URGENT – DC Weather Closures
– (CNN) - Federal offices in WashingtonD.C. will be closed Wednesday due to weather, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said.
CNN: Snow storm that plastered Chicago reaches DC
A storm that set snowfall records in Chicago arrived in Washington, D.C. early Wednesday. It has triggered over 1,000 flight cancellations to and from airports in its path. Just west of the nation's capital, it could dump up to 20 inches of snow but may turn into a mix of rain and snow as it nears the Atlantic Ocean, the National Weather Service said. The federal government has closed offices for Wednesday. Emergency personnel will be expected to work as well as those equipped to work from home. D.C. schools will also be closed.
USA Today: CDC sounds alarm on deadly, untreatable superbugs
A family of "nightmare" superbugs — untreatable and often deadly — is spreading through hospitals across the USA, and doctors fear that it may soon be too late to stop them, senior health officials said Tuesday. "These are nightmare bacteria that present a triple threat," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "They're resistant to nearly all antibiotics. They have high mortality rates, killing half of people with serious infections. And they can spread their resistance to other bacteria."
WSJ: Public-University Costs Soar
Tuition at public colleges jumped last year by a record amount as state governments slashed school funding, the latest sign of strain in the U.S. higher-education sector. The average amount that students at public colleges paid in tuition, after state and institutional grants and scholarships, climbed 8.3% last year, the biggest jump on record, according to a report based on data from all public institutions in all 50 states to be released Wednesday by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Median tuition rose 4.5%.
NYT: Trying to Revive Talks, Obama Goes Around G.O.P. Leaders
With Republican leaders in Congress forswearing budget negotiations over new revenues, President Obama has begun reaching around them to Republican lawmakers with a history of willingness to cut bipartisan deals. Mr. Obama has invited about a dozen Republican senators out to dinner on Wednesday night, after speaking with several of them by phone in recent days, according to people familiar with the invitation. And next week, according to those people and others who did not want to be identified, he will make a rare foray to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.
Reuters: Election bump over, Obama approval drops to 43 percent: Reuters/IPSOS poll
Less than two months into his second term, President Barack Obama's approval rating has dropped and Americans blame him and his fellow Democrats almost as much as his Republican opponents for a fiscal mess. A Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Wednesday showed 43 percent of people approve of Obama's handling of his job, down 7 percentage points from February 19.
Reuters: Obama seeks authority for IMF voting reforms
The Obama administration has asked Congress for authority to implement historic voting reforms in the International Monetary Fund that boost the influence of emerging economies like China in the global financial institution, sources said on Tuesday. But the plan faces an uphill battle for passage in a tense U.S. budget environment marked by the launch of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts on Friday that hit both the U.S. military and domestic programs hard.
CNN: New Washington showdown emerges over funding
To no one's surprise, the next Washington political showdown reared its partisan head on Tuesday. Some House Democrats rejected a GOP proposal intended to fund the government through September while maintaining the forced spending cuts that took effect last week but softening their impact. Failure by Congress to approve a government funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, could cause a partial shutdown when current funding authorization expires on March 27.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Senate leaders optimistic about avoiding government shutdown
CNN: Paul Ryan eyes controversial Medicare changes
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan could be on the verge of reigniting another political firestorm over Medicare. As part of his budget plan for next year, Ryan is considering dramatic changes to the entitlement program including possibly changing the plan for people who are currently 57 and older, according to several House Republican sources. That would be a shift from a repeated GOP pledge to wall off people who are now 55 and older from any impact of new reforms.
Politico: Mikulski wants to move more agency budgets
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski is picking up steam and bipartisan support in her bid to substantially expand on the six-month, stopgap spending bill House Republicans rolled out this week. The Maryland Democrat has scaled back her plans to substitute a government wide omnibus package and is focused instead on writing a hybrid bill that will include full-year budgets for at least several major Cabinet departments beyond Defense and Veterans Affairs. The House is slated to vote Wednesday on its bill and, assuming passage, Mikulski’s plan is to build on that continuing resolution, or CR, once it arrives in the Senate.
HuffPo: Background Check Bill Likely To Suffer A Senate Setback
The signature gun control bill being pushed by President Barack Obama is likely to suffer a setback, as congressional aides and outside advocates signaled Tuesday that they no longer expect a chief Republican lawmaker to lend his support. Legislation that would expand the background check system for gun sales is due to be filed Wednesday at 5 p.m. For weeks, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have been working on the language of the bill to secure the support of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). As of Tuesday afternoon, however, aides said they expected Coburn, who has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, would decline to sign as a co-sponsor, leaving Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and his "F" rating as the main Republican face of the bill.
Politico: Immigration reform: Senate stuck on lower-skilled workers
Forget the pathway to citizenship. The real hang-up in the high-stakes immigration talks is how senators will satisfy Big Business and powerful labor unions over proposals to attract lower-skilled foreign workers into the country. They are trying to construct a new program that would allow businesses to hire lower-skilled workers once they demonstrate they cannot hire an American to fill an open job.
ALSO SEE: WSJ: Citizenship for Immigrants Divides Republicans
CNN: Jeb Bush's controversial immigration proposals
In his new book, "Immigration Wars," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush backs a controversial proposal that could give states the flexibility to deny some emergency room care to undocumented immigrants. Bush, in an interview with Jake Tapper, CNN's chief Washington correspondent and anchor of the upcoming show "The Lead," said he thinks most states would still "want to have that basic care" but added that the nation should at least have a "conversation" on the issue.
WATCH: VIDEO – Jeb Bush tackles hot-button issue in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.
WaPo: Bob McDonnell not invited to speak at CPAC
Chris Christie isn’t the only Republican governor getting snubbed by the Conservative Political Action Conference. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was not invited, according to someone close to CPAC who was not authorized to speak publicly. McDonnell, a potential 2016 candidate, spoke at the conference for the past two years. Like Christie, McDonnell is popular in his state. But he has come under fire from conservatives for backing a transportation deal that raises taxes.
BuzzFeed: Cory Booker Will Make Senate Announcement After Governor's Race
Cory Booker confirmed to BuzzFeed Tuesday that he would not make his bid for U.S. Senate official until after the New Jersey gubernatorial race this fall. Following weeks of speculation last fall over whether the Newark mayor would choose to run for governor in 2013 or for Senate in 2014, he announced in December that he would "consider" a bid for the latter race. Although Booker has since started to campaign — he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Committee in January, and he is headed later this month to a fundraiser in Florida in support of his Senate bid — he has declined to say definitively that he will be a Senate candidate, despite a universal acknowledgement that his candidacy is all but certain.
Politico: Nepotism charges follow son of senator before possible run
South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson is widely expected to announce his retirement this month, and Johnson loyalists want his son to succeed him. But Republicans are ready to pounce with charges of nepotism, and several Democrats fear that line of attack would work if Brendan Johnson, the state’s U.S. attorney, jumps in the race. Top Democrats in Washington and many back in South Dakota prefer former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin over the younger Johnson, believing the former congresswoman would have a better chance at keeping the seat in Democratic hands, people involved with the matter say. Republicans already have one very formidable candidate — former Gov. Mike Rounds — and possibly a second in Rep. Kristi Noem.
NYT: Report Details Mistakes Made by U.S. in Improvement Projects for Iraq
Before he left his Pentagon post, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta concluded that the inability of the Obama administration to complete an agreement providing for an American military presence in Iraq after 2011 had deprived the United States of important political leverage in Iraq. …Mr. Panetta’s views are contained in a report by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. The post was established by Congress more than eight years ago, and the 171-page assessment on “Learning From Iraq” is its final major report. Much of the study, which is to be released Wednesday, covers the more than $60 billion in American aid that was used to carry out projects in Iraq.
CNN: Top general wants more troops left in Afghanistan post-2014
The top U.S. commander for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region has recommended to President Obama that 13,600 American troops stay in Afghanistan after 2014, a number that is potentially higher than what the administration wants to leave in the country.
CNN: Phone call links Benghazi attack to al Qaeda commander
Shortly after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last September, a phone call was placed from the area. Whoever made the call was excited. "Mabruk, Mabruk!" he repeated, meaning "Congratulations" in Arabic. Two sources with high-level access to Western intelligence services have told CNN the call was made to a senior figure in al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. There is no proof that the call was specifically about the attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, but the sources say that is the assumption among those with knowledge of the call.
ALSO SEE: CBS: Source: Press officers partly responsible for Benghazi talking points changes
CNN: Brennan, approved by committee, still faces battle from Republicans
John Brennan, nominated last month by President Barack Obama to become the next CIA director, came one step closer Tuesday to assuming that role after being approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee. But the former top counterterrorism adviser still faces a battle in the full Senate, where some Republicans have vowed to stall his nomination until they receive answers about the country's drone program and the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
CNN: U.S. commander says Iran sanctions not working
Severe sanctions against Iran are not working, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East says. Gen. James Mattis of Central Command made the statement at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. "In your professional opinion, are the current diplomatic and economic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability – are they working?" Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, asked. "No, sir," Mattis replied.
ALSO SEE: ABC: John Kerry Concedes Iran Is Moving Closer to Possessing Nuclear Weapon
CNN: Holder: Drone strike against Americans in the U.S. possible
Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday stopped short of entirely ruling out a drone strike against an American citizen on U.S. soil—without trial. Holder’s comment came in a letter to Sen. Rand Paul. Paul had sent a letter to President Obama’s CIA director nominee John Brennan asking for the administration’s views on the president’s power to authorize lethal force. In the letter, Holder said “It is possible I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. “
ALSO SEE: CNN: White House to give senators targeted killing documents
CNN: Oregon man charged in terrorist attack
A naturalized citizen living in Portland, Oregon, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The charge is related to the May 2009 bombing that killed 30 people at Pakistan's intelligence headquarters in Lahore, said Amanda Marshall, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. Reaz Qadir Khan, 48, faces life in prison if convicted. According to the indictment, Khan provided money and advice to Ali Jaleel, who was one of the suicide bombers in the attack.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
Financial Times: FBI joins SEC in computer trading probe
The FBI has joined securities regulators to tackle the potential threat of market manipulation posed by sophisticated computer trading strategies that have taken markets beyond the scope of traditional policing. FBI agents have joined forces with a new unit within the Securities and Exchange Commission that examines hedge funds and other firms that are using algorithm trading strategies. The SEC’s Quantitative Analytics Unit is looking at abuses that might arise from the emergence of high-frequency trading firms and the use of dark pool (off exchange) trading.
CNN: TSA to allow pocketknives, some sports equipment
Small pocketknives and an array of sporting equipment - banned from aircraft cabins in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - will once again be allowed in U.S. planes, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.
CNN: Anti-government extremist groups reach record levels, say experts
The number of American "patriot" extremist groups has reached a record level, according to a new study, and experts are warning of a wave of anti-government violence. A report released Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1,360 "patriot" extremist groups in 2012 - up by 7% from 2011. The study defines patriot groups as anti-government militias driven by their fear that authorities will strip them of their guns and liberties.
Bloomberg: States Legalizing Pot Race to Define Market’s Regulation
Colorado and Washington are racing deadlines to set up a framework for regulating the sale of marijuana for recreational use, even as federal authorities weigh the future of the new industry. Colorado has given its Revenue Department until July 1 to draft rules for pot farming, distribution and retailing after voters legalized possession by adults and sales in stores. Washington has set Dec. 1 as its deadline to have regulations in place.
Philadelphia Daily News: Corbett, wife accepted thousands in gifts from biz execs, lobbyists
It was the hottest ticket in town when the Pittsburgh Penguins dropped the puck for hockey's outdoor Winter Classic at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on New Year's Day 2011. And Tom Corbett was among the spectators. But the incoming governor didn't pay a dime for his seat at the game, or for a Winter Classic brunch – together worth $472, according to state records. Instead, the tab was picked up by lobbyist Robert Kennedy, vice president for governmental affairs at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. …The governor-elect's casual acceptance of the coveted hockey tickets was not an isolated instance, but part of a larger pattern of Corbett's taking gifts from lobbyists or businesses with substantial interests before the commonwealth – a pattern that some good-government groups say not only looks bad but also arguably violates the 33-year-old Code of Conduct that governs ethics in the executive branch.
WaPo: D.C. Council considers gun insurance requirement
District gun owners would be required to buy at least $250,000 in liability insurance under a bill being considered by the D.C. Council. The proposal — akin to requirements that vehicle owners carry insurance — would mandate that owners of all registered guns carry policies that “cover any damages resulting from negligent acts or willful acts that are not taken in self-defense.” Insurance companies would charge for policies based on a gun owner’s perceived risk.
Hartford Courant: Newtown Task Force Releases Competing Gun Proposals By Democrats, Republicans
Long-awaited proposals for gun control fell short Tuesday of reflecting the bipartisan cooperation that General Assembly leaders predicted in mid-January when they created a task force to respond to the Newtown school shootings. Instead of issuing bipartisan recommendations for new restrictions on firearms, Democrats and Republicans in the gun violence work group of the 50-member task force issued two competing lists, admitting that they couldn't reconcile their differences. Tuesday's action appeared to increase the likelihood that Democrats, whohave majorities of nearly 2 to 1 in the Senate and House, will push through a bill containing stronger gun restrictions than most Republicans have advocated.
Virginia Times-Dispatch: McDonnell tells U.S. that Va. has not embraced Medicaid expansion
Gov. Bob McDonnell told the Obama administration in a letter Tuesday that the state legislature’s actions regarding Medicaid are not tantamount to expansion. McDonnell, who leaves office in January, reiterated that the program must undergo significant reforms at the federal and state levels if Virginia is to expand coverage and that he is not inclined to endorse expansion on his watch.
Chicago Tribune: Wealthy Rauner launches exploration of Republican governor bid
Wealthy Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner moved a step closer Tuesday toward a potential bid for the Republican governor nomination, filing papers to form an exploratory committee and launching a 60-day listening tour of the state. The venture capitalist and private equity specialist already has been making the rounds of the Republican county Lincoln Day dinner circuit.
Denver Post: Colorado House gives initial approval to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants
Ten years after it was first introduced in the legislature, a bill allowing illegal immigrants in Colorado to attend public colleges at the in-state tuition rate appears to be just days away from passage. The Colorado House gave the bill initial approval Tuesday in a debate that turned nasty at times, with discussions about hope and taxes. The House approved the bill on a voice vote and is expected to take it up for a recorded vote on Friday, thus sending it to Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who has said he will sign it.
LA Times: Stage set for runoff in L.A. mayoral election
Two veterans of Los Angeles politics, Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel, pushed ahead of six other candidates in initial election returns Tuesday and appeared to be well-positioned to advance to a May runoff to become the city's next mayor. Former council President Garcetti and his onetime council colleague Greuel broke to a significant lead over Councilwoman Jan Perry, entertainment lawyer Kevin James, former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez and three lesser-known candidates.
The Seattle Times: Feds probing Seattle schools’ treatment of black students
The numbers are stark, although Seattle school administrators and many parents have been aware of them, and troubled by them, for years. African-American students are suspended from school more than three times as often as white students from elementary schools to high schools. More than one-fourth of black middle schoolers have received short-term suspensions every year since 1996. Native Americans are disciplined more often than Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Now the U.S. Department of Education is investigating whether Seattle Public Schools discriminates against African Americans by disciplining them “more frequently and more harshly than similarly situated white students,” department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said Tuesday.
CNN: U.N.: Syrian exodus reaches 1 million
The number of Syrians who fled the country since the civil war began almost two years ago reached 1 million on Wednesday, the U.N. refugee agency said. That number represents about 5% of Syria's total population, with an average of almost 1,400 refugees spilling across the border daily.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Kerry: U.S. not planning to arm Syrian rebels 'at the moment'
CNN: Report: North Korea threatens to end armistice
North Korea threatened Tuesday to nullify the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, citing U.S.-led international moves to impose new sanctions against it over its recent nuclear test, the North's official news agency KCNA reported.
Pyongyang's military said it will also cut off direct phone links with South Korea at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, KCNA added.
CNN: Hugo Chavez, influential leader with mixed record, dies at 58
Hugo Chavez, the polarizing president of Venezuela who cast himself as a "21st century socialist" and foe of the United States, died Tuesday, said Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Chavez, who had battled cancer, was 58. Chavez's democratic ascent to the presidency in 1999 ushered in a new era in Venezuelan politics and its international relations.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Hugo Chavez's death draws sympathy, anger
CNN: U.N.: Syrian exodus reaches 1 million
One million lives uprooted. One million desperate souls trying to start anew with nothing, far away from home. The number of Syrians who fled the country since the civil war began almost two years ago reached 1 million on Wednesday, the U.N. refugee agency said. That number represents about 5% of Syria's total population, with an average of almost 1,400 refugees spilling across the border daily.
CNN: Kenyans await election outcome as results trickle in
Uhuru Kenyatta, indicted for alleged crimes against humanity and the son of the nation's founding father, was leading early Wednesday in Kenya's presidential election. With a little more than 40% of the vote counted, Kenyatta was leading - 53% to 42% - over his main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, according to the election commission website. If Kenyatta wins, he will find himself in an unusual quandary. The current deputy prime minister, he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for allegedly inciting a local militia to conduct reprisal attacks in the last election. His running mate, William Ruto, also faces ICC charges at the Hague. Both have denied the charges. Although Kenyatta has maintained an early lead since polls closed after Monday's election, it is still too early to declare a winner. Analysts have raised the possibility of a runoff.
ALSO SEE: BBC: Kenya elections: Electronic system halts count
Financial Times: UK isolated as EU backs bonus cap
Britain has lost its campaign to stop a strict EU cap on bankers’ bonuses after its 11th-hour fightback secured no more than minor potential tweaks to a pay clampdown dreaded by the City of London. At a crucial meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, George Osborne, the UK chancellor, stood alone in opposing a peg on bonuses relative to salary, in a decisive blow for London’s frantic diplomatic efforts to blunt the initiative.
CNN: Police: Bolshoi Ballet lead dancer behind director's acid attack
A Russian ballet troupe, a vicious acid attack on its director and a star dancer's confession. The attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, allegedly masterminded by a lead dancer at the troupe, has jolted the centuries-old Moscow fixture. And as more details emerge, so does the number of suspects.
CNNMoney: Dow closes at record high
The Dow Jones industrial average rallied to a new record high Tuesday. The Dow climbed more than 125 points to close at a record high of 14,253.77, topping the prior record set in October 2007. Earlier, the blue chip index climbed to an intraday record of 14,286.37.
Bloomberg: U.S. Had $1.63 Billion Clean-Energy Surplus With China, Pew Says
The U.S. sold more renewable-energy and power-management products to China in 2011 than it imported, contradicting wide-held views that the Asian nation is becoming the world’s dominant supplier, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. U.S. suppliers had a $1.63 billion trade surplus for solar manufacturing equipment, specialty materials, power-management control systems and other high-margin products, according to a report today from the Philadelphia-based nonprofit group. A total of $8.5 billion of clean energy goods and services were exchanged between the two countries in 2011, the last year for which data are available.