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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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buried lead

May 31st, 2013
07:02 PM ET

Former Obama advisers cashing in on White House résumés

By Jake Tapper, CNN Chief Washington Correspondent

President Barack Obama banned former aides from directly lobbying the government for two years after they leave the White House, but there are other ways to influence beyond direct lobbying.

The vague "consulting" loophole, for instance.

Even less publicized are junkets to foreign lands, often ones with abysmal records when it comes to human rights and democracy.

There was a conference in Azerbaijan this past Tuesday and Wednesday, an event attended by former top Obama aides, all of whom were well-compensated for their time and travel, as first reported by The Washington Post.

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national lead

May 31st, 2013
06:13 PM ET

Giant asteroid sails past Earth

An asteroid so big it pulled its own moon flew by Earth Friday afternoon. NASA called it a "potential city killer," and said it would pass within 3.6 million miles of Earth, roughly 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

The good news is, there will be no need to call on a rag-tag team of oil rig workers to save the day, or crank up the Aerosmith.

The bad news is there are actually space rocks the size of the Golden Gate Bridge floating around, and Earth may not always be outside of the danger zone when one comes hurtling this way.

CNN's Tom Foreman shows just how big and dangerous these asteroids can be in the video above.

world lead

May 31st, 2013
06:12 PM ET

Who are the Syrian rebels?

The family of Nicole Lynn Mansfield has confirmed from photos they have seen that she is one of three Westerners reportedly killed in Syria.

Her death is difficult and confusing for her family, who says it had no idea she was there, although her father said he had concerns.

"I went to the FBI with my concerns three years ago, her passport needed to be revoked. It's crazy around here," said Gregory Mansfield.

"I know that she was talking to people online and that they told her about the project in Syria. And that she was interested in going over there to help. And she didn't think it would be fighting, she told me there wouldn't be no guns or anything she would never be involved in that. And they lied to her. They misled her and took her over there and probably paid for her ticket and everything and they kept her there," said daughter Triana Jones.

Syrian state-run television said the three Westerners were fighting alongside rebels and were found with weapons.

A State Department official told CNN that the agency is aware of the reports and is trying to get more information on Mansfield and what happened.

The incident highlights complications when talking about the Syrian rebels - few know who they are, whether they share the same motives, and whether the U.S. can trust them.

money lead

May 31st, 2013
06:11 PM ET

Expert: College is not worth it

The state of the student loan crisis in this country has set the stage for another battle between President Barack Obama and Congress.

College students are amassing decades worth of student loan debt, and face slim prospects for finding a job related to their degree post-graduation.

On Friday, the president urged Congress to approve his plan, which would freeze student loan interest rates. If Congress does not act, the rates would automatically double, shooting up to 6.8%.

But the Republican-led House also put forth a plan to deal with the student loan issue. Like the president's plan, it would also keep student loan rates from doubling, and would tie rates to the 10-year Treasury notes. While the president's plan freezes rates for the life of the loan, the House plan would let lending rates reset each each year.

Independent analysts say both plans have shortcomings that could lead to a dramatic spike in rates for borrowers down the road.

With the tough job market and the threat of being saddled with debt, many are beginning to question whether going to college is even worth it. The short answer, according to Penelope Trunk, co-founder of the career management site BrazenCareerist.com, is no.

politics lead

May 31st, 2013
05:26 PM ET

Former IRS commissioner's visits to White House become friction point

Douglas Shulman, former head of the IRS, visited the White House 157 times, according to the public visitor records released by the White House.

In congressional testimony earlier this month, Shulman was quizzed on his visits to the White House. He attributed one visit to taking his children to the annual Easter egg roll hosted by the president and first lady, but said at no point did he talk to anyone at the White House about the agency's tax exempt rules.

"If someone had asked me if I were 157 times, and I wasn't, I would have known the answer, and I would have given that answer," said CNN contributor and Republican strategist Kevin Madden. "And here we are, a week later, and we're still arguing about it."

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