CNN: Afghanistan suspends security talks with U.S.
Afghanistan has suspended security talks with the United States - one day before American officials are set to meet with the Taliban for formal talks. President Hamid Karzai's office announced the suspension Wednesday, but offered a vague reason for doing so. "In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations," the statement from the office said. It wasn't clear whether Karzai's decision had anythig to do with the U.S.-Taliban meeting.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Taliban talks announced as Afghanistan assumes security
USA Today: Medical group recognizes obesity as a disease
The American Medical Association decided Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease, requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment. The American Medical Association, the nation's largest physician organization, decided Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease that requires a range of medical interventions for treatment and prevention. The decision was made at the group's annual meeting in Chicago. Experts in obesity have struggled for years to have obesity recognized as a disease that deserves medical attention and insurance coverage as do other diseases. Previously the AMA and others have referred to obesity as "a major public health problem."
Bloomberg: Autism Tied to Air Pollution, Brain-Wiring Disconnection
Researchers seeking the roots of autism have linked the disorder to chemicals in air pollution and, in a separate study, found that language difficulties of the disorder may be due to a disconnect in brain wiring. Researchers from Harvard University’s School of Public Health found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of diesel particulates or mercury were twice as likely to have an autistic child compared with peers in low-pollution areas. The findings, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, are from the largest U.S. study to examine the ties between air pollution and autism. One in 50 U.S. children are diagnosed with autism or a related disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CNN: Feds: 3 in Ohio held woman, child in 'subhuman' conditions
A mentally disabled woman and her daughter were held in an Ohio apartment crowded with people and animals for more than a year, forced to perform manual labor and threatened with dogs and snakes to keep them compliant, authorities said Tuesday. Federal prosecutors said the people accused of holding the pair in Ashland, about 60 miles south of Cleveland, collected the woman's government benefits and beat her in order to get painkillers for themselves. They kept her in a room with a free-ranging iguana and ordered her to feed the reptile fruits and vegetables her daughter was denied, according to court papers. Sometimes their captors' pit bulls got table food while they had to eat from cans, according to an arrest affidavit quoting witnesses. "The living conditions were simply subhuman," said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
CNN: Washington state bridge to reopen after a collapse last month
A Washington state bridge that collapsed last month over the Skagit River will reopen Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday. The bridge's failure on May 24 sent cars tumbling into the river and severed the state's main artery to Canada, on which trucks carry an estimated $13.9 billion annually in U.S.-Canada trade cargo. Roughly 70,000 vehicles a day travel on Interstate 5 over the bridge, the state Department of Transportation said.
ALSO SEE: USA Today: 1 in 9 U.S. bridges in need of repair
WSJ: Health-Insurance Exchanges Are Falling Behind Schedule
Government officials have missed several deadlines in setting up new health-insurance exchanges for small businesses and consumers—a key part of the federal health overhaul—and there is a risk they won't be ready to open on time in October, Congress's watchdog arm said. The Government Accountability Office said federal and state health officials still have major work to complete, offering its most cautious comments to date about the Obama administration's ability to bring the centerpiece of its signature law to fruition. "Whether [the government's] contingency planning will assure the timely and smooth implementation of the exchanges by October 2013 cannot yet be determined," said the GAO in twin reports to be released Wednesday. The 2010 Affordable Care Act created two exchanges, seeking to provide coverage for many Americans who now go without health insurance. President Barack Obama has said the exchanges will be ready on schedule in October, offering coverage to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, but he has cautioned that "glitches and bumps" are likely.
CBS: Colo. senator who pushed for gun control may lose job
After the massacre last summer in a Colorado movie theater, the leader of the state Senate pushed through a gun-control bill. Among other things, it outlawed the 100-round ammunition magazines used in the murder of 12 people and the wounding of 58. But Senate President John Morse has been in the sights of gun rights advocates. On Tuesday, Colorado certified there are enough signatures on a petition to force a recall election. The gun control laws passed in March limited magazines to 15 rounds and mandated background checks, even for private and online gun sales. Morse, a Democrat gun-control advocate, is a former police chief. "I've watched people die, and I've helped people not die," Morse says of gun violence he's witnessed. A gun owner himself, he is now the target of a recall, despite seven years as a popular legislative leader.
CNN: Obama to call for U.S., Russia to cut nuclear warhead supply by one-third
President Barack Obama will ask Russia to join the United States in slashing its supply of strategic nuclear warheads by about one-third, a senior administration official said. Obama will announce the goal during a speech Wednesday in Berlin - a city rife with Cold War history. The president will also outline his goal to reduce U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, the official said. The president hopes to work with NATO allies on proposals toward that goal. It's all part of Obama's "vision of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the official said. "We will seek to negotiate these reductions with Russia to continue to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures," the official added.
NYT: Extending a Hand Abroad, Obama Often Finds a Cold Shoulder
Over porterhouse steak and cherry pie at a desert estate in California earlier this month, President Obama delivered a stern lecture to President Xi Jinping about China’s disputes with its neighbors. If it is going to be a rising power, he scolded, it needs to behave like one. The next morning, Mr. Xi punched back, accusing the United States of the same computer hacking tactics it attributed to China. It was, Mr. Obama acknowledged, “a very blunt conversation.” Ten days later, in Northern Ireland, Mr. Obama had another tough meeting with a prickly leader, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. …While tangling with the leaders of two cold war antagonists of the United States is nothing new, the two bruising encounters in such a short span underscore a hard reality for Mr. Obama as he heads deeper into a second term that may come to be dominated by foreign policy: his main counterparts on the world stage are not his friends, and they make little attempt to cloak their disagreements in diplomatic niceties.
WSJ: Schools Get Reprieve on Teacher Mandate
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Tuesday a one-year reprieve on federal guidelines requiring states to link student test scores to teacher personnel decisions, bowing to pressure from educators who complained that they need more time to implement universal math and reading standards known as the Common Core. The decision, which would cover most states, was praised by the two largest teachers unions. To win waivers from the Obama administration from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates student testing in most grades, more than three dozen states and the District of Columbia agreed in recent years to employ new academic standards by next school year. Most of them agreed to roll out new exams and link them to teacher evaluations by the 2014-15 school year. They also agreed to use test results for teacher personnel decisions, such as pay raises and tenure, by 2016. Mr. Duncan said he now will give states until 2017 to make that test-personnel link, if they apply for an extension.
CNN: House passes late term abortion ban
The House of Representatives Tuesday passed a GOP-sponsored bill banning so- called "late term abortions" – procedures for women who are beyond 22 weeks into their pregnancy. The vote was 228-196, mostly along party lines. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, stirred up controversy last week when he opposed an effort by House Democrats to add an exception for women who are raped, arguing that "the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." House Democrats seized on the comment, and because of the backlash GOP leaders later decided to add new language to the bill allowing women who get pregnant as a result of rape or incest to obtain an abortion if they report the crime to authorities.
CNN: Senate negotiators seek new compromise on immigration
A bipartisan group of senators is scrambling to reach a fresh compromise they hope can propel a proposal to overhaul U.S. immigration policy toward passage in that chamber and provide momentum heading into the Republican-controlled House. A deal remained elusive, however, on Tuesday evening and it was uncertain whether the stark differences that have stalled immigration reform for years in Congress could be bridged with time running out on debate. Raising new questions on whether any immigration bill will get through Congress this year, House Speaker John Boehner said earlier in the day that he did not see any way of bringing a bill on that issue to the floor that relied on Democrats to pass. Under enormous pressure from conservatives opposed to the bipartisan Senate bill, Boehner has until now sidestepped questions about how he would move forward.
ALSO SEE: The Hill: House panel approves enforcement-based immigration reform bill
ALSO SEE: National Review: Getting to Yes on Gang of Eight
CNNMoney: Immigration bill could cut deficits by $175 billion – CBO
A bipartisan Senate bill that would create a path to legal status for many of the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could reduce deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade. That's according to an analysis released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, working with the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, estimates that 8 million unauthorized residents would become legal in the first decade.
ALSO SEE: BuzzFeed: Heritage Foundation Challenges CBO Immigration Reform Estimates With Controversial Study
Politico: Nuclear option uniting Republicans
Senate Republicans have found an issue to rally around as immigration reform threatens to cleave them: opposition to the Senate Democrats’ filibuster reform threat. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has frequently come to the Senate floor in recent weeks, repeatedly requesting assurance from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he would not “break” his word to avoid using the “nuclear option” — under which changes to Senate rules would require a majority vote rather than the more onerous hurdle of 67 votes. McConnell told POLITICO that Senate Republicans are “absolutely” united in their “concern for the institution. This issue is settled for this Congress, and yet there’s this culture of intimidation in the Senate,” McConnell said in a Tuesday interview.
CNN Economy Poll: Are you better or worse off than last year?
They're still a minority, but an increasing number of Americans say economic conditions right now are good, according to a new national poll. But a CNN/ORC International survey released Wednesday morning also indicates that a plurality of the public says they are personally worse off than they were a year ago. Thirty-five percent of those questioned in the poll say that economic conditions in the country right now are "very" or "somewhat" good. There has been a slow, steady rise in CNN polling on the percentage who say things are good right now, from 26% in December to 31% in March, 33% in May and 35% now. But nearly two-thirds say they currently rate the economy as poor.
CNN: Shifting IRS polls contradict key deposition
Roughly half of all Americans now think the White House was behind the Internal Revenue Service decision to target conservative political groups, according to a recent CNN/ORC International poll, a growing belief at odds with information recently provided to CNN by congressional investigators. The information includes a full transcript of the May 21 deposition of Holly Paz, a high-ranking IRS official placed on administrative leave as a result of her role in the scandal. Paz was questioned extensively by investigators from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is chaired by one of the administration's fiercest congressional critics, California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa. …Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on Issa's panel, released the full transcript on Tuesday of the deposition of a self-described "conservative Republican" IRS manager who has denied any administration involvement in the scandal. The manager also insisted that the initial decision to flag tea party groups for additional scrutiny originated with lower level IRS staff in Cincinnati, not upper management in Washington or elsewhere.
CNN: Whistle-blower says he was targeted by IRS
P. Jeffrey Black bumped up against his bosses in the Federal Air Marshal Service, eventually becoming a whistle-blower and testifying to a closed-door congressional hearing before his retirement in 2010. He had taken a long list of complaints to lawmakers about how the air marshals service was run, ranging from problems keeping marshals on flights to allegations of ineptitude and favoritism by managers. The same year he retired, he appeared in "Please Remove Your Shoes," a documentary critical of the airline security measures travelers endure on every trip. Then came the audit, which an Internal Revenue Service agent told him about the same day the movie premiered - "almost to the hour," he said. The year-long investigation included the placement of a $24,000 lien against his home. In the end, the IRS found out Black owed them $480 - while the government owed him $8,300.
CNN: Senate hopefuls charge into final week with a heated debate
The final debate showdown Tuesday between Massachusetts rivals Gabriel Gomez and Rep. Ed Markey was peppered with stinging attacks from the candidates, whose race for U.S. Senate culminates in one week. The wide-ranging forum veered from each candidate’s record on job creation to which Senate hopeful is more entrenched in his party’s establishment. It also touched on last week’s White House decision to further intervene in Syria’s civil war, as well as recent disclosures about government surveillance programs. The most tense moment came as Gomez challenged Markey on term limits – a policy that would have prevented the 20-term Democrat from remaining in Washington.
Politico: Boehner fundraising destination: Alaska
House Speaker John Boehner is hunting for cash on America’s last frontier. The top Republican in Congress is due in Alaska for a fundraiser early next month, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO. He’ll headline a July 2 event at a private home in Anchorage to collect donations for the Boehner for Speaker joint fundraising committee, which benefits his campaign, PAC, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Ohio Republican Party. The invitation asks for a suggested contribution of between $500 and $1,000, with donors of $2,500 or more gaining access to a photo reception. The maximum acceptable donation is $52,600.
CNN: 4 Americans killed at U.S. base in Afghanistan; Taliban claim responsibility
Four Americans were killed during a rocket attack at Bagram Air Base, outside of Kabul, a Pentagon official said Tuesday on the condition of anonymity. The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force confirmed that four NATO coalition service members had been killed in an attack but did not disclose the nationality of the casualties or the exact location of the attack. ISAF said the four were killed in an "attack in eastern Afghanistan." The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the group said in a statement.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Why Taliban would talk as U.S. withdrawal looms
CNN: Officials cite thwarted plots, oversight in defending surveillance
Bomb plots targeting the New York Stock Exchange and the city's subway were among more than 50 terrorist acts worldwide thwarted by top-secret surveillance programs since the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States, security officials said Tuesday. The startling details disclosed at a House intelligence committee hearing reflected a unified effort by the Obama administration and legislators to defend the telephone and e-mail surveillance made public this month by classified leaks to newspapers. Testimony by Gen. Keith Alexander, the National Security Agency director, as well as officials from the FBI, Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence office called the programs created under the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks a vital tool against terrorist plots.
ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: Gov't claims spying programs stopped plot to bomb New York Stock Exchange
CNNMoney: Google files First Amendment court case against NSA surveillance secrecy
Google filed a court petition Tuesday demanding it be allowed to share information about government surveillance programs with the public. In a First Amendment plea lodged with the secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) asked that the court let it disclose the scope of the newly discovered "Prism" program. Google also asked for the ability to share the number of user accounts associated with those secret data requests. The company argued that a gag order barring such disclosure is a violation of its right to free speech.
WATCH: VIDEO – Sen. Rand Paul says James Clapper lied when he told lawmakers in March the govt. wasn't collecting data on millions of Americans.
CNN: G8 leaders agree on need, but not on method, to solve Syrian crisis
The Group of Eight leaders meeting in Northern Ireland on Tuesday called for an international conference on the ongoing crisis in Syria to be held "as soon as possible" but offered little new that might end the civil war there. In their final statement, the G8 leaders said peace is a shared goal, noted that Jordan and Lebanon are playing a "vital humanitarian role" on refugees and vowed to give nearly $1.5 billion more to meet the humanitarian needs of Syria and its neighbors. The leaders also expressed concern about the presence of al Qaeda and other extremist elements in Syria. Though the statement condemned "any use of chemical weapons" and asked for an international team to be allowed to investigate their possible use, it did not say whether such weapons have been used. Nor did it mention Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
WSJ: Fears Grow Over Yemenis' Ties to Iran
Iran is taking advantage of the confusion surrounding Yemen's transition of government to gain a new foothold in the country, Yemeni and Western officials say, as Tehran seeks military allies operating near one of the world's most strategic waterways for oil shipments. Iran is training militants who are aligned with a separatist movement in southern Yemen, while Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, is providing some funding and media training to the group, people familiar with the situation say. Iran has also directed arms, including heat-seeking missiles, toward these militants, Yemeni and Western officials say, citing intelligence reports. The outreach comes as Tehran has sought to bolster its influence in a region reshaped by two years of uprisings. A tie to Yemeni militants could provide Iran with a strategic pressure point—one akin to its alliance with Hezbollah in Lebanon, just across the border from Tehran's avowed enemy Israel.
Fox: Did senior State Department security officials commit perjury?
Two top officials at the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service (DS) - the federal law enforcement agency that protects American diplomats and investigates allegations of criminal misconduct by State Department employees - gave sworn testimony earlier this year that appears to be evasive at best, and untrue at worst, according to evidence obtained by Fox News. The officials are Scott Bultrowicz, who until Feb. 1 served as director of DS, and Tracy H. Mahaffey, who remains the executive director of DS. In videotaped depositions conducted this past February, Bultrowicz claimed not to know about any claims by a federal agency that DS officials have failed to follow proper procedures; and Mahaffey claimed not to know about any pending investigations into DS. Yet Fox News has obtained meeting notes, draft reports and other evidence that suggest both officials were aware, at the time they were deposed, of a pending investigation into DS and its operations by the State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG).
CNN: Doctors to Obama: Let us treat hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo
In an open letter to President Barack Obama published Tuesday, dozens of doctors asked to be allowed to treat hunger-striking prisoners at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. For four months, many detainees at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike, protesting their detention at the facility. "It is clear that they do not trust their military doctors," the more than 150 doctors and other medical professionals wrote in an open letter published online by The Lancet medical journal. "They have very good reason for this, as you should know, from the current protocols of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which those doctors are ordered to follow." In May, 13 detainees wrote an open letter in the UK-based Guardian newspaper asking to see civilian doctors because they said they did not trust the military doctors whom they accused of force-feeding them against their will.
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Documentary aims to 'break silence' on crash of TWA Flight 800
Skeptics who have long theorized that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by sinister forces will get a fresh surge of energy when a new documentary attempts to disprove that the 1996 crash was accidental. The documentary, "TWA Flight 800," will premiere July 17, the 17th anniversary of the crash. It includes six members of the accident investigation team who, publicists say, will "break their silence" on the cause of the explosion. They will petition the National Transportation Safety Board to reopen its investigation some 17 years after the B-747 fell in pieces into the waters off of Long Island, New York.
CNN: Man hunted by FBI for alleged child sex abuse arrested in Mexico
Mexican authorities have arrested a former college professor who was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list over allegations of child sex abuse. Walter Lee Williams was detained late Tuesday, Mexican state news agency Notimex reported. The FBI placed the former university professor wanted for alleged sexual exploitation of children on the list Monday, according to Notimex. Williams researched in the field of gender development at a university in California, which gave him easy access to his victims, mainly teenage boys in developing countries, the FBI said.
NYT: The F.B.I. Deemed Agents Faultless in 150 Shootings
After contradictory stories emerged about an F.B.I. agent’s killing last month of a Chechen man in Orlando, Fla., who was being questioned over ties to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the bureau reassured the public that it would clear up the murky episode. Investigators examining a trailer outside a warehouse in Dearborn, Mich., where Mr. Abdullah was killed by an F.B.I. agent in 2009. A lawsuit has alleged a cover-up. “The F.B.I. takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents, and as such we have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them internally,” a bureau spokesman said. But if such internal investigations are time-tested, their outcomes are also predictable: from 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The last two years have followed the same pattern: an F.B.I. spokesman said that since 2011, there had been no findings of improper intentional shootings.
Boston Globe: Body of Ibragim Todashev is flown to Russia
Almost a month after he was shot and killed by a Boston FBI agent, Ibragim Todashev's body was loaded on a 5:40 p.m. flight to Russia on Tuesday, concluding his family’s nearly monthlong process of getting his body home. Todashev's family has attempted to ship the body back to Russia since it was released by the Florida medical examiner the week after the shooting on May 22. However, according to family members and friends, the FBI has yet to release his green card and passport, both confiscated during their investigation, making it difficult to book a flight. Todashev, 27, a Russian native living in Orlando when he was killed, was a friend of accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and was interviewed several times about that relationship. During his final voluntary interview, Todashev was shot multiple times and killed by an agent who said the man attacked him. Details of what happened in the moments before the shooting remain shrouded in secrecy, with the FBI refusing to release any information, citing an ongoing investigation.
ALSO SEE: NYT: The F.B.I. Deemed Agents Faultless in 150 Shootings
LA Times: Budget could limit public's access to government documents
Gov. Jerry Brown is poised to sign legislation that could reduce the public's access to basic government records that have long been used to scrutinize the actions of elected officials. The proposal, a late insert into the state budget that lawmakers passed last week, would allow local officials to opt out of parts of the California law that gives citizens access to government documents. Under that law, officials now must respond to a request for records from a member of the public within 10 days and are required to make the documents available electronically. The change, which Brown requested as a cost-cutting measure, would allow the officials to skip both requirements with a voice vote. The same vote would permit them to reject requests without explanation and would no longer require them to help citizens identify existing information.
Dallas Morning News: Texas Senate approves sweeping abortion restrictions
The Senate late Tuesday approved sweeping new abortion restrictions, though the bill’s author abandoned a provision that would ban the procedure after 20 weeks. The bill was passed 20-10 by the chamber’s majority Republicans after several hours of back-room negotiations and a heated debate between author Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, and Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Hegar maintained that the legislation’s primary purpose is to raise the standard of care for the procedure.
Burlington Free Press: Dean and staff mark 10th anniversary of presidential campaign
For Howard Dean, it was a ham sandwich. When asked to pinpoint a favorite memory from his run for the Democratic presidential nomination a decade ago, the former governor recalled a clever stunt to attract donations. “I sat in front of a computer webcam with a ham sandwich at the same time that Dick Cheney was at a fancy-schmancy fundraiser in South Carolina,” Dean said during a recent phone interview, referring to the then vice president. “But we wound up bringing in twice as much as he did.” There’s likely to be a plethora of such reminiscences this weekend when Dean’s campaign staff members and volunteers, along with the general public, gather at Oakledge Park for a 10th anniversary reunion. The Sunday event, billed as a picnic, will commemorate the announcement of his candidacy at a downtown Burlington rally June 23, 2003. Although fellow Democrat John Kerry nabbed the nomination, and the Republican ticket won the 2004 election, “Deaniacs” from across the country who are trekking to Vermont for the reunion continue to believe wholeheartedly in their man.
Albuquerque Journal: Residents say ‘death map’ should spur EPA action
A federal agency needs to either move the tailings from an abandoned uranium mill near Milan or relocate the owners of about 75 nearby homes, the residents told a top U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official on Tuesday. Residents told Ron Curry, EPA’s Region 6 administrator, that a cluster of cancer cases in subdivisions near the Homestake Mining Co. uranium mill show a need for immediate action by the agency. They pointed to a draft EPA report published this month showing that residents near the mill face a cancer risk 18 times higher than that considered acceptable by the EPA. Curry met with homeowners on Tuesday at the home of Jonnie and Milt Head, who live about 2,000 feet southwest of a mile-long tailings pile left by milling operations at the site from 1958 to 1990. At least 20 cases of cancer, including four deaths, and five cases of thyroid disease have occurred among residents who live within a mile of the sprawling Superfund site about 4.5 miles north of Milan.
Miami Herald: Gov. Rick Scott gains ground in new statewide poll, but still trails former Gov. Charlie Crist
Gov. Rick Scott is more popular, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University, but 50 percent of voters say he doesn’t deserve to be re-elected and that he would lose handily to former Gov. Charlie Crist if the 2014 election were today. Scott’s standing with the public has been so persistently grim that any improvement looks like a breakthrough. His approval rating cracked 40 percent for the first time in the latest poll — 43 percent of voters approve of his handling of his job, 44 percent disapprove. For Scott, that’s progress.
ALSO SEE: Tampa Bay Times: Don't write off Alex Sink running for Florida governor just yet
CNN: Brazilian protesters plan to take a break, but will hit streets again
Protesters in Brazil called for a "time out" Wednesday, a glaring contrast to the loud, voluminous demonstrations that reverberated across several cities the day before. Crowds originally protesting bus fare hikes have grown into multitudes decrying social injustice as broad avenues filled to capacity for blocks. There were over 200,000 confirmed participants Tuesday, according to the main organizer, the Free Fare Movement. Though the group said it has nothing planned for Wednesday, there may be scattered protests regardless. …The protests come amid the soccer Confederations Cup tournament, a friendly array of matches, in which the host country, Brazil, plays against a small group of national teams from around the globe. The cup serves as a precursor to the World Cup. The National Force, which is made up of specially trained firefighters and police officers, will beef up security in states hosting the games, which continue Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice said.
Reuters: North Korean envoy in Beijing seeking to mend ties: experts
A North Korean envoy held talks with Chinese officials on Wednesday that experts said were unlikely to yield concessions from Pyongyang on its nuclear program but were more aimed at repairing ties with Beijing. First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, who has represented Pyongyang at previous international talks to get North Korea to halt its nuclear program, was meeting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui in Beijing. His trip comes just days after North Korea offered talks with Washington to ease tensions that spiked earlier this year when it threatened to wage nuclear war on the United States and South Korea. The White House said any talks must involve action by Pyongyang to show it is moving towards disarmament.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Pondering Pyongyang: Beijing's problem child
Times of India: Rain toll rises to 131, over 73,000 pilgrims stranded
Torrential rains continued to pour in bad news from north India on Tuesday, with flash floods, cloudbursts and landslips claiming 69 more lives and taking the official death toll to 131, making for the most tragic tidings of monsoon in recent years. More than 73,000 pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri remained stranded in Uttarakhand and about 1,700 tourists were stuck in Himachal Pradesh. The rains left 102 people dead in Uttarakhand, almost as many injured, and smashed hundreds of houses. The remaining deaths were reported from Himachal Pradesh. Based on reports from volunteers on the pilgrim route, the VHP said the toll could be in thousands. Its statement said bodies were strewn around the Kedarnath temple and Gauri Kund, from where the trek to Kedarnath commences, had been washed away.
Reuters: Rohani once spoke approvingly of hiding Iran atomic work
Years before he became Iran's president-elect, Hassan Rohani spoke approvingly about concealing his nation's nuclear program and said that when Pakistan got atomic bombs and Brazil began enriching uranium, "the world started to work with them." The comments offer an intriguing window into the past thinking of Rohani, widely seen as a moderate or pragmatic conservative, whose surprise victory in weekend elections to succeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was perceived by the United States and other Western powers as positive – at least at first glance. Rohani has said he intends to pursue constructive interaction with the world and "more active" negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, after his predecessor's belligerence was met with painful international sanctions and military threats from Israel and the United States.
NYT: Rebels in North Mali Sign Peace Deal Allowing In Government Troops
Nomadic rebels whose revolt in northern Mali last year split the West African nation signed a peace deal Tuesday with the government, resolving a stumbling block to the country’s reconstruction. The rebels of the Tuareg ethnic group had been clinging to swaths of Mali’s desert north, refusing to disarm or allow the country’s army to enter Kidal, a dusty Sahara outpost near the Algerian border. The peace accord, which calls for the deployment of the Malian Army there, followed a French military intervention at the beginning of the year that itself went some way to putting the fractured country back together. That intervention did not go all the way, however, and the accord signed Tuesday in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, now appears to resolve the last major sticking point. The agreement also helps clear the way for elections in late July. International donors, whose billions of dollars in promised aid is vital to Mali’s reconstruction, have been calling for elections.
BBC: More than seven million refugees displaced in 2012 – UN
The UN says 7.6 million people became refugees in 2012, with the total number now higher than at any time since 1994. A report from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that Syria is "a major new factor" driving up refugee numbers. The report say 55% of all refugees come from five countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. It also found that developing countries now hosted 81% of the world's refugees, 11% more than a decade ago.
The Guardian: Banking commission: Bankers should be jailed for 'reckless misconduct
George Osborne is facing pressure to radically overhaul Britain's banks by introducing a new law to jail bankers for "reckless misconduct" and force bankers to wait up to 10 years to receive their bonuses. The proposals, among the key measures recommended in a major report by the parliamentary commission on banking standards, also include a call on him to consider breaking up the Royal Bank of Scotland. They come ahead of the chancellor's crucial set-piece Mansion House speech to the City on Wednesday night. The chancellor is urged to restore confidence in the financial system by making top bankers more accountable for their actions in the wake of the 2008 bank bailouts, the Libor rigging scandal, and the shoddy treatment of customers mis-sold payment protection insurance.
NYT: Uncertainty at Fed Over Its Stimulus Plans and Its Leadership
The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, faces the increasingly difficult challenge of shaping investor expectations about the future course of Fed policy amid growing signs that the Bernanke era at the central bank is drawing to a close. President Obama suggested late Monday that he was likely to nominate a new Fed chairman this year, saying that Mr. Bernanke had “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to.” Mr. Obama added that Mr. Bernanke, whose second four-year term in office ends in January, has done an “outstanding job.” The comments bounced around Washington on Tuesday even as Mr. Bernanke convened a regularly scheduled meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee to debate how much longer the Fed will continue its current efforts to stimulate the economy. The Fed is not expected to announce any immediate changes on Wednesday, at the close of the meeting, but investors are watching for signs that the Fed is considering scaling back later this year.