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NEWS     FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2014     NEWS


Senators Call For Probe Into VA Hospital Deaths Allegedly Tied To Delayed Care
Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are calling for a Senate investigation and hearings into allegations that up to 40 Arizona veterans died while awaiting medical appointments at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. The two Republican senators from Arizona sent a letter Wednesday to leaders of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs requesting a probe into "recent reports of gross mismanagement and neglect" at the facility. McCain also wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, citing a report in the Arizona Republic on whistle-blower allegations about veteran deaths and accusations about VA administrators keeping secret waiting lists. Fox

Hillary Clinton’s Problem With The Media: Too Much Entertainment, Not Enough Facts
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her frustrations about the current state of media on Wednesday night, describing what she sees as an “entertainment-driven” approach to news that is “not good for the country and not good for journalism.” The potential 2016 frontrunner, 66, made her less-than-flattering comments during a Q&A session at her first-ever appearance at the University of Connecticut following her keynote address at the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum in which nearly 2,300 students and faculty were in attendance. ABC

Michelle Obama Cancels Kansas Graduation Speech
First lady Michelle Obama has canceled plans to speak at a high school graduation in Topeka, Kan., after students and parents complained security concerns would limit the seating for friends and family to attend the ceremony they said should focus on the students. Obama will instead speak at a "Senior Recognition Day" for the district, Topeka Unified School District 501, on May 16, the day before graduation. A petition on Change.org, which had nearly 2,800 signatures at the time of the White House's decision, said students had been thrilled their district had been able to get the first lady for commencement, but that the logistics would make the day a nightmare. UPI


U.S. Stocks Rise As Technology Shares Rally With Apple
U.S. stocks rose, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index trading near a record, as technology companies rallied after Apple Inc. results topped estimates to offset a slump in phone shares. Apple jumped 8.2 percent, the most in two years, after selling more iPhones than analysts predicted. Verizon Communications Inc. led declines in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and AT&T Inc. sank a second day, amid concerns that price competition is shifting wireless revenue. Qualcomm Inc. sank 3.5 percent as results fell short of forecasts. Zimmer Holdings Inc. surged 12 percent after it agreed to buy Biomet Inc. in a deal valued at $13.4 billion. Bloomberg

Getting Ready For Hillary Clinton In 2016 Is Costly Deal
Getting Ready for Hillary isn’t cheap. The super political action committee by that name is averaging roughly $500,000 a month in expenses -- nearly as much as it’s bringing in -- as it builds a database of supporters and donors before a possible 2016 presidential bid by Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. secretary of state and senator from New York, disclosure records show. Fundraising costs -- from online advertising to printing, from postage to airline flights and town car rentals -- are the group’s biggest expenses, generating revenue for selected vendors. “We’re doing something different that has never been done before,” said Seth Bringman, the super-PAC’s spokesman. “We are looking to reinvest every dollar that comes in.” Bloomberg

US Unwilling To Give Up Mideast Peace Process Yet
The U.S. isn't ready to write off Mideast peace negotiations as failed, even after Israel broke off talks with Palestinian leaders who are trying to create a coalition government with the Hamas terror group. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused Thursday to declare the negotiations over and said the U.S. is "still making the effort." Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would never negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes people who have called for the destruction of Israel, as Hamas has. The negotiations began nine months ago with a goal to reach an agreement by April 29. Las Vegas Sun


Study Links California Drought To Global Warming
While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it's not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought and the polar vortex blamed for a harsh winter that mercifully has just ended in many places. The Utah State University scientists involved in the study say they hope what they found can help them predict the next big weird winter. Outside scientists, such as Katharine Hayhoe at Texas Tech University, are calling this study promising but not quite proven as it pushes the boundaries in "one of the hottest topics in climate science today." Las Vegas Sun

FDA Proposes First Regulations For E-Cigarettes
The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. While the proposal being issued Thursday won’t immediately mean changes for the popular devices, the move is aimed at eventually taming the fast-growing e-cigarette industry. The agency said the proposal sets a foundation for regulating the products but the rules don’t immediately ban the wide array of flavors of e-cigarettes, curb marketing on places like TV or set product standards. Newsday

National Rifle Association Annual Meeting Gets Underway After Year Of Political Victories
The National Rifle Association began its annual convention Thursday in Indianapolis after a year that saw many states relax gun laws. The organization claims 5 million members and says its strength comes from their enthusiasm. But the NRA also raises a lot of money and some events in Indianapolis are limited to members of the "Ring of Freedom," which requires a donation of at least $1,000 for the lowest level, the Thomas Paine Society, and at least $1 million for the "Golden Ring of Freedom," although the money includes a tailored gold jacket. UPI

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Residents Angry Obama Mispronounced Town’s Name During Mudslide Visit
President Obama’s trip to comfort the families in Oso, Wash., who were impacted by a tragic mudslide that killed 41, may have been overshadowed by the fact that he mispronounced the city’s name at least twice. Many KIRO-FM Radio listeners voiced their outrage after the president repeatedly mispronounced their city as “Osso.”
“Because while very few Americans have ever heard of Osso [sic] before the disaster struck, we’ve all been inspired by the incredible way that the community has come together,” Mr. Obama said, repeating the flap at least one more time. “I was mortified by the president’s speech, not for his presence but lack of preparation,” one listener said. “It was distracting to the point I didn’t hear the rest of his comments. My mom texted me from eastern Washington, her comment was ‘Oso…because it’s o so hard to pronounce’.” Washington Times

Putin: Internet Is A "CIA Project"
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called the Internet a CIA project and made comments about Russia's biggest search engine Yandex, sending the company's shares plummeting. The Kremlin has been anxious to exert greater control over the Internet, which opposition activists - barred from national television - have used to promote their ideas and organize protests. Russia's parliament this week passed a law requiring social media websites to keep their servers in Russia and save all information about their users for at least half a year. Also, businessmen close to Putin now control Russia's leading social media network, VKontakte. CBS

Lawmakers Petition For Open NSA Debate
Once the full House starts debating legislation to reform the National Security Agency, any member of the House should be able to offer amendments, one Democratic congressman insists. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., a critic of the sweeping NSA surveillance programs exposed by former government contractor Edward Snowden, has written a letter to House leaders calling for that open debate. He currently has eight co-signers to the letter, including one Republican, and is in the process of gathering more support. CBS

Obama Greets Japan’s Emperor, But No Bow This Time
As President Obama’s motorcade rumbled onto the Imperial Palace grounds today for a state visit, the U.S.-Japan bond was evident on the bumper of his U.S.-made limousine. The black Cadillac, shipped in from the United States by Secret Service, donned blue plates with a Japanese insignia.  On the hood, U.S. and Japanese flags flittered in the morning sun. Obama greeted Emperor Akihito and his wife, lowering his head ever so slightly to shake hands with both royal highnesses, though it was a far cry from his full bow at the waist in 2009 that sparked much controversy. ABC


Washington Loses Waiver On No Child Left Behind
Washington state has become the first to lose its federal waiver for requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law as well as control over how about $40 million is spent to improve public school student outcomes, education officials announced Thursday. State education officials say they received an email from Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying they were losing the waiver because the state did not meet the U.S. Department of Education's requirement to include statewide student test results in teacher evaluations. Duncan wrote that he appreciated the state's effort toward education reform, but said they hadn't done enough to keep the flexibility waiver. Fox News

GM's $1.3 Billion Recall Cost Wipes Out Profit
General Motors' recall crisis virtually wiped out its profit for the first three months of the year, as it said Thursday that the cost of repairing millions of vehicles would come to $1.3 billion. The cost of the recall and some other accounting charges left the company with a profit of only $108 million in the quarter. The company recalled a total of 7 million vehicles during the quarter, most prominently 2.6 million with a faulty ignition switch tied to at least 13 deaths. GM said it would spend about $700 million to fix that ignition switch, and another $600 million on other recalls. CNN

Obama: Japanese Robots A Little Scary'
The President played soccer Thursday with a Japanese robot during a stop at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, or Mirikan. The visit was aimed at highlighting the renewal of a 10 year scientific collaboration between the two countries, and to show off Japan's latest technologies. While there Obama was introduced to two robots. One of them, Honda's humanoid robot, is about the height of a 10 year old child and was wearing an astronaut suit. "It's nice to meet you," the robot said in a metallic voice to Obama. The robot performed a series of exercises and then walked to a soccer ball and told the President "I can kick a soccer ball too." "Okay, come on," Obama replied. The robot then kicked to ball to the President, who trapped it with his feet. "That was pretty impressive," remarked Obama.
Following the demonstration, the President told an audience of some 30 students that "We saw some truly amazing robots - although I have to say the robots were a little scary. They were too lifelike". CNN

Holder Urges Young People To Consider Careers At Justice Department
Students from a Catholic school in San Francisco were in the audience Wednesday when Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech on diversity and inclusion, and urged young people to "consider careers...here at the United States Department of Justice." "But just so that everybody knows, the kids from St. Ignatius, stand up -- let's -- so that everybody can see who you are. (Applause.) That's the future of our country, and that's why we do what we do here at the United States Department of Justice," Holder said. After welcoming the St. Ignatius students, Holder explained how the Justice Department "defends the values of diversity and inclusion." (His first example was "voting restrictions.") CNS News

Don't Replace Fannie & Freddie, Conservative Leaders Urge Senators
Twenty-six leaders of conservative and free-market groups have signed a letter urging the Senate Banking Committee to reject a bill that would replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a similar government-sponsored enterprise (GSE). The proposed Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC) would just be “an expansion of the type of government intervention that fueled the housing crisis in the first place,” the April 22 letter stated. It was signed by representatives of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, and Citizens Against Government Waste, among others. CNS News

New Safer Oil Cars May Not Be Safe Enough
The rail industry believes that thousands of new tank cars that were designed to help prevent fiery oil train crashes may not be up to the job, according to statements by industry authorities at a meeting convened by the nation’s top transportation safety agency this week. Testifying before the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday, Robert Fronczak, assistant vice president of environment and hazardous materials for the Association of American Railroads (AAR), said the most updated standard adopted by the industry in 2011 is “no longer adequate.” MSNBC

Holder Cancels Speech, Appearance In OKC Amid Angry Protests
Attorney General Eric Holder canceled his appearance before the Oklahoma City Police Department’s graduating cadet class Thursday amid angry protests over his scheduled visit. Mr. Holder was scheduled to deliver remarks at the graduation ceremony at 2:30 p.m. ET, according to his official itinerary sent out by the Justice Department Thursday morning. But an early meeting at the Justice Department delayed Mr. Holder’s departure from Washington, causing him to miss the graduation ceremony, spokesman Brian Fallon said in an e-mail. Washington Times

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One In Ten U.S. Bridges In Urgent Need Of Repair
More than 63,000 bridges across the United States are in urgent need of repair, with most of the aging, structurally compromised structures part of the interstate highway system, an analysis of recent federal data has found. The report, released on Thursday by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, warned that the dangerous bridges are used some 250 million times a day by trucks, school buses, passenger cars and other vehicles. The group, which represents the U.S. transportation construction market, analyzed recent U.S. Department of Transportation data for its study. Pennsylvania led the list of structurally deficient bridges, with 5,218, followed by Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri and California. Nevada, Delaware, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii had the least. Reuters

Bird Flu On California Farm Prompts HK, Others To Bar Poultry Imports
An avian-borne virus outbreak on a California quail farm has fueled fears that the disease known as bird flu could spread, prompting investigators to continue their probe and five key export markets to bar imports of poultry from the state. A state diagnostic laboratory confirmed on April 18 that a quail flock in Stanislaus County, California, tested positive for low-pathogenic avian influenza virus. It was later confirmed by a federal laboratory. The virus, which commonly occurs in wild birds, is not considered a human health concern. Yet news of the virus - particularly in a state that is home to two leading container ports heavily used for agricultural exports - has some of the world's largest U.S. poultry consumers scrambling to protect themselves. Reuters

Measles Cases Surge In U.S., Fueled By Unvaccinated Travelers
Measles cases in the U.S. are surging at the fastest pace in nearly two decades, fueled mostly by unvaccinated travelers sparking outbreaks from California to New York — and, now, in Ohio, where 13 members of an Amish community may have fallen ill. The travelers are contracting the highly contagious virus in places like the Philippines — where a measles outbreak has sickened more than 20,000 people and killed at least 50 — and then infecting communities of unvaccinated children and adults back home. "Current outbreaks of measles in the U.S. serve as a reminder that these diseases are only a plane ride away," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said Thursday. "Borders can't stop measles, but vaccination can." MSNBC

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Netanyahu Keeps Door Open To Future Negotiations After Talks Suspended Due To Hamas-Fatah Pact
Kerry says US "will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities of peace," after Israel suspends talks. Just two hours after Israel suspended diplomatic talks with the Palestinians over Wednesday's Hamas-Fatah reconciliation pact, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he will "be there in the future if we have a partner that is committed to peace." Netanyahu's comment came in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, after the seven-member security cabinet decided unanimously Thursday afternoon following a six hour meeting in Tel Aviv to suspend current talks with the Palestinians. This decision came just five days before the April 29 deadlines for the talks that have gone on in fits and starts since July. Jerusalem Post

Erekat: Netanyahu Was Looking For An Excuse To End The Peace Talks
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed "deep disappointment" at Israel's decision Thursday to halt peace talks and sanction the PA in response to the unity deal signed between Fatah and Hamas on Wednesday. "Binyamin Netanyahu and his government used the split between the Palestinian factions as an excuse to reject a peace agreement in the past. Today, they are using Palestinian reconciliation as an excuse for the same thing," Erekat said. "The only logical explanation is that the Netanyahu government does not want peace," he added. The PLO official said that "the Gaza Strip's 1.7 million residents, together with those of east Jerusalem and the West Bank, make up the state of Palestine. Today we took an important step in serving our people." Jerusalem Post

Amazon Revenue Up But Offset By Increasing Expenses
Internet retailer Amazon reported a 32% jump in profits to $108m (£64m) in the first quarter of 2014. The firm said strong sales - which increased by 23% to $19.74bn - helped contribute to the profit growth. "2014 is off to a kinetic start," said Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos in a statement. However, investors were disappointed by increasing expenses - which rose 23% from a year earlier - and ate into profits. Shares in Amazon were mostly flat in after-hours trading. Overall, shares in the firm have declined by more than 15% this year. BBC

Binge Drinking 'Link To Overeating'
Drinking more than three large glasses of wine can push people over a "tipping point", meaning they consume about 6,300 extra calories in the following 24 hours, a report has said. The extra calories could lead to gaining 2lb a week (900g), the survey of 2,042 people suggested. About half (51%) of those who drank alcohol said crossing the threshold had made them binge on fast food. But experts warned the study showed trends and not "hard science". Slimming World, which commissioned the research from YouGov, said 50% of the people who said drinking impacted their food choices had also cancelled physical activities the day after drinking more than 9.3 units, equivalent to slightly less than four pints of beer. BBC

Obama Says US Will Defend Japan In Island Dispute With China
The US is duty-bound to come to Japan’s aid in the event of a conflict with China over a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, Barack Obama declared at the start of a tour of Asia aimed at reassuring Washington’s allies in the face of threats to stability from North Korea and an increasingly assertive China.  Obama went further than some analysts had expected in reassuring the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, that Japan’s dispute with China over the Senkakus – known in China as the Diaoyu – were covered by the allies’ post-war security treaty.  But he reiterated Washington’s refusal to take sides in the sovereignty dispute and called on China and Japan to resolve their differences through dialogue. Guardian

Beyoncé, Clinton And Snowden: Time Lists Its 100 Most Influential People
Time Magazine unveiled its 11th annual collection of the 100 most influential people in the world on Thursday, with a list comprised primarily of artists, politicians and business people. Each person selected had a few paragraphs about their influence written by recognizable names, including US president Barack Obama, who wrote about Pope Francis, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, who who wrote about Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, and actor Lupita Nyong’o, who wrote about director Steve McQueen. “He’s always in search of the truthful moment that will give the audience real human access to difficult issues,” Nyong’o said of McQueen. “He’s a visionary in that way.” Guardian

Putin SendsTanks To Ukraine’s Border
Russia ordered large-scale military exercises on its border with Ukraine on Thursday after Kiev launched a military assault against separatist protesters who have seized buildings in the country’s east, in a dramatic escalation of the crisis. President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s manoeuvres were a “punitive operation” which would “carry consequences”. He said: “If the current regime in Kiev has really begun to use the army against the country’s population then it is, without any doubt, a very serious crime against their people.” Telegraph

UN Urges Greater Action To Combat Sexual Violence In 21 Conflict Countries
Despite unprecedented political momentum to fight rape in war zones, sexual violence remains a global crime affecting women, men and children in more than 20 countries, a senior United Nations official announced today urging greater action at the regional and national levels. “It doesn’t matter whether she comes from Bosnia, she comes from Colombia or Syria or Central Africa, the pain that a woman feels who has been raped is the same,” Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura told journalist in New York at the launch of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s annual report on the issue. UN News

UN Envoy Discusses Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation Deal With Palestinian President
The reconciliation deal reached by rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas will be implemented on the basis of previous commitments such as the recognition of Israel and non-violence, a senior United Nations envoy was told today. The deal, which will reportedly lead to the formation of a unity government in the coming weeks, was among the developments discussed during a meeting between Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. UN News

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