The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
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CNN: Senate Democrats back Obama's proposed spending freeze
Senate Democrats said Wednesday they would sign on to President Obama's proposed five-year spending freeze as they attempt to wrest back headlines from Republicans' dramatic spending cut debate in the House. "What we've gotten initially from the Republicans in the House is to whack more than a million jobs, and so our agenda is to create jobs, to do something about the debt," said House Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. Reid pledged Democrats would freeze domestic, discretionary spending for the next five years, which the president first proposed in his State of the Union address in January. The White House estimates a freeze would save $400 billion over ten years.
The Hill: Boehner has 'real doubts' about prospect for budget agreement
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doubts that Congress will agree on a budget this year. Boehner said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” primetime talkshow that Senate Democrats are unlikely to negotiate on a budget resolution this spring after the House sends their yet-to-be-seen package to the upper chamber. “I’ve got real doubts whether we’ll ever come to an agreement with a Democrat-controlled Senate for a budget,” the top-ranking House Republican said Wednesday evening, acknowledging that the House budget will include cuts in entitlement spending such as Medicare and Social Security.
Politico: Paul Ryan vows to target Medicare and Medicaid
The top House budget writer vowed this week to craft a blueprint for the nation’s fiscal future that proposes significant reforms to Medicare and Medicaid — but not necessarily to Social Security — as he criticized President Barack Obama for choosing not to address entitlement spending in his fiscal 2012 budget. “Where he has failed on these critical issues, especially the health care entitlements, we plan to step in the breach and provide that kind of leadership by showing the country how we would do things different,” Rep. Paul Ryan, a 41-year-old Wisconsin Republican, said in an interview Tuesday for the POLITICO video series “The Economic Outlook.”
CNN: Senator tells of sexual, physical abuse
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, said that he was sexually abused by a camp counselor at the age of 10, and physically and psychologically abused by his stepfathers, in an interview scheduled to air Sunday on CBS. "Fortunately, nothing was ever fully consummated, so to speak," Brown said of the sexual abuse. "But it was certainly, back then, very traumatic. He said, 'If you tell anybody, you know, I'll kill you. You know, I will make sure that no one believes you,'" Brown said the abuser threatened him, in a clip of the interview released Wednesday by CBS. "And that's the biggest thing. When people find people like me at that young, vulnerable age, who are basically lost, the thing that they have over you is they make you believe that no one will believe you."
New York Times: Secret Report Ordered by Obama Identified Potential Uprisings
President Obama ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday. Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, these officials said. The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.
CNN: Carney sounds like Gibbs on first day as White House spokesman
With a wish of good luck from his boss, new White House Press Secretary Jay Carney held his first briefing Wednesday and came off very much like the man he replaced. "Thank you very much," Carney said to greetings of welcome from former journalist colleagues in the White House press corps. "I'm glad to be here." A former White House correspondent for Time magazine, Carney noted the briefing room was unusually crowded for his first day, with some reporters and photographers standing on the sides and in back. "I appreciate the turnout," he joked.
CNN: Bill Burton to leave the White House
On the same day that Jay Carney stepped up to the podium for his first official briefing as the successor to Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary, the man who lost out to Carney for the coveted post officially announced he's bolting the administration on Friday. Bill Burton, who was the principal deputy press secretary to Gibbs, revealed in an e-mail that he is leaving President Obama's staff at the end of the week to start a new political and strategic consulting firm with Sean Sweeney, an ex-adviser to two former White House chiefs of staff, Rahm Emanuel and Pete Rouse. "I will never forget the hardworking and decent people I worked with here – and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of it," Burton wrote in the e-mail to colleagues and members of the White House press corps.
CNN: Wisconsin schools call off classes as budget protests continue
At least 15 school systems in Wisconsin canceled Thursday's classes because teachers and other public employees will continue protests at the state Capitol over a bill that would strip them of most of their collective bargaining rights and increase their contributions for benefits. At least 10,000 employees and supporters rallied Wednesday in Madison in opposition to legislation supported by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Classes will not be held for a second day Thursday in the Madison Metropolitan School District, said spokesman Ken Syke, because of a call by the Wisconsin Education Association Council for people to come to the Capitol on Thursday and Friday to "stand beside your neighbors, family and friends to help our voices be heard."
New York Times: As U.S. Agencies Put More Value on a Life, Businesses Fret
As the players here remake the nation’s vast regulatory system, they have been grappling with a subject that is more the province of poets and philosophers than bureaucrats: what is the value of a human life? The answer determines how much spending the government should require to prevent a single death. To protests from business and praise from unions, environmentalists and consumer groups, one agency after another has ratcheted up the price of life, justifying tougher — and more costly — standards.
CNN: Obama to sign bill naming courthouse after slain Arizona judge
President Barack Obama will sign a bill in the Oval Office on Thursday naming a new federal courthouse in Yuma, Arizona, after slain federal Judge John M. Roll. The 63-year old judge was gunned down in Tucson, Arizona, along with five others in January while he attended an event hosted by his friend U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in the attack. She is undergoing rehabilitation in Houston, Texas. "Judge Roll lost his life trying to protect another. His act of courage will always be remembered," Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar said on the House floor last week. "His outstanding character will never be forgotten."
Honolulu Star Advertiser: Civil unions bill wins final approval; awaits governor's signature
The Hawaii Senate took its final step in clearing the way to grant same-sex couples virtually the same rights and privileges of traditional marriage, giving approval today to a bill legalizing civil unions. Senate Bill 232 was approved by a 18-5 vote. It now goes to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who supports civil unions and has promised to sign the bill into law. "I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people's privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha," Abercrombie said in a statement after the vote.
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CNN: Philadelphia cardinal orders investigation of 37 priests
The Catholic Church in Philadelphia will investigate as many as 37 priests identified in a grand jury report as remaining in "active ministry with credible allegations of child sexual abuse," Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, said Wednesday. "Sexual abuse of children is a crime. It is always wrong and gravely evil," Rigali said in a news release. "The grand jury report makes clear that for as much as the archdiocese has done to address child sexual abuse, there is still much to do." He also announced that three priests were placed on administrative leave pending a review.
CNN: Computer finishes off human opponents on 'Jeopardy!'
Start the "computers are conquering the world" jokes now. "Jeopardy!" master Ken Jennings already has. The IBM supercomputer Watson won its second "Jeopardy!" game in Wednesday's edition of the TV show, completing a sweep of its two human opponents, including Jennings, who acknowledged mankind's trivia inferiority before the match was even over. "I for one welcome our new computer overlords," Jennings wrote under his correct Final Jeopardy! solution, prompting laughter from the studio audience. Watson - despite being far from perfect - was too far ahead in the two-game match to be caught. It beat Jennings and fellow "Jeopardy!" champion Brad Rutter, earning $41,413 for the day and $77,147 for the two-game total.
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CNN: Police move on protesters in Bahrain, killing at least 3
What had been days of mostly peaceful demonstrations changed dramatically in Bahrain early Thursday morning when police swarmed into the capital city and forcibly removed protesters from the Pearl Roundabout. Police came in with dozens of vehicles, surrounded the roundabout and began firing "pellet bullets," rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators, witnesses said. At least three people were killed early Thursday morning during the incident, emergency hospital services said.
CNN: Protests continue as Egypt's military plans for referendum
As Egypt's military moves forward with a plan to enact constitutional reforms, protests continued Wednesday while the country adjusted to its new governing body. Military personnel dispersed about 200 protesters Wednesday outside a welding factory between Cairo and Alexandria, state media reported. The protesters blocked traffic for about a half-hour, demanding better pay, better compensation for working longer hours and better treatment from management.
CNN: Pakistani judge delays hearing for jailed U.S. diplomat
A Pakistani judge on Thursday postponed until March 14 a hearing for a jailed American diplomat accused of shooting and killing two men, a government official said. Thursday's hearing was delayed after the Foreign Ministry asked that it be given three weeks to respond to questions from the Lahore High Court about whether Raymond Davis is entitled to diplomatic immunity, according to Khawaja Haris, a senior government attorney. Davis was not in court and neither was his lawyer or any representative from the U.S. Embassy, Haris said.
CNN: Tour boat sinks, killing 12
At least 12 people died when a tour boat in Vietnam's Halong Bay sank early Thursday, an official said. The dead included 11 foreigners - from the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and France - and their Vietnamese tour guide, according to Ngo Van Hung, director of the Halong Bay managing board. The bodies have been taken to a local hospital for identification, he said. Seventeen people were rescued following the incident, according to Do Thong, vice president of Quang Ninh province. The casue of the accident is being investigated, he said.
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CNNMoney: Bank of America subpoenaed over Countrywide loans
Bank of America was subpoenaed Wednesday over a loan program that may have given influential people sweetheart deals on their mortgages. The subpoena was issued by House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California who has doggedly pursued the issue for several years. The subpoena demands Bank of America turn over documents related to a VIP loan program that was administered by Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America purchased in early 2008.
In Case You Missed It
To balance the budget, CNN's Jim Acosta asks members of Congress: What would you cut?
The State Dept. presses Pakistan to release U.S. consulate worker Raymond Davis after he allegedly shot two Pakistanis.
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