- With even a vague outline of an Iran nuclear deal eluding their grasp, negotiators headed for double-overtime last night in a marathon attempt to find common ground for a more important task - forging a final deal by the end of June.
Iran and six world powers had cited progress in abandoning their March 31 deadline for the basic understanding that would prepare the ground for a new phase of negotiations on a substantive deal. But as differences persisted into late yesterday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State John Kerry was postponing his departure and would remain until at least this morning.
The talks - the latest in more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear prowess - hit the weeklong mark today, with diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany scrambling to reach a framework accord with Iran.
"We continue to make progress but have not reached a political understanding," spokeswoman Marie Harf said in announcing Kerry's decision.
Ark. guv eyes changes to religious bill
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.
- Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson backed away yesterday from his promise to sign a controversial religious-objections bill, bowing to pressure from critics that included his own son and some of the state's biggest employers, who say the legislation is anti-gay.
The Republican governor said he wants the Legislature either to recall the bill from his desk or pass a follow-up measure that would make the proposal more closely mirror a federal religious-freedom law.
Hutchinson said his son, Seth, was among those who signed a petition asking him to veto the bill.
"This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial," the governor said. "But these are not ordinary times."
Hutchinson initially supported the bill, and on Tuesday, his office said he planned to sign it into law. But a day later, his position had changed.
California orders water restrictions
ECHO LAKE, Calif.
- California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered officials yesterday to impose statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history as surveyors found the lowest snow level in the Sierra Nevada snowpack in 65 years of record-keeping.
Standing in dry, brown grass at a site that normally would be snow-covered this time of year, Brown announced he had signed an executive order requiring the State Water Resources Control Board to implement measures in cities and towns to cut the state's overall water usage by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels.
The move will affect residents, businesses, farmers and other users.
"We're in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action," Brown said at a news conference at Echo Summit in the Sierra Nevada, where state water officials found no snow on the ground for the first time in their April manual survey of the snowpack. "We have to pull together and save water in every way we can."
After declaring a drought emergency in January 2014, Brown urged all Californians to cut water use by 20 percent from the previous year. Despite increasingly stringent regulations imposed on local water agencies by the state, overall water use has fallen by just half that amount, prompting Brown to order the stronger action by the water board.
Reid's retirement sets off struggle in Senate
- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's decision to retire has sparked a very public feud between the No. 2 and No. 3 Senate Democrats, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York.
The two are longtime colleagues and former housemates in a group home on Capitol Hill who have clashed for power in the past.
This time, Durbin stood aside in the hours before Reid's retirement became public tomorrow morning, throwing his backing to Schumer and allowing the outspoken New Yorker to lock up support for the job of Democratic leader. Reid, D-Nev., publicly blessed Schumer, long seen as his likeliest successor, and Democrats hoped a messy leadership fight had been avoided.
The mess was still to come.
According to Durbin's version of events, in the same conversation where Durbin told Schumer he would not challenge him for leader, Schumer pledged his support for Durbin to hang onto the No. 2 job as Democratic whip.
- Associated Press