CNN: Closing arguments set to start in Zimmerman trial
The trial of George Zimmerman, which has highlighted the issues of race and gun violence, is set to begin closing arguments Thursday. Prosecutors asked the court Wednesday to let jurors consider manslaughter and aggravated assault, but Zimmerman's lawyers objected, saying it should be murder or nothing. Judge Debra Nelson is expected to decide on that matter Thursday. The case will be in the hands of the jury Friday.
WATCH: VIDEO George Zimmerman decides not to testify, the defense rests, and prosecutors reenact the fight. Martin Savidge reports.
CNN: Boston bomb suspect pleads not guilty
Boston Marathon bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faced more than two dozen survivors of that attack Wednesday as he pleaded not guilty to killing four people and wounding more than 200. Tsarnaev is charged with 30 federal counts stemming from the April 15 attack, when a pair of bombs went off near the finish line of the packed course. Three people died in the blasts, including an 8-year-old boy, while a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer was killed three days later at the start of the dramatic chase that led to Tsarnaev's capture.
SEE ALSO: NYT: In 2011 Murder Inquiry, Hints of Missed Chance to Avert Boston Bombing
WATCH: VIDEO Boston bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleads not guilty during his first court appearance. Deborah Feyerick reports.
CNN: Arizona blaze that killed 19 firefighters fully contained
The Arizona blaze that killed 19 firefighters is 100% contained, authorities said late Wednesday, turning the page on a painful chapter for the community. The 19, members of the Prescott Fire Department's elite Granite Mountain Hotshots wildfire crew, died while battling the Yarnell Hill fire, which consumed 8,400 acres northwest of Phoenix.
NYT: Ready for Less-Tearful Future, Newtown Is Declining Tributes
Where is the line between respecting the magnitude of what happened last December and being engulfed by it? And when do events and observances become an unwelcome public reminder of private grief?
WX Post: U.S. life expectancy on the rise, but progress lags global peers’
Life expectancy in the United States is going up, but chronic disabilities, including many caused by bad food choices, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol abuse, account for a larger portion of health issues in the United States than in its economic peers around the world, according to a new study by a global collaboration of scientists.
WSJ: Obama Said to Invite Vietnam's President to Washington
President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam has been invited by President Barack Obama to visit the White House this month, according to people in Vietnam familiar with the matter, in what would be only the third presidential state visit between the two countries since diplomatic relations were established in 1995. "President Sang has received the invitation from President Obama for a visit before the end of July and both sides are preparing for the trip," one of the people familiar with the planning said Wednesday. An official announcement will be made after details of the agenda are worked out, the people said.
WX Post: Lawmakers say administration’s lack of candor on surveillance weakens oversight
Lawmakers tasked with overseeing national security policy say a pattern of misleading testimony by senior Obama administration officials has weakened Congress’s ability to rein in government surveillance. Members of Congress say officials have either denied the existence of a broad program that collects data on millions of Americans or, more commonly, made statements that left some lawmakers with the impression that the government was conducting only narrow, targeted surveillance operations.
SEE ALSO: WX Post: U.S. plan to arm Syrian rebels stalls amid congressional disagreements
Politico: Obama considering travel to back House immigration reform
President Barack Obama told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he is considering taking a more public role in pushing immigration reform in the House than he did during Senate negotiations, CHC members said Wednesday after meeting with Obama at the White House. Obama didn’t lay out a legislative strategy beyond reiterating his support for the immigration bill that passed the Senate last month, though he said he is considering traveling to back the legislation, said the CHC’s chairman, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas).
SEE ALSO: The Hill: Hispanics hit Obama on Cabinet
CNN: Obama awards medals in arts; humanities
Obama and 24 'teachers', also known as some of America's most influential artists and writers, gathered in Washington for the 2012 National Medal of Arts and the National Medal of Humanities Awards on Wednesday. Among the honorees, even the president seemed at times to be star struck.
CNN: First on CNN: Reid to push for ‘nuclear option’ in filibuster fight
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected Thursday to push his fellow Democrats to support a controversial change to Senate rules – over the objection of Republicans – that would prevent filibusters against executive branch nominees, according to a Democratic source familiar with Reid’s thinking. Such a move, if successful, would likely enrage Republicans who have warned of a “meltdown” in cooperation with Democrats if the new rules are enacted.
CNN: House GOP split over immigration reform
Immigration reform entered an uncertain new phase on Wednesday as House Republicans signaled some willingness to compromise with President Barack Obama and Democrats but rejected a Senate-passed bill and insisted they would take their time drafting their own version. Following more than two hours of talks on how to proceed, GOP legislators said the biggest question was whether to give the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States a path to eventual citizenship, as provided by the Senate measure.
CNN: Bush welcomes new citizens in soft push for immigration reform
Politico: GOP reaching out to Dems on immigration
CNN: Senators hope for student loan deal soon as rate doubles
A Democratic measure to temporarily reverse the doubling of interest rates on millions of government-backed student loans fell short in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, but there was hope a bipartisan deal would be struck soon to remedy the situation.
The Hill: House moves to set up vote on split farm bill
House GOP leaders are moving to set up a Thursday morning vote on a split farm bill containing updated subsidies for farmers but lacking a reauthorization of the food stamp program. After a day of furious whipping, leaders now believe they can pass the measure over the opposition of farm groups and some conservative organizations.
NPR: Marco Rubio: Poster Boy For The GOP Identity Crisis
The Republican Party seems like two parties these days. In the Senate, Republicans joined a two-thirds majority to pass an immigration bill. But in the House, Republicans are balking. One leader was supposed to be Marco Rubio, the charismatic, young Hispanic senator from Florida. Of all the prospects for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, Rubio has been the most visible. He took a leadership role on immigration, and he's been taking it on the chin from his party's anti-amnesty base.
CNN: Poll shows Spitzer with initial edge in city race
Before he’s even officially on the ballot, a snap poll shows shamed ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer is already edging out his potential Democratic rival in a primary contest for New York City comptroller. The NBC 4/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll showed 42% of registered Democrats either supporting Spitzer or leaning toward supporting him. Spitzer has until Thursday night to gather more than 3,700 signatures in order to secure a place on the ballot.
HuffPost: North Carolina Motorcycle Abortion Bill Set To Get Full House Vote
The North Carolina House is set to vote on a controversial anti-abortion bill on Thursday, one day after its provisions were attached to unrelated motorcycle safety legislation without advanced notice to the public or Democratic lawmakers. Thursday's session begins at 11 a.m. and will be open to the public. There will be two hours of debate for Democrats and one hour for Republicans before representatives vote.
NPR: Despite Youth Support, Democrats Having A Senior Moment
Democrats aren't getting any younger. At least, their top leaders aren't. Voters under the age of 30 were key to President Obama's electoral success. But Obama's going gray and his most prominent potential successors aren't paragons of youth.
SEE ALSO: WSJ: Disunion in Senate Hampers Democrats' Agenda
USA Today: San Diego mayor accused of sexual harassment
A prominent onetime supporter of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner urged him to resign Wednesday less than a year after taking office amid allegations that he sexually harassed women. Radio and television station KPBS obtained a letter to Filner from former Councilwoman Donna Frye that said she recently received "credible evidence" that the mayor harassed more than one woman. She asked that the City Council schedule a special election to replace him.
Politico: 5 tax breaks that might look different after reform
There are only 15 days left for senators to defend the entire Tax Code. With hundreds of tax breaks jammed into the code, it’s clear that not every provision will survive an overhaul, and those that do may look dramatically different. That’s leaving everyone — lobbyists, executives and lawmakers — scrambling to game out how a new tax system might look.
CNN: Will we really see the dawn of a "new chapter" in U.S.-China relations?
Thorny issues of unbalanced trade, cyber security and intellectual property rights stand stark in the spotlight at this year's U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue now underway in Washington, D.C. Top officials from both sides, including co-chairs U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi, have expressed tempered optimism for "a new chapter" in bilateral ties - despite recent stumbles.
SEE ALSO: Bloomberg: China Has World’s Most Active Missile Programs, U.S. Says
Time: Snowden in Moscow: What Russian Authorities Might Be Doing With the NSA Whistle-Blower
Since June 23, Snowden has been marooned somewhere in Russia, far out of reach of the U.S. government, which wants to put him on trial for exposing the secrets of U.S. intelligence agencies. The official story coming from the Russian government since then is that Snowden has been holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, waiting for some third country to grant him asylum. But few experts or officials in Moscow still believe that to be true. The accepted wisdom, unofficially acknowledged by most Western and Russian sources, is that Snowden was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.
WX Post: The NSA slide you haven’t seen
Recent debate over U.S. government surveillance has focused on the information that American technology companies secretly provide to the National Security Agency. But that is only one of the ways the NSA eavesdrops on international communications. A classified NSA slide obtained by The Washington Post lists “Two Types of Collection.”
WX Post: Better security triggers Pentagon to adjust danger pay list; 56,000 troops may lose extra pay
A Pentagon security review shows conditions improving in 18 countries once considered so dangerous that U.S. military who served there found something extra in their paychecks each month. Now the Defense Department wants to take those countries and five waterways off the danger pay roster, saving about $120 million each year while taking a bite out of an estimated 56,000 troops’ salaries.
CNN: Is North Korea testing new rocket engines?
North Korea appears to be moving ahead with efforts to improve and possibly modernize its long-range rocket capabilities, according to an analysis of new satellite photos. Engine tests for the North's long-range rocket program appear to have taken place in late March or early April of this year, analysts at 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, have concluded.
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: NTSB chief: 'There are 2 pilots in the cockpit for a reason'
A day after relaying pilots' accounts to investigators, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman provided more details Wednesday on what happened in the sky. One focus has been whether "automatic" controls in the cockpit were working. Even if they weren't, questioned have been raised about whether the pilots recognized that something was wrong quickly enough and did the right thing to fix it.
SEE ALSO: Associated Press: FAA to expand airline first-officer qualifications
NYT: E-Book Ruling Gives Amazon an Advantage
A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Apple had illegally conspired with five of the six biggest publishers to try to raise prices in the budding e-books market. The decision came two days after Barnes & Noble lost its chief executive and said it would not appoint another, signaling that the biggest chain of physical bookstores could be immediately broken up.
LA Times: Brown asks U.S. Supreme Court justice for stay on prisoner releases
Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday asked a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court to excuse California from orders by a three-judge panel to reduce prison crowding by releasing 9,600 inmates. The state argued that it needs time to appeal federal crowding orders and that to obey the orders would free thousands of inmates, “including violent and serious offenders,” according to the court filing. It was filed with Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy as the circuit justice.
WX Post: Defense rests in court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who gave classified info to WikiLeaks
Pfc. Bradley Manning’s defense rested its case Wednesday after presenting evidence from 10 witnesses, hoping to prove the loads of material the soldier gave to WikiLeaks did not threaten national security or U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prosecutors argued the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst let military secrets fall into the hands of al-Qaida and its former leader Osama bin Laden. Manning faces 21 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence. Manning did not take the stand during the trial.
Boston Herald: MIT’s chief calls for death penalty
MIT’s grief-stricken police chief vented his anger at accused teen terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev yesterday, calling the ethnic Chechen a “punk” who deserves the death penalty if convicted of carrying out the horrific Boston Marathon twin bombings and the murder of campus cop Sean Collier.
The State: SC Supreme Court stops murder trial, orders hearing on ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense
An armed intruder is making a “Stand Your Ground” argument in a murder trial, saying he shouldn’t be prosecuted for shooting and killing the man whose home he broke into because it looked as though the man was about to shoot him first. The state’s 2006 “Stand Your Ground” law effectively allows people to claim “immunity from prosecution” when they have used deadly force to deal with and even kill people in various situations if they believed they were being threatened by them.
Denver Post: James Holmes' attorneys admit he was Aurora theater shooter
For the first time, lawyers for James Holmes have admitted he killed 12 people and wounded dozens more at an Aurora movie theater last summer, but they say he was "in the throes of a psychotic episode" at the time. The admission came in a motion filed Tuesday but made public Wednesday.
WX Post: D.C. school system isn’t conducting random drug tests required by law
Nine years after a District law mandated that public employees who work with children or hold safety-sensitive positions submit to random drug testing, the D.C. public school system has yet to heed it. The D.C. Office of the Inspector General condemned the lack of a testing program in a report issued last month that said the school system had not tested any of more than 8,200 employees subject to the law.
Detroit Free Press: Detroit's banking guru to creditors: We have no way to pay you
The message from Kenneth Buckfire, the city’s lead financial adviser, is clear: The City of Detroit is out of money, it has been for quite a while, and it isn’t able to give creditors what they would get in a normal restructuring.
Burlington Free Press: Winooski council votes against F-35 basing
The vote is no. To cheering and applause, Winooski’s City Council decided unanimously Wednesday night to oppose the military’s consideration of deploying new, noisier F-35 fighter jets to the Vermont Air National Guard base at Burlington International Airport. Health and property-value issues topped the resolution’s list of why the warplane belongs elsewhere.
CNN: Egypt unrest: Ramadan begins and the military asks for trust
Uncertainty ruled in Egypt Wednesday as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began and the military said it would address the issues of this week's deadly violence. It wasn't clear whether the religious observance would calm or inflame tensions a week after a military coup.
Jerusalem Post: Palestinian official: Egypt turmoil leaves Hamas high and dry
BBC: Egypt unrest: US to go ahead with F-16 jets delivery
CNN: 8 issues Egypt is facing
In Cairo's Tahrir Square, there's a familiar pulse of a revolution. Since last week's ouster of the nation's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsy, Egypt has been gripped by violence as rival sides battle for control. The context can be confusing to outsiders. So here are eight issues about which Egyptians are upset.
SEE ALSO: NYT: Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi
CNN: Railroad CEO heckled in ravaged Quebec town
The head of the railway whose runaway train devastated a small Quebec town cast doubt on his engineer's story Wednesday as he arrived to face insults from survivors and harsh questions from reporters. Edward Burkhardt said the engineer has been suspended without pay and faces a criminal investigation by Canadian authorities.
BBC: Luxembourg PM Juncker to resign over spy scandal
Luxembourg will hold new elections after Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker announced he would resign following a secret service scandal. Mr Juncker, Europe's longest-serving head of government, told parliament he would step down on Thursday.
Global Post: Syrian Christians flee to Lebanon, become kidnapping targets
Syria's civil war has spilled over into Lebanon with greater intensity in the last few months. Hezbollah and its allies support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while Sunni militias back the rebels. The war remains a political battle, but it has sharply increased religious and ethnic strife in both Syria and Lebanon. While the war has increased animosity between Sunni and Shia, it has also devastated Syria's Christians, some of whom have now fled to Lebanon. Their story is rarely told.
SEE ALSO: VOA: UN Security Council Fears for Lebanon's Stability
CNNMoney: Foreclosures fall to pre-housing bust levels
The long national foreclosure nightmare is nearing its end, with foreclosure filings hitting their lowest level since before the housing bust. Total foreclosure filings, including notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, dropped to 127,790 in June, down 35% over the past 12 months, according to RealtyTrac. Overall, filings have hit their lowest monthly level since December 2006.
CNBC: Sharp Jump in US Gasoline Seen Within Days
Gasoline is expected to jump 10 to 20 cents per gallon in the next several days, as rising oil prices and peak driving season create a perfect storm for higher prices. Industry experts say gasoline prices at the pump should follow the already higher prices in the spot wholesale market. The national average at the pump Wednesday was $3.50 per gallon for unleaded gasoline, up two cents from Tuesday's level, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge report.
Bloomberg: IPhones Stuck to Windshields Threaten Dashboard Maps
The chase is on for the fully connected car. Streaming Internet music sites through the car radio isn’t enough anymore. As more people use smartphones to traverse their daily drive, automakers’ pricey and profitable in-car navigation systems are threatened. The reason is simple: Many map apps are free while embedded navigation systems run from $500 to more than $2,000.
USA Today: Ford cuts $4,000 from Focus electric price
Ford Motor is slicing $4,000 from the base price of its Focus electric car, beginning with 2014 models that arrive at dealers within a few weeks. That cuts the Focus EV's base price to $35,995 including shipping. Some buyers qualify for a $7,500 credit on federal income taxes, and states often have their own incentives for buying battery cars.
WSJ: Flaws in U.S. Unemployment System Leave Economy Vulnerable
While financial regulators force banks to shore up their defenses so they'll be less vulnerable in the next deep recession, several states are changing unemployment-insurance systems in ways that will make their residents more vulnerable the next time around. For decades, states have offered eligible unemployed workers benefits for up to 26 weeks (with the federal government helping to pay for additional weeks in severe recessions). Now nine states—including Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Missouri—have reduced the maximum duration; several set a 20-week cap. About half a dozen states have cut maximum benefits or restricted eligibility or both. Unemployment benefits serve two purposes. One is to cushion the blow to families of workers who lose a job. The other is to automatically put money in consumers' wallets to boost demand and quicken the recovery. The changes could undermine both.