CNN: Source: Prosecutors offer Ariel Castro a plea deal in kidnapping case
Prosecutors have offered Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for close to a decade, a plea deal that removes the possibility of the death penalty, a Cuyahoga County courts source said Thursday. The defense is considering the deal, and there is no signed agreement. The deal would include a recommendation to keep Castro in prison for life, the source said. "We're on the home stretch," said a second source close to the case. That source said all that remains to be done to seal the deal is for Castro to plead guilty at the podium, which could happen at a hearing scheduled for Friday.
CNN: Southwest jet hit runway nose first, investigators say
The Southwest Airlines jet that skidded down a LaGuardia airport runway on its nose on Monday touched down on its front wheels first, which then collapsed, according to federal accident investigators. The unusual landing, in which investigators said the plane's nose pitched down seconds before touchdown, is the surest clue yet to explain the accident involving the Boeing 737 that injured several people. The National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday that video and other sources provide evidence that the nose gear contacted the tarmac before the main wheels.
CNN: Halliburton to plead guilty in 2010 Gulf oil spill, U.S. says
Oilfield services giant Halliburton will plead guilty to destroying computer test results that had been sought as evidence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Justice Department announced Thursday. Company officials threw out test results that showed "little difference" between the number of devices Halliburton said was needed to center the cement casing in the well at the heart of the disaster and the number well owner BP installed, according to court papers. The issue has been key point of contention between the two companies in hearings and litigation ever since the April 2010 blowout. BP and Halliburton are still battling over responsibility for the disaster in a New Orleans federal courtroom.
WSJ: Student Drought Hits Smaller Universities
Enrollment rates for numerous smaller and lesser-known colleges and universities are falling this year, due to a decline in the U.S. college-age population, years of rising tuition, increasing popularity of Internet courses and a weak job market for recent graduates. After decades of growth, college enrollment nationally dropped 2.3% this spring, compared with spring 2012, according to a report released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The decline is poised to continue. The number of U.S. high-school graduates peaked at 3.4 million in 2010-2011 and is projected to fall to 3.2 million by 2013-14, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. The dip in graduates has been particularly pronounced in the Midwest and South.
SEE ALSO: NYT: College Enrollment Falls as Economy Recovers
NYT: U.S. Prison Populations Decline, Reflecting New Approach to Crime
The prison population in the United States dropped in 2012 for the third consecutive year, according to federal statistics released on Thursday, in what criminal justice experts said was the biggest decline in the nation’s recent history, signaling a shift away from an almost four-decade policy of mass imprisonment. The number of inmates in state and federal prisons decreased by 1.7 percent, to an estimated 1,571,013 in 2012 from 1,598,783 in 2011, according to figures released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an arm of the Justice Department.
CNN: Obama touts economic agenda, GOP says he's 'all sizzle, no steak'
For the third time in two days, President Obama left Washington on Thursday to deliver the message that it's time for politicians to refocus on economic policies that help the middle class. Promising to deliver more speeches throughout the fall on issues like home ownership and education, the president criticized his opponents in congress for trying to defund his domestic priorities.
SEE ALSO: WX Post: White House hardens stance on budget cuts ahead of showdown with Republicans
CNN: U.S. opts not to define Egypt ouster as a coup; tensions rise ahead of planned protests
The Obama administration will not make a formal determination as to whether the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy by the military was a coup, a senior administration official told CNN's Jill Dougherty on Thursday. A coup determination would force the United States to end military aid to Egypt.
SEE ALSO: The Hill: Senators rebel against Obama on Egypt 'coup'
WSJ: Holder Targets Texas in New Voting-Rights Push
The Obama administration moved to retain some oversight of the way states conduct elections after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, setting up a new fight with Republican governors. The legal strategy, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday, is directed initially at Texas' voting procedures, but it promises to have much broader impact: The action in Texas, Mr. Holder said, "will not be our last." Other states expected to receive Justice Department scrutiny include South Carolina, North Carolina and Alaska.
HuffPost: Obama Hosts Ramadan Dinner At White House
President Barack Obama saluted Muslim Americans on Thursday for their contributions in helping build the nation as business entrepreneurs, technology innovators and pioneers in medicine. Obama spoke at a White House dinner he hosted to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The meal, or iftar, breaks the day of fasting when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
CNN: Potential Fed nomination gets support from Democrats
The potential nomination of Janet Yellen to serve as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve is gaining traction on Capitol Hill. Three Democratic senators signed a letter encouraging President Barack Obama to nominate the current vice chair of the Fed and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers to the post, according to Senate aides. Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Tom Harkin of Iowa added their names to the letter, according to Democratic Senate aides, as has Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, according to a Democratic Senate source. On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voiced her support for Yellen, who would be the first woman to serve in the post if nominated and confirmed.
SEE ALSO: Reuters: Opposition mounts to Summers as possible Fed chief
CNN: Citing Castro, new bill would strip rapists of custody rights
After a judge denied Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro’s request to see the 6-year-old daughter authorities say he fathered with one of his victims, a bill introduced on Capitol Hill earlier this week would strip convicted rapists of their parental privileges and custody nationwide. Called the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, the bill would incentivize legal initiatives on the state level to help women secure full custody of children conceived through rape.
CNN: GOP shuns hearing where homeland nominee denies wrongdoing
At a hearing on Thursday that Republicans didn't attend, the nominee for the No. 2 job at the Department of Homeland Security strongly denied reported allegations he helped obtain a special visa for an international investor. Alejandro Mayorkas told Democrats on a Senate panel considering his nomination by President Barack Obama that he was unaware of being under investigation by a government inspector general until media reports emerged this week.
SEE ALSO: WSJ: DHS Nominee Says He Followed the Law
The Hill: The FBI has flown drones ten times in US
The FBI revealed to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that it has flown drones in U.S. airspace ten times since 2006. In a letter released by Paul on Thursday, Stephen Kelly, the FBI's director of legislative affairs, said that the agency uses drones in "very limited circumstances" for aerial surveillance. None of the drones are armed with either lethal or non-lethal weapons, Kelly said. Eight of the times the FBI used drones were for criminal cases and two of the times were for national security.
Politico: GOP feuds over Obamacare tactics
A brewing Republican versus Republican fight over whether to use a government funding measure to choke off Obamacare is splitting the party ahead of this fall’s budget battles. A growing number of Republicans are rejecting calls from leading conservatives, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, to defund the president’s health care law in the resolution to keep the government running past Sept. 30. The rift exposes an emerging divide over how the GOP can best achieve its No. 1 goal — to repeal Obamacare — while highlighting the spreading fears that Republicans would lose a public relations war if the dispute leads to a government shutdown in the fall.
Reuters: Farm bill on hold while House tries again on food stamp cuts
The Republican-controlled House will try to cut billions of dollars from the food stamp program before negotiating an overall farm bill with the Senate, the House majority leader said on Thursday two months before the current farm law expires. Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the House "eventually" would open final-round discussions with the Senate on a farm bill that could cost $100 billion a year.
SEE ALSO: Politico: The Cantor-Boehner farm bill two-step
CNN: Hillary Clinton didn't know close friend and adviser Huma Abedin would speak out
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had no advance knowledge that her longtime friend and adviser, Huma Abedin, would speak out on behalf of her husband, Anthony Weiner, according to two sources with knowledge. A longtime aide to Clinton, Abedin began working for her as a White House intern in 1996 and eventually became the former first lady's traveling chief of staff – or "body man" – during her campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. When Clinton became secretary of state, Abedin served as a top aide. She remains an informal Clinton adviser.
CNN: San Diego Democrats call on mayor to resign over sexual misconduct claims
Local Democratic leaders called on San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to resign over allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward several women. The San Diego County Democratic Party voted 34-6 Thursday in its second meeting in a week to discuss the claims. Seven women have said they were targets of the mayor's advances, including four who came forward Thursday in an interview with KPBS-TV News.
CNN: Christie: NSA critics should talk to 9/11 families
Opponents of government spying programs should talk to families who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at a Republican governors forum Thursday. Asked about the influence of libertarian-minded leaders in the GOP – including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky – Christie said that when it comes to national security, those who oppose National Security Agency programs that monitor Americans' electronic activity were just wrong.
SEE ALSO: Associated Press: Muted after 9/11, NSA critics find their voice
HuffPost: Liz Cheney Announces Senate Campaign Team
Liz Cheney announced a core group of state leaders and advisers for her U.S. Senate campaign Thursday that draws from all corners of Wyoming and includes well-known Republican campaign organizers and fundraisers, but no prominent elected officials. The list shows political lines being drawn among Wyoming Republicans ahead of what could turn out to be the longest, toughest and most expensive political battle the state has ever seen.
Politico: Wendy Davis continues D.C. fundraising push
One month after Wendy Davis’s abortion bill filibuster, congressional Democrats on Thursday feted the Texas state senator as she swung through Washington to raise cash. At a smaller-dollar evening fundraiser here, Davis met supporters and trained her fire on the Republicans who govern her state. But by all available accounts, the subject of recent state and national Democratic enthusiasm has not decided what she will do in 2014: Defend her seat in the state legislature or launch an underdog bid for statewide office. Asked whether Davis had signaled her plans in a closed-door fundraiser on Thursday morning, blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said: “She didn’t, but I did. I told her she should run for governor.”
CNN: Closing arguments: prosecutors say Manning acted selfishly
Bradley Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst charged with the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, acted selfishly and gathered sensitive information in Iraq with the goal of sending it to WikiLeaks, the prosecution said in closing arguments at his court martial on Thursday. Maj. Ashden Fein said in his three-hour summation that Manning was not interested in obeying the oaths and non-disclosure agreements he swore to before going to Iraq. He also indicated that Manning did all of it knowing that enemies of the United States, including al Qaeda, would be able to access the information.
CNN: Top Marine’s alleged comments in Taliban desecration case draw scrutiny
A senior Marine general said in an extraordinary sworn statement obtained by CNN that the head of the corps wanted several Marines kicked out of the service for their alleged roles in urinating on Taliban corpses – even before any charges were brought. Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser told military authorities in the sworn statement on Tuesday that he had a private meeting in February 2012 with Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, who had just named him to lead the investigation and possible prosecution.
Associated Press: Syrian opposition urges US to provide weapons fast
The leader of Syria's Western-backed opposition group told U.S. Secretary John Kerry on Thursday that the United States must quickly supply rebels with promised weapons to prevent a military victory by President Bashar Assad's regime. Ahmad Al-Jarba, in a statement sent out while he was still meeting with Kerry at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, called the situation in Syria "desperate" and said the opposition urgently needs American action "to push the international community to demand a political transition."
SEE ALSO: WX Post: Kerry presses Syrians to commit to peace talks in first U.N. visit as top U.S. diplomat
LA Times: Email 'phishing' attacks by hackers growing in number, intensity
Nearly every incident of online espionage in 2012 involved some sort of a phishing attack, according to a survey compiled by Verizon Communications Inc., the nation's largest wireless carrier. Several recent breaches at financial institutions, media outlets and in the video game industry have started with someone's log-in information being entered on a false website that was linked to in an email.
NYT: Spy Agencies Under Heaviest Scrutiny Since Abuse Scandal of the ’70s
American intelligence agencies, which experienced a boom in financing and public support in the decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, have entered a period of broad public scrutiny and skepticism with few precedents since the exposure of spying secrets and abuses led to the historic investigation by the Senate’s Church Committee nearly four decades ago. On three fronts — interrogation, drone strikes and now electronic surveillance — critics inside and outside Congress have challenged the intelligence establishment, accusing officials of overreaching, misleading the public and covering up abuse and mistakes.
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Zimmerman juror to ABC: He 'got away with murder'
A juror in the George Zimmerman trial says she feels the man who killed Trayvon Martin "got away with murder." "George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can't get away from God. And at the end of the day, he's going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with," Juror B29 told ABC, according to an article posted on the network's website Thursday. "(But) the law couldn't prove it." The juror, who used only her first name of Maddy out of concerns for her safety, told ABC that she and others on the panel felt Zimmerman was guilty, but that wasn't enough.
SEE ALSO: NPR: After Zimmerman Verdict, Activists Face A New, Tougher Fight
WSJ: Surgeons Eyed Over Deals With Medical-Device Makers
The Department of Justice is investigating Dr. Sabit because it has emerged that he had an ownership interest in the company that distributed, and profited from, the surgical devices he switched to, people familiar with the matter say. Federal prosecutors' scrutiny of Dr. Sabit is part of a broader civil investigation into a network of physician-owned spinal-implant distributorships operated by two former medical-device company employees, the people with knowledge of the matter say. This network, which was run out of Utah and comprised at least 11 physician-owned distributorships in six states, generated tens of millions of dollars in profits for its investors over six years.
NYT: Roberts’s Picks Reshaping Secret Surveillance Court
The recent leaks about government spying programs have focused attention on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and its role in deciding how intrusive the government can be in the name of national security. Less mentioned has been the person who has been quietly reshaping the secret court: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. In making assignments to the court, Chief Justice Roberts, more than his predecessors, has chosen judges with conservative and executive branch backgrounds that critics say make the court more likely to defer to government arguments that domestic spying programs are necessary.
USA Today: FEMA denies aid to religious groups hit by Sandy
Whether it be an overdue rent bill, a warm coat or a bag full of groceries, Project Paul has been there for Bayshore residents for more than 30 years. But when the Keansburg-based religious charity went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for financial assistance after Superstorm Sandy caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages, officials say they got the run-around.
BusinessWeek: Homeland Security's Future Home: A Former Mental Hospital
Today, DHS has 240,000 employees and a yearly budget of $60 billion. There have been some improvements at the third-largest federal agency. FEMA has reacted much more swiftly in subsequent disasters, most recently Hurricane Sandy. The Obama administration has been able to resist the temptation to reward less-than-qualified political supporters with jobs at the agency. Yet DHS is hardly a smooth-running operation. It’s plagued by low morale. In 2012, the Partnership for Public Service ranked DHS at the bottom of its list of the best places to work in the federal government, based on a survey of how employees feel about their respective agencies.
CNN: N.C. abortion bill passes Senate, heads to governor
North Carolina's Senate passed a restrictive abortion bill Thursday, and it now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory, who is expected to sign it. The bill was passed by North Carolina's House of Representatives this month. The bill would place requirements on clinics that family planning advocates say would make it hard for them to stay in business. Among the requirements is the presence of a doctor when an abortion is being performed. The bill would also allow North Carolina's health department to make temporary new rules for the state's 31 abortion clinics as it sees fit.
NYT: Californians Consider a Future Without a Nuclear Plant for a Neighbor
Residents of this quiet Orange County beach community often all but forgot about the hulking nuclear plant just south of the city limits. But reminders, while infrequent, were jarring. The governor’s office mailed residents potassium iodide pills, to take in case of a radioactive leak. Emergency sirens occasionally sounded in the middle of the night (false alarms, residents were told). And anyone who drove south out of town was confronted with the plant’s looming twin domes. But after nearly half a century living with a radioactive neighbor, San Clemente is now adjusting to a future without the San Onofre nuclear power plant, whose proximity has long shaped life here in ways big and small.
The Detroit News: Charter schools multiplying in Mich. as more families opt out of public school
While enrollment in traditional public schools has fallen in Michigan over the past two decades, charter school enrollment has increased more than 500 percent since the first school in the state opened in the mid-1990s. The state had less than 4,500 students in 41 charter schools in 1995; more than 130,000 children attended 277 charter schools this past year. Despite their growing popularity, charter schools continue to spark debate among educators, advocacy groups and lawmakers who oversee funding for the state’s public schools.
Portland Press Herald: Mainer in space discusses dramatic rescue, missing home
Cassidy, who grew up in York and still has family in Maine, and fellow astronaut Karen Nyberg spoke to the Portland Press Herald via video conference Thursday as the space station passed over Texas. They talked about life in space, staying in touch with their families, scientific experiments, and less weighty things such as washing hair in zero gravity and missing the smell of freshly cut grass. Cassidy also spoke about the dramatic spacewalk that made international news this month.
CNN: 80 dead in Spain crash; video catches train's final moments
The train races into view, and in the space of a heartbeat, the cars derail and crash into a wall of concrete, flipping onto their sides and skidding along the track with terrifying speed and force. Security footage shows the horror of the moment an express train derailed as it hurtled around a curve in northwestern Spain on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the Spanish government in the Galicia region, speaking on routine condition of anonymity, confirmed 80 people have died in the crash.
CNN: Tunisian opposition leader shot dead outside his home
A Tunisian opposition leader was fatally shot outside his home Thursday, setting off protests in a nation still raw from the February assassination of another politician who opposed the Islamist-led governing party. The slaying of Mohammed Al-Brahmi and the public's reaction are the latest bout of turmoil striking the North African country that had been seen as a poster child of stability after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Reuters: Egypt braces for rival rallies, army signals crackdown
A deeply polarized Egypt braced for bloodshed on Friday in rival mass rallies summoned by the army that ousted the state's first freely elected president and by the Islamists who back him. Both sides warned of a decisive struggle for the future of the Arab world's most populous country, convulsed by political and economic turmoil since the 2011 uprising that ended 30 years of autocratic rule by Hosni Mubarak.
WATCH: VIDEO CNN: Who's really running Egypt?
BBC: Japan military 'needs marines and drones'
Japan should bolster its marine force and introduce surveillance drones, a defense review paper says, highlighting concerns over China and North Korea. Units that could be dispatched quickly to remote islands were needed, the document said, and equipment to detect "at an early stage signs of changes in the security situation". The report comes amid ongoing tensions with China over disputed islands. It also flagged up the need for better defenses against missile attacks.
NYT: Hamas Closes News Media Outlets
Hamas, the Islamist militant group controlling the Gaza Strip, closed news media offices and a television production company on Thursday for what it called the spreading of false reports and working for Israeli television. The offices belonged to the Al Arabiya news channel, which is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and to Maan, a Palestinian news agency based in Bethlehem, West Bank. Hamas also shut down a local production company called Lens because it had provided broadcast services to I24 News, a new channel based in Israel that broadcasts in Arabic, English and French.
BBC: New Australia asylum policy 'troubling': UNHCR
Australia's new asylum policy lacks "adequate protection standards for asylum seekers", the UN says. Under the new policy, boatpeople headed to Australia will have their claims processed by Papua New Guinea (PNG), and be resettled there if successful. However, the UN High Commission for Refugees said there were "significant shortcomings" in PNG's legal system for processing asylum seekers. Thousands of asylum-seekers try to reach Australia by boat every year.
CNNMoney: Samsung's record profit isn't good enough
Sometimes even your best performance just isn't good enough. Samsung is learning that difficult lesson Friday after reporting a record profit that nonetheless fell short of investor expectations.
Bloomberg: Singapore Home Prices Climb to Record as Loan Curbs Imposed
Singapore home prices climbed to a record in the second quarter as gains in suburban housing values accelerated, prompting the government to implement new measures on property loans. The island-state’s private residential property price index rose 1 percent to 215.4 points in the three months ended June 30, extending a 0.6 percent increase in the first quarter, according to revised figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority today. The pace of gains in prices in the suburbs more than doubled from the previous three months.
WSJ: SAC Hit With Criminal Case
U.S. prosecutors accused SAC Capital Advisors LP, one of the country's largest hedge-fund firms, of acting as a criminal enterprise where executives including founder Steven A. Cohen encouraged insider trading on a "scale without known precedent." The government charged that SAC, which has about $14 billion under management, repeatedly took inside information related to public companies and turned it into trading profits. Prosecutors said the firm encouraged the use of illegal tips and hired traders even after they "implied" their performance was based on the use of inside information.
CNBC: Coffee-bean growers take a roasting
As you sip that hazelnut latte with a light dusting of cinnamon, spare a thought for the coffee-bean growers who helped to bring it to your lips. Prices for the choicest arabica beans are now into a third year of declines, with little prospect of a fundamental reversal. But costs for labor, fuel and fertilizer keep rising – leaving producers from Kenya to Costa Rica struggling to break even. As always, the industry itself is to blame.
BusinessWeek: Cadillac's Changing Face: Losing the Laurel?
Cadillac is considering changing its logo, dropping the laurel wreath that surrounds the crest of General Motors’ luxury brand. News of the logo change, reported by Automotive News, brings up an odd fact about laurel wreaths: You don’t see a lot of them around anymore. The only brand that comes to mind is tennis wear label Fred Perry. But if you’re a luxury automaker, you need to be modern.