Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 30, 2012

The U.S. seeks asylum for a Chinese dissident, the head U.N. observer arrives in Syria, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. OBAMA TRIES FOR BALANCE WITH CHINAA top advisor said Sunday that the president is trying to "balance our commitment to human rights" while still working "to carry out our relationships with key overseas countries," in the case of Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese dissident who escaped house arrest last week. Chen first gained attention from Chinese authorities when he openly criticized his country's practice of forced abortions. The Obama administration sent a diplomat to Beijing on Sunday to discuss Chen's fate and contain a burgeoning diplomatic crisis. A U.S. rights group says it's likely Chen will be granted asylum in the U.S. [New York Times, Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

2. CHIEF U.N. OBSERVER ARRIVES IN SYRIAMaj. Gen. Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria, arrived in Damascus Sunday. He will lead an advance team of 16 U.N. monitors hoping to salvage an international peace plan in the ravaged country. Despite a ceasefire that went into effect on April 12, heavy fighting in Syria persists; activists report that government troops killed at least 28 civilians on Sunday alone. Early Monday, there were conflicting reports of multiple deadly blasts throughout Syria. [Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

3. U.S. HELPS IN HUNT FOR KONY Since being deployed by President Obama to central Africa last year, some 100 U.S. troops have been helping African forces track down Joseph Kony, the notorious warlord and head of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army. The subject of a recent viral video, Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has been accused of leading the LRA to kill and maim thousands of people and turning children into soldiers and sex slaves. [CNN]………………………………………………………………………………

4. APPLE LEGALLY DUCKS BILLIONS IN TAXES The New York Times reports that Apple legally sidesteps paying billions of dollars in taxes by setting up subsidiaries in low-tax foreign countries like Ireland and the British Virgin Islands and having an office in Nevada, where there is no corporate income tax. According to a recent study, such tactics helped Apple to lower its federal tax bill by $2.4 billion last year, meaning the company was taxed at a rate of just 9.8 percent. [New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

5. BOEHNER ACCUSES OBAMA OF PICKING 'FAKE FIGHTS' House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused Obama of "diminishing the presidency by picking fake fights" in an interview broadcast Sunday. The comment was just the latest in a string of jabs Boehner has taken at the president. The president took a swipe at Boehner on Saturday at the White House Correspondents Dinner when he joked about Congress' failure to pass legislation. The latest point of contention between the two is how best to keep interest rates for student loans in check. [Washington Post]………………………………………………………………………………

6. WAR WITH IRAN IS SEEN AS LESS LIKELY Analysts say that a military conflict with Iran over its nuclear program is now less imminent. The threat of tighter economic sanctions has prompted Iranians "to try more flexible tactics in their dealings with the United States and other powers." Some Israeli leaders have also come to question the wisdom of a pre-emptive strike against Iran, a demonstration of cooling attitudes in the region. [New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

7. WIND FARMS MAY CAUSE WARMING In an ironic twist, researchers have discovered that large wind farms may actually cause temperatures to rise. In a study of some of Texas' vast wind farms, scientists noted temperatures up to 0.72 percent higher than other nearby areas. [Reuters]………………………………………………………………………………

8. ROYALS CELEBRATE FIRST ANNIVERSARY Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Sunday. The couple spent the day in their farmhouse on an island off the coast of Wales. [Newsday]………………………………………………………………………………

9. FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT FLOPS The Five-Year Engagement didn't fare well at the box office this weekend, bringing in an estimated $11.2 million to debut in fifth place. The Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. Think Like a Man continued to surprise, winning the weekend for the second week in a row. [E! Online]………………………………………………………………………………

10. INJURED HIKER SURVIVES FOUR DAYS WITHOUT FOODVictoria Grover, a 59-year-old physician assistant from Maine, survived four days in the Utah desert with a broken leg and no food or shelter before being rescued Saturday. Grover broke her leg while jumping off a 4-foot ledge, and became stranded on Tuesday. She credits her survival to her faith as well as her medical training. [Associated Press]

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