed over shards of wood, concrete and rebar before calling off the search for possible survivors late Thursday afternoon. Fire Department Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said officials were "absolutely sure" there were no more victims in the huge pile of rubble. The scene will be turned over to accident investigators from the police and inspections departments and the fire marshal's office, he said.
CNN: Pair sue newspaper over 'Bag Men' portrayal after Boston bombings
Two men featured on the cover of the New York Post following the Boston bombing under the headline, "Bag Men," are suing the newspaper, according to court papers. Lawyers for Salaheddin Barhoum, 16, and Yassine Zaimi, 24, took aim at the New York Post at a news conference Thursday. "The New York Post accused our clients of being the men with the bombs in their bags and that is libel," said C. William Barrett, Zaimi's lawyer. Both filed a defamation lawsuit against the New York Post on Wednesday over photographs and articles published three days after the Boston bombing that made it appear that FBI agents were looking for them. The picture on the front page of the April 18 edition of the New York Post shows the two men standing next to each other. One carried a backpack and wore a hat, the other had a gym bag over his shoulder.
San Jose Mercury News: Obama arrives in Bay Area to raise money for Senate Dems, tout Obamacare
As controversy swirled in the nation's capital about the power of Big Data, President Barack Obama arrived in the heart of Silicon Valley on Thursday to raise money for Senate Democrats and speak Friday about California's success in implementing Obamacare. …But even as the president tries to flip the political script away from The Associated Press, Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi issues that his critics have focused on in recent weeks, Obama's critics on Thursday were howling about new media disclosures that the National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo. Obama did not address the controversy at two Silicon Valley fundraisers Thursday night - at least during the portion of his remarks open to the media.
BBC: Chinese leader Xi Jinping set for Obama summit
Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in California for summit talks with US President Barack Obama. The two-day meeting, at a private estate, is the first between the two since Mr Xi became president in March. The informal setting is seen as a chance for the leaders of the world's largest economies to build a rapport amid a slew of high-stakes issues. Cyber espionage is expected to top the agenda, with North Korea, Asian security and trade also key topics. US lawmakers and human rights groups have also urged Mr Obama to call for the release of 16 high-profile prisoners, including jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. Mr Xi's US stop is the fourth leg of a trip that has taken him to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico.
ALSO SEE: NYT: Obama Urged to Prod China on Rights at Meeting
CNN: Obama: U.S. schools need high-speed internet
President Obama took his second term agenda to North Carolina on Thursday to announce a new initiative aimed at increasing high-speed internet in the nation's schools. Speaking at Mooresville Middle School 30-minutes outside Charlotte, Obama heralded internet technology as a crucial part of improving the U.S. education system. "What we're going to be able to do is to get companies to compete to create affordable digital devices designed specifically to these new connected classrooms," Obama said. "I want to see a tablet that's the same price as a textbook. I want to see more apps that can be instantly updated with academic content the day it's available, so you don't have old outdated textbooks with student names still in 'em from years ago." The announcement is part of the president's Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour, as evidenced by posters flanking the president in the school's gymnasium, and aims to expand high-speed internet access to 99-percent of schools in the next five years.
WSJ: Planners Expect Glitches in Health-Exchange Sites
Teams of technology experts are racing to finish building government websites that will allow people to shop and sign up for health insurance this October. People involved in the effort say to expect some problems, at least initially. The functioning of the websites—which will enable people without health insurance to enroll in plans offered through a federal or state insurance exchange—will play a major role in determining whether the Affordable Care Act is deemed a success or failure, since the 2010 law's prime objective was to bring coverage to those who lack it. "Something will be up and running on Oct. 1," when open enrollment starts, said Dan Schuyler, a director at the consulting firm Leavitt Partners and a former director of technology for Utah's health-insurance exchange. "It will be full of issues, bugs and technological challenges," he added.
CNN: House Republicans vote to end Obama deportation rule
A Republican-led effort to discard President Barack Obama's rule allowing some young undocumented immigrants to defer deportation passed the U.S. House Thursday, a further indication of the challenges still facing pending comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This amendment, however, appears doomed to be a political gesture as the Senate remains Democrat-controlled and Obama serves out his second term. The measure, which would cut funding to the Department of Homeland Security to implement the program, was approved by a vote of 224-201, mainly along party lines. It was sponsored by Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has long voiced opposition to any measures lessening the consequences of illegal immigration.
Roll Call: Shutdown Talk Underlines Spending Bill Split
The White House and Speaker John A. Boehner exchanged barbs Thursday over the potential for a shutdown showdown this fall, underscoring the yawning budget gap between the parties that threatens to torpedo this year’s appropriations bills. The House passed the first fiscal 2014 spending bills this week despite two veto threats, and the Senate is set to mark up funding measures in the coming weeks. But the two chambers are operating off vastly different numbers — given that the House and Senate haven’t come close to reaching a budget deal — setting the stage for another stopgap spending bill this fall and, theoretically, a shutdown fight if the two sides can’t agree.
CNN: Romney talks Christie, IRS, 2016
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he has no ill will towards Gov. Chris Christie and weighed in on other flashbacks from the 2012 campaign in a wide-ranging interview with CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. The former Massachusetts governor also offered sharp criticism of the Obama administration over the recent Internal Revenue Service controversy and gave his thoughts on some potential 2016 presidential contenders. Romney sat down with Borger this week in Park City, Utah, where he's holding a multi-day conference that features several prospective presidential candidates, as well as other national leaders with some of the party's major donors also in attendance. Romney hopes this meeting, called "Experts and Enthusiasts," will allow the approximately 200 attendees to discuss the nation's problems and possible solutions in a different forum.
WATCH: VIDEO – CNN's Gloria Borger sits down with Mitt and Ann Romney for an extensive interview on the election, life after politics.
NYT/CBS Poll: Same-Sex Marriage Is Seen in Poll as an Issue for the States
A solid majority of Americans opposes a broad national right to same-sex marriage, saying the power to legalize gay unions should rest with the states — even as most support marriage equality for gay people, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The survey comes as the Supreme Court is preparing to issue decisions this month on two high-profile same-sex marriage cases. Justices are weighing the constitutionality of California’s ban and the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples; the public appears squarely in favor of overturning that law. The poll also found Americans are increasingly upbeat about the economy, with 39 percent of respondents calling the economy’s condition good, the highest percentage since late 2007. And it found stark racial and partisan divisions on two other matters before the Supreme Court: affirmative action and voting rights.
ALSO SEE: BuzzFeed: Republicans Reconsider Position As Marriage Wave Approaches
Politico: PAC, DSCC plan TV ads hitting Gabriel Gomez
The Democratic-supporting Senate Majority PAC is buying TV air time in the Massachusetts Senate special election, two sources tracking media-buying told POLITICO. The PAC’s move comes on the heels of an ad buy the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee placed in the race between Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Republican Gabriel Gomez, who are vying to fill the seat that was vacated by now-Secretary of State John Kerry. That purchase was for up to $700,000, according to a third source tracking the air wars.
WSJ: Ex-Lawmaker Tried to Aid Friend
Before he resigned his seat in Congress, Jesse Jackson Jr. worked on several fronts to help a longtime family friend secure what could have been a lucrative string of business deals with for-profit education companies. He attended meetings with a senior lawmaker, officials of one of the education companies and the friend, businessman Greg Calhoun, and pushed Mr. Calhoun's intended partners to promote their planned alliance. Most notably, Mr. Jackson helped orchestrate an April 2011 meeting involving some of the executives, Mr. Calhoun and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was threatening tough regulation of the for-profit education industry at the time. That same month, Mr. Calhoun issued a $25,000 check to pay down Mr. Jackson's substantial personal debts, according to court papers and law-enforcement officials. … Law-enforcement officials said they were unaware of the meeting with the education secretary until The Wall Street Journal asked about it. It isn't known what impact, if any, the knowledge of the meeting has on the government's view of the Jackson case, which technically remains open.
Politico: Behind the Curtain: Ailes unplugged
Roger Ailes doesn’t think homosexuals are out to get him. He frequently jokes about his weight. He doesn’t believe Rupert Murdoch calls him “cuckoo,” but brags that his boss does call him “paranoid” – and he’s wealthier for it. If Fox News headquarters is under attack, Ailes plans to stay behind, with a monitor to watch others scurrying out of the building. If you’ve been wondering what’s on the mind of Roger Ailes, now you know. The chairman and CEO of Fox News gave us a statement – remarkable in its detail and vitriol – quarreling with the portrayal of him in Jonathan Alter’s new book about the 2012 campaign, “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies.” Ailes is billed as one of those enemies, with cameos through the book (one index entry: “Ailes, Roger, paranoia of”). Many of the allegations are rehashed from a 2011 Rolling Stone piece by Tim Dickinson, but Ailes took aim at Alter. “Jonathan Alter got 3 out of 13 items within a range of being at least partially correct,” Ailes wrote in an email to us. “The rest are patently, provably false and Alter either needs to check into a first year journalism program at Columbia or a rage counseling center immediately.”
CNN: Top U.S. intel official challenges reports that spy agencies mined Internet data
America's top intelligence official on Thursday night challenged news reports claiming Facebook posts, Gmail messages and more have been intercepted for years in a vast data-mining operation, saying the reports "contain numerous inaccuracies." The Guardian, a British newspaper, and the Washington Post reported Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies had access to the central servers of nine of the country's biggest technology firms including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook. The Post reported the program - called PRISM - underwent "exponential growth" since its founding in 2007. In fact, the newspaper said the program has become the leading source of raw material for the National Security Agency, the secretive U.S. intelligence operation that monitors electronic communications. Yet several tech giants whose servers were reportedly ensnared in the program denied any knowledge of it Thursday. And James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, questioned the Guardian and Post articles in a statement Thursday night.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Collection of phone records stirs debate: Valuable tool or 'beyond Orwellian'?
WSJ: U.S. Collects Vast Data Trove
The National Security Agency's monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency's activities. The disclosure this week of an order by a secret U.S. court for Verizon Communications Inc.'s VZ +3.46% phone records set off the latest public discussion of the program. But people familiar with the NSA's operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. T +1.56% and Sprint Nextel Corp., S +1.94% records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card providers. The Obama administration says its review of complete phone records of U.S. citizens is a "necessary tool" in protecting the nation from terror threats. The agency is using its secret access to the communications of millions of Americans to target possible terrorists, said people familiar with the effort.
ALSO SEE: Denver Post: Sen. Mark Udall: I knew the NSA was spying, did everything but leak classified information to stop it
NYT: As Wars End, a Rush to Grab Dollars Spent on the Border
The nation’s largest military contractors, facing federal budget cuts and the withdrawals from two wars, are turning their sights to the Mexican border in the hopes of collecting some of the billions of dollars expected to be spent on tighter security if immigration legislation becomes law. Half a dozen major military contractors, including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, are preparing for an unusual desert showdown here this summer, demonstrating their military-grade radar and long-range camera systems in an effort to secure a Homeland Security Department contract worth as much as $1 billion.
Jerusalem Post: For Power, Israel is particularly relevant
Immediately after news broke that President Barack Obama would elevate Susan Rice to the position of national security adviser, pro- Israel organizations showered her in praise. Accolades were unanimous; she has the community’s full support. Her possible replacement as US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, did not receive the same warm reception. Instead, an old video of Power from 2002 began recirculating, in which she seems to characterize the American Jewish lobby with disdain and proposes a “mammoth” international peacekeeping force to protect a future Palestinian state. The former Harvard Kennedy School professor then refers to “major human rights abuses that we’re seeing” in the historic conflict. “Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import,” Power says with an apparent chuckle. Power disowned her comments from that interview in 2008. But concerned parties will likely require further explanation during her nomination process, considering the particular relevance of her comments to the job she will have in New York.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
Bloomberg: Tobacco Chief to Start Ruling on Product Backlog at FDA
The top U.S. tobacco regulator said he’s ready to reduce a backlog of 4,000 applications from companies asking to determine which of their products can stay on the market and what new ones may be introduced. The Food and Drug Administration is “very close” to ruling whether tobacco companies can sell new products they say have the same characteristics as existing ones, Mitch Zeller, appointed in March as head of the agency’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in an interview. There are 500 requests to approve products not currently sold and 3,500 for products already in stores, he said. The changing regulatory standards for cigarettes have created a backlog of requests from Altria Group Inc. (MO) and other companies, which Congress put under FDA oversight in 2009. That authority provided an exception to rigorous new-product reviews by letting companies ask the agency to determine that proposed products are “substantially equivalent” to those on the market, requiring less scrutiny.
CNN: U.S. orders new safety upgrades at nuclear plants
U.S. regulators are directing 31 nuclear reactors similar in design to the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, where an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown two years ago, to take additional steps to help contain radiation and other damage from any accident that is not quickly halted. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission directive on Thursday requires enhancements to systems for venting accumulated pressure from containment structures during an emergency. Vents must also be able to safely handle rising temperatures, hydrogen concentrations and radiation levels. The changes also aim to ensure that plant personnel can continue to operate vents safely if a reactor core melts down, the agency said.
Albuquerque Journal: AG: Gay marriage not allowed
A same-sex couple denied a marriage license filed a legal challenge in Santa Fe on Thursday – hours after Attorney General Gary King said state law doesn’t allow same-sex marriage but he thinks the law might be unconstitutional. King, a Democrat seeking his party’s nomination for governor, weighed in on the question after being asked in March to review the Santa Fe city attorney’s opinion that New Mexico marriage laws do, in fact, allow same-sex marriage. The attorney general disagreed. “We conclude that gay marriage is not currently authorized under New Mexico’s statutory law,” says a summary of legal research provided by King’s office after his news conference in Albuquerque. However, King also said, “We feel like there is a significant issue relating to our equal-protection clause and whether or not the statute would withstand constitutional scrutiny. …I think the answer to that will come through the courts,” King told the news conference.
Portland Press Herald: New Bath Iron Works contract will bring jobs, dollars to Maine
Business owners and residents in Bath are welcoming the news of Bath Iron Works’ $2.8 billion Navy contract, saying the contract awarded Monday creates job security for BIW workers and a residual economic benefit for local businesses. BIW’s new contract, to build four guided-missile destroyers over the next five years, will bring hundreds of jobs to the state, boost purchases of big-ticket items such as houses and cars, and drive sales at a variety of businesses for years to come, they said Tuesday. Vicki Arsenault, co-owner of the Country Farm Furniture Store in Bath, said she was thrilled to hear about the new contract.
Tampa Bay Times: Florida officials use onset of storm season to blast Washington
As the first tropical storm of the season bore down on Florida Thursday, Republican state officials seized the moment to blast Washington and warn that the required budget cuts to federal programs could impede the state's ability to respond to hurricanes or floods. Gov. Rick Scott had just mentioned Tropical Storm Andrea at his briefing with reporters Thursday morning when he launched into a critique of the federal budget storm that is causing the Florida National Guard to order 993 of its full-time staff to go to a four-day work week beginning July 1. Known as sequestration, the across-the-board cuts were agreed to between President Barack Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress in 2011 to resolve the debt ceiling standoff. Now, Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have written to Congress and the Department of Defense asking them to exempt National Guard staff from the mandatory cuts because of Florida's hurricane season.
Salt Lake Tribune: Phone records could end up at NSA’s Utah Data Center
Phone records of millions of Americans could end up flowing into the National Security Agency’s Utah Data Center this fall, though outraged members of Congress are already calling for the government to halt such a broad seizure of private information. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein acknowledged Thursday that the NSA had obtained secret court orders for seven years to collect records of calls placed or received on Verizon phones, and defended the practice as vital to national security efforts. …The Utah Data Center, a massive data farm set to open this fall, is expected to cull billions of bytes of information for the nation’s intelligence community, though NSA officials won’t offer details about the information or how it is gathered.
Detroit Free Press: Detroit to offer creditors pennies on the dollar in pitch to avoid bankruptcy
Detroit’s attempt to avoid bankruptcy will hit a critical stage next week as emergency manager Kevyn Orr brings together dozens of creditors to present a stark offer: less than 10 cents on the dollar for the loans, bonds, retiree obligations and other debts that have been strangling the city for years. Orr is expected to meet late next week — his office wouldn’t say exactly when, but the location likely will be near Metro Airport — with as many as 150 representatives of the city’s major creditors, from big national banks that hold the city’s bonds and insurers who guarantee them, to unions and pensioners who rely on the city for retirement income and health care.
CNN: North and South Korea tentatively agree to talks on shuttered industrial zone
After agreeing in principle to hold talks on reopening their joint industrial complex, North and South Korea are haggling over the date and time of the potential meetings. The proposed talks are the clearest sign yet of an improvement in the severely strained relations between the two sides after North Korea set off months of unsettling tensions with a long-range rocket launch in December followed by an underground nuclear test in February. The North broke the impasse between the two sides over the Kaesong Industrial Zone - a major symbol of cooperation between the two countries where Pyongyang halted activity in April - by issuing a proposal on Thursday for talks. It said that "the venue of the talks and the date for their opening can be set to the convenience of the south side."
CNN: Amid protests, Erdogan returns to Turkey
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an end to about a week of protests against his government, and said that accusations of excessive police force would be investigated. Erdogan arrived early Friday in Istanbul, where he was met at an airport by thousands of cheering, flag-waving supporters. He had been on a four-day trip to North Africa. "These demonstrations have lost all democratic characteristics," the leader said, speaking from a bus decorated with his image. "My innocent citizens must extricate themselves from the demonstrations." Erdogan accused protesters of breaking the law because they have been unable to defeat him at the ballot box. Still, he struck a few conciliatory notes.
CNN: Israel moves tanks, Austria moves out as Syrian fighting rages near Golan Heights
Deteriorating security conditions near the Golan Heights headquarters for U.N. peacekeepers in the region has prompted Austria to say it will pull out its 370 troops, more than a third of the force assigned to help keep Israel and Syria at bay. The announcement came amid fierce fighting over the Quneitra crossing, Syria's only access point to the Golan Heights. Rebel forces first captured but then lost control of the crossing in heavy fighting. Syrian tanks crossed into a demilitarized zone near the crossing, Israel complained to the United Nations, and two U.N. peacekeepers were wounded when an errant mortar round fell on their border camp. A CNN team also could see Israeli tanks taking up positions along the border on the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights.
ALSO SEE: With Golan fence, Israel closer to surrounding itself with barriers
WSJ: Hollande Urges Release of Journalists in Syria
French President François Hollande Friday called for the immediate release of two French journalists he said had gone missing in Syria. "I demand these journalists be freed immediately," Mr. Hollande said during a visit to Japan. Earlier on Friday, French radio station Europe 1 said two of its journalists—correspondent Didier François and photographer Edouard Elias—hadn't been heard from for 24 hours. The president said French authorities didn't know the exact circumstances of their disappearance, but his language suggested the journalists have been either arrested or kidnapped.
CNN: UK to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans over colonial-era torture
Decades after the end of colonial rule, thousands of elderly Kenyans are getting compensation and an apology from Britain for years of torture during the fight for independence. Britain announced a £19.9 million ($30 million) settlement Thursday for human rights violations during its colonial rule in the East African nation. "The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya's progress towards independence," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. The victims had accused the former colonial master of a series of human rights violations, including rape, illegal detentions and castration.
USA Today: Wall Street braces for market-moving May jobs report
It's "Jobs Friday" again on Wall Street. But this time the entire world will be tuned in to see how the U.S. job-generating machine is faring. In a financial world driven by numbers, no economic data point in recent years has been more eagerly awaited, or will be more closely scrutinized, by investors as the number of jobs the U.S. government says were created in America in May. Indeed, the health of the U.S. jobs market has taken on growing importance. It has been cited by the Federal Reserve as a key gauge of the economy's health that it will use to determine when it is time to start pulling back from its unprecedented stimulus program that's been a major driver of stock market gains the past four years.
Times of India: US trade group calls for free entry of Indian techies
With an eye on India's vast market, a leading US trade group has engaged two powerful firms to lobby for changes in the proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill to attract skilled technical professionals from India. The US-India Business Council ( USIBC) has retained top lobby firm Patton Boggs for lobbying at the scale of the US-India civil nuclear advocacy effort, augmented by a public relations campaign to be spearheaded by APCO Worldwide. Two former US ambassadors to India, Frank Wisner and Tim Roemer, will lead the effort at Patton Boggs and APCO respectively.
WSJ: Criminal Cases Loom in Rate Rigging
U.S. and British authorities are preparing to bring criminal charges against former employees of Barclays BARC.LN -4.11% PLC for their alleged roles trying to manipulate benchmark interest rates, according to people familiar with the plans, marking an escalation of a global investigation now entering its sixth year. The charges are likely to be filed this summer, these people said, roughly a year after the big British bank became the first institution to settle over allegations that it attempted to rig the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and other widely used financial benchmarks. The people cautioned that the plans aren't finalized and could be delayed or modified.