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: Obama still backs new gun ban; top senator less certain
President Barack Obama on Monday reiterated his call for a comprehensive package of steps against gun violence as the focus on possible Senate legislation appeared to narrow to expanded background checks and limited ammunition magazines, rather than a ban on semi-automatic rifles that mimic assault weapons.
CNN Security Clearance: Kerry: 'I have huge heels to fill'
Secretary of State John Kerry says that he has "big heels to fill" as Hillary Clinton's successor and promised to keep U.S. diplomats abroad safe. Kerry was greeted by cheering employees at the State Department as he arrived for his first day of work on Monday. As the first man in the post in eight years, Kerry referred to Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, his two most recent predecessors, asking: "Can a man actually run the State Department?" "I don't know," he joked. "As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill."
CNN TV Exclusive: Menendez speaks out, rebuts prostitute claims
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is giving the Republican party a message makeover. In a sharp departure from the GOP's emphasis on slashing federal spending, bringing down the deficit and moving legislation to assist the "job creators," the No. 2 House Republican is rolling out a more personal appeal in a speech on Tuesday with an agenda to "make life work."
CNN: McCain opposes any effort by colleagues to block Hagel vote
Despite his sharp criticism of cabinet nominee Chuck Hagel, Sen. John McCain said Monday he would oppose any effort by his colleagues to block an up-or-down vote on President Obama's pick to run the Department of Defense. "I do not support a filibuster," McCain said. "I don't think it's appropriate and I would oppose such a move."
CNN: Officials: Hostage standoff ends with child rescued, kidnapper dead
A 5-year-old boy freed Monday after being held captive in an underground bunker for six days is laughing and smiling and playing with his favorite toy dinosaur after being reunited with his family, authorities said. The boy's kidnapper is dead, but officials offered no details on the raid that freed the boy - identified only by his first name, Ethan - and left his abductor fatally shot.
CNN: Debate surges as Boy Scouts weigh ending policy against gay membership
A fresh debate over the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gays sprang to life after word that the organization's leaders could be on the verge of a landmark change this week. Word of the possible move - announced last week and up for consideration at a three-day meeting that begins Monday in Irving, Texas - has sparked strong reactions from supporters and opponents.
CNN: Investigators trying to shed light on why Superdome went dark
A day after Sunday's 35-minute power outage during the Super Bowl game in New Orleans, officials were vowing to fix whatever the cause may have been, but no one was saying just what that was.
CNN: Police: Man accused of killing ex-SEAL said he had PTSD, was hurting
Eddie Ray Routh was crying, shirtless, shoeless and smelling of alcohol when police caught up with him walking the streets of his hometown of Lancaster, Texas. He had a simple message that was as much a plea as it was a complaint: I'm hurting. Six months later, the 25-year-old Routh is in custody once again - this time in a central Texas jail, facing murder charges in the deaths of America's self-proclaimed most deadly military sniper ever as well as another military veteran.
CNN: Mexico's Pemex blast blamed on a buildup of gas
A deadly blast that killed at least 37 people at the headquarters of Mexico's state-run oil giant was caused by a buildup of gas in the basement, an official said Monday. Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told reporters that no traces of explosives were found at the scene.
CNN: Back from the grave, King Richard III gets rehab
In this winter of his disinterment, we pause to ponder if Richard III, the last Plantaganet king of England, was a victim of a pen poisoned by history controlled by his Tudor successors. As archeologists sort through a skull and bones found under an English parking lot and with DNA tests confirming the remains were Richard's, there is a call for a re-examination of his legacy - which has mostly been shaped by Shakespeare's play Richard III.
CNN: Saudi Islamist preacher on trial in daughter's slaying
Outrage is mounting in Saudi Arabia about the case of a 5-year-old girl who died after allegedly being beaten and tortured by her father, who activists say is an Islamist preacher. Lama Al-Ghamdi was admitted to King Saud Hospital in Riyadh last March after suffering extensive injuries, including broken ribs, a crushed skull, bruising and burns. Family, activists and officials say she died of her wounds in late October.
CNN: Malala: 'I'm feeling better' after skull surgery
Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teenager who defied Taliban attackers to promote education for girls, says she's "feeling all right" after two weekend surgeries. Doctors attached a titanium plate to her skull and implanted a cochlear device to restore hearing to her left ear.
CNNMoney: Why unemployment stretches are getting shorter
The average time Americans spent unemployed dropped a record 2.8 weeks in January ... but hold the applause. The reason is likely because many people ran out of unemployment benefits so they stopped looking for work, experts said. "People are getting frustrated and are giving up," said Adam Hersh, economist with the Center for American Progress.
CNNMoney: Republicans probe Treasury pick Lew over Medicare law
On Monday, a group of eight Republican senators fired off a letter claiming that Lew didn't comply with a federal law over Medicare funds while he was running the White House budget office. Lew is President Obama's White House chief of staff, and was nominated last month to be the next U.S. Treasury Secretary, replacing Tim Geithner. Confirmation hearings have yet to scheduled, and the expectation so far has been that Lew would sail through.
CNNMoney: Standard & Poor's says it will face Justice Dept suit over subprime ratings
Standard & Poor's revealed Monday that it is set to face a lawsuit from the U.S. government over its inaccurate ratings of mortgage-related investments in the run-up to the financial crisis. The ratings agency said in a statement that the Department of Justice "has informed the company that it intends to file a civil lawsuit against S&P focusing on its ratings in 2007 of certain U.S. collateralized debt obligations," investments based on pools of mortgages.
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