CNN: 'Whitey' Bulger pal on his cooperation with U.S.: 'I was dead either way'
James "Whitey" Bulger's defense lawyer continued hammering away at one of the government's star witnesses in a Boston courtroom Wednesday, trying to portray the convicted killer as a pathological liar who should have called it quits and gone to the electric chair when he had the chance. "Why not take the death penalty and get it over with?" Bulger attorney Hank Brennan asked Steven Flemmi. "I was dead either way," responded the Bulger henchman, who has spent five days on the witness stand. Flemmi said he decided to cooperate with the government to spare his friends and family from having to suffer through endless trials: "I took the path of least resistance."
CNN: Natural gas rig burns in Gulf of Mexico
Two firefighting boats were moved to a safe distance Wednesday as they awaited help in fighting a fire that erupted on a natural gas rig in the Gulf of Mexico, officials say. "A third vessel equipped with firefighting capability and (an) improved monitoring system" was expected to arrive around midday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. A Coast Guard cutter was on hand to "assess the situation and enforce the security zone," it said, while another was on the way.
SEE ALSO: Houston Chronicle: Companies prepare to battle blaze on Gulf rig after well leak
CNN: Luxury cruise fails surprise health inspection
A surprise inspection by the Centers for Disease Control has resulted in a failing grade for one of the plushest cruise ships afloat. According to a report by the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program, the cruise ship Silver Shadow was cited repeatedly for using an "organized effort" to remove 15 trolleys of food from the ship's galley to individual crew cabins to "avoid inspection." The snap inspection of the Silver Shadow on June 17 in Skagway, Alaska, was conducted after an anonymous crew member sent still photographs to the CDC showing meat in crew cabin sinks and trays of food in the corridors in the hallways outside those cabins. It resulted in a failing grade of 82 for the Silver Shadow. Any grade less than 84 is considered "less than satisfactory," according to the VSP website.
WSJ: New Health-Care Law's Success Rests on the Young
Nationwide, there are 11.6 million people ages 18 to 34 who are uninsured, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The federal government's challenge this fall will be getting them to buy health-care coverage, which many consider a luxury they can do without. Hospitals already must treat all emergencies, and uninsured patients are responsible for the bills. New insurance company filings approved by Oregon regulators this month offer a first look at the actual price tags for individual consumers, who can begin shopping for insurance in October through new marketplaces called exchanges.
Associated Press: No more mail at your door? Delivery changes eyed
Door-to-door mail delivery is about as American as apple pie. With the Postal Service facing billions of dollars in annual losses, that tradition could be virtually phased out by 2022 under a proposal in Congress. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday approved a plan to move to cluster box and curbside delivery, which includes mailboxes at the end of driveways.
CNN: Obama to nominate Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan
Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy and a prominent Democratic backer, was nominated by President Barack Obama Wednesday to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan. She would become the first woman to hold the post if she's confirmed by the U.S. Senate. A top supporter of Obama's, she served as the co-chair of his vice presidential search committee in 2008. CNN first reported in April that Kennedy had been asked to serve as ambassador and was being vetted for the role.
CNN: Obama says he's looking for ways to keep college costs down
Offering an abbreviated version of the economic address he delivered in Illinois earlier in the day, President Barack Obama addressed a crowd at the University of Central Missouri here Wednesday evening and pointed to the school’s business partnership program as an example of what needs to be done to drive down college costs. The president and his advisers have announced plans for a series of speeches throughout the fall focusing on issues he sees as crucial to the middle class. At UCM, Obama got a bit more specific about his plans for education.
SEE ALSO: Politico: John Boehner: Obama speech ‘an Easter Egg with no candy’
Bloomberg: Obama Ambassadors Gave At Least $13.6 Million in Campaign Money
While Obama ran in 2008 on a pledge to limit the influence of money in politics, a review of ambassadorial appointments five years into his presidency shows that big donors have landed dozens of top overseas assignments. Since the president’s November re-election alone, posts in Italy, Belgium and Spain, as well as London, among other assignments, have gone to donors.
The Hill: Obama dismisses scandals as ‘phony’
Obama’s comments marked an inflection point in the way the administration has been dealing with a raft of controversies, many of which the White House has previously suggested were substantive. Obama on Wednesday did not specify which controversies were “phony,” but the administration has been attacked over National Security Agency surveillance programs leaked to the public, the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, the Department of Justice’s seizing of media phone records, and last year’s attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
CNN: House rejects effort to curb NSA phone surveillance
The U.S. House on Wednesday narrowly defeated a proposal to sharply restrict the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program that was exposed by Edward Snowden. The Obama administration and House Speaker John Boehner, unlikely allies in the sharp partisan climate in Washington, joined forces to reject the limit offered as an amendment to a defense spending bill, 217-205. A coalition of libertarian, liberal and conservative lawmakers pushed for curbs on the blanket collection of those records, arguing that it was too broad and intrusive.
SEE ALSO: Politico: How the Justin Amash NSA amendment got a vote
CNNMoney: Student loan deal passes Senate
The Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan deal that ensures lower interest rates on loans for students heading to college this fall. Senators voted 81 to 18 to lower interest rates for undergraduates taking out government loans this school year to 3.86% - cheaper than the 6.8% interest rate that kicked in on July 1. The new rates would be retroactive and apply to loans taken out after July 1. However, the bill has provisions for rates to go higher in coming years.
WX Post: Republicans push to delay hearing for senior DHS nominee facing investigation
A growing number of Republicans on Wednesday pressed for a delay in considering the nomination of a senior homeland security official who is under investigation for allegations that he improperly aided a politically connected firm in gaining U.S. visas for foreign workers. The Republicans, led by ranking member Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, wanted to delay a hearing scheduled Thursday for immigration official Alejandro Mayorkas, who has been nominated to be second-in-command at the Department of Homeland Security.
The Hill: Tax writers promise 50 years of secrecy for senators' suggestions
The Senate’s top tax writers have promised their colleagues 50 years’ worth of secrecy in exchange for suggestions on what deductions and credits to preserve in tax reform. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), assured lawmakers that any submission they receive will be kept under lock and key by the committee and the National Archives until the end of 2064. Deeming the submissions confidential, the Senate’s top tax writers have said only certain staff members — 10 in all — will get direct access to a senator’s written suggestions.
Politico: Marco Rubio wants to be lead sponsor on anti-abortion bill
Sen. Marco Rubio said unequivocally Wednesday that he hopes to be the lead sponsor of a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. “If someone else would like to do it instead of me, I’m more than happy to consider it. But I’d like to be the lead sponsor,” the Florida Republican said. “I feel very strongly about this issue. And I’d like to be the lead sponsor on it if we can find language that we can unify people behind.”
CNN: Weiner resists calls to withdraw as woman who received messages is identified
Calls for Anthony Weiner to withdraw from the New York City mayoral contest poured in Wednesday after his admission that he sent lusty messages more than a year after resigning from Congress for the same dubious habits. As Weiner resisted those calls to drop out, CNN was able to identify the 23-year-old recipient of those sexually charged messages. The woman who participated in the lewd chats with Weiner was identified by an acquaintance as Sydney Elaine Leathers of Evansville, Indiana.
WATCH: VIDEO CNN's Randi Kaye profiles the woman to whom Anthony Weiner sent sexually explicit messages.
CNN: Rep. Steve King defends immigration comments amid outrage
As the outcry from Democrat and Republicans alike grows over Rep. Steve King's remarks regarding immigration and drugs, the GOP congressman defended his comments Wednesday. The comments originally came during a controversial interview last week where he suggested the possibility of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who excel while receiving an American education was not worth also legalizing the immigration status of drug smugglers.
Roll Call: No Easy Steve King Solution for GOP
HuffPost: Republican Leaders Urge Latino Evangelicals Not To See 'One Outlier' As Voice Of Party
NYT: Some Democrats Look to Push Party Away From Center
With Mr. Obama experiencing a difficult first year of his second term and his lame-duck status growing ever nearer, his speech underscored the stirrings of a debate inside the Democratic Party about the party’s economic approach, given the halting recovery. If positions on foreign policy and specifically the Iraq war marked the dividing line in the Democrats’ last fierce internal debate, issues related to banks, entitlements and the rights of consumers broadly could shape the party’s next search for an identity.
BuzzFeed: Democrats Bristle As Republicans Send Trackers Into The Capitol
Democrats are accusing Republicans of breaking down congressional comity even further by dispatching a “campaign tracker” — a young staffer sent to record a foe’s every word, in hopes of catching a damaging gaffe — to stalk Democratic senators facing reelection while they’re at work on Capitol Hill. In the unwritten rules of Washington, it’s perfectly fine to have a tracker follow a member of Congress around when he or she is outside or at an event away from the Capitol complex. But Hill veterans on both sides of the aisle say a tracker in congressional office buildings and members’ offices is unprecedented, and Democrats suggest the presence of a tracker in the Capitol complex is an intimidation tactic.
NYT: Facing Woman in Race, McConnell Sharpens Pitch to Female Voters
As Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a 71-year-old Republican fixture in Washington, prepares to try to fend off a challenge by Alison Lundergan Grimes, a 34-year-old Democratic political newcomer, his team says he will address and even embrace the gender and generational differences between them. Given recent struggles that Republican Senate contenders have had with women’s issues, Mr. McConnell’s advisers say they intend to confront head-on the criticism Democrats have already begun leveling against him on issues they view as particularly important to female voters.
CNN: Snowden can't leave Moscow airport yet, lawyer says
Edward Snowden isn't yet allowed to step outside the Moscow airport where he's been holed up for weeks, despite reports to the contrary, his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Wednesday. Russian media had reported Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence leaker was issued a document that would allow him to wait elsewhere in Russia while his request for temporary asylum was considered. But Kucherena, after meeting with Snowden in Sheremetyevo International Airport's transit area Wednesday, told reporters that Snowden hadn't received the certificate and that he would remain in the transit area for now. That certificate still could come at "any time," Kucherena told CNN.
SEE ALSO: WX Post: In Bradley Manning case, Judge Lind prefers to keep low profile but ruling may have big impact
CNN: Watchdog critical of State Department contracting in Afghanistan
A U.S. government watchdog found "serious deficiencies" in how the State Department awarded a contract job in Afghanistan, according to a letter from the organization to Secretary of State John Kerry released Thursday. In the letter dated Monday, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, raised a number of concerns on the oversight practices of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the State Department and how they awarded a contract for the training of Afghan justice workers.
CNN: U.S. to delay F-16 delivery to Egypt
President Barack Obama has decided to delay the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in a sign of U.S. pressure for the military there to move quickly restore civilian rule following its ouster of President Mohamed Morsy. Pentagon spokesman George Little said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Egypt’s military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, on Wednesday to inform him of the decision. Hagel and al-Sisi also discussed the general’s call on Wednesday for mass demonstrations in Egypt for support of the military. The Obama administration has so far not called Morsy’s removal earlier this month a military coup, which could cut more than $1 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt if that characterization is made.
NBC: 'Secret' CIA museum features Osama bin Laden's AK-47
The “coolest museum you’ll never see” has a new piece de resistance – the gun found next to the body of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan when Navy SEALs killed him in a midnight raid. The AK-47 is a recent addition to a collection that’s among the toughest tickets in the country for museumgoers. Tucked into various hallways at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., the museum displays the gadgets, artifacts and trophies of 70 years of spycraft, from World War II through the War on Terror. Closed to the public, it had only been visited by employees and invited guests until NBC News recently became the first news organization allowed to bring in video cameras. The Russian-made assault rifle, identified on a simple brass plaque as “Osama bin Laden’s AK-47,” shares a glass case with an al Qaeda training manual found in Afghanistan soon after 9/11.
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
WX Post: Justice Department is readying criminal charges against SAC Capital
The Justice Department will file criminal charges as soon as Thursday against SAC Capital Advisors, once one of the country’s most successful hedge funds, following a multiyear investigation into insider trading, according to people familiar with the matter. A number of current and former employees of the firm have already been tied to the federal investigation, but prosecutors are getting ready to unveil a criminal case against the legendary firm itself, once exalted on Wall Street for its whopping average annual returns of 25 percent.
BusinessWeek: Spirit's Growth Focuses on Rival Airline Hubs
A table of new city pairs from Spirit Airlines’ earnings report on Wednesday shows new flights the discount airline has added just since April, a torrid pace of growth focused heavily on Dallas-Fort Worth, an American Airlines fortress. Even more noteworthy, however, is that every domestic city on the new-flight roster—save for Myrtle Beach, Latrobe, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles—is a hub airport or “focus city” for players much larger than Spirit. The lesson? As the big guys consolidate, fares in their hub cities rise, leaving space for a niche player to court budget travelers. And while American, Delta and United are hardly nervous about Spirit’s expansion, you can bet they’re watching closely.
WX Post: Dish’s Hopper ad-skipping service doesn’t violate copyrights, court rules
A federal court decision Wednesday gave fresh support to a new technology that helps consumers avoid a basic irritant of television watching — the commercial. Dish’s Hopper service, which automatically removes advertisements before consumers view recorded shows, is the latest technology to worry broadcasters. These companies have long reaped profits from a practice that is as old as the television itself — forcing viewers to watch ads before they can see the rest of a show.
CNNMoney: Federal judge blocks challenges to Detroit bankruptcy
A federal judge blocked legal challenges to Detroit's bankruptcy filing on Wednesday pending a later ruling in the case. Detroit became the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in the nation's history last week after a filing by state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Orr and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said the city cannot afford its $11.5 billion in liabilities associated with pension benefits, retiree health care and unsecured debt held by investors.
Detroit Free Press: Detroit mayoral candidates compete for attention with city focused on bankruptcy
Detroit Free Press: Christie's auction house under fire for visit to see DIA's collection
New Orleans Times-Picayune: Jindal demands East Bank levee authority drop lawsuit against oil, gas, pipelines
Saying it had overstepped its authority, Gov. Bobby Jindal is demanding that the East Bank levee authority drop a lawsuit filed Wednesday that would require oil, gas and pipeline companies restore damaged wetlands and pay damages for the effects of the lost wetlands on levees. Jindal also demanded that the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East fire the attorneys who filed the suit, saying they were hired in violation of state law that requires their hiring be approved by the governor.
Charlotte Observer: Senate gives preliminary OK to election law clamp-down
The state Senate tentatively approved a far-reaching elections bill Wednesday that includes requirements for voter photo identification, eliminates automatic straight-party voting on ballots and limits early voting. The often emphatic and occasionally angry debate lasted several hours and stirred up deep-seated feelings about the country’s legacy of preventing women and minorities from voting, mixed in with stories from not long ago that North Carolina elections were once corrupted by payoffs and strong-arm tactics, and could still be compromised by fraud.
Arizona Central: Mayor seeks to end pension ‘spiking’
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and two City Council members have asked the city manager to end a policy that allows pension “spiking” by police officers and firefighters, but no changes are imminent because the city must honor its labor-contract obligations until next fiscal year. The practice of pension spiking in Phoenix, disclosed by The Arizona Republic in 2010 and earlier this year, has allowed a few senior public-safety retirees to become millionaires by adding the value of some unused benefits into final salary calculations, substantially elevating their annual pension payments. The practice is prohibited for most other city employees.
CNN: Report: Train derails in Spain, killing 69
A high-speed passenger train derailed as it hurtled around a curve in northwestern Spain on Wednesday, killing dozens and injuring more than 100, a regional official said. By Thursday morning, the death toll had reached 69, Galicia regional government official Samuel Juarez told the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Pictures of the scene showed a train car snapped in two and another car on fire. Rescue crews and fellow passengers pulled out bodies through broken windows and pried open doors as stunned survivors looked on. Police escorted bloodied passengers from the wreckage.
CNN: State news: China's Bo Xilai indicted for corruption, abuse of power
Bo Xilai, once a rising star in China's ruling Communist party, has been indicted for bribery, corruption and abuse of power, state news reported Thursday. The indictment against Bo was delivered Thursday to the Jinan City Intermediate People's Court, Xinhua reported. Jinan City is in Shandong province, about 440 kilometers (275 miles) south of Beijing.
WATCH: VIDEO CNN: China's Bo Xilai indicted for bribery, corruption and abuse of power, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.
CNN: Indian headmistress tied to poisoned lunches arrested
The headmistress of the Indian school that authorities say served toxic lunches, killing 23 students, was arrested Wednesday, police said. Meena Kumari, 36, was taken into custody on her way to a court where she had gone to surrender herself, police Superintendent Sujeet Kumar told CNN. She will be questioned Wednesday and taken before the court Thursday, he said. Authorities had been working to track down Kumari, who had been at large since the July 16 incident.
BBC: Abidjan's Maca prison riot kills three in Ivory Coast
At least three prisoners have been killed during a riot in the main prison in Ivory Coast's biggest city of Abidjan, officials say. One inmate told the BBC the riot began after guards tried to move a prisoner they suspected of planning to escape. The BBC's Tamasin Ford says the prison is now quiet. The jail holds some of Ivory Coast's most violent prisoners as well as some supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo.
WX Post: Pope to celebrate Mass on Copacabana beach
The young people Pope Francis will address Thursday night in a Mass on the famed Copacabana beach will sing and pray, showering the pontiff with warmth on his first papal trip abroad to preside over a biennial gathering of the world’s young Catholics. Yet many young Brazilians are simmering with discontent and even rage, which bubbled over last month into relentless nationwide protests that left the government reeling. So far on his trip, the 76-year-old pope has only broadly addressed the challenges faced by youths all over, declaring that young people “are in crisis” and that they are susceptible to the “many idols which take the place of God” — money, power and pleasure.
Times of London: Mystery over sudden rise in national death rates
Thousands of elderly people have died unexpectedly during the past year, driving a rise in overall death rates that is baffling public health chiefs, a leaked government report has revealed. About 600 more people died every week this year than the weekly average for the past five years which is about 10,000 deaths.
CNNMoney: Facebook shares soar on strong earnings
Facebook shares soared 19% after it posted strong results and said its mobile ad business continues to gain traction. Facebook reported second-quarter revenue of $1.8 billion Wednesday, exceeding analysts' expectations of $1.6 billion.
WSJ: Fed Chief Choice Shapes Up as Race Between Summers, Yellen
The race to become the next leader of the Federal Reserve looks increasingly like a contest between two economists: Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen. Mr. Summers is an Obama administration insider who was at President Barack Obama's side during the 2009 financial crisis and maintains close contacts with the president and his top economic advisers. Because Mr. Summers is well-known in the White House, Mr. Obama might have a higher comfort level choosing him. Ms. Yellen, a Fed insider, has worked closely with the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, formulating easy-money policies during the past three years and was a player in the Fed monetary-policy decisions during the worst of the financial crisis. Because she is well-known within in the Fed, the institution might have a higher comfort level if she is chosen.
CNBC: Will rising rates start to sting stocks?
Wary of rising rates, stock traders will keep an eye on the bond market Thursday as another wave of earnings reports roll in. Stocks wobbled Wednesday, set off by some mixed earnings results, but held back more so by a bubbling up of interest rates. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.581 percent. Treasury yields rose following a sloppy 5-year note auction, but a strong report on new home sales was also a factor. The dollar moved higher with yields.
Financial Times: Google takes on Apple in the living room
Google has made a fresh attempt to stake out a place in the world’s living rooms with a new gadget for streaming video and other internet services to TV sets for the rock-bottom price of $35.
BusinessWeek: Fast-Food Rivals Are Eating Panera's Breakfast
Perhaps the recent wave of fast-food breakfast promotions has distracted you from your regular Asiago cheese bagel at Panera Bread. You wouldn’t be alone. Breakfast sales at the fast-casual chain have been flat this year, and morning transactions are down by low-single digits, the company reported today. Panera Chief Executive Ron Shaich described breakfast as “a drag” on same-store sales, which saw slowed growth in the last quarter.