CNN: Iran and world powers agree to expert talks on Tehran's nuclear program
Six world powers and Iran have concluded a second round of talks over Tehran's controversial nuclear program, agreeing to hold "expert-level" consultations in Turkey on a yet undetermined date, Iran's state-run Press TV reported. Iranian negotiators and representatives of the P5 plus 1 nations - the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany - entered into the talks Tuesday in Almaty, Kazakhstan, before the backdrop of fresh international economic sanctions against Iran.
CNN: Zimmerman's lawyer works to dispel racial overtones in Trayvon Martin case
Whatever the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, it will be viewed less as a determination of the shooter's guilt or innocence and more as a victory or loss for civil rights, George Zimmerman's lawyer fears. Mark O'Mara said he has been busy trying to dispel the racial overtones in the case by getting out more evidence about his client. His hope, he said, is that people will divorce a verdict from the real civil rights questions.
CNN: Colorado school bars transgendered 1st-grader from using girls' restroom
Just like she did during the first half of the school year, first grader Coy Mathis wants to use the girls' restroom at her Colorado elementary school. But school officials won't let her. The reason? Coy is transgendered, born with male sex organs but a child who identifies herself as female. She has dressed as a girl for most of last year. And her passport and state-issued identification recognize her as female. In December, the Fountain-FortCarsonSchool District informed Coy's parents that Coy would be barred from using the girls' restrooms at Eagleside Elementary in Fountain after winter break.
CNNMoney: Wealth inequality between blacks and whites worsens
The wealth gap between blacks and whites has nearly tripled over the past 25 years, due largely to inequality in home ownership, income, education and inheritances, according to a new study by BrandeisUniversity. That type of inequality can be a drag on economic growth for everyone, said Thomas Shapiro, director of the university's Institute on Assets and Social Policy, which conducted the research.
USA Today: Wall Street likes gunmakers, but from a distance
Gun companies are enjoying red-hot sales, but worries about gun control are keeping their stock prices cool. Gun sales rocketed following the Newtown, Conn., school shootings - and that's not surprising, says credit rater Moody's Investors Service. Consumers, worried that they will no longer be able to own certain weapons, are stocking up on them. "Some companies are running up against capacity constraints," says Kevin Cassidy, analyst at Moody's Investor Services. "They can't make enough of them." As the nation reeled from the deaths of 27 children and adult schoolworkers, gun makers' stocks dropped. The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) announced that it would drop its investment in two gun companies.
NBC News: Reports of rare superbug jump in US, CDC says
A sharp jump in the number of rare but potentially deadly types of a superbug resistant to nearly all last-resort antibiotics has prompted government health officials to renew warnings for U.S. hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings. The move comes just as researchers in Israel are reporting that people colonized with dangerous CRE - Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae - can take more than a year before they test negative for the bacteria, making it more difficult to control - and raising the risk of wider spread.
CNN: California gunman dead after killing two police detectives
A man suspected of killing two police detectives in California on Tuesday has been fatally shot, authorities said. The suspect is believed to have gunned down the Santa Cruz Police Department officers in the afternoon when they approached him during an investigation, the sheriff's office said in a statement.
Bloomberg: Obama to Share Cybersecurity Priorities With Congress
President Barack Obama’s administration will soon submit priorities for cybersecurity legislation to Congress to build on an executive order issued earlier this month, a White House spokeswoman said. “Although this executive order will help raise the nation’s cyber defenses, it does not obviate the urgent need for legislation,” Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman, said yesterday by e-mail. She didn’t specify the priorities or the timeframe for sending them to Congress.
WaPo: Michelle Obama to visit three states on ‘Let’s Move’ tour, highlight successes
The campaign against childhood obesity that has become Michelle Obama’s signature program will ramp up again this week as she begins a three-state tour focused on boosting physical activity and healthy eating. The Let’s Move initiative, which Obama has made nearly ubiquitous, has served to elevate the issue of children’s health and fitness. As the program enters its third year, questions remain about whether the efforts the first lady has backed will be long-lasting. Still, Obama plans to continue to energetically push and expand the initiative. Doing that means spotlighting places she sees as gaining ground, something the first lady intends to do Wednesday in Clinton, Miss., at the start of her Let’s Move tour.
Christian Science Monitor: Just as Nixon went to China, should Obama go to Iran?
World powers, and the US in particular, need a game-changer to move Iran to a cooperative stance concerning its nuclear program, a few analysts argue. Such an Obama overture to Iran is a provocative idea, they say, but the alternative may be military confrontation.
CNN: More spin than solutions as spending cuts near
Three days before forced spending cuts portrayed by most as an economic body blow, President Barack Obama and Republican rivals relied on spin versus substance Tuesday in trying to prod a deeply divided Congress into action to avert the harshest impacts.
WATCH: VIDEO: Lawmakers pepper their forced spending cuts arguments with salty language as the deadline looms. Dana Bash reports.
ALSO SEE: CNNMoney: Bernanke: Spending cuts add 'significant' burden to recovery
CNN: Congressional Republicans discussing plan giving Obama flexibility on cuts
Days before the automatic spending cuts are due to kick in to federal agencies, congressional Republicans are discussing a plan to give the Obama administration the flexibility – once the cuts go into effect – to let individual executive agencies make decisions about which programs could be cut. On the House side, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is one of the top GOP members leading talks on that approach with rank and file members. Ryan told CNN his GOP colleagues are receptive to the concept.
Politico: Senate GOP ponders shifting power to Obama
Days before the March 1 deadline, Senate Republicans are circulating a draft bill that would cancel $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts and instead turn over authority to President Barack Obama to achieve the same level of savings under a plan to be filed by March 8. Congress would retain the power to overturn the president’s spending plan by March 22, but only under a resolution of disapproval that would demand two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate to prevail over an Obama veto.
CNN: Graham and McCain optimistic after White House immigration meeting
Two leading Republican senators voiced optimism Tuesday after a sit-down with President Barack Obama focused primarily on the hot button topic of immigration. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain both said the meeting at the White House went well, though didn't delve into what specifically was discussed. Graham, who has opposed Obama on topics ranging from national security to budgets, said it was "one of the best meetings I've ever had with the president."
The Hill: House expected to pass Senate version of VAWA bill this week
After a year-long fight over how to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), House Republicans are now prepared to allow a vote this week on the Senate-passed language. The House Rules Committee on Tuesday evening approved a rule for the bill that calls on the House to vote on a House GOP version of VAWA reauthorization first. But if that version fails, as is expected, the House would then move to a vote on the Senate-passed version, S. 47.
Roll Call: Senate's Democratic Class of '08 Faces New Challenges
Hagan, who hails from one of the two states the president lost in 2012, is one of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election this cycle. The class of senators swept into office riding Barack Obama’s coattails in 2008 — giving Democrats a supermajority in the process — now stands to be the party’s majority firewall when it faces voters in 2014. Once the building blocks to a supermajority, the first-term class of 2008 Democratic senators now finds itself as the cornerstone of a five-seat majority in danger of crumbling. First elected on the same ticket as President Barack Obama, their next fight carries inherent risks and disadvantages.
CNN: Candidate backed by Bloomberg wins Democratic primary in Chicago
Illinois state Rep. Robin Kelly, who was boosted by support from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, won a primary election in Chicago Tuesday, putting her closer to filling the vacant seat previously held by disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Her chief rival, Democratic State lawmaker Debbie Halvorson, conceded the race shortly after 8 p.m. local time.
SEE ALSO: Roll Call: Bloomberg to Talk Guns With McCain, Reid, Biden
National Journal: The Real Reason Why Chris Christie Wasn't Invited to CPAC
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was not invited to speak at the annual CPAC conference this year because he broke with conservatives on key issues over the past year, according to American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas. Cardenas, whose group organizes the conference, wrote in an e-mail to National Journal that while CPAC was “proud” to invite Christie last year based on his record of balancing the budget and taking on teachers unions, Christie’s record over the past year is far less conservative.
CNN: Liberal group under fire from conservatives for tweet
A liberal group in Kentucky is under fire from conservatives for a tweet it posted nearly two weeks ago which alludes to the race of Sen. Mitch McConnell's wife. "This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress – she's his #wife," the February 14 tweet from Progress Kentucky reads, referencing the Kentucky Republican by his official twitter account. "May explain why your job moved to #China!" McConnell's wife is former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the first female Asian-American to hold a Cabinet post.
ALSO SEE: Politico: Group under fire for McConnell tweets also faces FEC questions
NYT: G.O.P.’s Ideological Split Appears in Virginia Governor’s Race
As Republicans debate ways to appeal to voters whom their positions have pushed away, some Republican leaders in Virginia are warning that the party is poised to repeat the mistakes of last November, choosing a nominee for governor who turns off younger, female and nonwhite voters. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the presumed nominee, is a combative conservative who calls the Obama administration “the biggest set of lawbreakers in America” as he seeks to lead an increasingly purple state that twice voted for Mr. Obama.
CNN: Hagel confirmed as U.S. defense secretary, bruised after political fight
Chuck Hagel's rocky and inauspicious path to leadership of the Pentagon could haunt him if he doesn't watch his step. "If people feel Hagel makes a mistake in the future, they will come after him even harder than if this ugly process of recent weeks hadn't happened," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a co-author of "Bending History: Barack Obama's Foreign Policy." The former Nebraska senator's nomination as defense secretary was subject to harsh criticism from some fellow Republicans over past statements on sensitive political and national security matters.
WATCH: VIDEO: Former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel is confirmed as Secretary of Defense.
CNN: U.S. weighing nonlethal aid to Syrian opposition
The Obama administration is moving toward increasing aid to the Syrian opposition, including providing nonlethal military equipment and possibly strategic military training, sources told CNN Tuesday. The changes are under discussion with allies as well, as part Secretary of State John Kerry's meetings this week in Europe, a senior administration official said. The sources said the United States is not considering providing weapons.
WATCH: VIDEO: The EU and the Obama administration look to help stabalize the crisis in Syria.
Daily Telegraph: Revealed: Iran's 'Plan B' for a nuclear bomb
The Telegraph can disclose details of activity at a heavily-guarded Iranian facility from which international inspectors have been barred for 18 months. The images, taken earlier this month, show that Iran has activated the Arak heavy-water production plant. Heavy water is needed to operate a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium, which could then be used to make a bomb. The images show signs of activity at the Arak plant, including a cloud of steam that indicates heavy-water production. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been unable to visit the facility since August 2011 and Iran has refused repeated requests for information about the site, which is 150 miles south-west of the capital, Tehran. Western governments and the IAEA have held information about activity at Arak for some time. But today’s exclusive images are the first to put evidence of that activity into the public domain.
CNN: Iranian arts experts visit counterparts in United States
Expectations are low for a breakthrough with Iran in the latest round of nuclear negotiations in Kazakhstan, but relations between the UnitesStates and the Iranian people are proving much more promising. U.S. wrestlers visited Tehran last week to compete in the World Cup, where they received a warm welcome by Iranian fans at the capital's Azadi Stadium. And now, CNN has learned, eight Iranian museum specialists on Monday began a three-week visit to the United States as part of a State Department cultural exchange program.
WSJ: On Terror's New Front Line, Mistrust Blunts U.S. Strategy
The shooting clattered on for 30 minutes, residents of this dusty town say, and when it ended, four militants holding a German engineer hostage were dead. So were the engineer, and four innocent bystanders. In vast West Africa, a new front-line region in the battle against al Qaeda, Nigeria is America's strategic linchpin, its military one the U.S. counts on to help contain the spread of Islamic militancy. Yet Nigeria has rebuffed American attempts to train that military, whose history of shooting freely has U.S. officials concerned that soldiers here fuel the very militancy they are supposed to counter.
ALSO SEE: CNN: France blasts 'cruelty' as Boko Haram displays kidnapped family
CNNMoney: Defense stocks in cross hairs
Defense stocks have come under pressure as investors brace for the forced spending cuts set to take effect this week. The so-called budget sequester will slash how much federal agencies are allowed to spend by $85 billion over seven months. Roughly half of those cuts would come from the Defense Department's budget. Shares of Lockheed Martin (LMT, Fortune 500), Northrop Grumman (NOC, Fortune 500) and General Dynamics (GD, Fortune 500) have tumbled about 5% since late January. Raytheon (RTN, Fortune 500) Kratos Defense and Security Solutions (KTOS) and BAE Systems (BAESF) have also been punished.
AVIATION AND REGULATION:
CNN: Budget cuts would hit private air traffic in effort to spare airlines
Federal aviation officials are telling airline and airport executives that they are working to minimize any disruption from imminent government budget cuts to passenger airline service, but warn the mandatory belt-tightening will impact air traffic overall. At a meeting in Washington on Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would give priority to 77 "core" facilities - large airports and their related air traffic control centers, which it did not identify. But the agency would reduce staffing system wide and would likely close 238 control towers at less busy airports. Those towers handle 5.8 percent of all commercial air traffic, the FAA said.
WSJ: FAA Mulls Decision on 787 Tests
Federal regulators have been working to give Boeing Co. the green light for airborne tests of proposed lithium-ion battery fixes for its 787 Dreamliner as early as next week, though the actual test flights aren't likely to come that quickly, according to people familiar with the details. The people said Boeing has told some airline customers that if testing is conducted in early March, the grounded jets could resume carrying passengers in a matter of weeks, perhaps even by the end of the month. A final decision on the timing of the permission hasn't been made and must be reviewed and approved by senior Transportation Department officials, including Secretary Ray LaHood. Once Boeing gets the green light, it could take some time to organize details of the test flights.
McClatchy: Lawmakers worry hub airports might lose in American-US Airways merger
Members of Congress expressed misgivings Tuesday about a proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways, pressing company officials about whether the $11 billion deal would preserve competition and jobs and keep fares from rising. The combined company, which would become the world’s largest airline, would have a concentration of hubs serving the eastern and southern portions of the country, including airports at Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Charlotte, N.C., Phoenix and Philadelphia, as well as John F. Kennedy International in New York.
WSJ: Puerto Rico Airport to Go Private
U.S. regulators said Tuesday they had approved a plan for investors to operate Puerto Rico's main airport for profit, boosting a long-standing federal effort to test the private-sector's appetite for infrastructure development. The proposed $2.6 billion deal to lease San Juan's LuisMuñozMarínInternationalAirport to a private consortium is being watched by bankers and industry officials keen to import a business model that is widely used in Europe and Asia.
WSJ: California Girds for Electricity Woes
California is weighing how to avoid a looming electricity crisis that could be brought on by its growing reliance on wind and solar power. Regulators and energy companies met Tuesday, hoping to hash out a solution to the peculiar stresses placed on the state's network by sharp increases in wind and solar energy. Power production from renewable sources fluctuates wildly, depending on wind speeds and weather.
Chicago Tribune: Illinois House committee advances gay marriage bill
A bill legalizing gay marriage cleared a Democratic-led committee late Tuesday and now moves to the full House, where the issue is expected to meet its toughest test. The proposal, approved on a 6-5 vote in the House Executive Committee shortly before 10 p.m., is coming under increasingly heavy fire from church organizations who say same-sex marriage violates moral and religious principles. But advocates have ratcheted up calls for swift action.
Dallas Morning News: Jeb, George P. Bush speak to Texas business leaders
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday that he’s watching his son George P. Bush prepare to run for office in Texas with the same emotions his father had two decades ago when the Bush brothers — Jeb and George W. Bush — sought statewide elective office. “He knows the ropes, he knows what it’s like, he knows what he’s getting into. But it’s very emotional,” Bush said. “Now I know what my dad felt like.” Jeb and George P. Bush were on the same stage Tuesday night addressing an education conference sponsored by Texas business leaders. The 36-year-old Fort Worth investment manager says he intends to run for statewide office in Texas next year, probably for land commissioner, but has yet to make a formal decision.
Los Angeles Times: State trying to count parolees who have ditched GPS trackers
California corrections officials, expressing concern over a rise in paroled sex offenders disabling their GPS tracking devices, said Monday that the problem may be larger than they believed. On Sunday, The Times reported a 28% rise in warrants issued for GPS tampering since October 2011, when the state reduced penalties for parole violators and made counties responsible for them. Officials in the Department of Corrections had stated for months that such cases numbered in the hundreds. Then, earlier this month, they said they knew of 3,200 cases from October 2011 through December 2012.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: In gun law, Cuomo mandated something that doesn't exist
New York will have the smallest gun magazine limit in the country starting April 15. Gun manufacturers have never had a reason to make a magazine with fewer than 10 rounds, because no state required it until now. And, as far as local gun dealers and the Democrat and Chronicle have been able to determine, there are no manufacturers planning to make seven-round magazines.
New York Daily News: 'Guns for Greatness,' which would offer Beyonce tickets to those turning in firearms, gets endorsement of Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes and TV host Nick Cannon
A hip-hop mogul's plan to swap guns for Beyoncé concert tickets is a surefire hit with veterans in the battle against street violence. Michael (Blue) Williams’ plan, first reported by the Daily News on Tuesday, is getting a thumbs-up from ministers, prosecutors and even “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon. “Exceptional work,” Cannon, who is married to singer Mariah Carey, tweeted of Williams’ “Guns for Greatness” proposal. Williams, head of Family Tree Entertainment, is pitching the city’s first private-sector buyback program aimed at enticing young gunslingers to turn in their weapons and sign up for mentorships with an array of movers and shakers.
Seattle Times: State admits costly mistakes on 520 bridge
Millions of dollars must be spent to fix pontoons being built for a new Highway 520 bridge, the state said Tuesday, after inspections on Lake Washington revealed that the pontoons’ worst cracks grew over the winter. Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond also said the problems likely will force officials to miss their December 2014 goal for opening the floating section of the new six-lane bridge. “I’m hopeful the project will be done within 2015,” she said.
CNN: Big crowds gather for Benedict's final papal audience
Throngs of Roman Catholic faithful flocked to St. Peter's Square on Wednesday to hear the final public words of Pope Benedict XVI a day before he steps down and retreats into a life of seclusion. Vatican officials said 50,000 tickets had been handed out for Benedict's final general audience - but tens of thousands more are expected to witness the historic moment in person.
The Guardian: Italy halts austerity plan leaving EU in turmoil
Three years of German-led austerity and budget cuts aimed at saving the euro and retooling the European economy was left facing one of its biggest challenges as Italian voters' rejection of spending cuts and tax rises opened up a stark new fissure in European politics. The governing stalemate in Rome and the vote in the general election – by a factor of three to two – against the austerity policies pursued by Italy's humiliated caretaker prime minister, Mario Monti, meant that the spending cuts and tax rises dictated by the eurozone would grind to a halt, risking a re-eruption of the euro crisis after six months of relative stability.
Der Spiegel: Trans-Atlantic Rifts: European Activists Could Thwart US-EU Trade Deal
When it comes to face-to-face meetings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and United States President Barack Obama have had a somewhat one-sided relationship so far. The chancellor has been to Washington several times, but Obama has never been to Berlin as president, despite several invitations. It could finally happen in June. Obama's advisors are mulling whether the president should visit Berlin during his trip to Europe. There would be two reasons to do so. First, this year marks the 50th anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy's legendary Berlin speech, in which he proclaimed: "Ich bin ein Berliner." And negotiations are set to begin this summer over a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement between Europe and the United States, which the president announced two weeks ago.
CNN: Mexican union leader accused of embezzling millions
Authorities have arrested the leader of Mexico's largest union, accusing her of embezzling millions of dollars and using some of the money to pay for plastic surgery, shop at luxury stores and buy real estate. Elba Esther Gordillo, who has led Mexico's high-profile national teachers union for more than two decades, was in federal custody after she was arrested at an airport outside Mexico City on Tuesday, the country's attorney general told reporters.
WaPo: Elaborate surveillance operation raises concerns about broader Hezbollah attacks
The Israeli tourists on Arkia Airlines Flight 161 from Tel Aviv could not have known it, but their arrival in Cyprus July 6 was watched closely. A pair of trained eyes counted each passenger as the group exited the plane and boarded a shuttle, headed for resorts that had also been carefully studied and mapped. The bearded foreigner who silently tracked the Israelis had done his work well. He knew where the visitors would sleep, shop and eat. He knew how many security guards patrolled their hotel parking lots and how long it would take police to arrive from the station down the street. But the watcher was being watched.
CNN: Budget protests erupt in Iraq
Protesters calling on Iraqi lawmakers to approve the national budget took to the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday, prompting security forces to shut main entrances into the city. The protests focused on the heavily fortified green zone in central Baghdad. They were spurred and organized by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
CNN: Dennis Rodman to North Korea: 'I come in peace'
Flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman and three members of the famed Harlem Globetrotters arrived in North Korea Tuesday to "entertain and inspire" with their basketball skills while they film a TV show. "I come in peace. I love the people of North Korea!" Rodman, 51, said on Twitter Tuesday.
Reuters: Kurdish rebel leader sees August withdrawal from Turkey: media
Jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan envisages the withdrawal of his fighters from Turkey by August under a draft peace plan sent to his group's leadership and Kurdish politicians, media reports said on Wednesday. Held in an island jail since his capture in 1999, Ocalan has been negotiating with Turkey's government since October over the outlines of a deal to end a conflict which has killed 40,000 people since his fighters took up arms in 1984. Under the plan, to which his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is expected to respond within two weeks, the rebels would begin a formal ceasefire on March 21, the Kurdish New Year, said the Sabah and Star newspapers, which are close to the government.
Financial Times: JPMorgan to cut 17,000 jobs over 2 years
JPMorgan Chase said it was cutting 17,000 jobs over two years, with the bulk of losses falling on the consumer and mortgage businesses. Jamie Dimon, chief executive of the largest bank by US assets, told an annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday that an improving housing market, with fewer employees processing mortgage defaults, and new technology would lead to lower headcount.
WSJ: Internet Gambling Scores Its Biggest Win
New Jersey on Tuesday became the biggest state yet to allow regulated online gambling, establishing a template that proponents hope other states will follow for a business that federal authorities long treated as a criminal enterprise. The new law allows Atlantic City's casinos to run websites that take bets on games such as blackjack, slots and poker. It also could help legitimize online-gambling companies whose executives the U.S. Justice Department once targeted for offering the same kind of Internet wagers.
Bloomberg: Hong Kong Economic Growth Picks Up to Fastest Pace in Year
Hong Kong’s economic growth accelerated to the fastest pace in a year last quarter, signaling that the deepest slowdown since the 2009 global recession is abating. The city’s economy expanded 2.5 percent in the three months through December from a year earlier, the Census and Statistics Department said on its website today. That’s up from 1.4 percent in the third quarter, and compares with the 2.4 percent median estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.