CNN: Israel pushes ahead with settlement expansion
Israel said Thursday it will build 675 new settlement homes on the West Bank. The housing units are part of an old agreement and not a new plan, Prime minister spokesman Mark Regev has said. The expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank have been a lasting thorn in the side of Palestinians.
Reuters: UN documents 93,000 deaths in Syria, says real toll much higher
At least 93,000 people had been killed in Syria's conflict by the end of April this year, but the true number is "potentially much higher", the United Nations human rights office said on Thursday. An average of more than 5,000 people have been killed every month since last July, while Rural Damascus and Aleppo have recorded the highest tolls since November, it said in its latest study compiling documented deaths.
CNN: Colorado infernos likely to grow: 'Whatever is in its way, it's going to take'
Anxiety chokes central Colorado like the smoke smothering its skies. Two ferocious wildfires are roaring across the region, scorching thousands of acres and devouring dozens of homes. "This part, not knowing if I have a house or not is the worst," said Paula Warren, one of thousands of residents forced to flee as the Black Forest Fire closed in on her home northeast of Colorado Springs. "I thought I had about an hour, and it turned out to be about 20 minutes," she said. "I had a pillowcase full of socks, and that's basically all I have." The Black Forest Fire is one of two major fires taking its toll on the land and resources. The other, the Royal Gorge Fire, is burning on the other side of Colorado Springs, threatening the iconic Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge.
CNN: Severe weather slams Upper Midwest; mid-Atlantic may be next
A fast-moving storm system struck parts of the Upper Midwest hard on Wednesday evening, delivering blows to Chicago and many other communities before moving quickly to inflict damage farther east. The Windy City itself experienced gusts that measured about 50 mph around 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET), in addition to dime-size hail, the National Weather Service's Chicago branch said. Cities and towns near Chicago were affected as well.
CNN: To Texans' dismay, feds deny additional aid after fertilizer plant explosions
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied additional aid tied to deadly explosions at a Texas fertilizer plant, a decision ripped Wednesday by local and state officials who accused President Barack Obama of having "gone against his word." FEMA's administrator informed Gov. Rick Perry in a letter Monday that it was denying a request to declare West, Texas - the small town where an April 17 fire led to simultaneous blasts at a fertilizer distribution facility, killing 15 and decimating homes, businesses and more within 37 blocks - a "major disaster" area. The letter noted Obama had previously issued an emergency declaration and other measures that paved the way for some direct federal assistance.
CNN: Regina Benjamin stepping down as surgeon general
U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced late Wednesday that she will step down next month after four years in the post. Benjamin, a longtime advocate for a health care model centered on wellness and preventable treatment, announced her decision in an e-mail to staff, thanking them for supporting her vision. "My goal was to create a grassroots movement, to change our health care system from one focused on sickness and disease to a system focused on wellness and prevention. With your help, that movement has begun," Benjamin wrote. In an e-mail to staff, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Benjamin should be "proud of her many achievements."
CNN: Obama pleased with Senate progress on immigration
At a fundraiser in Florida on Wednesday, President Barack Obama praised the U.S. Senate on its success moving forward to a debate on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, telling donors the procedural move is a great step towards passing a bipartisan bill. “I’m pleased to see that we got a good vote this week so far on immigration,” the president said, citing it as a rare example of bipartisanship in today’s politics. “That immigration bill is on the floor, and I think we have an enormous opportunity to get a bipartisan immigration bill done. And that will be not just an enormous political achievement, but an important economic foundation for us to continue to attract the best and the brightest from all around the world.” That type of bipartisanship is too rare, the president continued, and he blamed Republicans for being “more interested in winning the next election than helping the next generation.”
NYT: Education Secretary Arne Duncan works to sell Obama administration’s preschool initiative
Arne Duncan woke at 5:30 a.m. in his Arlington County home, was driven to the airport and folded his 6-foot-5 frame into an aisle seat in coach. The education secretary buckled his seat belt and tilted his head back for a short flight to Atlanta, another stop in his uphill effort to sell the Obama administration’s next big idea: pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old in the country. The pitch on this day was to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican inclined toward the notion but dead-set against raising taxes to pay for it. …In the second term of the Obama administration, Arne Duncan is traveling to more locations than most other Cabinet members, save the secretary of state. With his plaid suit bag and his dark briefcase, the peripatetic Duncan is promoting an idea he says will improve millions of lives and strengthen the country. It’s a different challenge for Duncan, who exploited luck and circumstance in the first term to carry out much of President Obama’s education agenda without help from Capitol Hill.
Politico: Bill Clinton splits with Obama on Syria
Bill Clinton told Sen. John McCain he agrees that President Barack Obama should act more forcefully to support anti-Assad rebels in Syria, saying the American public elects presidents and members of Congress “to see down the road” and “to win.” At another point during a closed-press event Tuesday, Clinton implied that Obama or any president risks looking like “a total fool” if they listen too closely to opinion polls and act too cautiously. He used his own decisions on Kosovo and Bosnia as a point of reference. The former president also said commanders-in-chief should avoid over-interpreting public opinion polls about whether the United States should get involved in crises overseas. His remarks came during a question-and-answer session with McCain, who has been among Obama’s harshest critics over what he calls a failure to take “decisive” action in Syria. Obama has come under growing pressure to step up American intervention by sending military and other assistance to the rebels.
NYT: White House Makes Moves to Bolster Gun Safety
Six months after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and with no major gun legislation on the horizon in Congress, the White House is quietly moving forward on an executive package of gun safety measures. The package, which includes 23 executive actions announced by President Obama earlier this year, is intended to bolster the nation’s database used for background checks and make it harder for criminals and people with mental illnesses to get guns. Among other things, the executive orders relax health care privacy regulations that some state executives say prevent them from putting the names of those Americans with mental health records into the database.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Has the moment passed? Why gun control push fizzled
ALSO SEE: WSJ: Medical Groups Push Back at Gun-Law Change
BuzzFeed: Obama Faces Pressure From Friends On Executive Inaction For LGBT Workers
On Thursday, President Obama will be celebrating LGBT Pride Month with a reception in the East Room of the White House. And while many eyes in the LGBT community are focused on the Supreme Court, a growing number of people are also looking to Obama and wondering why he has not signed an executive order banning federal contractors from anti-LGBT job discrimination. “It is something that this president can do that has immediate impact on real people’s lives,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin told BuzzFeed on the eve of the reception. “I wish he would have done it a long time ago, and I hope he does it sooner rather than later because it was a promise that was made, it is something that he can easily do and have direct and immediate impact on thousands upon thousands of people’s lives with the stroke of a pen.” Obama’s inaction led the activist group, Get Equal, to send members into a fundraising event with First Lady Michelle Obama last week, which one member disrupted by interrupting the first lady to push for action on the executive order.
CNN: Senate immigration debate off to rocky start
Procedural maneuvering bogged down action in the Senate Wednesday on the first full day of debate on the immigration reform bill. Senators discussed key amendments but battled over whether and how to cast votes so early in the debate. At one point, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed for a series of quick votes on Republican amendments, including two significant measures to tighten border security requirements in the bill. But Republicans objected to Democrats' demand that a supermajority of 60 votes be required for passage. Strategically Republicans knew they would lose leverage if their amendments were to fall early in the debate. They offered to hold the votes at a more favorable 50-vote threshold but Democrats objected to that idea, worried that under that scenario some of the GOP amendments might pass.
ALSO SEE: National Journal: Republicans Walk Immigration Tightrope
Politico: House leaders play small ball on immigration reform
Republican leaders have a message for the bipartisan House gang trying to craft an immigration bill: Your time is up. The group labored behind closed doors for four years to find common ground but hasn’t actually released a bill. Now that conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) has dashed and the Senate is forging ahead, leadership is moving on. Top Republicans, several of whom spoke anonymously to POLITICO to describe internal strategy, want to go forward with the plan to pass small-bore immigration bills from Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee. Judiciary will spend two weeks marking up immigration bills, starting next week, when the panel takes up South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy’s bill on enforcement measures. How quickly are they moving? Proposed amendments to that bill must be submitted by Thursday evening GOP sources said. More bills are sure to come in the following days and weeks.
ALSO SEE: National Journal: Labrador Decides Against Comprehensive Bill, Opts for Series of Immigration Measures
CNN: Rep. Franks tries to clear up rape comment
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said he was taken out of context Wednesday and tried to clarify his controversial comment from a committee markup earlier in the day, when he said the "incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." Franks intended to say that the number of abortions due to rape after the start of the sixth month of gestation would be low, not the number of rapes resulting in pregnancy. "I told my staff to fasten their seatbelts," Franks told reporters Wednesday, adding he knew Democrats would work to distort his comments.
CNN: NRA runs ad against Manchin
The National Rifle Association is running a political ad against one of its own. Sen. Joe Manchin, an avowed gun enthusiast and life member of the NRA, is now being hit with an ad from the organization in his home state of West Virginia. Manchin was one of the leading voices in the Senate for a bipartisan effort to expand the background check system on firearm sales. A conservative Democrat, Manchin made news in December when he said the Newtown elementary school massacre changed his views on gun control. According to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, it is paying $100,000 to run the ad in heavy rotation during newscasts in West Virginia.
Roll Call: Bloomberg-Schumer Gun Play Shows Two New York States of Mind
One of the most quoted adages in politics — the one about there being no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests — gained new life Wednesday. The two most influential New Yorkers in public life squared off over how to best resuscitate their shared drive for more gun control. Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked almost 2,000 of the biggest political givers in the city to withhold all donations to the four Democratic senators who voted this spring against expanding the federal background check system. And Charles E. Schumer — who has proudly made his home at the Senate’s three-way intersection of money, politics and policy — made it absolutely clear he viewed the mayor’s move as cockamamie, ridiculous, meshuga and just plain dumb. The day brought into the open the tensions between the two that have been germinating for weeks. It also cast in sharp relief the very different ways they often go about achieving similar ends.
WaPo: Ex-Obama spokesmen Gibbs, LaBolt launch new practice
Two former top spokesmen for President Obama, including former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, are forming a new strategic communications practice. Gibbs and Ben LaBolt, the national press secretary on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, will both be joining New Partners, a full-service consulting firm, where they will launch a new effort dubbed The Incite Agency. LaBolt’s top deputy on the 2012 campaign, Adam Fetcher, will also join The Incite Agency as its managing director. Gibbs will also serve as a partner at New Partners. He has been a top spokesman for Obama for years, serving in his Senate office, his campaign and in the White House during his first term.
NYT: Booker, in Senate Race, Will Try to Match His Reputation
With the announcement that Cory A. Booker would speak in five minutes, a crowd flooded the largely empty lawn at the gay pride celebration here over the weekend. It took him twice that amount of time to reach the stage, for all the people mobbing him for photos and autographs. It was Mr. Booker’s second day on the campaign trail, and as his voice boomed through the microphone — “Hello Maplewood!” — he spoke of a debt to the pioneers of the struggle for civil rights. … It can sometimes seem that Mr. Booker was born on third base in politics, too. For more than a decade, he has occupied a level of celebrity outsized for a councilman and then mayor of the historically troubled city of Newark. Now, as he embarks on a whirlwind run for the United States Senate, he finally seems poised to step into a position that matches his much-discussed promise.
CNN: Fallout over NSA leaks mounts with calls for investigations
House members from both political parties raised concerns Wednesday with administration officials who briefed the entire chamber on the government's recently revealed top secret surveillance programs. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised "serious investigations into potential wrongdoing." "Over the past few weeks there have been stories after stories that have eroded the trust in our government," he said. "And Americans shouldn't really have to worry whether their government is going to hold their political beliefs against them, as it seems the IRS is doing, or whether their government is telling them the truth."
ALSO SEE: CNN: NSA hacks China, leaker Snowden claims
ALSO SEE: The Guardian: NSA revelations will test Sino-US ties, say Chinese media
WATCH: VIDEO – Guardian's Greenwald blasts Rep. King's accusations in NSA case
WATCH: VIDEO – Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tells CNN’s Jake Tapper intelligence director James Clapper lied to Congress, NSA leak was act of civil disobediance.
CNN: U.S. looks to help Syrian civilians, eases sanctions
As the Obama administration debates further help for besieged Syrian opposition fighters, it is moving to aid Syrian civilians in opposition-controlled areas in rebuilding shattered towns and villages. U.S. officials announced Wednesday they are easing economic sanctions on Syria, allowing the importation of equipment and technology into liberated areas of Syria. The steps are being coordinated through the Departments of State, Commerce, and Treasury. Secretary of State John Kerry signed a limited waiver of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 that authorizes the export , subject to case-by-case review, of certain U.S. items.
ALSO SEE: WSJ: Rebels Plead for Weapons in Face of Syrian Onslaught
Financial Times: Washington pushed EU to dilute data protection
The Obama administration successfully lobbied the European Commission to strip its data-privacy legislation of a measure that would have limited the ability of US intelligence agencies to spy on EU citizens, according to three senior EU officials. The measure – which was known within the EU as the “anti-Fisa clause”, after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorises the US government to eavesdrop on international phone calls and emails – would have nullified any US request for technology and telecoms companies to hand over data on EU citizens, according to documents obtained by the Financial Times. However, the safeguard was abandoned by commission officials in January 2012, despite the assertions of Viviane Reding, the EU’s top justice official, that the exemption would have stopped the kind of surveillance recently disclosed as part of the National Security Agency’s Prism programme.
CNN: Top CIA official departing
Seemingly the perennial bridesmaid, Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell is retiring after a 33-year career. His successor is Avril Haines, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama who will become the first woman to occupy the No. 2 spot. Morell, 54, has been deputy director for the past three years and twice has been called to serve as acting chief. The first time he covered a two-month gap in the summer of 2011 between the departure of Leon Panetta and the arrival of David Petraeus. When Petraeus suddenly resigned late last year after admitting to an affair, Morell was considered one of the leading candidates to take over. Obama instead nominated John Brennan, his terrorism adviser. Brennan was confirmed by the Senate and assumed the top job in March.
Bloomberg: UnitedHealth’s Pentagon Failure Seen Risking Future U.S. Awards
Air Force veteran Michelle Linn worries that her two teenage boys will lose access to an autism treatment center because UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) has been slow to pay the provider. The nation’s biggest insurer took over a $20.5 billion contract to coordinate military health services on April 1. Since then, providers and beneficiaries have cited long delays in medical care and payments. It has been “one fiasco after another,” said Linn, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. UnitedHealth’s poor performance prompted a rebuke from the Defense Department, which accused the company of failing to comply with its contract and risking the health of active-duty military, retirees and their families. The failures blemish the insurer’s reputation and may hurt the company’s ability to win more government contracts, said Sheryl Skolnick, a Stamford, Connecticut-based analyst at CRT Capital Group LLC.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
NY Post: Obama administration takes side against NYPD in stop-and-frisk; outside monitor possible
In a stunning move, the Obama Administration has thrust itself into the middle of the explosive federal stop-and-frisk trial and is taking sides against the NYPD, raising the odds of a outside monitor being appointed to oversee the controversial crime-fighting program. "This is very bad news," said one City Hall source. The source said that Attorney General Eric Holder's office notified the city that it intends to file briefs in support of claims by the Center for Constitutional Rights that cops are stopping suspects on the basis of race. Ten weeks of testimony in the case concluded last month. But the federal government has the right to intervene in any federal case and Holder's office will do so before the end of the day, the last day for filing briefs, the source said.
Omaha World Herald: Chuck Hagel right at home on Pentagon in the sky with his Offutt crew
Welcome to the Pentagon in the sky. The E4-B is officially the National Airborne Operations Center, but the highly modified version of a Boeing 747-200 series is more popularly known as the “doomsday plane.” That's because it is designed to survive an apocalyptic event, such as full-scale nuclear war. It enables the president, defense secretary or Joint Chiefs of Staff to coordinate U.S. military responses even if there is devastation on the ground 30,000 feet below. It's also the plane Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel uses for overseas travel. Col. Joseph Douez of Papillion, NAOC commander, describes the plane as “the most capable communications platform in the world.” Indeed, there are phones throughout the plane and a room where the secretary can participate in secure video teleconferences. A thin, five-mile-long antenna can be deployed from the rear to allow communication with ballistic submarines thousands of miles away. Hagel feels particularly at home on the aircraft because it and its crew are stationed at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha.
Wilmington New Journal: Nazi Alfred Rosenberg's diary to be made public in Wilmington today
More than 400 previously hidden pages of Nazi secrets and strategies, penned by a top confidant of Adolf Hitler, will be revealed during a press conference today in Wilmington. The investigative arm of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will present the diary of Alfred Rosenberg – a key player in the annihilation of 6 million Jews during World War II and an influential member of the Third Reich. The U. S. Department of Homeland Security and Holocaust Museum officials found the diary in the possession of Herbert Richardson, the operator of a small publishing house in Lewiston, N.Y., and seized it. It is unclear exactly how or where the documents were discovered, but Richardson previously had been found with other World War II papers.
Richmond Times Dispatch: GOP’s Jackson discusses past drug use, bankruptcy
E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, acknowledged Wednesday that he used marijuana and experimented with other controlled substances in his youth, and that he was forced to file for bankruptcy. During an unusual news conference in Manassas, where he sought to clear the air about his past, the Chesapeake minister spoke uninterrupted for more than 45 minutes detailing his personal history. He discussed everything from fights he got in during high school to his ultimately failed effort to establish a gospel radio station in Boston. Jackson spoke the morning after primary voters set the stage for the fall campaign by picking the Democratic nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general.
New Jersey Star Ledger: In first meeting of general election, Christie and Buono address business group
In their first head-to-head matchup of the general election tonight, Gov. Chris Christie and state Sen. Barbara Buono showcased their differences on policy and speaking style to one of the state's leading business groups. Buono, a Democrat from Middlesex, delivered a policy heavy speech peppered with digs against Christie’s agenda. Christie told stories to a friendly audience who greeted him with a standing ovation and interrupted him several times to applaud. The Republican governor never mentioned his opponents’ name, but also managed to draw a stark contrast between their campaigns.
Boston Globe: Gomez seldom the deal maker
A 13-year career in Boston’s private equity sector made Gabriel Gomez a millionaire and gave him the business credentials he often cites on the campaign trail. He says he knows what it takes to help companies and employees “prosper and thrive.” But in a business where executives who buy and sell companies at a profit become the stars, the Republican candidate for US Senate participated in relatively few deals and never earned a promotion to partner. He would ultimately shift to a marketing role at his firm. A Globe review of Gomez’s nine years at Advent International, an elite private equity firm, found that he was directly involved in just half a dozen companies and helped lead only one of those investments. The one deal he touts, Lululemon Athletica Inc., is one Advent credits to other executives.
NYT: Weiner’s Record in House: Intensity, Publicity and Limited Results
When President Obama needed every Democrat in Congress to back his health care plan in 2009, Representative Anthony D. Weiner threatened behind the scenes to torpedo the package in favor of a more sweeping measure. He backed off after he was promised a bigger share of the spotlight during the highly watched debate. The previous year, when advocates of immigration reform invited Mr. Weiner to a round-table discussion with business leaders and more senior New York City members of Congress, he demanded to turn it into a hearing, featuring himself in a gavel-wielding role. Rebuffed, he failed to show up. In 12 ½ years in Congress, he sponsored and wrote only one bill that he steered to enactment: a measure pushed by a family friend who gave his campaigns tens of thousands of dollars in donations.
CNN: Turkey's challenge: Find compromise before violence expands
A leader of Turkey's ruling party held out the possibility of a vote on what to do with the Istanbul park where planned razing triggered two weeks of anti-government protests but said demonstrators must leave the park. "The Turkish government will not accept Gezi Park protests to be continued forever," Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, said after meetings with a delegation of "popular artists" involved with the demonstrations. His comments were carried by the semi-official Anadolou News Agency. Celik said the government could hold a referendum on the redevelopment of the park, the last green space in central Istanbul - but he urged the demonstrators to "walk out." At least one protester immediately rejected the idea of a vote.
CNN: Greek unions join protests after state broadcaster taken off air
Greek workers are due to rally in central Athens on Thursday after unions called a general strike to protest the government's sudden decision to halt activities at the country's state broadcaster. Thousands of people demonstrated Wednesday outside the headquarters of the broadcaster, ERT, whose TV channels and radio services were pulled off the air overnight. Government officials are defending the decision as budget-cutting move as the country struggles with a debt mountain, soaring unemployment and a lengthy recession. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has described ERT as a "symbol of waste and lack of transparency" that needed to be changed.
BBC: Google detects Iran phishing attacks ahead of election
Google says it has detected and stopped thousands of phishing attacks targeting email accounts of Iranian users ahead of the 14 June presidential election. In an online statement, the firm said it had noticed a "significant jump" in the region's overall volume of phishing activity in the last three weeks. The timing and targets suggested the attacks were "politically motivated". Friday's poll is the first since 2009 when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a controversial second term.
ALSO SEE: CNN: What's at stake in Iran's presidential election?
BBC: Six Afghan police found shot dead in Helmand
Six Afghan policemen have been killed in an insider attack at their checkpoint in a volatile district of southern Helmand province. Provincial officials told the BBC that a policeman killed six colleagues and fled with weapons and a vehicle. The Taliban said the policeman had been recruited by them for the attack. While many Nato soldiers have been killed in insider attacks, analysts believe most of the casualties occur within the ranks of Afghan forces.
Jerusalem Post: Egypt, Pakistan deny importing Israeli arms
A truck transfer Iron Dome missiles in Israel. Photo: REUTERS In an unusual concurrence of opinion, Egypt, Pakistan and Israel all agreed on Wednesday that the British report saying Egypt and Pakistan imported Israeli arms, was false. Haaretz reported on Tuesday that a British report in 2011 stated that Israel exported weapons over the past five years to Pakistan and four Arab countries: Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. Cairo quickly denied the report on Wednesday. The Egyptian Army denied the claims that it purchased weapons from Israel, according to a report published by the Egypt state information service website. Military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohamed Ali called the claims baseless, adding that the army follows strict rules and that trust in the military establishment should never be shaken.
NYT: Egypt frets, fumes over Ethiopia’s Nile plan
Since long before the Pyramids towered above the rich soil of this riverside town, Egyptians have given thanks to the muddy waters of the Nile. “Plants, animals, humans,” said Ibrahim Abdel Aziz, a 45-year-old farmer, “we all come from this river.” But trace the Nile about 1,400 miles upstream and there’s a rising colossus that threatens to upset a millennia-old balance. There, in the Ethiopian highlands, one of the world’s largest dams is taking shape. For Ethiopia, the dam promises abundant energy and an escape from a seemingly permanent spot in the lowest rungs of the world’s human development index. But for Egypt, the consequences could be dire: a nationwide water shortage in as little as two years that causes crop failures, power cuts and instability resonating far beyond even the extraordinary tumult of the recent past.
WSJ: Planned EU-U.S. Trade Deal Hits Snag on Cultural Issues
Negotiating a trade and investment deal between the U.S. and the European Union, originally seen as largely a technical discussion over tariffs and regulations, has mushroomed into something far broader in Europe: a debate over the threat that American mass-market entertainment poses to European culture. Brussels and Washington agreed to move ahead with trade talks in February, setting a June timetable to start them. Europe must first debate what mandate to grant the European Commission to negotiate the deal, which could be one of the most far-reaching trade and investment accords ever. The debate comes to a head this Friday, when ministers from the 27 EU member states gather in Luxembourg to vote on the mandate. The hottest topic, officials say, will be the "cultural exception" to international trade rules that lets nations subsidize domestically produced movies, television shows and radio programs in order to preserve local culture.
NYT: Chief Executive Linked to I.M.F. Official Faces Inquiry
French prosecutors said Wednesday that Stéphane Richard, the chief executive of France Télécom, would be formally investigated for his role in a politically charged case that has already shined an uncomfortable spotlight on his former boss, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Mr. Richard has denied wrongdoing. He is being investigated on suspicion of organized fraud, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.
Daily Telegraph: Politicians accuse Google of operating 'highly contrived tax arrangement'
In a stinging indictment of the American search engine giant’s financial affairs, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the company of “aggressive tax avoidance” and said it should pay “its fair share of tax” in the country where it earns profits. The committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge MP, dismissed Google’s defence that it pays so little tax in the UK – a total of $16m (£10.2m) between 2006 and 2011 despite generating revenues of $18bn – because its sales are actually conducted in the Republic of Ireland, claiming its argument was “deeply unconvincing.” The comments, in a PAC report, come a month after Ms Hodge told Google’s northern Europe vice-president Matt Brittin that his company’s behaviour was “devious, calculated and… unethical.”
CNNMoney: Nikkei tumbles 6% on central bank fears
Japanese stocks plummeted on Thursday, shedding 6.4% in a move that pushed the index into bear territory. Volatility has picked up in recent weeks amid increasing unease about when central banks will begin weaning investors off cheap money. Those fears intensified Thursday, rattling markets around Asia and resulting in a broad regional selloff. The stomach-turning ups and down aren't limited to Japan. On Thursday, markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai followed the Nikkei's lead and were down around 3%. The Dow - which fell 120 points on Wednesday - is on its worst losing streak this year.
WSJ: Traders Pay for an Early Peek at Key Data
On the morning of March 15, stocks stumbled on news that a key reading of consumer confidence was unexpectedly low. One group of investors already knew that. They got the University of Michigan's consumer report two seconds before everyone else. Infinium Capital Management, a high-speed trading firm in Chicago, used the information to launch a wave of trading in futures contracts, in just one example of the activity that followed. In a single second, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, traders from various firms bet nearly seven million shares that equity markets would decline—which was exactly what happened when news of the survey became widely known.
Bloomberg: IBM’s U.S. Job Cuts Reach at Least 1,300, Employee Group Says
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), the world’s largest computer-services provider, has fired at least 1,300 workers in a round of U.S. job cuts that began yesterday, according to the employee group Alliance@IBM. The job reduction includes at least 222 people in marketing for the software business and 165 in semiconductor research and development, according to Lee Conrad, a coordinator for Alliance@IBM, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America union. The move is part of a global restructuring plan that IBM announced in April after releasing disappointing first-quarter results. The cuts target employees with a range of seniority, from rank-and-file staff to executives, said a person familiar with the effort, who asked not to be named because the information is private. The restructuring will cost $1 billion worldwide, including severance expenses.