CNN Washington AM Note
June 25th, 2013
06:11 AM ET
9 years ago

CNN Washington AM Note


CNN: Russian Foreign Minister rejects U.S accusations regarding Snowden as baseless

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia had no connection to U.S fugitive Edward Snowden.  Speaking at a joint press conference with the Algerian foreign minister in Moscow, Lavrov said:  "I want to say, right away, that we have nothing to do with Mr Snowden, or his movements around the world.  Snowden did not cross the Russian border and United States accusations of Russia with regard to Snowden case are totally baseless".


WSJ: Charter Schools Receive a Passing Grade

Students attending publicly funded, privately run charter schools posted slightly higher learning gains overall in reading than their peers in traditional public schools and about the same gains in math, but the results varied drastically by state, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of U.S. charter schools. The study, published Tuesday by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter students in Rhode Island, for example, gained the equivalent of an additional 86 days of reading comprehension and 108 days of math comprehension annually compared with peers in traditional public schools. In Nevada, however, charter students had 115 fewer days of learning in reading and 137 fewer in math annually, the study found. Overall, the new study found that charter students gained an additional eight days of reading, while the math gains were identical. Low-income Hispanic and African-American students did much better in charters than their peers in the traditional school option, while white children did worse in charters.

CBS: Study: Most Americans unhappy at work

Only 30 percent of American employees feel engaged or inspired at their jobs and the vast majority of U.S. workers - 70 percent - are not reaching their full potential, a Gallup study concluded. The 2013 State of the American Workplace Report estimates that widespread disinterest and unhappiness in the office is not only affecting company performance, but is costing the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion a year. Through thousands of questionnaires sent to employees, Gallup determined whether America's 100 million full-time workers were "engaged," "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" at their jobs.


CNN: Obama to push for changes on existing power plants

President Barack Obama will call for new standards on existing power plants in a speech Tuesday, according to senior administration officials. The move will represent a major turning point in efforts to combat climate change and will likely please environmental activists who've been calling on the president to issue such regulations on coal plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States. "There's no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change. But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can," Obama said in a video released Saturday, announcing his upcoming speech.

BuzzFeed: Protesters Prepare To Greet Obama On The Day Of His Big Climate Change Speech

President Obama will not escape Keystone XL protesters Tuesday even as he unveils a raft of climate change proposals designed to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions. The scene outside Obama’s big climate speech at Georgetown University that the White House has been advertising since Saturday will be a perfect microcosm of the environmental movement’s feelings about Obama: grateful but wanting more., a climate change advocacy group that’s been been a part of some of the more strident protests over Keystone that have included arrests and other cvil disobedience, will dial it back a bit Tuesday in an action outside Obama’s speech and actually show the White House some love.

WSJ: Obama Base Vexed by Pace of Agenda

Revelations about secret surveillance programs are adding to strains between President Barack Obama and core backers who already were testy about progress on Democratic legislative goals. Liberal activists and lawmakers say they want more forceful action from the president to create jobs and curb the pollutants that contribute to global warming, in addition to doing more to rein in government surveillance. Some are also unhappy about the compromises being made to pass an immigration bill moving through the Senate, pointing to proposals they say would "militarize" the southern border as the price for building political support in the Senate for providing a path to citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally.

CNN: This message brought to you by President Obama and the NFL

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Obama administration may be teaming up with the National Football League to educate Americans about Obamacare, CNN confirmed. Sebelius said Monday the league and a "variety of sports affiliates" have been "very actively and enthusiastically engaged" with the administration in discussions about how to promote the health care insurance plans, which Americans can start signing up for in October. "We know the Red Sox were incredibly effective in Massachusetts … so it's a logical place to go," she told reporters Monday while unveiling the administration's new campaign to raise awareness about health care reform. Sebelius' comments were first reported by The Hill. In 2007, the Red Sox paired up with the agency that was overseeing the commonwealth's new universal health care insurance program, using television ads to urge Red Sox Nation to sign up for insurance.

Politico: Obama in the doldrums

Not yet six months into his second term, Barack Obama’s presidency is in a dead zone. A combination of familiar Washington intransigence and a more recent run of bad news and political setbacks have left him with less influence over his circumstances — and more buffeted by factors beyond his control — than at any time in his five years in office. But in a damning appraisal, a wide variety of congressional Democrats and presidential scholars said in interviews that there is another decisive factor behind Obama’s current paralysis: his own failure to use the traditional tools of the presidency to exert his will. Obama does not instill fear — one of the customary instruments of presidential power. Five years of experience, say lawmakers of both parties, have demonstrated that there is not a huge political or personal cost to be paid for crossing the president.

ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama's second term could look like his first

Reuters: On trip to Africa, Obama must play catch up

It is a comparison President Barack Obama may not relish: when it comes to Africa, he's no Bill Clinton. Or even George W. Bush for that matter. Obama makes his first extended trip to Africa on Wednesday. After the sky-high expectations raised by his election in 2008, Obama now faces the prospect of trying to convince Africans that the United States has vital interests there that it intends to safeguard and pursue. "The African leaders, the African public have been wondering where the U.S. president has been," said Ben Leo, global policy director for the anti-poverty group ONE. "This trip has been designed to address some of those perceptions, those concerns, hopefully reset the engagement trajectory over next couple of years." Obama's trip risks being overshadowed by the deteriorating health of South Africa's national hero and revered former leader, Nelson Mandela, who is approaching his 95th birthday.


CNN: Immigration reform passes key Senate test

The Senate signaled its support on Monday for a bipartisan measure strengthening border security in the comprehensive "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill, a sweeping blueprint that promises to overhaul America's immigration policies for the first time since 1986. The 67-to-27 vote was considered a key test of support for the bill as a whole, as the measure also includes language echoing most other parts of the legislation. The Senate kept the vote open for a significant amount of time for lawmakers who experienced travel delays due to bad weather in Washington. Some senators did not make it in time. Supporters needed at least 60 votes to move forward with the revised border security provisions, which were drafted partly to boost GOP support for the overall package.

Bloomberg: Senators to Introduce Bill to End Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators plans today to introduce a proposal to replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a new government reinsurer. The bill, to be offered by Senators Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, and Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, reflects a prevailing view among lawmakers that the two government-sponsored enterprises should cease to exist while some government role to back mortgage lending should remain. The senators scheduled a news conference for 2:15 p.m. today to introduce the legislation. “There is a bipartisan effort here that’s thoughtful and it is without question the most thorough Congressional effort to draft a GSE reform legislation to date,” David Stevens, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in an interview. According to a draft copy of the revised 154-page bill, the senators have reduced the losses that lenders would take on bad mortgages during a financial crisis.

The Hill: Sen. Grassley questions gap in emails from political intelligence probe   

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding that the Obama administration explain a four-hour gap in emails that he requested as part of his investigation into the political intelligence industry. In a letter sent Monday and obtained exclusively by The Hill, Grassley questioned Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner about a period of inactivity in the agency’s email records from March 22. “There is an unusual four hour gap in time when CMS provided no employee emails. On May 29, my staff asked CMS for an explanation of the four-hour gap in time. To date, CMS has offered no official explanation,” he wrote. Grassley is investigating suspicious trading in healthcare stocks in the days before the CMS announced a plan to reverse proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage, which are managed by private insurers.


CNN: IRS targeting included liberal groups

The Internal Revenue Service targeted liberal groups as well as conservatives seeking tax-exempt status, a Democratic congressman charged on Monday after the agency acknowledged the inappropriate practice continued until last month. Rep. Sander Levin said the term "progressives" was included on IRS screening lists of applicants for tax-exempt status made available to Congress on Monday. It was the first confirmation that the "Be on the Lookout" or BOLO lists used criteria targeting liberal groups after an inspector general's report made public last month said the IRS had used words such as "tea party" to determine possible extra scrutiny. …Daniel Werfel, the IRS acting commissioner, provided no details of what inappropriate criteria were on the lists, but said "there was a wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum." The practice of using BOLO lists in considering tax-exempt applications has been suspended, Werfel told reporters.

CNN: History not likely to repeat itself in Massachusetts Senate election

Here we go again. For the second time in three years, Massachusetts voters head to the polls Tuesday in a special U.S. Senate election with national implications. But this time around, low turnout could be the deciding factor. In January 2010, little-known Republican state Sen. Scott Brown upset Martha Coakley, the Commonwealth's Democratic attorney general, in a special election to fill the remainder of the term of longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died the previous summer. Fast forward to present day and Gabriel Gomez, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, is hoping to follow in Brown's footsteps. Gomez is the GOP nominee and the underdog against 20-term Democratic Rep. Ed Markey in Tuesday's special election. The winner will serve the remaining year and a half of the term of longtime Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who stepped down earlier this year to become secretary of state.

National Review: Bolton Plans a Tour of Early-Primary States

Watch out, Rand Paul. As Paul, a Kentucky senator, plans for a 2016 presidential run, he is talking up his views on foreign policy, which, broadly speaking, include less intervention in foreign conflicts and a smaller military budget. But Paul’s positions and rapid ascent have alarmed many Republican hawks. Behind the scenes, they’re worried that he has a shot at the nomination. Enter John Bolton. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is being encouraged by several leading conservative power brokers to consider a presidential bid. Bolton, who briefly considered running for president in 2012, hasn’t made up his mind. But sources tell me that he is moving closer to giving the idea serious consideration — serious enough to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire.

Politico: Ralph Nader outlines 2016 plan

Ralph Nader insists that he’s done with his own presidential races, but he still has some plans for 2016. “I’m going to find at least ten enlightened billionaires or multibillionaires and I’m going to have a criteria. Have they spoken out about where they think the country is going? And are they worried about it? And have they done things reflecting some sort of civic enlightenment and courage? And are they able to communicate? Obviously, they have the money. And I’m going to encourage them to run.” Nader says he’s fine if these billionaires don’t go the third party route, saying he wants to “break up this insipid, dull trist where the two parties are dialing for the same dollars. … They also make reporters like you yawn like crazy, trying to cover redundancy year after year, tinged with overwhelming trivia.” Clinton in 2016? No thank you, says Nader.

NY Post: Loaded mayor’s gun grab: NYC $$ targets Nevada

Mayor Bloomberg is spending city cash and resources on his pet project to toughen US gun laws through his national organization, The Post has learned. City employee Christopher Kocher was sent to Nevada as a representative of Mayors Against Illegal Guns to lobby for a bill that enforces background checks on all firearm sales in that state. But Kocher, who works as a special counsel to the mayor’s office, apparently didn’t want his role to be known and scrubbed his City Hall e-mail address from the state of Nevada lobbying-registration Web site early this month. “It doesn’t seem kosher to me,” said Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “It’s hard to see how gun control in Nevada makes the city safer in New York.” The billionaire mayor has dumped his own money into the advocacy group, his primary vehicle for promoting stronger gun-control laws around the country. A Bloomberg aide argued that city governments frequently lobby state and national leaders to push legislation related to the city’s well-being for issues ranging from mass transit to health care.


CNN: In high stakes hide-and-seek, Snowden keeps much of the world guessing

In this high stakes game of hide-and-seek, Edward Snowden appears to have the upper hand. The exact whereabouts of the computer contractor who leaked secret information about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs are unknown. Journalists, government officials and social media users around the world are busy trying to pinpoint his location. And the White House is demanding that any country he enters give him up so he can face espionage charges in the United States. But so far, he's staying below the radar. A flight from Moscow to Havana that Snowden was reportedly set to board took off Monday packed with journalists, including a CNN team, but without the 30-year-old American they were all hoping to interview.

ALSO SEE: South China Morning Post: Snowden sought Booz Allen job to gather evidence on NSA surveillance

WATCH: VIDEO – In interview with CNN, Secretary of State John Kerry defends U.S. efforts to secure Edward Snowden's return.

CNN: Presidential palace comes under attack in Kabul

A group of attackers stormed the entrance to the presidential palace in Kabul early Tuesday - but they were quickly repelled, Afghan police said. Three guards died in the attack and another was injured, the interior ministry said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault. All attackers were killed, said U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham in a statement, condemning the attack. He called on the Taliban to cease violence and "come to the table to talk to the Afghanistan government about peace and reconciliation." The palace is located in the Shash Darak district of Kabul, near the U.S. embassy and the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force.

ALSO SEE: Reuters: Afghan Taliban attack in Kabul throws peace talks into further doubt

Der Spiegel: Exodus: Afghan Diplomats Defect as Western Withdrawal Nears

The situation in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly precarious that Afghan diplomats no longer want to return to their homeland. Up to 100 foreign service employees set for rotation back to Kabul from assignments abroad have now defected. A total of 105 Afghani diplomats were meant to report for duty at the Foreign Ministry in Kabul on Saturday. They were being rotated out of their foreign postings as scheduled, and it was time to return to headquarters. Yet just five of them have resurfaced. The others have apparently remained in the countries where they had been posted, among them several employees of the Afghan Embassy in Berlin. Sources at the Afghan Foreign Ministry have informed SPIEGEL ONLINE that embassy staff members have said they would apply for asylum in their respective host countries or at least apply for an extension of their service until the presidential election in spring 2014.

WaPo: For Kerry, little new traction as yet another visit to Israel awaits

Secretary of State John F. Kerry has been unable to win quick agreement for new peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and as he returns to Israel this week, the sense of momentum surrounding his signature effort is fading. Kerry had hoped to announce earlier this month that both sides were ready to return to the negotiating table after a lull lasting most of the past five years. He never set a firm deadline but had asked both sides in the spring to give him a couple of months to get talks going. He will use his fifth visit to Israel as secretary this week to keep up the pressure, but he comes with little new traction.

ALSO SEE: Jerusalem Post: Israel smiles as EU voices full support for Kerry


CNNMoney: Big money at stake in same-sex marriage ruling

The Supreme Court could decide the financial fate of thousands of same-sex couples this week. A decision on the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, is expected to be announced as soon as Tuesday. If the act is overturned, married same-sex couples in a dozen states will become eligible for more than 1,000 spousal benefits that are currently off limits. The case challenging DOMA was filed on behalf of 83-year old New Yorker Edith Windsor, who sued to get back the $363,000 in estate taxes she paid when her wife of more than 40 years died - a tax bill she wouldn't owe if she had been married to a man.

NYT: U.S. Civil Charges Against Corzine Are Seen as Near

Federal regulators are poised to sue Jon S. Corzine over the collapse of MF Global and the brokerage firm’s misuse of customer money during its final days, a blowup that rattled Wall Street and cast a spotlight on Mr. Corzine, the former New Jersey governor who ran the firm until its bankruptcy in 2011. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulated MF Global, plans to approve the lawsuit as soon as this week, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case. In a rare move against a Wall Street executive, the agency has informed Mr. Corzine’s lawyers that it aims to file the civil case without offering him the opportunity to settle, setting up a legal battle that could drag on for years.

CNN: U.S. stops sale of Picasso painting valued at $11.5 million

The United States obtained a restraining order Monday to block the sale of a painting by Pablo Picasso valued at an estimated $11.5 million at the request of the Italian government, the Justice Department announced. The case involves a 1909 work by Picasso known as "Compotier et tasse" which had been offered for private sale in New York. American officials obtained a restraining order blocking any sale and preventing the painting from being moved after Italian authorities asked for help in connection to the prosecution of Gabriella Amati. She and her late husband, Angelo Maj, were charged by Italian prosecutors with embezzlement and fraud. The couple allegedly worked with an official for the city of Naples and embezzled approximately $44 million of the city's tax revenues, according to Italian court documents.

CNN: 'Whitey' Bulger says he's not a snitch, but FBI file tells a different story

Reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger slouched uncharacteristically in his chair Monday, muttering "I'm not (a) f***ing informant." But his 700-page FBI file and informant card show otherwise - that Bulger provided information on murders, drug deals, armed robberies and criminal fugitives, leading to several arrests. Bulger ratted on La Cosa Nostra, rival gangs and seemingly anyone - except those in his small, immediate circle known as the Winter Hill gang. According to entries in his informant file, Bulger knew he could get away with it and even told his FBI handler he was more likely to be killed by "gangland warfare" than because he was informant since "no one would believe it." Bulger also defended what he called the "professionalism" of the FBI.


Austin American Statesman: Filibuster planned after Senate fails to bring up abortion bill

A sleep-deprived Texas House approved tougher abortion regulations Monday morning after an emotional all-night session, shifting the scene to the Senate, where Republicans spent the day scrambling to thwart a planned Democratic filibuster of the sweeping bill. Senate Democrats, however, united to defeat two attempts by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to speed passage of Senate Bill 5, placing the abortion measure in danger of slipping through Republicans’ fingers while also jeopardizing two other special-session measures — including one to increase spending on highways.

ALSO SEE: HuffPo: Jodie Laubenberg, Texas GOP Lawmaker, Suggests Rape Kits Can Give Abortions

LA Times: Gov. Jerry Brown submits plan, unwillingly, to reduce inmates

Gov. Jerry Brown has asked lawmakers for money to move thousands of inmates out of crowded state prisons, even as he appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court to make such a step unnecessary. The governor sent the Legislature a request for $450 million over the next two years to lease up to 4,100 beds in county jails and private prisons and to continue shipping 8,500 inmates to other states. He also proposes allowing inmates to earn more credit for time served by working at firefighting camps or completing classes. And he would allow more prisoners to qualify for medical parole or elder release. The proposed changes are aimed at meeting a federal court order to cut the prison population by 9,600 inmates by the end of the year.

Richmond Times Dispatch: McDonnell says he reimburses state for family’s personal expenses

Gov. Bob McDonnell isn’t happy about news reports that suggest he hasn’t reimbursed the state for his family’s personal expenses. In remarks after a public appearance Monday at St. Joseph’s Villa in Henrico County, McDonnell called some of the published allegations “false” and “misleading.” “Some of these stories are highly misleading and disappointing,” he said. The first family’s use of the Executive Mansion also has been called into question as part of a criminal prosecution of former mansion chef Todd Schneider, who has been charged with four counts of embezzlement for allegedly taking state-paid food for use in his personal catering business.

Seattle Times: Awaiting budget deal, 26,000 state workers face potential layoffs

State agencies began sending out notices Monday to 26,000 state workers, warning of potential layoffs, while legislators raced to strike a budget deal to prevent that from actually happening. Democratic and Republican negotiators said Monday that all the major hurdles had been cleared and that an agreement in principal on a two-year budget was only hours away. Gov. Jay Inslee’s office last week said roughly two-thirds of all state agencies and boards and commissions would be partially or completely closed if the current budget expires June 30 without a new one to take its place. The governor’s budget office has warned that a shutdown, among other things, would force the state to close parks, suspend state-subsidized child care and cut off a variety of state-paid medical services.


Reuters: EU hopes for agreement to delay Turkey membership talks

European Union ministers said they were hopeful of reaching an agreement on Tuesday that would delay reviving membership talks with Turkey to signal European concerns over Ankara's handling of weeks of protests. Germany, backed by several other states, has blocked an EU proposal to open a new chapter, or policy area, in slow-moving membership talks with Turkey on Wednesday because it believes it would send the wrong signal so soon after the crackdown. On Monday, Berlin proposed delaying the formal opening of the new chapter with Turkey by about four months to signal EU displeasure over the response to the protests. A delay in opening the new chapter would raise new doubts about whether Turkey, a largely Muslim country of 76 million people, will ever be admitted to the European club.

BBC: Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff promises major reforms

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has proposed a referendum on political reforms in an effort to tackle protests that have swept the country. She also promised to boost spending on public transport and focus on health and education as part of what she called "five pacts" with the people. She later met regional mayors and governors, who agreed to her plans. But some activists promised to carry on with the largest protests Brazil has seen for at least two decades. Mayara Longo Vivian, a leader of the Free Fare Movement, said the president had offered no concrete measures and that the "fight would continue". On Monday evening, there were fresh demonstrations in several cities, although they appeared to be smaller than those that led to clashes with police last week.

ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: Rising middle class fuels Brazil's protests

Daily Star: U.S. Embassy sends warning after Sidon clashes

The United States Embassy in Beirut reiterated its travel warning to all of Lebanon Monday night after intense fighting shook the country over the weekend. “Demonstrations, and family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire and other violence with little or no warning,” the warning said. It came two days after gunbattles in the southern city of Sidon between loyalists of Salafist Sheikh Ahmad Assir and the Army left dozens dead and many more wounded. For years the U.S. State Department has encouraged citizens to avoid work and travel in Lebanon because of safety concerns.

BBC: Cyber attack hits South Korea websites

South Korea has issued a cyber alert after an apparent hacking attack on government websites. The website of the presidential office was one of several official and media sites hit by an apparently co-ordinated attack on Tuesday morning, reports said. The identity of the hackers was not known, a government statement said. The incident came on the anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, which divided the Korean peninsula.

CNN: Qatar emir transfers power to son in historic transition

Qatar's ruler handed over the reins of the tiny but influential Persian Gulf nation to his son Tuesday - a remarkable development for several reasons. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani's decision to cede power willingly is a first in the modern history of the region. The norm is for Gulf leaders to rule for decades until their death or until circumstances conspire to over throw them, such as the Arab Spring uprisings that did in leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Sheikh Hamad himself came to power in 1995 by overthrowing his father in a coup. The second reason Tuesday's transition is historic is because the son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, now becomes the youngest monarch in the region. He is 33.

Financial Times: Dublin urged to hold inquiry into banking crisis

Dublin is facing fresh calls to hold a public inquiry into its banking crash following the broadcast of a phone call between senior executives at Anglo Irish Bank, which suggests the bank deliberately misled regulators as it sought help during the financial crisis. The taped conversation between Anglo Irish executives John Bowe, head of capital markets, and Peter Fitzgerald director of retail banking, took place three days after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. It reveals how Anglo Irish was seeking €7bn in financial aid from the Central Bank of Ireland even though senior executives knew the bank would need more cash.  “Yeah and that number is seven, but the reality is that actually we need more than that,” said Mr Bowe in the phone call, which was recorded by Anglo Irish’s internal telephone system. “But you know, the strategy here is you pull them in, you get them to write a big cheque and they have to keep – they have to support their money,” he said in the tape, which was obtained and broadcast by the Irish Independent newspaper on Monday.


WSJ: China’s Central Bank Will Keep Interest Rates ‘Reasonable’

A People's Bank of China official said on Tuesday that the central bank will guide interest rates to a "reasonable range," suggesting a potential end to a cash crunch that has gripped the country's financial system this month. Ling Tao, a deputy director of the Shanghai branch of the People's Bank of China, also said at a news briefing in Shanghai that recent interest rate volatility in the nation's money market is temporary. He didn't elaborate on what constituted a reasonable range, though he said the central bank would be flexible in managing interbank liquidity. "Some seasonal factors will gradually disappear," Mr. Ling said.

ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: A wild ride for China stocks

Bloomberg: U.S. FTC Said to Open Probe of Oil Price-Fixing After EU

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission opened a formal investigation into how prices of crude oil and petroleum-derived products are set, mirroring a European Union inquiry, two people familiar with the matter said. The investigation, now in a preliminary stage, will probably broaden into a multi-jurisdictional affair like the inquiry into manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, the people said. FTC investigators are reviewing the progress made by their European counterparts, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. The FTC, which routinely monitors wholesale and retail gasoline prices in the U.S. to look for anticompetitive behavior, agreed with the Justice Department’s antitrust division to handle the probe, said the people. The assignment of the matter to the FTC instead of the Justice Department is an indication that U.S. regulators don’t suspect the conduct they’re scrutinizing is criminal, the people said.

The Hill: Froman: Obama ‘ready to engage’ with Congress on fast track

President Obama is ready to work with Congress to win fast-track trade negotiating authority, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told The Hill on Monday in an exclusive interview. Froman said the negotiating authority “is a critical tool” but doesn’t need to be in place when the U.S. begins talks with the European Union on a $5 trillion trade deal in two weeks. Still, he said the Obama administration is “ready to engage” with lawmakers to hash out the authority, which lapsed during former President George W. Bush’s administration and would allow trade deals to move through Congress without amendments. It will be tougher for Froman to negotiate the EU deal, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Japan and 11 other countries, without fast-track authority. Trading partners are more reluctant to make concessions if they believe a trade deal negotiated by the administration will later be changed by Congress.

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