- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Law enforcement source: Knife-wielding man killed by terror task force discussed ‘beheadings’

BOSTON (AP) - A knife-wielding man killed by the terror investigators who had him under surveillance was confronted because he had purchased knives and talked of an imminent attack on “boys in blue,” the FBI said Wednesday.

Usaama Rahim plotted for at least a week to attack police, the FBI said in a complaint against David Wright, who was arrested the same day Rahim was shot to death. On Wednesday, Wright was ordered held on a charge of conspiracy with intent to obstruct a federal investigation.

The FBI said the two men bought three fighting knives and a sharpener on or before May 26, and that Rahim told Wright on Tuesday that he would begin trying to randomly kill police officers in Massachusetts.

Faced with an imminent threat, the anti-terror task force of FBI agents and Boston police confronted Rahim on a sidewalk and fatally shot him when he refused to drop his knife, authorities said.

Authorities moved swiftly Wednesday to manage perceptions of the shooting, which killed a black man whose family is well-known among Muslims and African-Americans in Boston.

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In Texas, Clinton to urge states to expand early voting, speak out against voting restrictions

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to call for an early voting period of at least 20 days in every state in an effort to expand access to voting across the nation.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign said Wednesday she will be speaking out against voting restrictions in several states and backing a longer period of early voting across the nation.

The former secretary of state is set to address a historically black university in Houston, Texas Southern University, on Thursday.

Democrats have filed legal challenges to voting changes pushed by Republican lawmakers in the presidential battleground states of Ohio and Wisconsin. Clinton is expected to denounce similar efforts in North Carolina, Texas and Florida.

Clinton has criticized a 2013 Supreme Court ruling striking down a portion of the Voting Rights Act.

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Analysis: NSA emerges mostly unscathed from congressional surveillance reform

WASHINGTON (AP) - The surveillance law enacted this week stands as the most significant curb on the government’s investigative authorities since the 1970s. But it’s practically inconsequential in the universe of the National Security Agency’s vast digital spying operations, a technical overhaul of a marginal counterterrorism program that some NSA officials wanted to jettison anyway.

After a six-month transition, the new law will end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, moving instead to a system of case-by-case searches of records held by phone companies.

The existence of the program, in place since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was perhaps the most startling secret revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, because it so directly affected the privacy of Americans. It was the first Snowden disclosure published by the journalists with whom he shared documents, and it landed with a thunderclap.

But in the two years since Snowden took up exile in Russia to avoid prosecution in the U.S., his documents have fueled dozens of revelations of NSA surveillance operations, disclosing how the agency seeks to exploit Internet communications. None of those programs are affected by the law President Barack Obama signed Tuesday night.

“It’s being talked about like it’s the Declaration of Independence or something,” said Robert Deitz, a former NSA lawyer. “These adjustments are marginal.”

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Do the consequences of their health care ruling matter to Supreme Court justices? Should they?

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court could wipe away health insurance for millions of Americans when it resolves the latest fight over President Barack Obama’s health overhaul. But would the court take away a benefit from so many people? Should the justices even consider such consequences?

By month’s end, the court is expected to decide a challenge to the way subsidies, in the form of tax credits, are given to people who get their insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The legal issue is whether Congress authorized payments regardless of where people live, or only to residents of states that established their own insurance exchanges.

The distinction is potentially momentous, since more than two-thirds of the states did not set up their own exchanges. In those states, people rely on the federal healthcare.gov site to sign up for insurance. The financial benefits are substantial, covering nearly three-fourths of insurance premiums on average.

If the court rules that the subsidies can’t be given to people who enrolled on the federal site, 7 million to 9 million Americans would quickly lose their insurance, said Nicholas Bagley, a health law expert at the University of Michigan and a supporter of the law known as “Obamacare.”

“The consequences of a government defeat here are so extraordinary and sweeping,” he said.

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AP Interview: Top Yemen Shiite rebel commander welcomes UN peace talks, criticizes rivals

SANAA, Yemen (AP) - The second-in-command of Yemen’s Shiite rebels said Wednesday that the Iranian-backed group was ready to go to Geneva for U.N.-mediated peace talks on ending the country’s civil war, and accused the internationally-recognized government in exile of “obstructing” dialogue.

Mohammed al-Houthi, who heads the rebels’ powerful Revolutionary Council, told The Associated Press that exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had derailed earlier attempts at negotiations by demanding the rebels first withdraw from all territory they had captured.

“They are putting pre-conditions to obstruct any talks that could lead the Yemeni people to a solution,” al-Houthi said, adding that the Saudi-led coalition refused to halt its air campaign to allow for peace talks. “The coalition is the one that rejects the talks and works on foiling them.”

The talks were postponed last month just two days before they were to have begun on May 28 and no new date has been announced. However, Yemen’s ambassador to the U.N., Khaled Alyemany, told the AP they would begin June 14, and that an official announcement was expected shortly.

A presidential aide said late Tuesday that Hadi was willing to participate in the Geneva talks. The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief reporters, did not mention any conditions.

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Chuck Blazer says he and other FIFA executive committee members agreed to accept bribes

NEW YORK (AP) - Former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer told a U.S. federal judge that he and others on the governing body’s ruling panel agreed to receive bribes in the votes for the hosts of the 1998 and 2010 World Cups.

Prosecutors unsealed a 40-page transcript Wednesday of the hearing in U.S. District Court on Nov. 25, 2013, when Blazer pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.

Four sections of the transcript were redacted by prosecutors, presumably to protect avenues of their investigation.

Blazer, in admitting 10 counts of illegal conduct, told the court of his conduct surrounding the vote that made South Africa the first nation on that continent to host soccer’s premier event.

“Beginning in or around 2004 and continuing through 2011, I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup,” Blazer told U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.

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Niagara Falls-bound bus carrying Italian tourists collides with truck, killing 3; many hurt

TOBYHANNA, Pa. (AP) - A charter bus taking Italian tourists to Niagara Falls collided with a tractor-trailer Wednesday morning on an eastern Pennsylvania highway, killing the bus driver and two others on the bus and leaving four people in critical condition, authorities said.

The crash occurred on Interstate 380 in the Pocono Mountain region as the bus, which departed from New York, was about a quarter of the way to its first destination.

The mangled front end of the bus was upright on the highway but wedged into the side of the tractor-trailer, which was sheared in half. The cab of the truck came to rest on its side in the woods next to the road, one of its axles torn off.

It appeared from a wide swath of grass scraped away in the median that the tractor-trailer was southbound when it crossed over the divided highway and into the path of the northbound bus. State police said a second tractor-trailer was involved but they were still investigating what led to the accident.

Monroe County coroner Robert Allen, who confirmed the three deaths, said there were 17 people aboard the bus. Italian tour operator Viaggidea said there were only 16: 14 passengers, a tour guide and a driver.

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Greek prime minister defends bailout proposal, seeks to sway creditors at EU headquarters

BRUSSELS (AP) - Greece’s prime minister entered a showdown with creditors on Wednesday in Brussels, where each side would present proposals in the hope of reaching a deal to unlock bailout loans and save the country from financial disaster.

Some officials dampened expectations of a breakthrough Wednesday, even though Greece is running out of cash and faces debt repayments as soon as Friday.

But French President Francois Hollande said the talks were at least heading in the right direction: “We are some days, not to say some hours away from a possible agreement.”

Greece has been negotiating for four months with its creditors over what budget reforms it should make to get the 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) in loans that are left over in its bailout fund. Wednesday’s meetings are part of a string of high-level diplomatic efforts to bring the negotiations to a successful end.

Ahead of his meeting with Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, Greek leader Alexis Tsipras stressed the need for compromise.

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Calamity looms at California’s largest lake as water transfers to coast accelerate

SALTON CITY, Calif. (AP) - Once-bustling marinas on shallow water in California’s largest lake a few years ago are bone-dry. Carcasses of oxygen-starved tilapia lie on desolate shores. Flocks of eared grebes and shoreline birds bob up and down to feast on marine life.

An air of decline and strange beauty permeates the Salton Sea: The lake is shrinking - and on the verge of getting much smaller as more water goes to coastal cities.

San Diego and other Southern California water agencies will stop replenishing the lake after 2017, raising concerns that dust from exposed lakebed will exacerbate asthma and other respiratory illness in a region whose air quality already fails federal standards. A smaller lake also threatens fish and habitat for more than 400 bird species on the Pacific flyway.

Many of the more than 10,000 people who live in shoreline communities cherish the solitude but now feel forgotten. The dying lake must compete for water as California reels from a four-year drought that has brought sweeping, state-ordered consumption cuts.

Julie Londo, who moved to Salton City after visiting in 1986 from Washington state, hopes for help for the periodic, rotten odor from the lake that keep residents inside on hot, fly-filled summer nights. The stench in 2012 carried more than 150 miles to Los Angeles.

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A week after corruption crisis began, Blatter gets a standing ovation from FIFA staff

ZURICH (AP) - In one tumultuous week, world soccer’s governing body was plunged into a corruption scandal, top officials were arrested, new investigations were launched, and Sepp Blatter was re-elected as president, only to stun everyone by saying he was quitting.

On Wednesday, Blatter’s staff gave him a standing ovation.

As ripples of the scandal reverberated from Europe to Africa to the Middle East, the embattled president showed up for work at FIFA’s gleaming headquarters in Zurich, where FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said he met with staff and received their applause.

On May 27, Swiss police raided a luxury Zurich hotel on the eve of FIFA’s annual conference and arrested seven soccer officials. They were among 14 current and former sports and marketing officials indicted by U.S. authorities on bribery, vote-rigging and other corruption charges.

In a separate investigation, Swiss authorities seized documents at FIFA headquarters in their probe into the bidding contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

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