By Patrick Reis and Dustin Volz
TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: German Chancellor Angela Merkel called President Obama on Wednesday demanding answers over reports to her government that U.S. spy operations had peered into her cell-phone use. Obama promised the spying isn't currently happening and won't in the future, but he did not deny that it had happened previously. The spying revelation adds to a miserable week for Obama, who is under attack for his health care law's failing website. Elsewhere, Pakistan admitted it has secretly been approving many of the U.S. drone strikes on its soil, even as its leaders protest them publicly; House Speaker John Boehner left the door open for Congress to take up immigration reform; and Sen. Ted Cruz's trip to Texas proved plenty revealing.
PRESSURE ON SEBELIUS REACHES BOILING POINT: Her appearance on CNN last night did little to win Kathleen Sebelius new defenders. The HHS secretary dodged the "will you resign" question twice and said Obama did not know of the problems with HealthCare.gov until after its rollout. As the GOP coalesces around its talking points condemning her job performance (and Jon Stewart joins the fracas), the White House remains steadfast in their backing of Sebelius. (Sheryl Gay Stolberg,NYT)
MERKEL CALLS OBAMA: DID YOU TAP MY PHONE? Angela Merkel added herself to the growing list of foreign heads of state who want Obama to do some explaining about his administration's monitoring of phone calls. Merkel phoned Obama on concerns that the U.S. has been spying on her cell phone, based on information the German government has acquired. White House press secretary Jay Carney immediately began damage control, offering that the U.S "is not and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor." But Carney's choice of verb tense left many wondering whether that was true in the recent past. (National Journal)
PAKISTAN SIGNED 'PROTOCOL' ALLOWING DRONE STRIKES: Despite uproar this week on the heels of reports the U.S. is engaging in war crimes with its drone strikes in Pakistan, "there has been, since the administrations of George W. Bush and Pervez Musharraf, a secret agreement in place by which Pakistani military and intelligence authorities have approved many of the strikes." (Michael Hirsch, NJ)
BOEHNER ON PROSPECTS OF AN IMMIGRATION VOTE: "I still think that immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed and I am hopeful." (Lawder/Bohan, Reuters)
TOMORROW IN ONE PARAGRAPH: The Senate and House are not in session. John Kerry returns from Rome and delivers keynote remarks at CAP's 10th Anniversary Policy Conference at 2:15 p.m. Jacob Lew will also speak at the conference at 9 a.m.
NEW EXOTIC ANIMALS: "A purring monkey, a vegetarian piranha, and a flame-patterned lizard are among more than 400 new species of animals and plants that have been discovered in the past four years in the Amazon rainforest, conservationists say." (Jessica Aldred, The Guardian)
DOLLAR MENU: McDonald's treasured budget option is no more, and we have climate change to blame for that. Here's why. (Tim Fernholz, Quartz)
PAUL RYAN: The next two months are going to change the former veep hopeful's life depending on one thing: Is he eyeing a speakership or a 2016 presidential bid? (NJ)
STEPS TO A HAPPY BRAIN: New neuropsychological research says you can train your brain to be happy and overcome "negativity bias." Here's how. (Julie Beck, The Atlantic)
TSARNAEVS: The surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect wants access to records implicating his dead brother in a 2011 triple homicide. (AP)
A PARTY REMADE IN CRUZ'S OWN IMAGE: Ted Cruz made an uncountable number of enemies over the past month in the Senate and around the country. But Cruz's trip back to Texas this past week shows he's still very much loved in his own state—and even more remarkably, has "quickly remade the Texas Republican Party in his own image." (Kate Tumulty, WaPo)
FRIDAY'S LATE-NIGHT FUNNIES IN UNDER 3 MINUTES: Hemorrhoids and head lice are more popular than Congress (really!) and Colorado caters to its young with "bro-surance." (Reena Flores, NJ)
MAPPED: METRO AREAS WITH THE MOST POLITICAL INFLUENCE: D.C. is high on the list, but it's not No. 1. And in 2012, just 10 counties accounted for 30 percent of all contributions made by individual donors to political campaigns. (Emily Badger, Atlantic Cities)