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Obama budget would boost U.S. tax revenue, cut deficits: CBO

Obama speaks after touring the Community College of Allegheny West Hills Center in Oakdale, Pennsylvania By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget request would boost U.S. tax revenue by nearly $1.4 trillion over 10 years if fully enacted, slashing deficits by $1.05 trillion while funding new spending, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday. The likelihood that Congress will advance Obama's plan in its entirety is virtually nil, but the CBO's latest analysis will feed campaign messaging by Democrats and Republicans ahead of congressional elections in November. The analysis by the nonpartisan agency compares Obama's request with a new CBO "baseline" estimate released last week that assumes no changes to current tax and spending laws. But Obama's budget plan is loaded with policy changes, including an assumption that sweeping immigration reforms will be enacted, producing a net 10-year deficit reduction of $158 billion.


Obama, Merkel discuss Ukraine crisis in call

President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone on Thursday about the situation in Ukraine, the offices of both leaders said. Obama and Merkel agreed during the call that Russia should use its influence on armed groups in eastern Ukraine to calm the situation, a German government spokeswoman said on Thursday. "Both shared their worries given current developments in eastern Ukraine, so they called on Russia to help contribute to a de-escalation," the spokeswoman, Christiane Wirtz, said in an email. "They said Russia in particular should use its influence on armed groups in eastern Ukraine to calm the situation," Wirtz said.

Putin, Erdogan discuss Ukraine crisis, Crimean Tatars and energy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday discussed the turmoil in Ukraine and the situation in Crimea including issues involving the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Tatar minority, the Kremlin said. In a telephone call initiated by the Turkish side, Putin and Erdogan also discussed bilateral ties between the two Black Sea nations, including in the energy sector. Crimean Tatars largely opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last month. (Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

War of words in Northwestern-athletes' union fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — Northwestern University and a group trying to unionize college athletes are trading accusations as the National Labor Relations Board considers the school's appeal of a federal ruling that scholarship athletes essentially are employees of the university and therefore have the right to unionize, bargain collectively and even strike.

CBO: Minimum wage boost would cost firms $15B

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a Senate Democratic proposal gradually boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 hourly would force businesses to spend $15 billion more in salaries in 2017.

Growing jihadist threat in Tunisia border area

Smoke is seen billowing from Mount Chaambi during a Tunisian forces air operation against Islamist militants near the Algerian border on August 2, 2013 Tunisia faces a growing jihadist threat in the mountainous region near the border with Algeria where several soldiers have been killed battling militant Islamists, the defence ministry said on Thursday. The presidency on Wednesday declared Mount Chaambi, as well as some surrounding areas including the mountains of Sammama, Salloum and Mghilla, "zones closed for military operations". Defence ministry spokesman Toufik Rahmouni said on Thursday the decision was prompted by the "growing number of threats made by terrorist organisations based in the area" and was designed to contain and limit their activities. Since late 2012, security forces have been battling dozens of militants hiding in the Mount Chaambi region just a few kilometres (miles) from the border.


Iranian woman forgives son's killer at the gallows

CORRECTS MOTHER'S NAME - This picture provided by ISNA, a semi-official news agency, taken on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 shows Samereh Alinejad, right, and her husband Abdolghani, left, removing the noose from the neck of blindfolded Bilal who was convicted of murdering their son Abdollah in the northern city of Nour, Iran. Bilal who was convicted of killing Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, was pardoned by the victim's family moments before being executed. (AP Photo/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi) The execution of an Iranian convicted of murder was halted at the very last minute in a dramatic scene this week when the mother of his victim forgave him as he stood on the gallows with the noose around his neck.


U.S. releases $450 million of frozen Iranian funds after IAEA report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has taken steps to release a $450 million installment of frozen Iranian funds following a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifying that Iran is living up to its part of a landmark nuclear pact with world powers, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that "all sides have kept the commitments made" under the agreement. ...

Turkish parliament approves law expanding snooping powers

Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan reviews the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony in Ankara on April 17, 2014 for his Malaysian counterpart who is on an official visit to Turkey Turkey's parliament on Thursday approved a controversial law expanding the powers of the spy agency and setting prison terms for publishing leaked information as the government fights back against a widening corruption scandal. The legislation, passed after a heated debate in parliament, was first introduced by lawmakers from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP party in the run-up to last month's local elections. It also sets prison terms for journalists and others who publish leaked information, according to local media reports. Last week, Turkey's constitutional court annulled sections of another controversial law intended to tighten the government's control over the judiciary.


Kosovo PM urges vote on new war crimes court but calls it insult

Kosovo's PM Thaci speaks to Reuters during an interview in Pristina By Fatos Bytyci PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's premier has summoned parliament to vote on creating an EU-backed special court to try ethnic Albanian ex-guerrillas accused of harvesting organs from murdered Serbs during the Balkan state's 1990s war, but criticized the plan as an insult. The move stems from a 2011 report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty alleging that Kosovo Albanian guerrillas fighting a war of independence from Serbia had smuggled the bodies of Serbs into Albania and removed their organs for sale. "This issue is completely unfair and an insult for the state of Kosovo," Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who was the political chief of the old Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), said on Thursday.


War of words in Northwestern-athletes' union fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — The rhetoric is heating up between Northwestern University and a group that's trying to unionize college athletes.

Wal-Mart jumps into the money transfer biz, loudly

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart is delving deeper into financial services at its stores and shaking up the money transfer business.

Obama says U.S. will provide South Korea any help needed in ferry accident

President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the South Korean ferry sinking and said the U.S. military will provide the country with any help it needs to perform rescue operations. "South Korea is one of our closest allies, and American Navy personnel and U.S. Marines are already on the scene assisting with the search and rescue efforts," Obama said. "As I will underscore on my visit to Seoul next week, America's commitment to our ally South Korea is unwavering - in good times and in bad," he said.

Syria rebels attack army barracks in Aleppo

A tank belonging to the rebel Islamic Front during reported clashes with government forces in the Hanano district of Aleppo on April 17, 2014 Nearly 50 people were killed on Thursday when Syrian rebels attacked one of the largest military barracks in the country, in northern Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "Rebels, including fighters from Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic Front, launched an assault today on the barracks in Hanano in Aleppo," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. Abdel Rahman said the barracks is one of the largest in Syria. "It's strategically important because it's on a hill that overlooks parts of northern Aleppo," he added.


Radical cleric promoted jihad from London mosque, U.S. jury told

Abu Hamza al-Masri sits next to defense attorney Lindsay Lewis in Manhattan federal court in New York By Joseph Ax NEW YORK (Reuters) - From his perch as a prominent imam at a north London mosque, Abu Hamza al-Masri sent devoted followers around the world - from Oregon to Afghanistan - to pursue violent jihad against non-believers, a federal prosecutor told jurors in New York on Thursday. "His goal was clear, it was simple, and it was vicious," Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Kim said in Manhattan federal court at the start of Abu Hamza's trial on terrorism-related charges. "Abu Hamza was not just a preacher of religion, he was a trainer of terrorists." Prosecutors accuse the one-eyed, handless cleric with trying to set up a jihadist training camp in Oregon; But Joshua Dratel, Abu Hamza's attorney, told jurors that while Abu Hamza may have been guilty of using inflammatory rhetoric, he had never participated in criminal activity.


Barca's Neymar & Alba out for month with injuries

Barcelona's Neymar, left tries to get past Real's Xabi Alonso during the final of the Copa del Rey between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz) BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona will be without Neymar and Jordi Alba for the final month of the season after both were injured during the Copa del Rey final loss to Real Madrid on Wednesday.


Hotel magnate, Democratic fundraiser pleads guilty

NEW YORK (AP) — A wealthy hotel executive and Democratic fundraiser who supported Hilary Clinton for president pleaded guilty Thursday to charges he secretly funneled more than $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions to three unnamed candidates and coached someone to lie about it.

Hotel magnate, Democratic fundraiser pleads guilty

NEW YORK (AP) — A wealthy hotel executive and Democratic fundraiser who supported Hilary Clinton for president pleaded guilty Thursday to charges he secretly funneled more than $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions to three unnamed candidates and coached someone to lie about it.

California sees Obamacare surge as open enrollment ends for 2014

A man looks over the Affordable Care Act signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York in this photo illustration Thanks to a final April surge, California's Obamacare marketplace enrolled a total of 1.4 million people in private health insurance plans, state officials announced on Thursday, beating a federal forecast by just over 800,000 enrollees. California's Obamacare enrollments are among 7.5 million people nationally who have signed up, according to federal officials. Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state's Obamacare health insurance marketplace, called that "a huge number" and said enrollees "are part of history." The country's first open enrollment period for coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law ended in most states on March 31. California and a handful of others kept their doors open longer, citing technical difficulties that kept some customers from accessing Obamacare websites.


Two-week strike ends at 2016 Rio Olympic venues

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Over 2,000 construction workers returned to their jobs at the Olympic Park on Thursday, ending a two-week strike that further slowed the trouble-plagued 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Salmonella decline seen in food poisoning report

NEW YORK (AP) — The government's latest report card on food poisoning is out, and it has some good news: a drop in illnesses from salmonella.

US stock market edges higher as earnings pour in

Sabre Corp. President & CEO Tom Klein, right, and company CFO Rick Simonson, center, are joined by Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld as they wait for Sabre's IPO to begin trading, at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York, Thursday, April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Major U.S. stock indexes rose in afternoon trading Thursday as investors reacted to quarterly results from a batch of U.S, companies. Google, IBM and insurer UnitedHealth were among the biggest decliners, while General Electric and Morgan Stanley were among the largest gainers.


Barcelona faces end of winning era

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after Real Madrid won the final of the Copa del Rey between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz) BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barring a drastic turn of fortune, Barcelona is on the brink of finishing its worst season since former coach Pep Guardiola molded it into one of the most successful sides to play the game.


Armed mob under guise of peaceful protest attacks U.N. in South Sudan

A mob of armed civilians pretending to be peaceful protesters delivering a petition to the United Nations in South Sudan forced their way into a U.N. base sheltering some 5,000 civilians on Thursday and opened fire, the world body said. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said dozens of civilians were wounded in the attack on the U.N. base in the market town of Bor in northern Jonglei state, but the exact number of people killed or wounded had not yet been confirmed. Two U.N. peacekeepers were wounded repelling the armed mob, Dujarric said. "This attack on a location where civilians are being protected by the United Nations is a serious escalation," Dujarric said.

Water from Oregon reservoir tests clean

The Mount Tabor number 1 reservoir in Portland, Ore., is seen in a June 20, 2011 photo. Portland officials said Wednesday, April 16, 2014 that they are flushing away millions of gallons of treated water for the second time in less than three years because someone urinated into a city reservoir. In June 2011, the city drained a 7.5 million-gallon reservoir at Mount Tabor in southeast Portland. This time, 38 million gallons from a different reservoir at the same location will be discarded after a 19-year-old was videotaped in the act (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Benjamin Brink) PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — There's nothing wrong with the 38 million gallons of water being flushed away from a reservoir in an Oregon city.


Wall Street edges higher during earnings flurry

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange By Rodrigo Campos NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks advanced slightly in choppy trading on Thursday after three days of gains, as underwhelming results from tech bellwethers Google and IBM were offset by upbeat quarterly numbers, including those from Morgan Stanley and General Electric. The latest data showed the U.S. economy's health was improving. The combined reported and expected earnings-per-share growth estimate for S&P 500 components rose to 1.7 percent from Wednesday's 0.6 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed, indicating most companies that reported results in the past 24 hours exceeded expectations. The technology sector capped the S&P 500's gain, with Google shares down 3.2 percent at $545.81 and IBM off 3.2 percent at $190.28 after both reported earnings late Wednesday that failed to impress Wall Street.


Nevada supe: Kids are victims in cheating scandal

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada's state superintendent says children are the victims in a cheating scandal uncovered at a Las Vegas elementary school.

Jobless claims, factory data put some shine on economy

Corporate recruiters gesture and shake hands as they talk with job seekers at a Hire Our Heroes job fair targeting unemployed military veterans and sponsored by the Cable Show, a cable television industry trade show in Washington By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New claims for jobless benefits hovered near their pre-recession levels last week and manufacturing in the Mid-Atlantic region accelerated in April, suggesting an upswing in economic activity after a brutally cold winter. Coming on the heels of fairly bullish data on retail sales and industrial production, Thursday's reports also hinted job growth may be picking up slightly. "The data add further evidence to the notion that the economy has exerted positive momentum at the start of the second quarter," said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits ticked up 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000 for the week ended April 12, the Labor Department said, but stayed close to a 6-1/2 year low touched the prior week.


Turkish ruling party wants Erdogan presidential bid: officials

Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara By Orhan Coskun ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's ruling party would overwhelmingly back Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's candidacy in the nation's first direct presidential election, senior officials said on Thursday, a move his opponents fear would feed his autocratic instincts. But Erdogan has said the popular vote will give the post more authority, and he has vowed to exercise its full powers if elected. A majority of the 300 deputies in Erdogan's AK Party voted in a secret ballot on Wednesday in favor of him running in the August presidential election, party officials told Reuters. His party's strong showing in local elections last month, despite a corruption scandal dogging his inner circle, has strengthened expectations he will do so.


Ky. jury says ex-priest should serve 15 years

Former Catholic priest James Schook, right, leaves a Louisville, Ky., courtroom with his brother on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Schook, who has terminal cancer, is facing charges of sexual abuse with two teenage boys in the 1970s. As testimony began Tuesday in the long-delayed trial, a witness said that he had numerous sexual encounters with Schook, beginning at age 13, at a Louisville church. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan) LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A jury says a former priest convicted of felony sex abuse charges in Louisville should serve a 15-year prison sentence.


Kerry: Russia made no commitments on Ukrainian debt, gas prices

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday Russia had not promised to ease Ukraine's debt or gas prices and suggested any withdrawal of Russian troops from its borders depended on steps to protect the rights of minorities. "(Russia made) no commitments with respect to the debt, no commitments with respect to the gas payments overdue, but a commitment to engage in a dialogue ... which will begin to tackle the whole question of energy," Kerry told reporters.

Illinois gives early OK to $100M for Obama museum

CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois House committee has advanced a plan to devote $100 million in state funds to help bring President Barack Obama's presidential museum and library to Chicago.

Lowe's agrees to minimize lead dust

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department says that Lowe's Home Centers has agreed to settle violations of federal requirements that call for its contractors to minimize lead dust from home renovations.

Dirty creek, old purse solve four-decade mystery

In this September 2013 photo provided by the South Dakota Attorney Generals Office a 1960 Studebaker lies upside-down where it was found by a fisherman in Brule Creek near Alcester, S.D. On April 15, 2014 authorities said the remains of Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson had been found in the car near a gravel pit the girls had been headed to in 1971 to celebrate the end of the school year with classmates. (AP Photo/South Dakota Attorney Generals Office) ELK POINT, S.D. (AP) — Cheryl Miller and Pamella Jackson had planned to celebrate the end of the 1971 school year by gathering with classmates at a quarry along a gravel road.


U.S. judge declines to order 'park it now' notices for GM cars

GM Chief Executive Officer Barra testifies during a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington A federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid to compel General Motors Co to tell customers to stop driving millions of cars that have been recalled for defective ignition switches. Attorneys representing Charles and Grace Silvas, the owners of a recalled 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt, had sought an emergency order directing GM to issue "park it now" notices for the 2.6 million vehicles that have been recalled since February over the switches. GM opposed the motion, arguing that the vehicles were safe to drive as long as nothing extra was attached to the key while it was in the ignition. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, Texas, denied the request in a ruling on Thursday, saying that she would defer to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency that oversees auto safety.


U.S. judge declines to order 'park it now' notices for GM cars

GM Chief Executive Officer Barra testifies during a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington A federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid to compel General Motors Co to tell customers to stop driving millions of cars that have been recalled for defective ignition switches. Attorneys representing Charles and Grace Silvas, the owners of a recalled 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt, had sought an emergency order directing GM to issue "park it now" notices for the 2.6 million vehicles that have been recalled since February over the switches. GM opposed the motion, arguing that the vehicles were safe to drive as long as nothing extra was attached to the key while it was in the ignition. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, Texas, denied the request in a ruling on Thursday, saying that she would defer to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency that oversees auto safety.


Top Asian News at 5:30 p.m. GMT

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday. Meanwhile, the coast guard said it was investigating whether the ferry's captain was one of the first ones off the sinking ship.

Facebook rolls out location-sharing feature

This image provided by Facebook shows the “Nearby Friends" tool. Using your smartphone’s GPS system, it will tell your Facebook friends _ provided they have the feature turned on _ that you are nearby. Rather than share your exact location, though, it will only show that you are in close proximity, say within half a mile. (AP Photo/Facebook) NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook users in the U.S. will soon be able to see which of their friends are in close proximity using a new feature the company is launching on Thursday.


Clear Kiev protesters first, says pro-Russian sit-in group

Pro-Russian separatists occupying a local government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk said on Thursday they would not leave until supporters of Ukraine's new government quit their camp around Kiev's main square, known as the Maidan. Asked how his group would react to an international accord in Geneva under which the Ukrainian and Russian governments agreed that illegal occupations of buildings and squares must end, Alexander Zakharchenko, a protest leader inside the Donetsk regional government building, told Reuters by telephone: "If it means all squares and public buildings then I guess it should start with the Maidan in Kiev.

Nigeria: Fate of 115 abducted girls unknown

Security men stand guard in front of a bus conveying All progressives Congress opposition governors after visiting victims of at the Accident and Emergency unit of Asokoro hospital where injured people from Monday's explosion at a bus station are receiving treatment in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Scores of peopledied in the the blast that destroyed more than 30 vehicles and caused secondary explosions as their fuel tanks exploded and burned. The Monday attack just miles from Nigeria's seat of government increases doubts about the military's ability to contain an Islamic uprising that is dividing the country on religious lines as never before. (AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba) MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — The fate of 115 female students abducted by Islamic extremists was thrown into uncertainty Thursday when their school principal denied the Nigerian military's report that almost all the pupils had been freed.


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