CNN: Texas abortion bill dies as confusion marks end of session
The Texas legislature's special session ended in chaos and confusion early Wednesday, with Republicans unable to pass before a midnight deadline a bill that would have greatly restricted abortions in the state. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst stepped to the Senate floor around 3 a.m. to declare the bill dead and the special session over. And thus ended a night of intense drama that both sides of the abortion debate followed breathlessly, in large part to cheer - or jeer - the efforts of a lone lawmaker who talked for 10 straight hours to run out the clock. Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis tried Tuesday to block the abortion bill by attempting a 13-hour filibuster, but fell short three hours early when the chairman ruled she had gone off topic.
CNN: Married same-sex couple awaits ruling on federal benefits
The wedding photo shows the happy couple poised to kiss, ready to begin an adventure that has now taken them to the U.S. Supreme Court. For Karane and Jamelle Thomas-Williams, this is a fight for recognition by the federal government of their legal same-sex union, part of a landmark constitutional appeal over same-sex marriage and "equal protection." Their love has united them, but the larger social issue has split the country for more than four decades. Rulings in that and a related appeal over state marriage laws are expected from the high court Wednesday. The Washington, D.C., couple were legally married last October - but not in the eyes of some of their employers or elected leaders.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama views on same-sex marriage reflect societal shifts
CNN: 'Outrageous' or overdue?: Court strikes down part of historic voting rights law
The law passed at the height of America's civil rights movement, when citizens in parts of the country were fighting each other and sometimes authorities over how skin color impacts a person's place in a democracy. Now, it's present and future are in doubt after the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Tuesday that key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are no longer valid. The prevailing opinion leaves it to a divided Congress to revise the law, so that it's constitutional in the minds of a majority of justices. The main reason for the ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts explained, was that "our country has changed" for the better. Deplorable conditions that spurred Congress five decades ago to require certain parts of the United States to "preclear" changes to voting laws "no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions." The formula that Congress enacted as recently as 2006, to determine which areas are covered by the act, has "no logical relation to the present day," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
ALSO SEE: CNN: After Supreme Court ruling, states see green light for voter ID laws
CNN: 20 tourists expected to survive Canadian Arctic ice break-away
Helicopters were on their way early Wednesday to the far reaches of the Canadian arctic to rescue 20 tourists, including two Americans, adrift at sea on a chunk of ice. The tourists, who were on an expedition, are in "fair" condition. There are no medical emergencies, a Canadian air force spokesman said. Their chances of being rescued alive are high, because they notified authorities as soon as they saw that the ice shelf they were on had broken free, said spokesman Steven Neta. It will take the helicopters hours to reach their position on the ice floe off of Admiralty Inlet in the northernmost province of Nunavut. The air force hopes to hoist them on board by 5 a.m. ET.
CNN: Obama heads to Africa to promote investment, democracy
President Barack Obama flies across the Atlantic on Wednesday for a trip that takes him to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, his second visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office. The trip aims to bolster investment opportunities for U.S. businesses, address development issues such as food security and health, and promote democracy. It comes as China aggressively engages the continent. The Asian nation is pouring billions of dollars into Africa, running oil and mining firms, and replaced the United States in 2009 as the largest trading partner. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, will be in Africa at the same time.
CNN: Obama wants limits on coal plants, says Keystone can't boost pollution
President Barack Obama unveiled an aggressive new climate change strategy on Tuesday that would limit pollution from existing coal-fired power plants, and he made clear that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline depended on the project not increasing overall greenhouse gas emissions. Obama raised the two politically charged issues during a sweeping address on second-term environmental priorities that included his plan of executive actions that don't require congressional approval in an era of partisan gridlock in Washington. He also pledged global leadership on climate change and to redouble U.S. efforts to fight it.
ALSO SEE: The Hill: Al Gore calls Obama climate change speech the best ‘by any president ever’
CNN: IRS targeting scandal reshaped by new details
New disclosures that the Internal Revenue Service targeted liberals as well as conservatives in assessing applications for tax-exempt status have reshaped perceptions of the scandal, shifting the focus away from Republican claims of political villainy. IRS targeting included liberal groups Investigations by the FBI, congressional committees, the Treasury inspector general's office and the IRS continue, but Monday's revelations bolstered assertions by agency officials and Democrats that the problem was egregious mismanagement instead of intentional misconduct by the Obama administration. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California told CNN on Tuesday that the priority now should be to ensure that laws and regulations prohibiting political groups from getting tax-exempt status are properly enforced, regardless of whether organizations are on left or right. …However, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued too many questions remain unanswered to stop investigating whether politics played a role in the controversy.
ALSO SEE: The Hill: IG: Audit of IRS actions limited to Tea Party groups at GOP request
Fox News: IRS credit cards used for wine, pornography, IG report says
Another government watchdog report has flagged inappropriate behavior at the IRS, this time claiming government credit cards were used to make questionable purchases on items ranging from wine to online pornography. The report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that between fiscal 2010 and 2011, the more than 5,000 IRS card accounts racked up $103 million in purchases. "While the majority of IRS cardholders appear to use their purchase cards properly, TIGTA's audit identified some troubling instances of inappropriate usage," J. Russell George, the inspector general, said in a statement. The report said the cards were at one point used to pay for a dinner that cost roughly $140 per person - four times the amount allowed by federal rules. They were also used to pay for a lunch that cost about $100 per person, five times the allowed amount. The report said IRS credit cards paid for 28 bottles of wine at the 2010 luncheon for tax officials from other countries. There were 41 guests.
Politico: Desperately seeking the vote of Sen. Rob Portman
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham wanted to get away last week from the immigration bill and hit the world-class Pebble Beach golf course in California. But another Republican was on his mind: Sen. Rob Portman. Graham and the rest of the Gang of Eight had just made an offer they believed Portman couldn’t refuse: They would agree to quietly slip in the Ohio Republican’s so-called E-Verify plan into a bigger border security package — in exchange for securing Portman’s vote for their immigration bill. But Portman balked, angering Graham, who was overheard loudly cursing about his colleague on a phone call on his way to San Francisco, according to a person who witnessed the remarks. “I was pissed about not getting Portman in the package,” Graham told POLITICO on Tuesday. “But I’ve never been pissed at Portman. I think Rob Portman could be the 69th vote.” The battle for the 69th vote — in this case, Portman — shines a light on the tense, behind-the-scenes horsetrading to inflate the vote tally for the immigration bill, which is expected to pass the Senate this week.
NYT: G.O.P. in House Leaves Immigration Bill in Doubt
With the Senate days away from passing the most significant immigration legislation in a generation, House Republicans say they feel no pressure to act quickly on a similar measure, leaving the fate of the bill very much in doubt despite solid bipartisan Senate support. “We have a minority of the minority in the Senate voting for this bill,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, referring to the 15 or so Republicans expected to back the Senate measure. “That’s not going to put a lot of pressure on the majority of the majority in the House.” Two senior House Republican leadership aides were more blunt when speaking privately: Speaker John A. Boehner has no intention of angering conservative voters and jeopardizing the House Republican majority in 2014 in the interest of courting Hispanic voters on behalf of a 2016 Republican presidential nominee who does not yet exist.
WSJ: Student-Loan Rates Appear Set to Double
Interest rates on some new federal student loans appear increasingly likely to double next week, according to senators who say their chamber remains divided over how to prevent the jump before the July 1 deadline. With the Senate's attention largely focused on the effort to complete a major immigration bill before Congress leaves Friday for a weeklong recess, the prospects of a quick deal on the student-loan issue are bleak, the lawmakers said. "If I were a betting person I would say it's unlikely it gets done this week," said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership team. Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he had hoped to strike a deal with his Republican counterpart on the panel, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, but wasn't able to do so.
NYT: Report Finds Lapses in United States Aid Efforts in Haiti
The agency managing some of the United States’ signature projects to rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake has yet to spend a large amount of the money Congress authorized and has scaled back planned housing because of delays and complications, according to a report Tuesday by a government watchdog. The report, by the Government Accountability Office, raised concern among members of Congress who have questioned how well taxpayer funds are being spent in Haiti, more than three years after the January 2010 quake devastated large parts of the country. The report focused on the United States Agency for International Development and $651 million appropriated to it in 2010, out of a total of $1.14 billion Congress authorized then for rebuilding Haiti.
CNN: No shocker this time as Democrats hold Senate seat
This time, history didn't repeat itself. Democratic Rep. Ed Markey Tuesday won a special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, topping Republican businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez in an election marked by low voter turnout. The contest was the second time in three years that Massachusetts voters headed to the polls in a special U.S. Senate election with national implications. In January 2010, little-known Republican state Sen. Scott Brown upset Martha Coakley, the Commonwealth's Democratic attorney general, in a contest to fill the remainder of the term of longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died the previous summer. Brown's victory set the stage for the GOP wave in the November 2010 midterm elections. Fast forward three years, and this time there was no upset. With 100% of precincts reporting, Markey led Gomez 55%-45%, according to local media reports.
ALSO SEE: National Review: Republicans Can't Crack the Blue State Code
Politico: FreedomWorks vows to fight Dems in Texas
The conservative outside group FreedomWorks has drawn up plans to spend nearly $8 million mobilizing and expanding the GOP base in Texas, in a move to counter state and national Democratic efforts to make the state more electorally competitive, POLITICO has learned. In a twelve-page internal strategy document obtained by POLITICO, FreedomWorks says that the Republican Party should be alarmed in particular by the Democratic group Battleground Texas, which several Obama campaign officials founded this year with the mission of organizing liberal-leaning constituencies that currently vote at below-average rates. The FreedomWorks memo likens that offensive to the so-called “Colorado Model” – a successful initiative by Democratic donors and organizers to make Colorado a blue state over the past decade – and spells out an itemized budget for responding from the right.
BuzzFeed: Heritage Touts Marco Rubio In Fundraising Letter While Publicly Attacking Him
Heritage Action has spent the past several weeks relentlessly hammering Sen. Marco Rubio for his sponsorship of an immigration reform bill that the conservative political outfit characterizes as “amnesty.” But the high-profile battle hasn’t stopped the group from using Rubio’s conservative all-star status to raise money. In a letter sent to prospective donors across the country, Heritage Action president Jim DeMint took some credit for Rubio’s work in the Senate, suggesting it was proof of DeMint’s success in challenging the Republican establishment and championing grassroots conservatism from Capitol Hill. “As a result of all those efforts, I truly feel our beliefs are being ably represent in the Senate, with what’s been referred to as a ‘1927 New York Yankees lineup’ of powerful conservatives, including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, Ted Cruz, and now my successor Tim Scott,” DeMint wrote. The letter, dated June 17, came amid a series of attacks on Rubio by Heritage, which has waged an aggressive campaign to discredit Rubio’s immigration rhetoric, and to convince Republican voters that he’s misleading them on the issue.
WaPo: Donor bought Rolex watch for Virginia Gov. McDonnell, people familiar with gift say
A prominent political donor purchased a Rolex watch for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, according to two people with knowledge of the gift, and the governor did not disclose it in his annual financial filings. The $6,500 luxury watch was provided by wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the people said. He is the chief executive of dietary supplement manufacturer Star Scientific and the person who paid for catering at the wedding of the governor’s daughter. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an ongoing federal investigation into the relationship between Williams and the McDonnell family. Williams’s gift came in August 2011 — about two weeks after he met with a top state health official to pitch the benefits of his company’s health products at a meeting arranged by first lady Maureen McDonnell, according to people who know of the meeting.
CNN: Booker makes pitch to voters in first ad
In his first television ad for the special U.S. Senate race in New Jersey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker highlights his record and tells voters he doesn't run from challenges, but "toward them." "Washington ducks our problems," he says, looking directly into the camera. "I won't." Booker touts dropping crime rates in his city since becoming mayor, as well as growth in new businesses and better public schools. "I've proven that by bringing people together, even with big problems, we can make big progress and improve people's lives," he says. "Now I'm asking to be your senator."
CNN: Poll: Weiner takes the edge in New York City race
A little more than a month after entering New York City’s high-profile mayoral race, Anthony Weiner has inched ahead for the first time in the crowded Democratic primary, a new poll indicates. The former congressman has support among 25% of registered Democrats, with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the longtime front-runner in the race, coming in at 20%, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, NBC New York and Marist. Weiner's five percentage point advantage falls within the survey's sampling error, meaning the two are statistically tied.
CNN: Snowden a 'free man' in Moscow airport, Russian president says
Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who spilled U.S. surveillance secrets to the world, is a "free man" biding his time in a Moscow airport, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters Tuesday. Putin said Snowden - who flew to Moscow from Hong Kong on Sunday - is in the "transit area" of Sheremetyevo International Airport, the zone between arrival gates and Russia's passport control checkpoints. While he said Russia won't hand Snowden over to the United States, he seemed eager to have the focus of international intrigue off his hands. "The sooner he selects his final destination point, the better both for us and for himself," Putin said from Finland of Snowden, who is wanted by U.S. officials on espionage charges for disclosing classified details of U.S. surveillance programs. Putin's comments end, for now at least, the international pastime of "Where's Snowden?"
WATCH: VIDEO – U.S. officials are concerned Edward Snowden will expose more secrets if caught, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
CNN: Terrorists try changes after Snowden leaks, official says
The U.S. intelligence community says terrorists are trying to change the way they communicate because of what they learned from Edward Snowden's admitted leaks of classified information about government surveillance programs. "We can confirm we are seeing indications that several terrorist groups are in fact attempting to change their communications behaviors based specifically on what they are reading about our surveillance programs in the media," a U.S. intelligence official told CNN. He emphasized these are terrorist groups operating outside the United States and are not limited to al Qaeda affiliates. Intelligence has been gathered on both Sunni and Shia groups, he said, noting the risk to national security is that the groups "go dark" in terms of the U.S. ability to listen to them and watch them until it can "reacquire them" through new means.
CNN: U.S. Army to reduce combat brigades
The U.S. Army announced on Tuesday it plans to cut 12 combat brigades as part of steep budget austerity and other planned military changes associated with the ending of two wars and a sweeping military restructuring. Additionally, the Army plans to cut roughly 14 percent or 80,000 troops mainly from its peak Iraq-war active-duty total. The National Guard will take a slight hit and the Army reserve will actually add 1,000 troops, according to Gen. Ray Odierno. After the reductions are in place, the Army will field 490,000 active-duty forces, 350,000 National Guard troops and 205,000 reserves. Most of the cuts have come through attrition and the overall total was previously known.
NYT: Taliban’s Divided Tactics Raise Doubts Over Talks
When the Taliban opened their political office in Qatar last week, stepping into the halogen glare of TV cameras, it was the first time in a dozen years that the world had gotten to see members of the insurgents’ inner circle — and they seemed different. Urbane and educated, they conducted interviews in English, Arabic, French and German with easy fluency; passed out and received phone numbers; and, most strikingly, talked about peace. Back in Afghanistan, though, they have been the same old Taliban: fighters have waged suicide attacks that have taken an increasing toll on civilians, and on Tuesday the militants staged a deadly strike right at the heart of the heavily secured government district in Kabul. For officials watching the talks, those contradictions offer a picture of a top Taliban leadership taking advantage of two different tracks — orchestrating the fighting element even while setting up a new international diplomatic foothold in Doha. This complicates efforts to pin down the insurgents’ true goals.
Reuters: U.S. energy companies seen at risk from cyber attacks: CFR report
U.S. oil and natural gas operations are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks that can harm the competitiveness of energy companies or lead to costly outages at pipelines, refineries or drilling platforms, a report said on Wednesday. The energy business, including oil and gas producers, was hit by more targeted malware attacks from April to September last year than any other industry, said the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report, citing data from a Houston-based security company, Alert Logic. Cyber attacks on energy companies, which are increasing in frequency and sophistication, take two main forms, the CFR report said. The first kind, cyber espionage, is carried out by foreign intelligence and defense agencies, organized crime, or freelance hackers.
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Colombia: Police arrest 4 in DEA agent's slaying
Police in Colombia have arrested four people accused of killing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent during an attempted robbery. Colombia's National Police said the four suspects they arrested were part of a criminal network of thieves. Two additional suspects who were allegedly involved in the crime remain on the loose, CNN affiliate Caracol TV reported. The United States will request extradition of the suspects, but it has not yet done so formally, a law enforcement official said. U.S. officials have extradited and prosecuted suspects accused of killing U.S. federal agents in the past.
CNN: $1.2M in $100 bills stolen from Swiss airline in New York
The FBI is investigating the theft of $1.2 million from Swiss International Airlines Flight 17, which arrived at New York's JFK International Airport from Zurich, Switzerland, on Saturday afternoon, a spokesman said Tuesday. The money was in $100 bills, J. Peter Donald said, adding it's still unclear when it was stolen. Flight 17 was a passenger flight with air cargo, including a shipment of currency, according to another FBI spokesman, Jim Margolin. After the plane landed, the shipment of cash was discovered to be $1.2 million short. Margolin said investigators have not determined whether the money was taken before the flight left Zurich. He said the cash was missing from a container that the bank uses to transfer currency, which is loaded into a larger cargo container. He said it would take a forklift to lower the currrency container into the larger container, or to remove it.
NYT: In First, F.D.A. Rejects Tobacco Products
The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that for the first time it had begun exercising its power to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products, an authority it was given under a 2009 law supported by President Obama. The Food and Drug Administration gained authority over cigarettes and related products through a 2009 law. Agency officials said they had authorized the sale of two new products — both of them Newport cigarettes made by the Lorillard Tobacco Company — and rejected four others. The law forbade them to name the rejected products, they said. Before the law, cigarettes were manufactured without any federal regulation. Instead, states decided where and how tobacco products would be sold, but had no authority over the ingredients they contained. Now, the F.D.A. is deciding which new products can be sold. In addition to cigarettes, the agency’s authority covers loose rolling tobacco, chewing tobacco and snuff.
WSJ: Truck-Stop Royalty Shaken By FBI Fraud Investigation
Big Jim" Haslam never imagined the wealth that would be generated from a company he founded with a single gas station bought for $6,000 in 1958. The empire the 82-year-old patriarch created—Pilot Corp., 7846.TO -99.02% which operates Pilot Flying J, the largest truck-stop chain in North America—enabled one son, Jimmy, to buy the Cleveland Browns last year, and helped propel the other, Bill, into the governorship of Tennessee in 2011. It financed two buildings and an athletic field at the University of Tennessee, private jets and several estates, including Jimmy Haslam's English Tudor overlooking the Tennessee River here. Pilot generated $30.8 billion in revenue in 2012. On April 15, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service in bulletproof vests executed search warrants at "Pilot Park" headquarters and seized binders, handwritten notes, emails and computer files.
Denver Post: Aurora police destroyed evidence in 48 sexual assault cases
Evidence in 48 sexual assault cases was improperly destroyed by Aurora police officers who failed to follow protocols, and officials are continuing to investigate whether any additional cases have been affected by what Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates called "a grievous mistake." In one case, DNA evidence had identified a suspect and investigators were moving toward an arrest, Oates said. Prior to a Tuesday news conference, Oates and prosecutors from the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office met with the woman and told her that the case could no longer be prosecuted. Oates said the victim was "gracious and understanding. More understanding than I would have been in that situation." "Obviously this is not a good day for the department," Oates said. "This is a big mistake."
Des Moines Register: Former Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn to lead public affairs venture
The former chairman of the Iowa GOP has formed a new Chicago-based public affairs and capital development firm with two other Midwest businessmen. Matt Strawn, who was chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa from 2009 to 2012, is teaming up with former Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady and Chicago business leader Bob Fitzsimmons to create Next Generation Public Affairs Inc. The firm will provide strategies in government affairs, issue advocacy and media relations, as well as strategies in sourcing capital and structuring large-scale public-private partnership projects, Strawn said this morning.
Seattle Times: FBI’s bus ads taken down over Muslim/terrorist stereotyping
After a wave of criticism from politicians, advocacy groups and the public, 46 bus ads featuring photos of wanted terrorists will be taken down within the next few weeks, officials said Tuesday. The “Faces of Global Terrorism” ad was criticized for promoting stereotypes of Muslims and painting a broad brush against one group. The ad is part of a campaign launched earlier this month by the Puget Sound Joint Terrorism Task Force for the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program. It features 16 photos of wanted terrorists sandwiched between the taglines “Faces of Global Terrorism” and “Stop a Terrorist. Save Lives. Up to $25 Million Reward.”
CNN: Another day of unease as South Africans await word on Nelson Mandela
After hours of vigils and secret family meetings, South Africans awoke to another day of unease Wednesday as ailing anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela remained hospitalized in critical condition. "Former President Nelson Mandela's condition remains unchanged in hospital and doctors continue to do their best to ensure his recovery, well-being and comfort," the government said in a statement late Tuesday night. As the nation remained on edge, police barricaded the street leading to the hospital's main entrance.
CNN: Australian prime minister says she'll quit politics if she loses vote
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will call for a vote to challenge her own leadership of the Labor Party on Wednesday. If she loses, she will be replaced as head of government. The vote comes after months of friction within the party between her supporters and party members supporting her rival, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. A similar vote was held in March, which Gillard won. Rudd is widely popular among the Australian public.
CNN: Egypt braces for mass protests; U.S. embassy to close in case of violence
Two years after Egyptians amassed for dramatic protests to bring down their ruler, dissidents are bracing for deja vu. The Tamarod - or "Rebellion" - movement is planning massive protests Sunday calling for President Mohamed Morsy's impeachment. The group said more than 15 million Egyptians had signed its petition by Wednesday morning. "Since the arrival of (Morsy) to power, the average citizen still has the feeling that nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals which were life in dignity, freedom, social justice and national independence," the Tamarod campaign states. "(Morsy) was a total failure in achieving every single goal, no security has been reestablished and no social security realized." The imminent unrest prompted the U.S. embassy in Cairo to close its doors to the public on Sunday, which is a typical workday in Egypt.
The Guardian: GCHQ surveillance: Germany blasts UK over mass monitoring
The German government has expressed the growing public anger of its citizens over Britain's mass programme of monitoring global phone and internet traffic and directly challenged UK ministers over the whole basis of GCHQ's Project Tempora surveillance operation. The German justice minister, who has described the secret operation by Britain's eavesdropping agency as a catastrophe that sounded "like a Hollywood nightmare", warned UK ministers that free and democratic societies could not flourish when states shielded their actions in "a veil of secrecy". Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger sent two letters on Tuesday to the British justice secretary, Chris Grayling, and the home secretary, Theresa May, stressing the widespread concern the disclosures have triggered in Germany and demanding to know the extent to which German citizens have been targeted. It is the first major challenge to David Cameron's government to publicly justify its mass data-trawling operation, which was revealed in documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Al Jazeera: Qatar set to get new prime minister
Qatar's Minister of State for Interior Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, will be the country's new prime minister, sources have told Al Jazeera. The expected appointment comes a day after Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani took over the reins of power from his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani will replace Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, who also held the foreign minister's portfolio and was considered to be a driving force behind the Gulf state's rise to global prominence.
LA Times: In Mexico, U.S. border 'surge' proposal stirs outcry
The U.S. Senate's proposal to spend $46 billion to help secure the country's southern border may or may not persuade skeptical colleagues in the House to support broader immigration reform. But the proposal is generating some serious grumbling in Mexico. "We are 'friends and neighbors,' as is repeated ad nauseam," Fernando Belaunzaran, a congressman with Mexico's left-wing Democratic Revolution Party, tweeted this week, "but the U.S. is about to militarize the border with Mexico as if we were at war." "Neighbors don't do this to each other," Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos wrote in the newspaper Reforma.
WSJ: Serbia, Kosovo Edge Closer to EU
On the main road winding through the wooded hills rolling out from Gjilan in eastern Kosovo, police and customs officials from Serbia and Kosovo work side-by-side at Europe's newest international border. This is one of six such checkpoints that have opened since September 2012 on the frontier recognized by Kosovo's allies in Washington, London and Berlin. But there are no flags flying here, no banners proclaiming "Welcome to Kosovo." That would be a step too far for Serbia, which has vowed never to recognize the independence that its breakaway province declared five years ago.
NYT: Germany, Belgium and France Make Arrests in Reported Plots
Scores of special police officers raided at least nine sites in southern Germany and Belgium on Tuesday after what the German authorities said was a tip about an Islamist plot involving two men of Tunisian origin who were planning to stage terrorist attacks involving explosives and remote-controlled model airplanes. Separately, the French authorities detained nine people in raids on Monday and Tuesday, security officials said. The nine were suspected of plotting acts of Islamic terrorism in France or of having ties to jihadist networks. In Germany, the chief federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe said in a statement that the two men of Tunisian origin were the target of raids in the area around Stuttgart in southwestern Germany and at unspecified locations in Belgium. Other raids around Munich and Stuttgart were aimed at four contacts of the Tunisian-born men who were suspected of financing terrorist activities, and a another person suspected of money laundering, the statement said.
Daily Star: U.S. fines 'Hezbollah' bank $102M for laundering
A Lebanese bank accused of laundering money from drugs and other operations for clients tied to Hezbollah militants agreed Tuesday to pay US authorities $102 million to settle the charges. Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank was singled out in February 2011 for allegedly moving hundreds of millions of dollars for criminal groups and traffickers operating in Latin America, West Africa and the Middle East. Some of the customers it served were closely linked to Hezbollah, which Washington has blacklisted as a "terrorist organization." US authorities had already taken control of $150 million the bank set aside for a possible penalty as it was being bought in 2011 by another Beirut bank, Societe Generale de Banque au Liban. The US Department of Justice said that under the deal announced Tuesday, $102 million would be forfeited and the rest returned to Societe Generale de Banque au Liban.
WSJ: Pocketbooks Begin to Open as Household Wealth Grows
After a slow start early in the economic recovery, consumer spending has begun to pick up. The question is whether Americans are ready to open their wallets more widely. Consumer spending has risen 9% since the end of the recession in mid-2009, after adjusting for inflation, half the average rate of increase in the seven previous recoveries since 1960. Following the recessions in 2001 and 1991, spending was up around 11%-12% by this point in the upturn. There are good reasons for the lag. The job market has been slow to revive and many consumers built up large debts during the good times that they needed to whittle down before ramping up spending. Meanwhile, paychecks haven't grown much and, earlier this year, taxes went up.