CNN: Midnight vows: Same-sex couples ring in new lives as law takes effect
They've been a couple for two years and are eager to raise two children together. But it wasn't until Thursday that Holli Bartelt and Amy Petrich were allowed to legally wed. They wasted no time. They made plans to tie the knot one minute after a law permitting gay marriage went into effect in their home state of Minnesota. At 12 a.m. Thursday, Minnesota and Rhode Island officially became the latest among 13 states - and the District of Columbia - to allow same-sex marriage. Both states passed applicable laws in May.
CNN: Sister: Ariel Castro will present 'other side' at sentencing hearing
The Ohio man who imprisoned three women in his Cleveland home for a decade will speak at length during his sentencing Thursday, delivering a statement that his sister promises will allow people to see "the other side of Ariel Castro." Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in a deal that dropped a possible death penalty in exchange for life in prison plus 1,000 years. He'll give a rather lengthy statement, explaining his life and who he really is, his sister, Marisol Alicea, told CNN on Wednesday night.
CNN: Child custody rights for rapists? Most states have them
NBC: 'Life is tough, but I'm tougher!' Cleveland kidnapping victim writes as diaries detail Ariel Castro's cruelty
CNN: Kansas company recalls 50,000 pounds of ground beef products
A Kansas company is recalling about 50,000 pounds of ground beef products over fears of E. coli contamination. The National Beef Packing Co.'s products , which were shipped nationwide, may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday. There have been no reported cases of illness. It is the second incident this summer for the company, which recalled 22,000 pounds of beef in June over concerns of E. coli contamination.
USA Today: Fertility forecast: Baby bust is over; births will rise
America's fertility rate is taking baby steps upward, a new report suggests. The total fertility rate in the USA is predicted to rise from a 25-year low of 1.89 children per woman in 2012 to 1.90 in 2013, according to the U.S. Fertility Forecast report released today by Demographic Intelligence. Preliminary official fertility estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be released in 2014; final official estimates are expected in 2015, the company says.
CNN: Source: Obama was 'rude and dismissive' in exchange with Democrat
During a question and answer session Wednesday with Democrats on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama offered what Democratic sources said was a testy response to a question about a federal loan guarantee program, with one source in the room calling it "rude and dismissive." Other Democrats said they didn't think the president's response was dismissive, and pointed out Obama vowed to follow up with an answer.
CNN: 'Maverick' wanders into the wrong herd
Roll Call: The Obama Paradox for House Democrats
Bloomberg: Obama to Nominate Raskin as First Female U.S. Treasury Deputy
President Barack Obama plans to nominate Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin to be deputy Treasury secretary, the White House said in a statement, which would make her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the department. Raskin, who must be confirmed by the Senate, would replace Neal Wolin, who is leaving the Treasury at the end of August. Wolin was a key negotiator with Congress on the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law that was signed into law by Obama in 2010.
Bloomberg: Fed Chairman Search Expanded by Obama Mention of Kohn
Bloomberg: Fed Gender Embarrassment Raises Pressure to Name Yellen
Politico: Obama enters Hill health-care dispute
President Barack Obama privately told Democratic senators Wednesday he is now personally involved in resolving a heated dispute over how Obamacare treats Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers, according to senators in the meeting. The president’s commitment was delivered at the beginning of Obama’s remarks to Senate Democrats during a closed-door session.
Arizona Central: Obama adviser: Reform would be economic boon for Arizona
Attempting to put a pocketbook spin on the immigration debate, a top economic adviser to the president said Wednesday that Arizona would see an economic boon if Congress passed legislation granting citizenship to illegal immigrants and additional worker visas for industries such as farming and engineering. The sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system would boost Arizona’s employment, tax revenue and even housing values as soon as next year, said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council. The cost of inaction, he said, would be high.
CNNMoney: Debt ceiling awaits Congress after summer break
It's not negotiable: Congress will have to soon raise the debt ceiling. The only question is when. On Wednesday, the Treasury Department said again that it can continue to pay the country's bills in full without breaching the legal limit on borrowing until sometime after Labor Day.
Reuters: U.S. House passes Iran sanctions bill to slash oil exports
The House of Representatives easily passed a bill on Wednesday to tighten sanctions on Iran, showing a strong message to Tehran over its disputed nuclear program days before President-elect Hassan Rouhani is sworn in. The vote also highlighted a growing divide between Congress and the Obama administration on Iran policy ahead of international talks on the nuclear program in coming months. Iran insists the nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes.
WSJ: A House Spending Bill Is Dealt a Setback
House Republican leaders Wednesday abruptly halted debate on a bill that would have required deep spending cuts to transportation and housing programs, the latest sign of chaos in Congress over spending two months before a new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Republican leaders pulled the $44 billion appropriations bill from the House floor amid opposition from Democrats and some centrist Republicans who thought it cut spending too much.
SEE ALSO: WX Post: House Republicans pull spending measure, focus on bills to embarrass White House
Politico: Kirsten Gillibrand intensifies effort on sex assault bill
Military sexual assault is dividing the Senate but not along typical partisan battle lines. This war has Democrat fighting Democrat and Republican fighting Republican — with the two sides slowly solidifying ahead of a floor vote expected for this fall to remove the Pentagon’s chain of command from prosecutions of major crimes.
CNN: Holder gave 'deceptive and misleading' testimony, House Republicans say
House Republicans issued a report Wednesday finding that Attorney General Eric Holder gave "deceptive and misleading" testimony, but abandoned accusations that he had perjured himself in May during a hearing on the government's seizure of journalists' phone and email records. The House Judiciary Committee's Republicans launched an investigation after the hearing because Holder claimed not to know of any potential prosecution of members of the press in leak investigations.
CNN: Lawyer: San Diego mayor never got harassment training, city may be liable
A lawyer for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner criticized the city for not providing sexual harassment training to the mayor, saying its failure to do so violated the law. In a letter to the city attorney, Harvey Berger wrote that Filner might never have been sued for sexual harassment had he been properly trained. "If there is any liability at all, the city will almost certainly be liable for 'failing to prevent harassment,' " Berger wrote in a letter dated Monday and obtained Wednesday by CNN from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
CNN: Ending Obamacare, avoiding gov't shutdown a juggling act for Boehner
While House Speaker John Boehner isn't overtly ruling out picking a fight with President Barack Obama over a spending bill, he is laying out an alternative strategy to avoid a government shutdown. During a closed door meeting on Wednesday with House Republicans, Boehner tried to "gently hold members' hands and walk them away from this," said one GOP source who was in the room. The debate is about whether Republicans should attach a measure to defund Obamacare to a must-pass spending bill.
SEE ALSO: Roll Call: 10 Republicans Who Could Be Speaker
CNN: Gamesmanship intensifies ahead of congressional recess
As Congress leaves town for its August recess, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans are trying to lay the groundwork for who will have the most leverage when they return to take up the issues of funding the federal government and raising the nation's borrowing limit. Both sides say the stakes are high - that may be the only thing they agree on.
BuzzFeed: Immigration Reform Activists Prepare Major August Blitz For Republican Support
Fence-sitting House Republicans beware: Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform are coming for you during the August Congressional recess, planning hundreds of events and spending more than a million dollars on ads, all designed to bring you into the fold. Immigration organizations, evangelical Christian groups, the business community, and big labor are all plotting a month-long push, aimed at turning the tide in the House toward finally reforming the nation’s immigration laws.
CNN: Christie brushes off Paul's beer proposal
Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday night he's a little too busy with his re-election bid this year to have a beer with Sen. Rand Paul. The senator from Kentucky made the pitch earlier in the day, hoping to ease tensions that have escalated in the past week between the two potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders. But Christie gave no indication he plans to take up Paul on the effort.
SEE ALSO: WX Post: Libertarians flex their muscle in the GOP
HuffPost: Liz Cheney Was Late Paying Taxes On $1.6 Million Home, Records Show
U.S. Senate candidate Liz Cheney and her husband were more than two months late paying property taxes on a $1.6 million home they bought last year in the tony northwest Wyoming community of Jackson Hole, according to Teton County records. The oversight arose when they misunderstood the terms of their purchase of the four-bedroom, four-bath log home with views of the Teton Range, Cheney said Wednesday.
Politico: Liberal groups lead in money race
Democrats and liberals — traditionally more skeptical about the role of big money and mega-donors in politics — beat Republicans in the outside money battle for the first half of the year. Groups backing Democratic candidates and causes in 2014 and 2016 all posted robust fundraising numbers, as did organizations supporting President Barack Obama’s top second-term priorities, according to a POLITICO review of campaign finance reports filed Wednesday. Conservative groups — accustomed to dominating the outside money game — underperformed expectations with lackluster hauls.
CNN: Pay, benefits, troop reduction 'on the table' as Pentagon wrestles with budget cuts
The size of the active-duty U.S. Army could fall to levels not seen since the 1950s if the Pentagon fully carries out voluntary and forced spending cuts totaling $100 billion annually over the next decade, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday. Hagel outlined a series of worst-case scenarios – including potential pay and benefit reductions for active duty forces, civilian personnel and retirees – that would also impact the Navy, Marines and the Air Force if steps to ease the one-two austerity punch are not taken.
SEE ALSO: Reuters: Pentagon review protects weapons for now, but uncertainty abounds
CNN: Snowden's lawyer open to finding common ground with U.S.
Edward Snowden is in good health in Russia and his lawyer there is amenable to hammering out an ending that would satisfy all. This, according to his father's lawyer, Bruce Fein, who appeared on "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday night. He relayed the conversation he had with Russian lawyer Anatoli Cuchara. "There may be a time, where it would be constructive to try and meet and see whether there can't be common ground that everyone agrees would advance the interest, the United States, Mr. Snowden, Lon, his father and the interest of Russia in trying to resolve this in a way that honors due process and the highest principles of fairness and civilization," Fein said. Snowden is afraid he would not get a fair trial if he came back to the United States.
SEE ALSO: Reuters: New Snowden leak upstages U.S. move to declassify documents
CNN: NSA chief: Snooping is crucial to fighting terrorism
The National Security Agency's controversial intelligence-gathering programs have prevented 54 terrorist attacks around the world, including 13 in the United States, according to Gen. Keith Alexander, NSA director. Speaking before a capacity crowd of hackers and security experts Wednesday at the Black Hat computer-security conference, Alexander defended the NSA's embattled programs, which collect phone metadata and online communications in an effort to root out potential terrorists.
Jerusalem Post: US general already working on security aspects of future Israeli-Palestinian accord
The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations may have only just begun, but US Gen. John Allen is already on the ground working on security arrangements that might be part of a future agreement, a senior US official said Wednesday. “The security arrangements are critical for any agreement, and therefore Gen. Allen is working on them,” the official said.
TRANSPORTATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
WSJ: In Newtown, Gun Permits Surge After Shooting
The number of people seeking permits to buy guns has surged in this town following the December massacre of schoolchildren by a local man, even as the parents of some victims had urged stricter weapons laws nationwide. Through July 24, more than 200 people in Newtown have received new local pistol permits, according to a review of local records, surpassing the 171 new permits issued for all of last year.
CNN: Senate narrowly confirms ATF chief
The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm B. Todd Jones as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, giving the politically controversial agency its first permanent director since 2006. Senators voted 53-42 to approve Jones – the ATF's acting director since the fall of 2011 – shortly after he received the bare 60 votes needed to clear a key procedural hurdle.
CNN: Report: TSA employee misconduct up 26% in 3 years
Let's get this out of the way straight off: The Transportation Security Administration is probably not going to top anyone's list of Favorite Federal Government Agencies. And the stories of its failures spread faster than a speeding jetliner: TSA officers stealing money from luggage, taking bribes from drug dealers, sleeping on the job. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that a new Government Accountability Office report, citing a 26% increase in misconduct among TSA employees between 2010 and 2012, is striking a nerve with some travelers who've had to endure the shoeless, beltless shuffle on the trip through security.
Associated Press: Origin of salad-linked outbreak remains a mystery
Nearly 400 people across the country have been sickened by cyclospora, a lengthy intestinal illness usually contracted by eating contaminated food. But if you're looking to find out exactly where it came from, you may be out of luck. Federal officials warned Wednesday that it was too early to say whether the outbreak of the rare parasite reported in at least 15 states was over.
NYT: Crowds Return to Las Vegas, but Gamble Less
When the last recession battered the nation, the bottom fell out in Las Vegas. One out of every six jobs vanished. Home prices dropped as much as 50 percent. Construction projects stopped in place, and tourist spending on the Las Vegas Strip, the economic driver of this city, went into an alarming slide. These days, jobs are back, the housing market is bustling and people are moving back. The number of visitors hit a record last year. For anyone seeking evidence that the nation has survived this recession, look no farther than the sidewalks of Las Vegas Boulevard, where people were shoulder to shoulder the other day even as temperatures surged past 110 degrees.
The Detroit News: Graffiti a sign of widening divide in Detroit neighborhood
Grant Mitchenall isn’t sure if he’s a hipster, though he probably qualifies. He’s also not sure why someone in southwest Detroit would want him to go home, or where that home would be. Whoever painted anti-hipster graffiti on at least four buildings in the area over the weekend didn’t provide a lot of detail. But in what appears to be a locals-vs.-hipsters turf war, this could be just the tip of the spray can.
Chicago Tribune: Hits to classroom exceed CPS estimates
When Chicago Public Schools released its preliminary budget last week, district officials said funding to classrooms would be cut by $68 million. That figure was a net amount that took into consideration increased funding for privately run charter schools, contract schools and the schools that will take students from the 47 elementary schools that closed in June. A look at individual school budgets — most of which go to classroom spending, with a smaller amount allotted to operations — shows that the hit to neighborhood schools could be higher.
Denver Post: Colorado sending higher risk inmates into community corrections
State officials are sending higher-risk inmates to community corrections facilities, where unarmed staffers worry that nearly nonexistent security features endanger themselves and the public. Corrections technician Chris Kozacek, who was shot twice in the back by an escaped community corrections convict in June, said his near-death experience illustrates what could happen as the state pushes more dangerous inmates into the community in search of budget savings.
Cincinnati.com: Ohio has gun reversal since Sandy Hook
In the seven months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ohio legislators have introduced more gun-related bills than they did in the previous two years combined – most of them to expand gun rights. An Enquirer analysis shows members of the General Assembly have introduced 19 firearm-related bills since taking office in January; five more than the 14 firearm-related bills introduced in 2011 and 2012.
CNN: Zimbabwe awaits results of hotly contested election
Vote counting was under way Thursday in Zimbabwe's hotly contested election as both President Robert Mugabe and his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai predicted victory. Partial results are expected Thursday, the Zimbabwe Election Commission said. It has until Monday to release the full results. As vote counting ensued, the commission dismissed Tsvangirai's party allegations of vote rigging.
CNN: Uruguay's lower house votes to legalize marijuana
Uruguay's lower house passed a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday, bringing the South American nation one step closer to becoming the first to legally regulate production, distribution and sale of the drug. After more than 12 hours of debate, the bill garnered the 50 votes it needed to pass in the House of Representatives. Forty-six lawmakers voted against the bill. The country's senate is expected to take up the measure in October.
NYT: Some Syria Missiles Eluded Israeli Strike, Officials Say
American intelligence analysts have concluded that a recent Israeli airstrike on a warehouse in Syria did not succeed in destroying all of the Russian-made antiship cruise missiles that were its target, American officials said on Wednesday, and that further Israeli strikes are likely.
TIME: LGBT Rights Blossom in Repressive Vietnam, but No Sign of Further Freedoms
“Oppressive.” “Brutal.” “Terrible and worsening.” These were some of the fierce editorial lightning bolts to scorch Vietnam’s human-rights reputation last week, hurled in the wake of a surprise 75-minute White House audience for the country’s President Truong Tan Sang. But in Hanoi, capital of the single-party communist state, a silver lining could come from an unlikely source: gay pride.
BBC: Spain PM Rajoy to face parliament on corruption scandal
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is set to appear before MPs over a corruption scandal threatening his governing Popular Party (PP). Mr. Rajoy is to answer questions related to illegal payments from a slush fund run by the PP's former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, who faces tax fraud charges. Both he and other PP members deny claims they received illegal payments.
WSJ: Merchants Notch Win in Feud Over Debit-Card Fees
Every mom-and-pop shop, Starbucks and 7-Eleven won a potential victory Wednesday when a federal judge tossed out a Federal Reserve rule on fees banks can charge merchants when they swipe customers' debit cards, saying the Fed didn't do enough to limit the levies. The decision likely will force the Fed to slash those fees, further crimping a once-lucrative business for banks and card giants like Visa and MasterCard.
WSJ: GDP Picture Looks Rosier With New Math
The government this week took a new view of the U.S. economy and found some additional growth. The Commerce Department on Wednesday released a comprehensive overhaul of gross-domestic-product data going back to 1929, revising the figures to include new measures and data it says give a better picture of the U.S. economy.
WX Post: Revision of Commerce Department metrics alters personal savings rate
Americans aren’t suddenly saving a lot more of their incomes. But it looks that way, thanks to a change in how the federal government accounts for pension plans — a change that, if you’re not careful, could lead you to think the nation is better set for retirement than it actually is. Until Wednesday morning, the Commerce Department pegged America’s personal savings rate at 4.1 percent for 2012. A revision made every five years to how the department measures the components of the economy pushed that savings rate up; now it’s 5.6 percent for 2012.
BusinessWeek: An Aha Moment: Oprah Winfrey's OWN Is Finally Profitable
Oprah Winfrey is a success—again. Winfrey’s OWN network has finally turned a profit this quarter, and it did so earlier than expected. “OWN is now cash-flow positive and starting to pay down the investment Discovery has made in the venture,” Avid Zaslav, chief executive of Discovery Communications, said at an investor conference Tuesday. Discovery co-owns the station with Winfrey and has invested more than $500 million in it over the past few years. When OWN made its debut in 77 million homes in January 2011, Discovery assumed it would be profitable within one year.
CNBC: China official PMI rises to 50.3 in July
China's manufacturing sector managed to stay in expansionary phase in July, according to official government data on Thursday, defying forecasts of a contraction. Official manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 50.3 in the month from 50.1 in June, and better than a Reuters consensus estimate of 49.9. The key 50 threshold demarcates expansion from contraction.