Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Ukraine: “Rebels in eastern Ukraine said on Thursday that they would proceed with a referendum this weekend seeking autonomy, even though President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday had appeared to withdraw his support for the vote.”
* VA: “In an extremely rare move, the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted to slap VA officials with subpoenas amid investigations into whether veterans died while waiting for primary health care. The Republican-led committee voted unanimously to issue subpoenas for all emails and correspondence between VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and other top VA officials dating back to April 9.”
* Oklahoma: “Oklahoma’s Attorney General has agreed to a 6-month stay of execution for Charles Warner, a death row inmate scheduled to die on May 13, after the April 29 attempt to put inmate Clayton Lockett to death went horribly awry. That execution ignited a national debate over the lethal injection and the death penalty in America.”
* OPIC divides the GOP: “The House on Thursday passed a measure to reauthorize the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and promote expanding electricity access in Africa despite no votes from 115 Republicans. Passed 297-117, the bill would direct the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to invest in expanding access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa as part of a three-year reauthorization.”
* In case North Korea weren’t quite repugnant enough, it’s been reduced to racists screeds: “[P]art of the tirade declared, ‘It would be perfect for Obama to live with a group of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo…. He is a crossbreed with unclear blood,’ the North says.”
* NSA: “The House Intelligence Committee passed a surveillance reform bill Thursday by voice vote, a measure identical to one approved by the House Judiciary Committee the day before. With the House Intelligence Committee’s approval, the first major reforms to U.S. surveillance law stand a decent chance of becoming law by the end of the year. It also means avoiding a divisive battle on the House floor and spares the Republican leadership in the House from having to take sides.”
* Kansas: “Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that he will talk with the FBI if he is contacted about a reported investigation into allegations about the awarding of contracts to privatize the state’s Medicaid program.” The Republican governor refused to say whether he’s already spoken to the FBI.
* It sounds as if we don’t really have a deficit problem: “The federal government had a budget surplus of $114 billion in April, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Wednesday. That is $1 billion more than a year ago and would be the biggest April surplus since 2008.”
* A sharp piece from Paul Waldman on the similarities between all of the various manufactured White House faux-controversies: “[A] clear pattern has emerged on how these scandals have unfolded, one that might be helpful to keep in mind as we start paying attention to Benghazi again.”
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.