CNN: Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage hailed as historic victory
A deeply divided Supreme Court nudged the nation toward broad recognition of same-sex marriage on Wednesday in rulings that advocates hailed as a "joyous occasion" - but still left many questions unanswered. Voting 5-4 in each of two decisions, justices threw out part of a law that denied hundreds of federal benefits to same-sex couples and cleared the way for gays and lesbians to once again marry in California. At the same time, the high court declined to make a sweeping statement on the broader issue of same-sex marriage rights nationwide, rejecting California's same-sex marriage ban but leaving intact laws banning such marriages in 35 other states. New Jersey has civil unions for same-sex couples, while New Mexico's marriage law is gender neutral and recognizes valid marriages performed in other states.
ALSO SEE: CNN: After historic court rulings, what's next for gay rights movement?
CNN: Former New England Patriot Hernandez charged with murder
Authorities charged former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez with first-degree murder on Wednesday, hours after police arrested him and the NFL team that once gave him a $40 million contract dropped him from its roster. Hernandez is accused in last week's shooting death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park area less than a mile from Hernandez's home. Hernandez "drove the victim to the remote spot, and then he orchestrated his execution," First Assistant District Attorney Bill McCauley said in court Wednesday. "He orchestrated the crime from the beginning, he took steps to conceal and destroy evidence, and he took steps to prevent the police from speaking to ... an important witness," the prosecutor said. A judge ordered that Hernandez be held without bail.
USA Today: Obama begins Senegal visit
Posters plastered with President Obama's smiling face and U.S. flags flapping in the warm ocean breeze lined the main routes into Senegal's capital city of Dakar on Thursday. Obama arrived in Senegal as part of a three-country visit to Africa on Wednesday night, but residents in the West African country are gearing up to offer him a warm welcome, with many taking to the streets to watch the president's motorcade drive past. "I'm not sure if it will happen but I hope to see President Obama waving to me as he drives by," said Mamadou Ndiaye, a taxi driver in Dakar. "It is such an honor, knowing that he is coming to my country." President Obama is scheduled to participate in a bilateral meeting at the Presidential Palace on Thursday morning, followed by a trip to Goree Island — the largest slave trading post in Africa from the 15th to 19th centuries. He will then attend an official dinner hosted by Senegalese President Macky Sall.
Fox: Obama administration pushes new public health research agenda on gun control
In the near future, Americans who own or want guns likely will be subject to rafts of new questions from social scientists, medical researchers and law enforcement officials intent to discover just what guns they own, why they own them and what they intend to use them for — not to mention where and how they keep them. They will also likely have more researchers poring over such issues as whether childhood education programs against gun violence actually work; whether there actually is any relationship between violence in the media and in real life; and whether the safety plans that were drawn up by schools, colleges and communities in the wake of highly publicized mass shootings actually are effective. Those and many other gun-related questions are the thrust of a new social science research agenda that the Obama administration hopes will keep the push for gun control alive for years to come.
NYT: Bill to Expand U.S. Database to Verify Hires
The sweeping immigration measure advancing rapidly in the Senate goes far beyond much-debated border security measures and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with a crucial requirement that could affect every American who takes a new job in the future. The provision, a linchpin of the legislation, would require all employers in the country within five years to use a federal electronic system to verify the legal eligibility to work of every new hire, including American citizens. The verification plan has united an unusual array of supporters — including Democrats protective of workers’ rights and Republicans normally skeptical of government intrusion — who say it is essential for preventing illegal immigration in the future because it would remove the jobs magnet that attracts migrants to this country.
ALSO SEE: USA Today: Immigration amendment contains deals sought by industry
Politico: 70 votes looks elusive on immigration
The Senate is poised to forge ahead Thursday with final votes on the immigration bill, as an impasse over amendments all but ensured that the elusive goal of 70 votes will slip from the Gang of Eight’s grasp. Potential swing GOP votes began to peel away from the reform effort Wednesday. A source familiar with the discussions told POLITICO that the negotiators are no longer trying to woo Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) because they see his demands on agricultural workers as an insurmountable hurdle. Two other Republicans, who had backed a so-called border surge plan, then turned around to reject a procedural move to advance the bill. And whether the bill’s supporters could lure Sen. Rob Portman remained in question, as key senators exchanged a flurry of offers on amendment votes that could help win over the Ohio Republican — but kept falling short of an agreement.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Senate takes another step toward passing immigration reform
CNN: Acting IRS chief to face grilling Thursday
The acting head of the Internal Revenue Service returns to Capitol Hill on Thursday to face questions from congressional Republicans dissatisfied with his ongoing investigation of the agency's targeting of groups seeking a tax break. An initial report made public this week by Daniel Werfel, the IRS principal deputy commissioner, said five managers had been replaced and other steps taken in response to an inspector general's audit that found the agency targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Werfel's report also said no evidence emerged so far that the targeting was politically motivated or that anyone outside the tax agency had a role in it.
CNN: Deal on student loans unlikely before rates rise
An agreement to stave off the doubling of interest rates on some student loans is unlikely before a July 1 deadline, despite a late push by a handful of lawmakers to reach a compromise, senators from both parties said Wednesday. “Time is running out but we’re still working on it,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island. Nevertheless, many of those same senators said they hope to finalize an agreement shortly after Congress returns from its July Fourth recess and have it apply retroactively so students are not hurt by the temporary hike.
Politico: House leadership draws flak on farm bill defeat
Fallout from the farm bill’s failure is erupting behind closed doors. Almost a week after Republicans failed to pass the nearly $1 trillion, five-year agricultural package through the House, Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders are feeling the heat from frustrated lawmakers sick of screw-ups. Republican Reps. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota separately stood up at a GOP meeting Wednesday and confronted their leadership about its bumbling legislative strategy and inability to figure out a way forward on the massive legislation, according to multiple sources at the meeting. Noem, who once served in Republican leadership, took aim squarely at Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). She reminded him that he controls the House floor, and she drilled Cantor hard on his precise plans to mop up the mess, several Republicans who attended the meeting said. Cantor wasn’t able to outline a plan that satisfied Noem, and he blamed Democrats for the bill’s defeat.
The Hill: House Republicans deny asking Treasury IG to limit IRS audit
House Republicans on Wednesday pushed back on an inspector general’s suggestion that the GOP asked for a limited inquiry into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, a statement Democrats have jumped on in recent days. GOP lawmakers and staffers acknowledge that they reached out to Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA) after hearing that Tea Party organizations seeking tax-exempt status felt they were being mistreated by the tax agency. But Republicans also say that it made no sense for them to try to limit the inquiry to the Tea Party, because a broader inquiry would be needed to determine whether the IRS was treating conservative groups more harshly than other groups. A spokesman for TIGTA J. Russell George said this week that the House Oversight Committee and Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked for a narrow inquiry just into Tea Party groups. Democrats allege this gave the public the false impression of a large IRS bias against conservatives.
CNN: Perry renews Texas abortion battle with special session
A day after a filibuster and a raucous crowd in the state Capitol foiled passage of a bill that would have imposed strict new regulations on abortion in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry vowed Wednesday to try again. Perry said the Legislature would convene July 1 in special session to take up the abortion bill, which was declared dead before dawn Wednesday. The bill failed after a night of drama in Austin during which a lone lawmaker talked for more than 10 hours in an attempt to run out the clock on a special session. Chants of "shame! shame! shame!" from spectators who had filled the building drowned out the efforts of Republican lawmakers as they tried to pass it minutes before midnight. "We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do," Perry said in a statement calling lawmakers back into another special session. Texans "value life and want to protect women and the unborn," he said. Perry's announcement came a day before he was to address the National Right to Life convention in Dallas on Thursday.
CNN: Polls: Weiner gaining ground in NYC mayoral battle
Politics is full of second chances. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, now Rep. Sanford, is living proof. Two new polls suggest that former Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York may follow in Sanford's footsteps in winning political redemption. Weiner was in his seventh term in Congress representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens when he resigned in 2011 after being caught and admitting to sending lewd messages to women via social media. But last month Weiner returned to campaign politics, announcing a bid for New York City mayor. And two surveys of New York City voters released in the past 24 hours indicate Weiner basically tied in the battle for the Democratic mayoral nomination.
CNN: Christie dings Hillary Clinton, defends flags at half-staff for Gandolfini
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a swipe at Hillary Clinton’s sports loyalty on Wednesday, saying the former senator from New York pretended she was a Yankees fan when she ran for office in the state. During a wide-ranging interview with New Jersey 101.5 radio, Christie also defended his decision to order flags at state buildings to fly at half-staff after the death of actor James Gandolfini, a New Jersey native. Christie, who’s considered a potential presidential contender, made headlines last week when he reiterated his passion for the Dallas Cowboys, rather than either of the two football teams that play in his state-the New York Jets and the Giants–or the nearby Philadelphia Eagles. Defending himself, Christie argued that he was a fan of the Cowboys as a child–and once you’re a fan, you never abandon ship.
CNN: NSA leaker waits in Moscow ... and waits
Edward Snowden spent a fourth day in Moscow's airport Wednesday, with Russian officials suggesting it's time for him to move on but with no decision on his request for asylum in Ecuador. Snowden, the former National Security Agency computer contractor who spilled details of U.S. surveillance programs to reporters, flew to Moscow from Hong Kong after American authorities sought his extradition on espionage charges. Russia says it has no interest in arresting him, but for a second day, a top Russian official questioned how long he will be hanging around the Sheremetyevo International Airport. "He did not violate any laws of the Russian Federation. He did not cross the border, stays in the transit zone of the airport and has a right to fly in any direction he thinks of," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the ITAR-TASS news agency Wednesday. "And as the president put it, the sooner it happens, the better." Lavrov's comments echoed remarks Putin made Tuesday in Finland: "The sooner he selects his final destination point, the better both for us and for himself."
ALSO SEE: CNN: US disputes Hong Kong claims about Snowden paperwork problems
WSJ: U.S. Begins Shipping Arms for Syrian Rebels
The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans. The shipments, related training and a parallel push to mobilize arms deliveries from European and Arab allies are being timed to allow a concerted push by the rebels starting by early August, the diplomats and officials said, revealing details of a new covert plan authorized by President Barack Obama and disclosed earlier this month. The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month. Adam Entous reports. The CIA is expected to spend up to three weeks bringing light arms and possibly antitank missiles to Jordan. The agency plans to spend roughly two weeks more vetting an initial group of fighters and making sure they know how to use the weapons that they are given, clearing the way for the first U.S.-armed rebels to enter the fight, diplomats briefed on the CIA's plans said.
CNN: Israel okays East Jerusalem settlement just before Kerry's peace visit
Israel approved Wednesday the construction of a settlement in East Jerusalem just before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit the country on a peace mission. Kerry will meet with Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Jordanian officials in Jordan and Jerusalem from Thursday to Saturday in the wake of President Barack Obama's efforts in Israel last March urging renewed peace talks. In January, the United Nations Human Rights Council said Israeli settlements amount to "creeping annexation" of Palestinian territories by Israel and have taken a "heavy toll" on the rights and sovereignty of Palestinians.
CNN: Report expresses concerns over CIA, NYPD ties
In the decade following the September 11, 2001, attacks, four CIA officers directly collaborated with the New York Police Department to expand NYPD's counterterrorism capabilities, according to a newly disclosed report. The CIA inspector general's report - completed in late 2011, but just declassified in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times - raises concerns about the relationship between the organizations. The investigation found "irregular personnel practices" and "inadequate direction and control" by CIA managers "responsible for the relationship." "As a consequence, the risk to the Agency (CIA) is considerable and multifaceted," said a memo from Inspector General David Buckley to David Petraeus, who was the CIA director at the time.
CNN: Back to Iraq? Dempsey floats idea of sending trainers as Syria's war spills over
In a move that could send small numbers of U.S. military trainers back to Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has asked his top Middle East commander to look at ways the United States could boost military sales, assistance and training in that country as well as in Lebanon and Jordan as Syria's civil war continues to affect its neighbors. Any deployment of U.S. forces would have to have those countries' approval, and so far there is no indication that Iraq or Lebanon would agree to accept U.S. troops. Dempsey has asked Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, to look at options for small, limited deployments in recent weeks, according to Col. Edward Thomas, a Dempsey spokesman.
CNN: Military court overturns Marine's Iraq murder conviction
The military's equivalent of the Supreme Court overturned the conviction Wednesday of a Marine found guilty of murdering a civilian during the Iraq war, saying he was interrogated after asking for a lawyer. A court originally sentenced Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III to 15 years in prison for the murder of 52-year-old Hashim Awad in April of 2006. Prosecutors said Hutchins, who led a Marine squad that dragged Awad from his home, shot him in the face several times and then placed a shovel and AK-47 near his body to make it appear he was an insurgent burying roadside bombs. Several other Marines were convicted in the attack but all served less than a year and a half behind bars.
Quartz: US ambassador to China visits Tibet amid wave of self-immolations
The US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, is in Tibet this week—the first visit by an American ambassador to the restive region since 2010. A spokesman said that Locke is on a three-day trip with members of his family and several embassy staff to meet with residents and government officials and raise concerns about the “deteriorating human rights situation,” specifically the self-immolations by Tibetans in protest against Chinese rule. At least 120 people, some under the age of 18, have committed suicide by immolation since 2009. Most recently, a 31-year-old Tibetan nun in China’s southwestern Sichuan province set herself on fire on June 11 and died in the hospital a few days later. The Dalai Lama, who is often blamed by Beijing for masterminding the immolations, said after the incident that he doubts their effectiveness.
ALSO SEE: Reuters: China urged to end forced resettlements in Tibet
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: British Airways soothes traveler impatience, relaxes phone rules
Just how impatient have air travelers become and how important is it for airlines to don the mink glove and gently stroke the backs of their necks every time they start getting fidgety? For British Airways, apparently important enough to be the first European airline to relax restrictions on using cell phones and other electronic devices while planes are taxiing after landing. The airline has announced that starting July 1, passengers will be able to text, make phone calls, check emails and play with other electronic devices as soon as arriving aircraft land and taxi off the runway. For passengers in Europe, the move means no more having to wait until the aircraft arrives at the terminal before shrieking "Yeah, I'm at the airport, we just landed!" into their phones. As anyone who flies knows, many passengers ignore the rules on cell phone use after arrival and use their electronics anyway. But the new BA policy officially allows the practice.
CNN: Tennessee man charged in Romney tax return extortion scheme
A Tennessee man was indicted Wednesday, accused of making a false claim that he had obtained tax returns for then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and then trying to extort money for them, federal prosecutors said. Michael Mancil Brown, 34, of Franklin is charged with six counts of wire fraud and six counts of extortion. It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether Brown had an attorney. According to the indictment, Brown claimed he had accessed the computer network of the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and stolen tax returns for Romney and his wife, Ann, for some tax years before 2010. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney released his 2010 and 2011 tax returns and refused to release others. The issue was a source of controversy on the campaign trail. Brown allegedly was behind an August 2012 letter sent to the accounting firm demanding that $1 million in the digital currency Bitcoin be deposited to a specified Bitcoin account or else the Romney returns would be made public.
CNN: Historic American sailboat missing at sea near New Zealand
A historic racing sailboat and its crew of seven, including six Americans, have apparently vanished on the high seas. A wooden schooner built in 1928, the Nina, left port in northern New Zealand at the end of May and dropped out of communication a week later, a maritime safety authority said Thursday. It was en route to Newcastle, Australia. The sailing yacht is equipped with a tracking device, a satellite phone and an emergency buoy, but none of them have been heard from since early June, according to Maritime New Zealand. At the time of its last sign of life, the Nina was nearly 400 miles northwest of New Zealand in the Tasman Sea.
Richmond Times Dispatch: Cuccinelli brief: First same-sex marriage, then polygamy?
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued in a friend of the court brief that if governments do not adhere to the traditional definition of marriage, “any group of adults” — even polygamists — could have an equal claim to marriage. Cuccinelli and Indiana Attorney General Gregory F. Zoeller filed the brief in January, siding with proponents of Proposition 8, the California measure that bars same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this week on challenges to Proposition 8 and to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Virginia, like California, prohibits same-sex marriage. Indiana is considering an amendment to bar same-sex unions.
Louisville Courier-Journal: Rand Paul suggests gay-marriage ruling a step closer to legalizing human-animal unions
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul suggested Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act moves the country toward accepting marriages between people and animals. Paul’s spokeswoman, however, said the senator was being sarcastic. The comment came after radio talk show host Glenn Beck raised questions about whether the law could prohibit polygamous marriages following the ruling that requires the federal government to treat legally married gay couples the same as heterosexual couples. “Who are you to say, if I’m a devout Muslim and I come over here and have three wives ... that I can’t have multiple marriages?” Beck asked Paul. Paul responded: “I think it’s a conundrum. If we have no laws on this, people take it to one extension further, does it have to be humans, you know? Bagley said in a statement that Paul’s words were misunderstood.
Des Moines Register: Republican Mark Jacobs takes step toward running for U.S. Senate
Retired energy company CEO Mark Jacobs is taking a step toward running for U.S. Senate. Jacobs, a Republican from West Des Moines, is creating an exploratory committee, he said today. He said he wants to meet with people around the state before he makes a final decision. A growing list of little-known Republicans hope to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin after his retirement next year.
CNN: Official says Nelson Mandela on life support; Zuma cancels travel plans
South Africans lit candles outside the hospital where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela lay Wednesday night amid a report that the former president was on life support. An official briefed on his condition said he was on life support, but government spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to comment on the report, citing doctor-patient confidentiality. Mandela, 94, considered the founding father of South Africa's multiracial democracy, has been hospitalized since June 8 for a recurring lung infection. Authorities have described his condition as critical since Sunday, and after visiting him late Wednesday night, President Jacob Zuma canceled his visit to Mozambique where he was supposed to attend a summit Thursday on infrastructure investment.
CNN: Rudd sworn in as Australian prime minister
Kevin Rudd returned as prime minister of Australia on Thursday, three years after being replaced in the office by his then-deputy Julia Gillard. Rudd challenged Gillard for leadership of the Labor Party on Wednesday and won a 57-45 vote among fellow Labor members of parliament. In the Australian parliamentary system, the leader of the governing party assumes the position of prime minister and on Thursday morning, in Canberra, Rudd was sworn in for a second time. Gillard resigned after the party vote on Wednesday night and announced she will leave politics. A major factor in Gillard's demise - and in Rudd's Phoenix-like return - is the election Australia has to hold by the end of this year. Under Gillard's leadership, Labor was facing overwhelming defeat, according to opinion polls. But the same polls show a Rudd-led Labor Party would fare much better at the ballot box.
CNN: Morsy admits to mistakes as Egypt braces for protests
President Mohamed Morsy marked a year in office by admitting Wednesday to having made mistakes but vowing to correct them. "I want to tell you, frankly, that I made mistakes in many things, and I was right in several other things," he said in a televised address from the Cairo International Conference Center. "Mistakes were made, but correction should be done," he said to applause. Morsy then launched into a defense of his record and a list of plans to improve on it.
CNN: Buried under silt are loved ones missing in India's flood
A crowd of people gathered around the bruised and battered man eager to listen to his tragic story. They were hoping he'd have news from the mountains he was plucked in northern India, where thousands of their loved ones are still missing. A monsoon dumped over a foot of rain at once in Uttarakhand state last week, causing widespread landslides in the Himalayas. Barrages of water, mud and rocks wiped out whole villages. The man telling his story was on a pilgrimage to a Hindu temple at the time. "So many rocks, so much silt. We were pushed up and up inside the roof," he said, sitting in a clinic in the city of Rishikesk in the state's east. "No space to breath, then the walls collapsed. My wife and daughter were ripped away." Uttarakhand's chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, has described the disaster as a "Himalayan tsunami."
BBC: S Korea President Park in China for North Korea talks
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has arrived in Beijing for a four-day visit expected to focus on North Korea. Ms Park, who meets President Xi Jinping later in the day, is seeking China's support on efforts to get Pyongyang to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks. North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February and subsequently threatened attacks on regional targets. China is seen as the nation most capable of bringing meaningful pressure to bear on Pyongyang. It is the communist state's biggest trading partner and the nation to which it despatched an envoy as tensions on the Korean peninsula began to lessen – following weeks of threatening rhetoric – in May.
NYT: International Effort Seeks to Counter Jihadists in Africa
This fall, the United States and Niger will bring together in that West African nation police officers, customs inspectors and other authorities from a half-dozen countries in the region to hone their collective skills in securing lightly guarded borders against heavily armed traffickers and terrorists. Denmark has already forged a partnership with Burkina Faso to combat violent extremism, and backed it up with a war chest of $22 million over five years aimed at stifling the root causes of terrorism before they can bloom. Swiss experts in a meeting in Nigeria last fall offered techniques for countries in West and North Africa to use in tackling the money-laundering schemes and illicit financing networks that are the lifeblood of Islamist militant groups. And now, international efforts to bolster the region against terrorism are focusing on Algeria and its neighbors, considered increasingly threatened by jihadist groups.
CNN: Fear, panic grip Libyan capital as unknown fighters wage battle in Tripoli
A tense calm prevailed over Libya's capital Thursday after days of chaos left at least seven people dead - including a 12-year-old boy. But it's unclear if the violence is really over - or even who the warring groups are. Sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions echoed across Tripoli on Wednesday night, sending waves of confusion and panic as residents weren't sure who was behind the attacks. Medical sources in Abu Saleem Hospital said two people, including a 12-year-old boy, died Wednesday from injuries sustained in the clashes, the state news agency LANA reported. The hospital also said is was treating a number of injured from the violence. LANA said it was not clear what groups were involved in Wednesday's fighting.
CNN: After 6 days, U.S. boss held 'hostage' by his Chinese workers freed
An American businessman who said he was held hostage by dozens of his Chinese employees was released Thursday after six days. Chip Starnes, co-founder and president of Specialty Medical Supplies China, had been trapped in the company's suburban Beijing factory since Friday. Starnes reached an agreement with the workers after a pay dispute. Officials said 97 employees signed a new compensation agreement. On Tuesday, Starnes told CNN's David McKenzie from behind the factory's gates that he was being held hostage. "I tried to leave a day and a half ago, and there was like 60 or 70 of them here inside every entrance, and every exit was barricaded," Starnes said. "I can't go anywhere."
Daily Star: Syria deaths top 100,000, army retakes border town
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces have retaken a town on the Lebanese border as they press an offensive against rebels in a conflict that has now cost more than 100,000 lives, activists said Wednesday. The army took full control of Tal Kalakh, driving out insurgents and ending an unofficial truce under which it had allowed a small rebel presence to remain for several months. The fall of Tal Kalakh, 3 km from the border with Lebanon, marks another gain for Assad after the capture of the rebel stronghold of Qusair this month, and consolidates his control around the central city of Homs, which links Damascus to his Alawite heartland overlooking the Mediterranean coast.
WSJ: U.K. Plans for More Austerity In 2015
The U.K. government on Wednesday renewed its commitment to austerity by setting out plans for another round of deep spending cuts that will begin in April 2015—a month before the next general election is likely to take place. The wisdom of cutting budget deficits at a time of slow economic growth has been questioned by a growing number of economists, the International Monetary Fund and other international bodies. In recent months, a number of European governments have said they would ease their planned cuts and take longer to narrow their budget deficits in an effort to secure a return to growth and end sharp rises in unemployment. But the U.K. is set to remain committed to austerity whichever party wins the next election, since the opposition Labour Party has said it would broadly accept the £11.5 billion ($17.1 billion) in cuts listed on Wednesday.
Financial Times: EU reaches deal on failed banks
Rules to force losses on creditors in failed banks were agreed by EU finance ministers early on Thursday, putting in place another piece of a eurozone banking union that could eventually share the costs of future bank bailouts. After more than a year of complex and fraught talks on how to lift the burden of paying for bank rescues from taxpayers, ministers brokered terms in Brussels preserving some national discretion when dealing with lenders in trouble. The reform is the bloc’s flagship effort to bolster Europe’s patchy national defences against bank failure, which were badly exposed by the financial crisis. European taxpayers have extended about €1,600bn of support to banks since 2008.
ALSO SEE: BBC: EU summit in Brussels wrestles with youth unemployment
NYT: Cost of Public Projects Is Rising, and Pain Will Be Felt for Years
States and cities across the nation are starting to learn what Wall Street already knows: the days of easy money are coming to an end. Interest rates have been inching up everywhere, sending America’s vast market for municipal bonds, a crucial source of financing for roads, bridges, schools and more, into its steepest decline since the dark days of the financial crisis in 2008. For one state, Illinois, the higher interest rates will add up to $130 million over the next 25 years — and that is for just one new borrowing. All told, the interest burden of states and localities is likely to grow by many billions, sapping tax dollars that otherwise might have been spent on public services. The same concerns about rising rates that have buffeted the world’s stock markets recently have also affected the market for municipal bonds. The muni market, despite a modest rally on Wednesday, is headed for one of its worst months in years.
CNNMoney: PayPal to launch inter-planetary payment system
PayPal said Thursday it will launch inter-planetary payments - yes, a system for buying things in space. It sounds like a PR stunt, but PayPal is dead serious about getting into the burgeoning field of space tourism. With companies like Virgin Galactic and Space X bringing the go-to-Mars dream much closer to reality, PayPal said its goal is simply to start thinking about the complicated issues concerning space commerce. "We don't have all the answers right now, but it's clear we won't be using cash when we're in space," PayPal president David Marcus told CNNMoney. "We feel it's time now - not next year, not when [space tourism] starts to happen - to start figuring out what this looks like." The PayPal Galactic initiative will launch later on Thursday at a splashy press conference featuring astronaut Buzz Aldrin.