Monday May 20, 2013

AP CEO calls government seizure
of phone records unconstitutional

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The president and chief executive officer of The Associated Press on Sunday called the government’s secret seizure of two months of reporters’ phone records "unconstitutional" and said the news cooperative had not ruled out legal action against the Justice Department.

Gary Pruitt, in his first television interviews since it was revealed the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records of AP reporters and editors, said the move already has had a chilling effect on journalism. Pruitt said the seizure has made sources less willing to talk to AP journalists and, in the long term, could limit Americans’ information from all news outlets.

Pruitt told CBS’ "Face the Nation" that the government has no business monitoring the AP’s newsgathering activities.

"And if they restrict that apparatus ... the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment," he said.

In a separate interview with the AP, Pruitt said the news cooperative had not decided its next move but had not ruled out legal action against the government. He said the Justice Department’s investigation is out of control and President Barack Obama should rein it in.

Vindicated by IRS admission, tea party hopes to leverage the moment for resurgence

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Is the tea party getting its groove back? Shouts of vindication from around the country suggest the movement’s leaders certainly think so.

They say the IRS acknowledgement that it had targeted their groups for extra scrutiny -- a claim that tea party activists had made for years -- is helping pump new energy into the coalition. And they are trying to use that development, along with the ongoing controversy over the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks and the Justice Department’s secret seizure of journalists’ phone records, to recruit new activists incensed about government overreach.

"This is the defining moment to say ‘I told you so,’ " said Katrina Pierson, a Dallas-based tea party leader, who traveled to Washington last week as the three political headaches for President Barack Obama unfolded.

Luke Rogonjich, a tea party leader in Phoenix, called the trio of controversies a powerful confluence that bolsters the GOP’s case against big government. "Suddenly, there are a lot of things pressing on the dam," said Rogonjich.

It’s unclear whether a movement made up of disparate grassroots groups with no central body can take advantage of the moment and leverage it to grow stronger after a sub-par showing in last fall’s election had called into question the movement’s lasting impact. Republicans and Democrats alike say the tea party runs the risk of going too far in its criticism, which could once again open the door to Democratic efforts to paint it as an extreme arm of the GOP.

Officer who fatally shot college student and armed intruder faced harrowing choice

NEW YORK (AP) -- The police officer who accidentally killed a Long Island college student along with an armed intruder faced perhaps the most harrowing decision of a law enforcement career: choosing the split-second moment when the risk is so high that you must act to save a life.

"The big question is, how do you know, when someone’s pointing a gun at you, whether you should keep talking to them, or shoot?" said Michele Galietta, a professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who helps train police officers. "That’s what makes the job of an officer amazingly difficult."

She spoke Sunday as Hofstra University students honored 21-year-old Andrea Rebello by wearing white ribbons at their graduation ceremony.

Rebello was killed two days earlier after a masked man walked through the unlocked door of her off-campus home. A police officer aiming at the would-be robber opened fire, hitting the Hofstra junior as well as the ex-convict holding her in a headlock.

Obama tells black graduates he could have gone wrong ‘but for the grace of God’

ATLANTA (AP) -- President Barack Obama, in a soaring commencement address on work, sacrifice and opportunity, on Sunday told graduates of historically black Morehouse College to seize the power of their example as black men graduating from college and use it to improve people’s lives.

The president said his success was due to "the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had -- because there but for the grace of God, go I. I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me."

Noting the Atlanta school’s mission to cultivate, not just educate, good men, Obama said graduates should not be so eager to join the chase for wealth and material things, but instead should remember where they came from and not "take your degree and get a fancy job and nice house and nice car and never look back."

"So yes, go get that law degree. But if you do, ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and powerful, or if you can also find time to defend the powerless," Obama said. "Sure, go get your MBA, or start that business, we need black businesses out there. But ask yourself what broader purpose your business might serve, in putting people to work, or transforming a neighborhood."

"The most successful CEOs I know didn’t start out intent on making money. Rather, they had a vision of how their product or service would change things, and the money followed," he said.

Official says driver in Virginia parade crash likely suffered from medical condition

DAMASCUS, Va. (AP) -- Authorities believe the driver who plowed into dozens of hikers marching in a Virginia mountain town parade suffered from a medical condition and did not cause the crash intentionally, an emergency official said Sunday.

Officials did not have a formal confirmation or any specifics on the condition, but based on the accounts of authorities and witnesses on the scene, they are confident the issue was medical, according to Pokey Harris, Washington County’s director of emergency management. "There is no reason to believe this was intentional," she said.

In what witnesses called a frantic scene at the parade, about 50 to 60 people suffered injuries ranging from critical to superficial Saturday. No fatalities were reported.

The crash happened around 2:10 p.m. Saturday during the Hikers Parade at the Trail Days festival, an annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail in Damascus, near the Tennessee state line.

Syrian regime troops score gains, push into strategic rebel-held town near Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian troops pushed into a rebel-held town near the Lebanese border on Sunday, fighting house-to-house and bombing from the air as President Bashar Assad tried to strengthen his grip on a strategic strip of land running from the capital to the Mediterranean coast.

With the regime scoring gains on the battlefield, the U.S. and Russia could face an even tougher task persuading Assad and his opponents to attend talks on ending Syria’s 26-month-old conflict. Washington and Moscow hope to start talks with an international conference as early as next month, though no date has been set.

Government forces launched the offensive on the town of Qusair just hours after Assad said in a newspaper interview that he’ll stay in his job until elections -- effectively rejecting an opposition demand that any talks on a political transition lead to his ouster.

Even though the regime and the main opposition group have not yet committed to attending the conference, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday that he is hopeful it can take place "very soon," possibly in early June.

Previous diplomatic initiatives have failed, in part because of divisions within the international community and because the regime and the armed opposition believed they could achieve more on the battlefield than in talks. Russia and the U.S. have backed opposite sides in Syria.

A bullet in his body, officer who survived Boston bombing suspect showdown aims to work again

BOSTON (AP) -- With a bullet still in his body, the police officer who survived a showdown with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects said Sunday he’s determined to return to duty.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Officer Richard Donahue has been recovering alongside victims injured in the April 15 attack by the marathon’s finish line since his transfer to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston on Friday.

The 33-year-old uses crutches to get around now, and is coping with nerve damage that makes it painful to walk and difficult to sleep. But sitting alongside his wife Kim Donahue, the transit officer said he’s getting stronger and healthier every day.

Besides building strength to walk on his own, Donahue also is doing speech therapy and other exercises to prepare his mind and body to head home again. He said he’s looking forward to the end of his hospitalization so he can spend more time with his 7-month-old son, who’s gotten four new teeth in the meantime, and toss a ball around with his family’s beagle.

Donahue doesn’t recall anything about the gun battle that left him wounded on a street in suburban Watertown. His last memory from the day he almost bled to death is roll call at the start of his shift.

Ahead of shareholder meeting, JPMorgan CEO Dimon is under pressure; fighting for chairman job

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of the country’s biggest bank, faces a key test this week: His shareholders are voting on whether to let him keep both jobs.

It’s been just more than a year since his bank, JPMorgan Chase, revealed a surprise trading loss that tarnished its usually stellar reputation in Washington and on Wall Street, and what a difference it has made. Shareholder groups are calling for the bank to strip him of his chairman job, a move that would be a bruising referendum against a man who’s normally chieftain even among other big-bank CEOs. They’re also lobbying to kick out multiple long-time board members, saying they should have done more to detect or prevent the trading loss.

In all, it’s a powerful reminder of how fortunes can quickly shift in the banking industry, and how banks, supposedly chastened by the financial crisis, are still stumbling through regulatory and legal crises.

On Tuesday, at the bank’s annual meeting in Tampa, Fla., union group AFSCME, the New York City Comptroller’s Office and other fund managers will ask bank shareholders to approve a proposal asking JPMorgan to split the roles of chairman and CEO, and to give the chairman job to someone who isn’t a bank employee. The underlying idea is to install stricter checks and balances against Dimon and other top bank executives.

A similar measure got 40 percent approval at last year’s meeting, which was held just days after the bank announced the so-called London whale loss. In the previous six annual meetings where Dimon has been both chairman and CEO, shareholders have been asked about separating the roles four times, and last year marked the highest level of votes in favor of the idea. In 2007 and 2008, only about 15 percent of shareholders voted for similar measures.