CNN: Police are back at Hernandez home
Police on Thursday night were back at the Massachusetts home of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of an ongoing investigation into an unsolved 2012 double homicide in Boston. Hernandez, who is being investigated in connection with that 2012 case, is accused of orchestrating the killing of a man whose body was found last week less than a mile from Hernandez's home. Massachusetts State Police late Thursday said they were seeking a man as an "accessory after the fact" in the death of Odin Lloyd, who was found less than a mile from the home of former NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez. A North Attleboro Police Department tweet linked to a poster that described Ernest Wallace as being armed and dangerous. In most states, accessory refers to aiding someone suspected of committing a felony. Hernandez is charged with first-degree murder in the Lloyd case.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Prosecutors: Bubble gum, texts among trail of evidence in Hernandez's case
NYT: Cost of Battling Wildfires Cuts Into Prevention Efforts
As another destructive wildfire season chars the West, the federal government is sharply reducing financing for programs aimed at preventing catastrophic fires. Federal money to thin out trees and clear away millions of acres of deadfall and brittle brush has dropped by more than 25 percent in the budgets for the past two years, a casualty of spending cuts and the rising cost of battling active wildfires. The government has cut back on programs to reduce fire risks in areas where homes and the wilderness collide. The United States Forest Service treated 1.87 million acres of those lands in 2012, but expects to treat only 685,000 acres next year. Conservation advocates say that is likely to mean fewer people working to prevent runaway fires, fewer controlled burns and fewer trucks hauling away dry brush and tinder. Trimming trees and clearing brush can make blazes less destructive, and the Forest Service said it had treated more than 26 million acres since 2000. But as the government spends an increasing amount to battle wildfires, critics say it makes little sense to cut back on prevention.
WaPo: Park Police lost track of thousands of weapons, inspector general’s report says
The U.S. Park Police has lost track of thousands of handguns, rifles and machine guns in what a government watchdog agency concluded is the latest example of mismanagement on a police force trusted to protect millions of visitors to the city’s iconic monuments. There is no indication that police guns got into the hands of criminals, but the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior warned that the Park Police might not know if they had. In a scathing report, the authors said there is “credible evidence of conditions that would allow for theft and misuse of firearms, and the ability to conceal the fact if weapons were missing.” The probe was launched in part because of an anonymous tip that Park Police officers were improperly taking weapons home. Investigators discovered two instances in which that had occurred, but they found many other troubling examples of mismanagement, according to the report.
CNN: Obama heads to South Africa as Mandela remains hospitalized
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in South Africa on Friday for the second leg of a trip overshadowed by the deteriorating health of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. Obama left the United States on Wednesday for 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 and pours billions of dollars into Africa, replacing the United States as the continent's largest trading partner. Following a food security event in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, on Friday, Obama will jet to South Africa. Mandela is clinging to life at a hospital in Pretoria, an issue weighing heavily in the continent, where he retains massive popularity despite his retirement from public life.
CNNMoney: U.S. curbs Bangladesh trade privileges
President Obama on Thursday announced Bangladesh would lose some of its U.S. trade privileges due to risky conditions and labor violations in its garment industry. The government said it would no longer allow duty-free imports of certain products made in Bangladesh under a program that helps encourage trade with developing countries by providing breaks on tariffs. The trade decision comes as Bangladesh is facing mounting international pressure to improve working conditions after a series of fatal fires last year killed hundreds, and a building collapse in April killed over 1,100 workers. Almost all of the accidents have happened in its apparel industry. Bangladesh is the fourth largest exporter of clothes to the U.S., behind China, Vietnam and Indonesia. However, the U.S. decision isn't expected to affect clothing imports, because apparel isn't covered under the duty-free program.
WSJ: White House Makes Shortlist for Bernanke's Job
The Obama administration is assembling a shortlist of candidates to lead the Federal Reserve, in the expectation that chairman Ben Bernanke won't seek reappointment when his second term at the central bank ends in January, according to people familiar with the matter. The search is in the early stages and there is no front-runner, according to these people, who wouldn't divulge any names on the shortlist. A selection might not be announced until early fall, they said. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is putting together the list, working with senior White House officials. President Barack Obama could try to persuade Mr. Bernanke to serve a third four-year term. But many of Mr. Bernanke's friends and associates say he wants to step down, after nearly eight years overseeing the central bank's response to the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression. Mr. Bernanke has left his mark on the U.S. economy with a wave of easy-money policies in response to the 2008 financial crisis, recession and sluggish recovery that followed.
Reuters: With multiple missions, U.S. military steps up Africa focus
Striking Islamist militants with drones, supporting African forces in stabilizing Somalia and Mali and deploying dozens of training teams, the U.S. military has returned to Africa. Its presence remains mostly low key, barely mentioned in the context of President Barack Obama's visit this week to Africa. Nevertheless, with some 4,000-5,000 personnel on the ground at any given time, the United States now has more troops in Africa than at any point since its Somalia intervention two decades ago. That ended in humiliation and withdrawal after the 1993 "Blackhawk Down" debacle in which 18 U.S. soldiers died. There are two main reasons behind the build up: to counter al Qaeda and other militant groups, and to win influence in a continent that could become an increasingly important destination for American trade and investment as China's presence grows in Africa.
CNN: Biden on same-sex marriage: U.S. on 'road to absolute fairness'
Vice President Joe Biden used his "Being Biden" audio series Thursday to praise the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage rulings. Biden related the story of a gay friend and adviser, Carlos, whose horizons have changed now that a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act has been invalidated and the U.S. government will no longer deny federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. "I think we're on the verge of seeing America move even further," Biden said in the recording, titled "On the Road to Fairness." "I think we'll see the day when it is no longer a debate about whether or not same-sex couples can be married and whether or not they deserve every single civil right every other married couple deserves." Biden said he thinks Americans are far ahead of their political leaders on the issue.
CNN: Senate passes sweeping immigration bill
The U.S. Senate gave final approval Thursday to a roughly 1,200-page bill that promises to overhaul immigration laws for the first time since 1986, creating a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents while ratcheting up security along the Mexican border. Senators passed the sweeping legislation - initially drafted by the four Democrats and four Republicans in the chamber's so-called "Gang of Eight" - by a 68-32 vote. Fourteen Republicans joined a united Democratic caucus in supporting the bill, which is backed by the White House and has the potential to become the crowning legislative achievement of President Barack Obama's second term. In a White House statement, Obama hailed the Senate vote as "a critical step" toward fixing what he called a broken immigration system.
ALSO SEE: National Review: House Republicans Feel No Pressure to Pass Immigration Reform
ALSO SEE: National Review: Immigration Backers Outspent Opponents 2.5 to 1
WSJ: IRS Inspector Firm on One-Sided Targeting
Internal Revenue Service employees flagged for extra scrutiny fewer than a third of progressive groups applying for tax exemptions from mid-2010 through mid-2012, compared with 100% of conservative applicants, an IRS inspector general said. The new data, released in a letter to Democratic lawmakers that was dated Wednesday, appear to support Republicans' contention that conservative groups were subjected to more IRS scrutiny, and undercut Democrats' case that the IRS treated left-leaning and right-leaning groups similarly. Inspector General Russell George wrote that he found no evidence the IRS used the term "progressive" to systematically screen liberal organizations for scrutiny, as part of the agency's effort to determine whether the groups were engaging in too much political activity to qualify for tax-exempt status. Mr. George said half a dozen groups with the words "progress" or "progressive" in their names were flagged for extra review by the IRS, or about 30% of the total number of such groups that applied for tax exemptions. But that review appeared to be part of a broader IRS look at groups applying for tax-exempt status, he wrote.
Bloomberg: Anti-Hacking Bill Aiding Verizon Delayed by Snowden Leaks
Legislation to give Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Google Inc. (GOOG) legal protection for sharing cyber-attack information with the U.S. government has stalled after leaks about spy programs showed the companies are already turning over data. Lawmakers have stopped advancing cybersecurity legislation until at least September as they gather more information about the National Security Agency surveillance programs and hear from constituents to assess the political fallout, Senate and House members from both parties said in interviews. Disclosure of the NSA programs “probably couldn’t have come at a worse time” for advancing a cybersecurity bill, said Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. The Texas Republican said he’s postponed introducing his legislation at least until September.
CNN: Pelosi urges Clinton to run in 2016
The top Democrat in the House is urging Hillary Clinton to run for office, and says their party is already coalescing around the potential 2016 candidate. In an interview Thursday with USA Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said “there’s a great deal of excitement” about a potential Clinton candidacy, adding that she personally hopes Clinton enters the race. Touting the former senator and secretary of state’s long list of credentials, Pelosi said she believes Clinton “would be the best prepared person to enter the White House in decades.” Clinton has not announced whether she will launch another presidential bid, which has been the subject of intense speculation, since she stepped down as Secretary of State earlier this year.
CNN: Rand Paul's Republican balancing act
Rand Paul arrives in South Carolina on Friday for a handful of fundraisers and closed-door meetings with local Republicans, the latest in a series of expeditions to key primary states as he mulls a presidential bid in 2016. If the Kentucky senator decides to embark on a White House run, a likely prospect according to those around him, his South Carolina foray crystallizes what could be a central challenge as a Republican candidate: assuaging skeptical donors in the party's establishment without rankling the grass-roots activists who helped lift him to national prominence. How well he straddles those two worlds could very well determine if the diminutive ophthalmologist can re-shape the party in his own image.
Politico: Midwest shows GOP how to win
While Republicans inside the Beltway continue to stumble and fumble their way to irrelevancy, Ohio Gov. John Kasich — and other conservative heartland governors — are quietly offering a blueprint for success: competence, consistency and actually creating jobs rather than just talking about it. As Republicans look ahead to 2016, they worry most about the capacity of any party leader to navigate a base that is at odds with most Americans on gay rights, immigration and the broader demographic currents reshaping our politics. There’s an emerging playbook for doing this, and it’s not based on a bunch of phony outreach or “caving” on the party’s principles. Kasich, who on Sunday is scheduled to sign a $2.7 billion tax cut, in addition to an earlier estate tax cut, is one of the chief architects and practitioners.
Fox News: Fox News poll: Positive views of Christie jump, views of Clinton down
When it comes to potential 2016 presidential candidates, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton continues to receive higher favorable ratings than anyone else. Yet New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s popularity has risen considerably since last summer, while Clinton’s ratings show signs of weakening. That’s according to a new Fox News national poll of registered voters. The poll, released Thursday, finds 46 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, up 16 percentage points from August 2012. Meantime, his unfavorable rating is down 4 points to 20 percent. Overall, 56 percent of voters view Clinton positively. That’s down 7 points from August 2012. Her unfavorable rating stands at 38 percent, up 7 points since then.
Boston Globe: Coakley weighs run for governor
Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose political standing has rebounded after her embarrassing defeat in the 2010 US Senate race against Scott Brown, is giving serious consideration to running for governor, Democratic Party operatives said on Thursday. Those people said Coakley is gauging the political climate and reviewing the dynamics of jumping into what is becoming a crowded Democratic primary race, and is on the verge of making a final decision. “She’s seriously thinking about it,’’ said a person familiar with her decision-making. “She knows she has to make a decision soon.” A number of women’s activist groups, including EMILY’s List, are encouraged by polls that show Coakley to be one of the most popular political figures in the state and have asked her during the last few months to consider a run for governor, according to those familiar with the conversations. Coakley’s entrance into the race would dramatically reshape the Democratic campaign.
CNN: Source: Justice Department investigates ex-vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff
The former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff is under investigation by the Justice Department regarding material in a book by David Sanger, a correspondent for The New York Times, a source directly familiar with the situation said Thursday. The source could not confirm that the investigation involving retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright is specifically about the Stuxnet computer virus, which Sanger writes about in his recent book "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power." NBC News reported Thursday, citing legal sources, that Cartwright has been told he's under investigation for allegedly leaking classified information about Stuxnet, a complex virus that infected computers in Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010. CNN has been unable to confirm specifics of NBC's report. Officials from the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney's Office, as well as Cartwright and his lawyer have not commented.
LA Times: Pentagon Is Updating Conflict Rules in Cyberspace
The Pentagon is updating its classified rules for warfare in cyberspace for the first time in seven years, an acknowledgment of the growing threat posed by computer-network attacks — and the need for the United States to improve its defenses and increase the nimbleness of its response, the nation’s top military officer said Thursday. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Chinese did not believe that hacking American systems violated any rules, since no rules existed. The officer, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that, globally, new regulations were needed to govern actions by the world community in cyberspace. He said that the Chinese did not believe that hacking American systems violated any rules, since no rules existed. Discussing efforts to improve the Pentagon’s tools for digital defense and offense, General Dempsey said the military must be “able to operate at network speed, rather than what I call swivel-chair speed.”
The Guardian: NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama
The Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian. The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata "every 90 days". A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011. The collection of these records began under the Bush administration's wide-ranging warrantless surveillance program, collectively known by the NSA codename Stellar Wind. According to a top-secret draft report by the NSA's inspector general – published for the first time today by the Guardian – the agency began "collection of bulk internet metadata" involving "communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States".
ALSO SEE: NYT: New Leak Suggests Ashcroft Confrontation Was Over N.S.A. Program
CNN: Ecuador's president to U.S.: Don't threaten us on Snowden case
Defiant authorities in Ecuador say they won't bow to U.S. pressure as they weigh former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's request for asylum. Ecuador's president and other top officials said Thursday that they're turning down the trade benefits the United States gives them as part of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. "In the face of threats, insolence and arrogance of certain U.S. sectors, which have pressured to remove the preferential tariffs because of the Snowden case, Ecuador tells the world we unilaterally and irrevocably renounce the preferential tariffs," President Rafael Correa said Thursday, reiterating comments other officials from his government made earlier in the day. In a fiery speech at an event in Quevedo, Ecuador, the president vowed not to back down.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama won't 'wheel and deal' for NSA leaker Snowden
WaPo: Company allegedly misled government about security clearance checks
Federal investigators have told lawmakers they have evidence that USIS, the contractor that screened Edward Snowden for his top-secret clearance, repeatedly misled the government about the thoroughness of its background checks, according to people familiar with the matter. The alleged transgressions are so serious that a federal watchdog indicated he plans to recommend that the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees most background checks, end ties with USIS unless it can show it is performing responsibly, the people said. Cutting off USIS could present a major logistical quagmire for the nation’s already-jammed security clearance process. The federal government relies heavily on contractors to approve workers for some of its most sensitive jobs in defense and intelligence. Falls Church-based USIS is the largest single private provider for government background checks.
Monterey Herald: Restricted web access to The Guardian is Armywide, officials say
The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday's Herald, but Armywide. Presidio employees said the site had been blocked since The Guardian broke several stories on data collection by the National Security Agency. Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, said in an email the Army is filtering "some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks." He wrote it is routine for the Department of Defense to take preventative "network hygiene" measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information.
Jerusalem Post: Kerry pushing series of meetings between Abbas and Netanyahu as formula for restarting negotiations
US Secretary of State John Kerry's formula for renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians consists of a marathon series of meetings between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, some to be attended by Kerry himself. Netanyahu has already told the Americans he agrees to the plan, and heavy pressure is now being placed on Abbas to accept the formula. The talks would only be considered part of the efforts to renew negotiations, and would not constitute an actual renewal of negotiations themselves. This formula would allow Abbas to circumvent the preconditions to negotiations that he has set and avoid criticism. The formula calls for Kerry's presence at two of the planned meetings, while the third meeting would be attended by Abbas and Netanyahu alone.
Reuters: U.S. watchdog raps Pentagon for buying aircraft for Afghan unit
A government watchdog criticized the Pentagon on Friday for forging ahead with controversial helicopter purchases from a Russian arms dealer despite warnings the Afghan special forces unit due to receive the aircraft could not fly or maintain them. The watchdog – the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction – urged the Pentagon to suspend the $553 million Russian arms deal as well as a $218 million contract for 18 planes from a U.S. firm until plans were in place to fully recruit and train the Afghan special forces unit. The Pentagon was already under fire for agreeing this month to buy 30 additional Mi-17 helicopters from the Russian arms dealer, Rosoboronexport. That company is a major supplier of weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling rebels trying to overthrow his government.
WSJ: U.S. Imposes Sanctions on North Korean Bank
The Obama administration imposed sanctions on a North Korean bank and one of its top executives operating out of northeastern China, underscoring continued U.S. concern about China's possible role in aiding North Korea's nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs. The U.S. action followed the publication by the United Nations this month of a report on North Korean sanctions that also highlighted Pyongyang's use of China both to procure and export equipment used in developing weapons of mass destruction. Among other findings, the U.N. report detailed the seizure in July 2012 of North Korean-procured missile components that were bound for the Syrian port of Lattakia and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and which were shipped out of China.
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Who's watching the watchmen? Dept. of Homeland Security Inspector General accused of various misdeeds
Inspectors general are the internal watchdogs in government, the independent officers upon whom the public relies. But what happens when the inspectors general themselves are accused of wrongdoing? Who watches the watchmen? CNN has obtained a letter from the chair and ranking Republican on the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight to the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Charles Edwards, laying out a number of potentially damaging allegations against him, including his being susceptible to political pressure to the point that an investigation into Secret Service misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, was scrubbed of damaging information. Other allegations that the senators are seeking more information about include that Edwards violated anti-nepotism laws, and abused agency resources and his authority.
CNN: Indictment returned against Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
A federal grand jury has returned a 30-count indictment against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, that alleges he used a weapon of mass destruction. Tsarnaev is charged with killing four people - three spectators who died in the bombings and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer ambushed in his cruiser a few days later - and "maiming, burning and wounding scores of others," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said. "I have met several of those that were injured on April 15, as well as members of the deceased's families," Ortiz said. "Their strength is extraordinary, and we will do everything we can to pursue justice, not only on their behalf but on behalf of all of us."
CNN: FDA shuts down 1,677 online pharmacies
The prices may look tempting, but ordering from an online pharmacy is often a bad deal, according to Interpol and the U.S Food and Drug Administration, announcing a crackdown Thursday on thousands of websites. The FDA said it has shut down 1,677 sites for selling counterfeit or substandard medication, or for selling drugs without appropriate safeguards. Other sites received regulatory warnings. Officials said they also arrested 58 people and seized more than $41 million worth of illegal medicines. Several sites had sleek interfaces and names that could easily be confused with legitimate pharmacy retailers. For example, the FDA shuttered Walgreens-Store.com; the well-known drugstore chain's website is actually Walgreens.com.
NYT: Supreme Court Takes Step Toward Hearing Abortion Case
The Supreme Court took a tentative step on Thursday toward hearing a case on the regulation of abortion-inducing drugs, asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify the meaning of a law that state judges had struck down as an unwarranted curb on medical practice and the right to abortion. Depending on the answers, the Supreme Court could decide to drop the case, Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (No. 12-1094), or it could intervene in a contentious new battleground of the abortion wars. The 2011 law voided in Oklahoma said that the drugs, which are widely used in medicinal, nonsurgical abortions, could be administered only in the dosage and manner specified by the Food and Drug Administration when it first approved their use in 2000. The law was promoted by anti-abortion groups in the name of protecting women’s health from “off-label” uses of the drugs that have become standard practice.
CNN: Japanese Dreamliner held due to A/C power glitch
An All Nippon Airways 787 Dreamliner was held in Tokyo after a mechanical problem, the fourth such incident for Dreamliners in 10 days. The plane was delayed Thursday after a cockpit message indicated a problem with the power supply to its air-conditioning system. More than 100 passengers who were supposed to fly to Frankfurt departed on a different plane eight hours after the scheduled departure time, ANA said. Earlier this week, a Denver-bound United Airlines Dreamliner was diverted back to Houston after a problem with its brake indicator.
Cincinnati Enquirer: Lawmakers pass budget, await approval by Kasich
Amid shouts of “Shame on you,” accusations of heartlessness and several GOP “no” votes, Ohio’s Republican-led House and Senate Thursday passed the state’s $61.7 billion two-year spending plan. Republicans touted the budget’s $2.7 billion in income-tax cuts, which they said will boost the state’s economy, along with an 11 percent increase in spending on schools. Gov. John Kasich now has until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to make any line-item vetoes and sign the budget into law so it can take effect Monday. He has most frequently been called on to veto anti-abortion provisions that General Assembly Republicans added to the budget. So far, he has declined to give his thoughts on the measures, saying only that he opposes abortion.
Arizona Republic: State senator in sex-abuse inquiry
Arizona Sen. Rick Murphy, a foster and adoptive parent who identifies himself as a leader on child-welfare issues, is under investigation by Peoria police and state Child Protective Services for allegations he sexually abused children in his care, according to police records. Police said the investigation was launched Saturday, after an older teen reported repeated incidents of alleged abuse by Murphy going back at least six years. The teen also self-reported his own inappropriate sexual contact with another child in the home, the reports show. CPS officials would not say whether they have removed any of the seven children living at the Peoria home of Murphy, 41, and his wife, Penny, 48. The allegations prompted police to reopen an inactive 2011 case involving Murphy and a teenage foster child, Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp told The Arizona Republic. According to a Peoria police report obtained by The Republic, the teen accused Murphy of fondling him underneath his clothing every other day for more than a month and offering to buy him a bicycle if he kept quiet.
Sacramento Bee: Supreme Court gay marriage ruling raises questions for California
Who can defend an orphaned ballot initiative? The question gained resonance Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that proponents of Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, had no standing to pursue their appeal once California officials declined to defend the embattled law. The decision spurred questions about the legal recourse available to supporters of ballot measures state officials decide to abandon. It especially troubles critics who worry politicians could quietly condemn voter-approved measures by refusing to defend them in federal court.
Philadelphia Inquirer: Gay-marriage ruling sparks a bitter fight in Pa. House
Pa. State Rep. The U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage have sparked a bitter dispute on the Pennsylvania House floor over the last two days. On Wednesday, State Rep. Brian Sims (D., Phila.), who last fall became the first openly gay candidate to win a seat in the House, rose to praise the landmark decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, only to be silenced by other lawmakers' objections. That was in keeping with rules for that part of the session, when members can rise to speak on almost any subject. Then, in an interview Thursday with WHYY FM, the legislature's most outspoken conservative, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), explained why he had objected. Metcalfe said, "I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law."
WSJ: Anti-U.S. Anger Rises in Egypt
As Egyptians prepare for massive protests against President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday, a large piece of opposition activists' anger is being directed at the U.S. and its perceived support for Egypt's ruling Islamists. A flurry of newspaper articles, talk shows and public statements over the past few weeks have singled out the U.S. for particular scorn while accusing America's diplomatic mission in Cairo of acting as a sort of puppet master behind Mr. Morsi's administration. Anger against the U.S. is nothing new in the Middle East, and neither are conspiracy theories in which Washington plays a strong, silent hand. But rarely have such theories placed U.S. influence so squarely behind Islamists such as Mr. Morsi, a former leader in the powerful Muslim Brotherhood that the White House helped to subdue for decades by backing successive anti-Islamist autocrats.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Morsy admits to mistakes as Egypt braces for protests
Financial Times: Iran, Russia and China prop up Assad economy
Iran, Russia and China are propping up Syria’s war-ravaged economy, with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime doing all its business in rials, roubles and renminbi as it seeks to beat western sanctions, according to the country’s senior economics minister. Syria’s three main allies are supporting international financial transactions, delivering $500m a month in oil and extending credit lines, Kadri Jamil, deputy prime minister for the economy, said in an interview with the Financial Times. He added that its allies would also soon help with a “counter-offensive” against what he called a foreign plot to sink the Syrian pound. Mr Jamil’s combative remarks on the deepening economic crisis highlight a wider show of regime assurance, founded on recent military gains and a belief that its biggest international supporters remain solidly behind it.
WSJ: Rebels in Syria Move to Show Moderation
A top Syrian rebel leader said his forces were counting on arms shipments from the U.S. to reverse momentum in the country's civil war and draw new recruits away from extremist groups like Jabhat al Nusra. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Brig. Gen. Mithkal Albtaish—a leader of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA—said he has recently persuaded 60 fighters to shift allegiance from al Nusra, a radical Islamist group aligned with al Qaeda, to the forces under his command. The recruitment drive highlights a crucial part of the Syrian opposition's strategy: Leveraging fresh support from the administration of President Barack Obama and other nations to drain local backing from extremist groups that currently dominate the front lines in the fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "We are trying to attract fighters from Jabhat al Nusra," said Gen. Albtaish, speaking in an interview in Paris where he met for talks with Iranian opposition leaders.
BBC: UK government backs three-person IVF
The UK looks set to become the first country to allow the creation of babies using DNA from three people, after the government backed the IVF technique. It will produce draft regulations later this year and the procedure could be offered within two years. Experts say three-person IVF could eliminate debilitating and potentially fatal mitochondrial diseases that are passed on from mother to child. Opponents say it is unethical and could set the UK on a "slippery slope". They also argue that affected couples could adopt or use egg donors instead.
CNN: Hong Kong man convicted of human trafficking in Canada
A Hong Kong man who brought a Filipino maid with his family when they moved to Vancouver - but then made her work 16 hours a day for 21 months and allowed her one phone-call a month - has been convicted of human trafficking in a landmark verdict. In the first conviction for human trafficking in Canada, a British Columbia Supreme Court found 50-year-old father of three, Franco Orr Yiu-kwan, guilty of illegally employing a foreign national and immigration breaches. His partner, Nicole Huen Oi-ling, was acquitted of the charges. …Leticia Sarmiento, 40, told the court she was brought to Canada in 2008 with promises that the couple would help her get permanent resident status within two years and help bring her three children to Vancouver from the Philippines, CBC News reported.
CNNMoney: Corzine sued by CFTC over MF Global debacle
The U.S. government is suing former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine along with the firm's former assistant treasurer and parent company for their part in the MF Global failure. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal regulator that oversaw MF Global, announced the lawsuit Thursday. The agency also announced a proposed settlement with MF Global. The settlement, which still needs court approval, will require 100% restitution of all remaining customer claims, along with a $100 million penalty. The lawsuit charges that the firm repeatedly and unlawfully used customer funds for the company's needs.
CNNMoney: The bulls are back on Wall Street
U.S. stocks rallied for a third day Thursday, as investors shook off concerns about waning central bank stimulus. It was another triple-digit gain for the Dow Jones industrial average, which rose 114 points, or 0.8%. That brings the Dow's three-day point total to 364. The S&P 500 gained 0.6% and the Nasdaq rose 0.8%. (Click here for more market data) Investors cheered comments from New York Federal Reserve Bank president William Dudley, who downplayed concerns that the central bank was moving quickly to rein in its stimulus measures. Dudley stressed that any change in the Fed's bond buying program would depend on how the economy performs, adding that it could step up the pace if necessary.
ALSO SEE: CNBC: Fed Out in Force as Markets Stabilize