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: Five things Chuck Hagel may be asked about
When the Senate Armed Services Committee is gaveled into session Thursday, Chuck Hagel is likely to face some sharp questions from many of his old colleagues. If confirmed as secretary of defense, the one-time infantry sergeant and twice-wounded Vietnam veteran would be the first former enlisted man to lead the Pentagon. The former Republican senator from Nebraska gets his chance to answer questions Thursday morning during his confirmation hearing, and here are five subjects where he can expect them.
CNN: McCain moves from backer to skeptic on Hagel
During his 2000 presidential run, a voter asked Republican Sen. John McCain who he might choose as secretary of defense. McCain responded by tossing out the name of a dear old friend and colleague, Senator Chuck Hagel, the very man who would be nominated to that post by a Democrat and become a frequent McCain target 13 years later.
CNN: Wounded Giffords urges senators to act now against gun violence
Her voice was halting, but not weak. Two years after being shot in the head by a gunman at a political event, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords appeared at the first congressional hearing since last month's Connecticut school massacre to urge Congress to act now on gun violence.
CNN: Sen. Robert Menendez denies improper travel and hiring prostitutes
Sen. Robert Menendez's office issued a statement Wednesday saying he had traveled several times on a plane belonging to a Florida eye doctor who had given political donations to Menendez but that all the trips were "paid for and reported appropriately." The office also denied allegations the New Jersey Democrat had engaged the services of prostitutes.
CNN: Suspect sought in fatal Phoenix office shooting
Phoenix police were searching Wednesday for a 70-year-old man suspected in the shooting of three people, one of whom died, in an office building. A about 10:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET), Harmon shot Steven Singer, 48; a 43-year-old man who was in critical condition, and a 32-year-old woman, Phoenix Police Public Information Officer Tommy Thompson told CNN affiliate KTVK.
CNN: Teen who performed at Obama inaugural events shot dead in Chicago
A teen who performed at events around President Barack Obama's inauguration was shot to death in Chicago this week, and now her story has become part of the debate in Washington over gun violence nationwide. The shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton came up in a U.S. Senate hearing and a White House press briefing Wednesday.
CNN: Alabama bunker suspect faced court date, neighbors say
Neighbors of Jimmy Lee Dykes say he was supposed to have been in court on Wednesday, facing charges that he'd shot at them during a December argument over the dirt road that separated their properties. Instead, he was holed up in an underground bunker dug into his yard, surrounded by sheriff's deputies, state troopers and police. Also inside the bunker, authorities say, is a 6-year-old boy seized from a school bus at gunpoint Tuesday afternoon.
CNN: High winds, tornado trap Georgia residents, turn over cars
Powerful winds and a tornado spawned by a 1,000-mile-long storm system pounded communities in northwest Georgia on Wednesday, overturning dozens of vehicles and trapping residents. The tornado caused significant damage in Adairsville, Georgia. One person died in that town and another died in Tennessee, authorities reported. At least 17 people were injured in Georgia, two critically.
CNN: Egyptian secular, Islamist groups meet to try to end conflict
An Islamist party that once supported Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy met Wednesday with a prominent opposition group to talk about a solution to the political strife that has wracked the country in recent days. The ultraconservative al-Nour party had backed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood, rallying support for the country's new constitution and its emphasis on Sharia law. Secularists have opposed them.
CNN Security Clearance: U.S.: North Korean nuclear test 'soon'
The United States believes North Korea is ready "at any time" to conduct a nuclear test, American officials tell CNN. "We think they are preparing for a test," one U.S. official told CNN Wednesday. "We are watching it all as closely as we can." U.S. officials say they are bracing for a third test by Pyongyang "soon," although they caution it's near impossible to predict the timing.
CNN: Deadly fire weighs heavy in Brazil; club owner attempts suicide
One of the owners of the Brazilian nightclub that burned down this week, killing 235, tried to take his own life while in custody, police said Wednesday. Elissandro Spohr is one of four arrested in the aftermath of Sunday's deadly blaze at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil. It seems to be all that people in the town talk about, and protestors have taken to the streets demanding justice.
CNN: New York Times says Chinese hackers broke into its computers
The New York Times says that Chinese hackers have carried out sustained attacks on its computer systems, breaking in and stealing the passwords of high-profile reporters and other staff members. According to The Times, the cyberassaults took place over the past four months, beginning during an investigation by the newspaper into the wealth reportedly accumulated by relatives of the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao.
CNN: 5 things that could make BlackBerry 10 a hit
All BlackBerry did Wednesday was change its corporate name, introduce two new smartphones and launch a bold new mobile operating system, BlackBerry 10, that may be the struggling company's last stab at relevance. Now it's up to consumers to render a verdict on whether BlackBerry's new offerings - the all-touchscreen Z10 phone and the Q10, which still has a keyboard - are worth buying over iPhones or Android devices.
CNNMoney: U.S. economy contracts for first time since recession
Uncle Sam cut spending and businesses drew down inventories in the fourth quarter of 2012, causing the U.S. economy to contract for the first time in more than three years. But don't start throwing around the R-word just yet.
CNNMoney: Boeing: Dreamliner woes won't hit earnings
Boeing said Wednesday it expects "no significant financial impact" this year from the problems with its 787 Dreamliner that led to the jet's grounding due to safety concerns. The aircraft maker said it still intends to build more than 60 Dreamliners this year, which suggests no slower pace than the five jets a month it is now building.
In case you missed it…
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre says he is against universal background checks, but in '99 he was for it. CNN’s Jim Acosta reports.