CNN: 1st rocket fired from Gaza into Israel since November cease-fire
A rocket fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel on Tuesday in the first such attack since a cease-fire took hold in November. Israeli police said it did not receive any reports of injuries from the rocket, which landed on a road outside the town of Ashkelon, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Gaza.
CNN: 14 killed as hot air balloon explodes, plummets in Egypt
Fourteen tourists taking a hot air balloon ride in southern Egypt were killed Tuesday when the balloon exploded and plummeted to the ground, authorities said. It was the deadliest hot air balloon accident in the world in at least 20 years. Twenty-one people were in the balloon when it dropped about 300 meters (almost 1,000 feet) in the city of Luxor, the Egyptian interior ministry said.
CNN: Blizzard batters U.S. heartland, spreads snowy mess into the Midwest
A brutal blizzard that has already whipped the southern Plains set its sights on Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, where it's expected to dump more than a foot of snow Tuesday. The powerful storm system is a second straight punch to the gut for a region hit by record snowfall a week ago.
NYT: Republicans Sign Brief in Support of Gay Marriage
Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election. The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama administration weighs in on defense of marriage law
USA Today: Lance Armstrong to challenge USPS about what it knew
Now that the federal government has decided to sue him for fraud, Lance Armstrong plans to argue that the case against him is too old to pursue and that he never submitted a false claim to the government, according to a person close to Armstrong's defense team. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, also told USA TODAY Sports on Monday that Armstrong's legal team will argue that the government knew or should have known about doping on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team – but did nothing to stop it.
CNN: California officer accused of sexually assaulting 6 women
A California police department is doing some soul searching after arresting one of its own on allegations of sexually assaulting half a dozen women. While in uniform, a West Sacramento police officer assaulted at least six women since October 2011, police said Monday. The officer was fired, arrested and investigators are looking for other potential victims.
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia bracing for sequester’s impact
As President Barack Obama heads to Newport News today to highlight the impact that steep federal spending cuts will have if not averted, Virginia schools, military installations, local governments are beginning to prepare. Obama will appear at Newport News Shipbuilding, in a defense-heavy state that could be particularly hard hit if Congress does not find a way to avoid the cuts slated to take effect March 1. But even beyond defense spending, the looming sequestration is creating ripples of concern across the commonwealth.
CNN: White House says $500K won't guarantee Obama meeting
After reports that top donors to the political group formed by President Barack Obama's campaign team would be granted quarterly access to the president, the White House stressed Monday the new organization would remain independent from administration activities. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn't deny that donors to the group, called Organizing for Action, could attend meetings with Obama or members of his staff.
CNN: Top Senate Republican doubts damage from defense cuts
Anticipating possible political backlash if forced federal spending cuts kick in as expected later this week, the Senate's No. 2 Republican said Monday that he is preparing a message he plans to hit hard: The cuts are not going to have as negative an impact as the Pentagon and others in the Obama administration are saying. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he plans to make the case to other Republicans and the public that despite warnings from the Pentagon that the mandated cuts will be devastating, the overall amount of defense spending will actually still rise.
HuffPo: Ron Johnson: John Boehner Would Lose Speakership If He Caves On Taxes To Avert Sequester
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would lose his speakership if he agrees to new tax revenues to avert the across-the-board spending cuts that are set to kick in on March 1. "I don't quite honestly think that Speaker Boehner would be speaker if that happens," Johnson told Fox News of Boehner caving on taxes as part of a sequester replacement package. "I think he would lose his speakership." Johnson's comments raise questions about Boehner's leadership post for the second time in as many months.
CNN: Senate panel to take up gun control, including assault weapons ban
The Senate Judiciary Committee could begin considering gun control bills as soon as Thursday, including a measure that would ban military-style assault weapons. Other pieces of legislation that will be considered by the panel are measures stopping illegal trafficking of guns, bolstering background checks on gun sales, and improving security in schools. Republicans could force a postponement of the Senate panel's mark up of gun legislation for one week. Of the proposed bills, background checks are considered the most likely to gain Congressional approval.
SEE ALSO: Politico: Obama's gun strategy falling short in Senate
Reuters: Bernanke to face Fed critics in testimony to Congress
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke faces the first of two days of congressional testimony that will subject the Fed's controversial bond-buying program to tough scrutiny and gauge his confidence in the resilience of the U.S. economy. Coming just a week after the Fed's meeting minutes sent U.S. stocks reeling by suggesting the central bank could pull back its economic stimulus earlier than had been expected, and a day after another sharp stock market drop, investors are certain to hang on every word.
BuzzFeed: House Republicans To Meet The Millennials
Since the election, the Republican Party has begun making new approaches to groups whose support regularly elects Democrats, beginning with women and minorities. This week, a group of House Republicans will target another demographic: Millennials. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the House Republican conference chair, has organized a 45-minute roundtable about the federal deficit with young voters from groups including Fix The Debt and the National Campus Leadership Council. Reps. Paul Ryan, Adam Kinzinger, Jamie Herrera Beutler, and Aaron Schock will join the discussion, aides said.
CNN: In Chicago election dominated by gun violence, New York's mayor makes big imprint
Gun control is front and center in the first congressional special election of 2013, a Chicago contest that's also feeling the heavy involvement of New York City's mayor, who's spent more than $2 million on the race. Tuesday's primary election is the first step in filling the open seat in Illinois' second congressional district, which until recently was held by Democrat Jesse Jackson, Jr., who pleaded guilty in federal court last week to using campaign funds for personal use. The election is the first congressional contest since December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which put gun control back into the national political spotlight. And the district includes some areas hit hard by the increased gun violence in Chicago.
National Journal: Bob McDonnell and Martin O'Malley Are Becoming Fast Frenemies
Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican Bob McDonnell govern just across the Potomac River from each other, but come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. O’Malley is crusading to end the death penalty in his state, while McDonnell favors expanding executions by eliminating the “triggerman” rule in capital murder cases. McDonnell signed a law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds; O’Malley championed a law legalizing same-sex marriage. But the threat of looming military cuts and the region’s shared traffic congestion have brought together this week the one-time dueling chairmen of the Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association.
CNN: Christie not on CPAC's guest list
It’s considered a key speaking engagement for any Republican considering a bid for president, but one potential 2016 candidate didn’t get an invitation to this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. Someone close to CPAC said Monday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wasn’t asked to attend by organizers of the event, which will take place in mid-March at a resort outside Washington. Officially, CPAC says they’re finalizing this year’s schedule.
Politico: 'Battleground Texas' effort ramps up
Two veterans of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign are deploying to Texas to head up a Democratic group aimed at turning the Republican electoral stronghold into a bona-fide swing state. POLITICO reported last month that Democratic strategists, led by former Obama field director Jeremy Bird, were creating a group called Battleground Texas with a goal of making the LoneStarState politically competitive. Now, the group is bringing on two operatives to lead its efforts on the ground in Austin, according to strategists familiar with the plans.
CNN: World powers restart nuclear talks with Iran after 8-month break
Talks began Tuesday between six world powers and Iran over its controversial nuclear program for the first time in nearly eight months. But the mood going into the negotiations was as gloomy as the fog that hung over this snowbound Central Asian city. "I don't think tomorrow (Tuesday) is likely to be a day in which we can announce a great success," a diplomat participating in the negotiations told journalists on condition of anonymity on the eve of the first meeting. Other officials were not so optimistic either.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Nuclear talks host also a model for possible Iran option
Financial Times: US senators press EU on Iran sanctions
A bipartisan group of US senators on Monday pressed the EU to deny Iran access to its euro-denominated foreign exchange reserves, in a new push to tighten sanctions ahead of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme. In a move which could increase the financial pressure on Iran but also risks generating a backlash in Europe, 36 senators signed a letter which called on the EU to close “a significant loophole in US-EU sanctions policy”. The letter was sent to Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council.
CNN: Reversing course, Syrian opposition group to attend Rome conference
The Syrian National Coalition - the principal opposition group battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad - has changed its position and will attend an international meeting this week in Rome focused on the Syrian crisis, the coalition's leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib announced Monday on Facebook. The conference will include representatives from more than 60 countries working to end violence in the Middle Eastern nation that has already claimed nearly 70,000 lives. Earlier, the Syrian National Coalition had said its officials would not attend the Friends of Syria meeting to protest what it sees as a lack of effective action from the international community.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Kerry works to assure Syrian rebels
CNN: U.S., Pakistan seek breakthrough to thwart bomb makers
The United States and Pakistan will begin working together on a new fertilizer formula that could be a significant technological step to limit the ability of terror groups to make improvised explosives and car bombs using the ingredient. An agreement to try to make a product more inert was reached last week after Pakistani officials from Fatima Group, a major fertilizer manufacturer, met with Pentagon officials.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
Bloomberg: Pot Sellers Unite: You’ve Nothing to Lose Except Free OT
Medical-marijuana advocates lobbying Congress this week got powerful new allies to help them make the case for getting federal prosecutors to back off: labor leaders. The 1.3 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents meat packers, retail and grocery employees, is joining with advocates for pot dispensaries to push the Justice Department to ease off on those that sell the drug where it’s permitted locally. If that happens, legal cannabis - projected to reach almost $9 billion in sales in several years - could be a growth area for unions struggling to find new members.
Denver Post: FDA warns Colorado cantaloupe farms they will be tested in 2013
The FDA issued a letter Monday warning cantaloupe farmers and packers that the federal agency would be inspecting them and testing melons for pathogens this year, after two years of illness and recalls. The FDA does not routinely target an industry for scrutiny, and its inspectors have rarely reached smaller farms or food packers more than once every few years. But the Monday letter urging cantaloupe growers to adhere to FDA growing guidelines to avoid food illness outbreaks said the agency will begin inspecting a "subset" of melon handlers.
Arizona Republic: Maricopa County jail leads U.S. in ICE holds
More inmates were tagged with federal immigration detainers in MaricopaCounty’s main jail than at any other facility in the country, according to a recent SyracuseUniversity analysis. The report released last week sought to track the number of unique federal immigration detainers, also known as immigration holds, placed over a period of more than four years on inmates suspected of being undocumented immigrants. The report surveyed thousands of detention facilities nationwide.
Hartford Courant: Facebook Will Scrub Newtown Victims' Memorial Pages
Facebook has agreed to block sensitive content relating to the Newtown school attack, company officials and members of Connecticut's congressional delegation said Monday. "It's not anyone's responsibility to try to speak for the families other than the families," said Sen. Chris Murphy, speaking about a wide range of tribute pages created on the popular Internet site after the Newtown massacre, some of which have upset family members of victims and survivors. Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty wrote Facebook Chairman Mark Zuckerberg Monday asking the company to address concerns raised about so-called tribute pages created in the name of Sandy HookElementary School victims. Facebook, however, said Monday that it already has been reviewing the situation and talking with Attorney General George Jepsen.
Philadelphia Daily News: New pope to see 'Family' in Philly?
The pope is coming to Philadelphia – probably – and drawing as many as 1 million followers for a World Family Day Sept. 22-27, 2015, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Monday. Pope Benedict XVI announced in June that he had chosen Philly to host the next gathering of families, which happens every three years. It's the first time the event will be held in North America. It's expected to draw tens of thousands of followers to Philly, but could bring many more. Milan, which hosted in 2012, saw 1 million people attend the event's closing Mass, Chaput said. It's also expected to bring the pope here.
Sacramento Bee: California coalition's report calls for overhaul to rein in health care costs
California's health industry heavyweights, warning that insurance premiums will soon consume a third of people's incomes, today threw their weight behind a plan to revamp the health care delivery system. A dozen CEOs from health care providers and insurers spent the past year participating in an unprecedented, collaborative effort with public policymakers and health care researchers, dubbed the Berkeley Forum and based at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. The result: a report that contains a variety of proposals for changing health care delivery and also stresses the need for Californians to take more responsibility for staying healthy.
New York Post: Sandy buyout offer: 169 on Staten Island say ye$!
Gov. Cuomo said yesterday that 169 of 192 residents of Staten Island’s storm devastated OakwoodBeach have taken him up on his offer to buy out their Sandy-ravaged homes. The people who live in the battered neighborhood have been enticed by a deal that will pay them 100 percent of their damaged home’s prestorm market value — plus 5 percent if the homeowners stay on Staten Island, Cuomo said. The feds will pick up 75 percent of the tab.
Miami Herald: Is this really the end of Cuba’s Castro brothers? Exiles say not so fast
On the streets of Miami, the announcement of a possible end to the Castro brothers’ rule was met with uncharacteristic silence Monday — no clanging of pots and pans in Little Havana and Hialeah. No loud pronouncements on Spanish-language radio, either, about the news that President Raúl Castro planned to retire in 2018 and had named an heir apparent. “There’s like, a little burnout about this subject with us,” said Alex Fumero, 30, a co-creator, editor and contributor of the poetry group Hialeah Haikus. But the emotions were as strong as ever for Cuban-born U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who believes this is just another sinister ploy by the Castro brothers.
Chicago Tribune: Madigan to open concealed carry debate Tuesday
Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan plans to hold an extraordinary debate Tuesday to begin to gauge where House members think people should be allowed to carry concealed guns and where they should be forbidden in Illinois. Among the more than 25 such questions that could come up for test votes on the House floor: Should concealed weapons be allowed in church? At day care centers? In casinos? On buses and trains? Inside sports stadiums? And what exceptions should be made?
Dallas Morning News: Sen. John Cornyn’s tweet about illegal immigrants crossing border nightly draws skepticism
Sen. John Cornyn raised the specter last week that illegal immigrants are pouring across the Mexican border — 300 per night in one spot, a rate that would command high-level attention in Washington and probably steer the debate over immigration policy and border security. “Friend on border sez 300 ppl coming across his property every night. And Napolitano sez border is under control?” Cornyn wrote on his Twitter account, referring to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Cornyn aides have declined for several days to identity the senator’s friend or his location or provide any other substantiation.
Palm Beach Post: Scott no-show as governors talk Medicaid, sequestration in DC
Florida Gov. Rick Scott was again a no-show at the National Governors Association annual meeting this year as the states’ chief execs met with President Obama and White House staff to discuss looming budget cuts that will impact virtually every sector of their economies. Scott dropped Florida’s membership in the non-partisan group last year, saying the $200,000 annual fee could be better spent. Scott is a member of the Republican Governors Association, the political group that helps elect GOP governors.
Der Spiegel: European Obstruction: NATO Reforms Moving at 'Snail's Pace'
With unprecedented bluntness, a confidential analysis by the German Foreign Ministry reveals how few of the programs that were announced at the NATO summit in Chicago last year have been implemented. "It has not been possible to achieve any consensus in core areas," the document reads. The report lists in detail the challenges the alliance must overcome, from poor cooperation to missile defense to the lack of funding for an effective security policy. The authors conclude that progress is moving at "a snail's pace." The inertia at NATO is out of proportion with the speed at which the global balance of power is changing. The Americans, for example, are turning their attention to the emerging Asian economies, which are also becoming stronger militarily.
NYT: Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms
Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to antigovernment fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases. The weapons began reaching rebels in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, officials said, and have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad. The arms transfers appeared to signal a shift among several governments to a more activist approach to assisting Syria’s armed opposition, in part as an effort to counter shipments of weapons from Iran to Mr. Assad’s forces.
CNN: Center-left wins Italy's lower house of parliament
The center-left coalition headed by Pier Luigi Bersani appears to have won a narrow victory in elections for Italy's lower house of parliament, according to final figures released by the Interior Ministry. Bersani's coalition won 29.54% of the vote cast for the lower house, less than half a percentage point more than the center-right coalition headed by controversial three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which garnered 29.18% of the vote. Final results for the Senate showed the center-left winning with 31.63% of the vote, compared with the center-right's 30.72%.
ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: Italian election rattles world markets
CNN: Scandal threatens to overshadow pope's final days
Scandal is threatening to eclipse the poignancy and pageantry of Benedict XVI's historic final days as pope. Vatican officials were already trying Monday to swat down unsavory claims by Italian publications of a brewing episode involving gay priests, male prostitutes and blackmail when news broke that Benedict had moved up the resignation of a Scottish archbishop linked over the weekend by a British newspaper to inappropriate relationships with priests.
CNN: France blasts 'cruelty' as Boko Haram displays kidnapped family
Islamist rebels in Nigeria on Monday released video of a French family kidnapped in neighboring Cameroon last week, leading France to blast the scene as one of "cruelty without limits." The seven-member family was flanked by armed fighters from the Boko Haram movement in the brief video. One of the captive men reads a statement demanding that Nigeria and Cameroon free jailed members of Boko Haram, which is battling to establish Islamic rule in northern Nigeria, and their families.
BuzzFeed: American Christian Legal Group Exports Anti-LGBT Agenda To Brazil
With the opening of a new office in Brazil, a leading U.S. Christian conservative organization may be taking on one of its biggest challenges yet — but one with some big opportunities if it succeeds. Pat Robertson founded the AmericanCenter for Law and Justice in 1990 to provide a national presence opposing the American Civil Liberties Union — often filing and defending cases all the way to the Supreme Court.
CNN: BP's billions at stake as courtroom showdown starts
A titanic courtroom showdown with billions of dollars in the balance opened in New Orleans on Monday, with oil giant BP arguing it shouldn't face the government's steepest penalties for the 2010 Gulf oil spill. BP already pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to a record-setting $4 billion fine for the spill. But it could face more than $20 billion in additional environmental penalties if found to have committed gross negligence in the disaster.
CNET: 'Copyright Alert System' rolls out to catch illegal downloaders
The "Copyright Alert System," aka "six strikes," kicked off today with the cooperation of five major Internet service providers. The goal of the new campaign is to curb copyright infringement by going after consumers rather than pirates. While the CAS seems like something that would raise the hackles of privacy and civil liberty groups, the plan isn't to arrest, sue, or fine people downloading illegal movies, games, or music. Instead, the group managing the program - the Center for Copyright Information - says its objective is to "educate" such downloaders that they are infringing on protected intellectual copyrights.
San Jose Mercury News: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's ban on telecommuting sparks a firestorm
CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to order telecommuting employees back to the office has sparked a passionate debate over the increasingly common practice of working from home. Criticism from some workers, especially working parents, portrayed Mayer as abandoning a modern, enlightened approach to helping employees juggle conflicting demands. Supporters said she may have reason to shake things up at the once-vaunted Internet company, which earned a reputation in recent years for falling behind in both innovation and competition.