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.
CNN: Romney: The South is an 'away game'
The former Massachusetts governor knows he is not in Boston anymore as he faces a handful of critical contests in the nation's Deep South over the next three weeks, more than enough time for the momentum in the GOP race to swing back to his rivals once again.
CNN: Hoyer predicts Democrats win back House if economic upswing continues
The No. 2 House Democrat predicted Thursday that, if the economy continues to improve, Democrats will win control of the House of Representatives in November. "I think our chances are reasonably good that we can take back the House, and if the economy continues to perform as it's been performing, I think we will take back the House," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, told reporters in his Capitol Hill office.
CNN: GOP spotlight turns to Mississippi, Alabama
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney declared himself a bit of an outsider Thursday in the upcoming GOP primaries in Mississippi and Alabama, while Rick Santorum battled to emerge from the heart of Dixie as the surviving conservative challenger. The two states are holding their presidential primaries Tuesday, along with caucuses to be held in Hawaii and American Samoa. Voters in Kansas and the Virgin Islands weigh in on Saturday.
CNN: 'Game Change' actors dish on Palin, portrayals and politics
Actress Julianne Moore, who portrays former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in the HBO movie “Game Change,” said she was surprised to learn how disorganized the McCain-Palin campaign was in 2008. “I really had an assumption that things were more organized than they are,” she told CNN on the red carpet before a screening at the Newseum in Washington.
CNN: Mississippi high court upholds Barbour pardons
Mississippi's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the controversial pardons of more than 200 convicts that former Gov. Haley Barbour granted on his way out of office, rejecting a challenge by the state's attorney general.
CNN: Judges orders millions paid in NYC firefighter bias case
A U.S. district judge ordered New York City to pay $128 million in to firefighters who allege the city used an entrance exam that deliberately sought to keep African-Americans and Latino Americans off the force. The judge also ordered the FDNY to hire 293 black and Latino applicants.
CNN: Senate rejects GOP measure to build oil pipeline
The Senate narrowly rejected a Republican-sponsored measure Thursday that would have bypassed the Obama administration's current objections to the Keystone XL pipeline and allowed construction on the controversial project to move forward immediately. Fifty-six senators voted in favor of the amendment - four short of the 60 required for approval. Eleven Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus in backing the plan.
CNN: State Department conducts press briefing in Spanish
Reporters from Spanish-language media peppered a State Department spokesman with questions Thursday on sanctions in Syria, Iran's influence in Latin America and Colombia's decision not to invite Cuba to an upcoming regional summit. The wide range of topics was nothing new for spokesman Mike Hammer, who regularly fields questions from journalists. But it was the first time the State Department offered an official press briefing in Spanish.
CNN: Creditors agree to Greek bond deal
Creditors have agreed to a plan to restructure Greek government bonds - a move that was vital to the financial future of the country - Greek government officials said Friday. The monumental deal means Greece has cleared its final hurdle to qualify for the €130 billion bailout program from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
CNN: Is Iran's Khamenei flirting with the 'Great Satan'?
Does recent – and rare – praise by Iran's supreme leader for President Barack Obama's efforts to dampen war talk suggest the regime is making an overture toward the United States? According to Iran's state-run Press TV, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei welcomed Obama's statement that there is a "window of opportunity" to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis through diplomacy, calling such remarks positive. This week, Obama has tried to cool down the martial rhetoric, saying there is too much "loose talk" of war with Iran.
CNN: Pakistan starts legal proceedings against bin Laden widows
Pakistani authorities have started legal proceedings against the widows of former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for allegedly entering Pakistan illegally and alleged forgery, Pakistan's interior minister told reporters Thursday. The widows are in the custody of Pakistani authorities, Minister Rehman Malik said.
CNN: U.S. looks into Afghan air force drug allegations
The United States is investigating allegations that some members of the Afghan air force have used their planes to transport drugs, a U.S. military spokesman said Thursday. Investigators want to know whether the drug-running allegations, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, are linked to the shooting deaths last year of eight U.S. Air Force officers at the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
CNN Money: House passes bipartisan bill aimed at start-ups
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday aimed at making it easier for small companies to grow and go public. The House voted 390-23 to pass the bill easing certain rules that the Securities and Exchange Commission enforces on small companies going through the process of becoming a publicly traded company. The Senate is working on a similar version of the bill, and President Obama has indicated he supports it.
CNN Money: Inflation slows dramatically in China
Inflation in China slowed dramatically in February, as temporary price hikes related to Lunar New Year faded. Consumer prices rose 3.2% from a year ago, China's National Bureau of Statistics reported Friday - a steep slowdown from a 4.5% inflation rate in January.
CNN: Ryanair CEO: Airports unnecessary 'international shopping centers'
The head of Dublin-based budget airline Ryanair says that airport operators are holding the aviation industry back - and describes the average airport as an unnecessary "international shopping center." Michael O'Leary, CEO of the carrier he described as "the McDonald's" of air travel, told CNN airport operators were hampering the growth of low-cost flight by leveling unrealistic charges on airlines.
In case you missed it…
Rick Santorum sits down with Piers Morgan and details occasions during which Mitt Romney routinely didn't tell the truth.