URGENT – North Korea Hotline
– (CNN) - North Korea said Wednesday it was cutting off an important military hotline with South Korea amid high tensions between the two sides.
CNN: Day Two of same-sex marriage at Supreme Court
Day Two of the culture wars at the Supreme Court over same-sex marriage, and another opportunity for the justices to give political and legal clarity to a contentious issue. The momentous week kicked off on Tuesday with arguments over California's same-sex marriage ban, and there was little indication when they concluded how the court might rule. The stakes are high as the justices could, in one scenario, fundamentally alter how American law treats marriage with polls showing the public becoming more aware of the issue, and in some cases, more in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to legally wed.
ALSO SEE: CNN Poll: 56% say federal govt. should recognize same-sex marriages
ALSO SEE: CNN: Same-sex marriage: 5 things we learned from oral arguments
CNN: Michigan seeks criminal charges in meningitis outbreak
Michigan's attorney general has requested a criminal investigation into the conduct of an embattled Massachusetts company linked to a recent deadly fungal meningitis outbreak. Michigan had at least 259 infections and 14 deaths, leading the nation in people affected by the outbreak last year, said Bill Schuette, the state's attorney general. The outbreak, linked to tainted steroid injections from New EnglandCompoundingCenter, killed 51 people and infected 730 people in 20 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
CNN: North Dakota governor signs law banning most abortions
What is being called the nation's toughest anti-abortion measure - a law that bans most abortions after six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be first detected - was signed into law on Tuesday by North Dakota's governor. The law sets the stage for an almost guaranteed legal showdown, with proponents saying the law is intended to test the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.
San Francisco Chronicle: Older homeless expected to die off soon
The number of homeless people in the United States is expected to plummet over the next decade as indigents who fell prey to crack and hard times 30 years ago die of premature old age, according to a new study. This is the population, researchers said, that was created in the "big bang" of homelessness in the early 1980s, when multitudes of people fell through the safety net during a severe recession or became hooked on the then-new, cheap version of smokable cocaine. The economy recovered later in the decade and the crack epidemic eased, but many of the people who became homeless stayed homeless, growing middle-aged on the streets.
CNN: Indiana school vouchers upheld in ruling that could set precedent
In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state's voucher program, which gives poor and middle class families public funds to help pay for private school tuition, including religious schools. Indiana has the broadest school voucher program available to a range of incomes, critics say, and could set a precedent as other states seek ways to expand such programs.
USA Today: White House warns cutting Medicare will shift costs
If Congress addresses the nation's budget deficit by cutting Medicare, that will simply shift health care costs to the private sector and not address the underlying issues, Obama administration officials said Tuesday at a White House briefing. "If you only focus on Medicare, you shift the costs," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, adding that Medicare and Medicaid are not the reason health costs are going up. Costs in these programs are increasing at a slower pace than private-sector health care costs, she said. "You don't do anything about the trajectory the U.S. is on ... unless you concentrate on the underlying costs." Medicare, as a "major, public financing system," can be used as a stimulus to drive down health care costs across the board, she said.
Politico: Obama to talk immigration with Telemundo, Univision
President Obama will sit for interviews Wednesday with Telemundo and Univision to talk immigration reform. Both interviews with the Spanish-language networks will air at 6:30 p.m. ET. Obama did a pair of interviews with Telemundo and Univision in late January, and said then that he hoped to see comprehensive immigration reform become law by summer.
Fox News: GOP leaders voice 'grave misgivings' to Obama over key terror trial in civilian court
The Republican chairmen of four congressional committees, with oversight for intelligence, the armed services, the judiciary and foreign affairs, have told President Obama they have "grave misgivings" about his administration's decision to send Usama bin Laden's brother-in-law to a federal court for criminal prosecution. The lawmakers voiced their concerns to Obama in a letter obtained by Fox News.
Roll Call: Leahy Warns Sessions to Play Nice on Immigration
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., cautioned Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., against undermining the panel’s process as it seeks to take up a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Leahy expressed his warning in a letter, obtained by CQ Roll Call. It is addressed to Sessions and dated March 21. The letter appears to be a response to a March 19 letter written by Sessions and five other Republicans, who raised concerns that the committee would not have enough debate time when it considers an immigration overhaul next month. “I hope it is not your intention to discredit the process we undertake in the Judiciary Committee before we begin,” Leahy wrote.
CNN: First on CNN: Rubio helps raise north of $200K for McConnell
The election is still more than a year away, but Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign coffers got a boost Monday when fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio helped rake in more than $230,000 at a fundraiser in Kentucky. At the event, Rubio praised McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, for his drive in pushing forward the GOP agenda in the upper chamber.
Time: The Gentlemen from Kentucky: Inside the Partnership of Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell was watching a basketball game on TV at around 10 p.m. on March 6 when he flipped the channel to C-Span for an update from the Senate floor. At 11:47 that morning, McConnell’s Kentucky compatriot, Republican Senator Rand Paul, had launched an old-school filibuster to protest Barack Obama‘s nomination of counterterrorism official John Brennan as CIA chief. The soliloquy exploded across cable news and ricocheted around the echo chamber of Twitter. But 10 hours of holding forth had taken its toll, and now Paul was flagging. So McConnell slipped on a suit and headed back to the Capitol, where he took a turn spelling his junior colleague and praising Paul for “his tenacity and for his conviction.”
Politico: Momentum gone on gun control
President Barack Obama said Newtown changed everything. But it didn’t change Washington. Two days after 20 first-graders were gunned down at Sandy HookElementary School in what Obama has said was the worst day of his presidency, he took the podium at the memorial service with a simple message: Americans’ approach to guns was wrong, and it had to change. Too many children had died, and he wouldn’t let more follow them. And yet more than 100 days later, no bill has passed either house of Congress — and members are now off on a two-week spring break. In interviews, gun control advocates’ frustration with — and mystification over — Washington is palpable.
CNN: Petraeus apologizes for affair, says 'it was my own doing'
In a rare public appearance since admitting to an extramarital affair, David Petraeus apologized Tuesday night for the scandal that led to his resignation as head of the CIA last year. Petraeus, a retired four-star general, has stayed out of the limelight since the affair was revealed in November. Uniform alluring for 'military groupies' 2012: Epitaph for an ex-CIA director When affairs ruin careers "Please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret and apologize for the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters," Petraeus told a crowd gathered at a Los Angeles hotel ballroom. "I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing."
WATCH: VIDEO – Former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus apologizes for his extramarital affair. CNN's Casey Wian reports.
CNN: North Korea ups the ante in war of words, threatens to attack US bases
North Korea upped the ante Tuesday in its war of words, threatening to target South Korea and U.S. military bases. Even by North Korean standards, the series of threats this month by leader Kim Jong Un and ensuing actions have been incredibly provocative, making the situation on the KoreanPeninsula more worrisome.
ALSO SEE: Reuters: Watch your tongue, North Korea warns South's new leader
WATCH: VIDEO – CNN's Matthew Chance revisits the island of Yeongpeong where North Korea shelled in 2010.
WSJ: Marines Plan Teams for Crisis Response
The U.S. military is making plans to place Marine Corps special-operations teams aboard Navy ships in the Middle East and elsewhere, to serve as a rapid-reaction force that could respond to embassy attacks, hostage standoffs and other crises. The move follows fierce criticism of the U.S. handling of the September attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, when no American military force was close enough to intervene and four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed. In the wake of the attack, the military has examined how to improve its rapid-response forces. Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marines, argues that adding special-operations teams of 14 Marines to ships carrying larger Marine Expeditionary Units would markedly improve the ability to respond to various emergencies.
CNN: Who really killed bin Laden?
By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst
In February, Esquire magazine published a lengthy profile of "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden." The story did not identify the killer by his real name, referring to him only as "the Shooter." The Shooter told Esquire that the night bin Laden was killed he had encountered al Qaeda's leader face-to-face in the top-floor bedroom of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden had been hiding for more than five years.
WaPo: CIA director faces a quandary over clandestine service appointment
As John Brennan moved into the CIA director’s office this month, another high-level transition was taking place down the hall. A week earlier, a woman had been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history. She is a veteran officer with broad support inside the agency. But she also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture. The woman, who remains undercover and cannot be named, was put in the top position on an acting basis when the previous chief retired last month. The question of whether to give her the job permanently poses an early quandary for Brennan, who is already struggling to distance the agency from the decade-old controversies.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: FBI investigating 'suspicious' death aboard cruise ship
The FBI is investigating the mysterious death of a 64-year-old woman aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The woman, whose name was not released, was from Midlothian, Virginia. She was found dead by her husband in their cabin Sunday, the cruise line said. "As is our standard procedure, both the FBI and local law enforcement were notified," Royal Caribbean said. The couple was traveling on the Enchantment of the Seas ship, which was on a seven-day voyage from Baltimore to Florida and the Bahamas. The FBI met the ship when it arrived back in Baltimore on Monday.
Reuters: Boeing 787 faces new risk: limits on extended range: sources
As Boeing works to regain permission for its 787 Dreamliner to resume flights, the company faces what could be a costly new challenge: a temporary ban on some of the long-distance, trans-ocean journeys that the jet was intended to fly. Aviation experts and government officials say the Federal Aviation Administration may shorten the permitted flying time of the 787 on certain routes when it approves a revamped battery system. The plane was grounded worldwide two months ago after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two separate aircraft.
WSJ: Warning Over Doctor-Run Groups
A federal agency issued a special fraud alert about physician-owned distributorships—commercial entities run by doctors that have proliferated in the fields of orthopedic and spine surgery—calling them "inherently suspect" and warning they "pose dangers to patient safety." The alert, from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, comes as the Justice Department is pushing ahead with an investigation of physician-owned distributorships, or PODs, according to people familiar with the matter. The probe is centered on California and Utah, two of the states where PODs have become widespread, these people say.
CNN: Obama to appoint first female director of Secret Service
President Obama will appoint Julia Pierson as the first female director of the Secret Service, a White House official told CNN on Tuesday. Pierson has been the chief of staff to the director since August 2008. She began her career as a special agent in 1983 in the Miami field office.
NYT: Legislature Set to Pass Budget and Extend On-Time Streak to 3rd Year
The spending plan tops $141 billion. It pays for things like expanded prekindergarten programs and a marketing plan promoting the state’s beer, wine and Greek yogurt industries. And this week, after weeks of haggling with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the State Legislature is poised to approve it. Lawmakers are hoping to finish voting on the bills that make up the budget on Thursday.
Hartford Courant: Enfield Reaches Agreement To Place Armed Guards In All Schools
As long as the town dedicates money for the safety initiative, security officers armed with handguns will be stationed at each of the town's schools next year. The mass shootings at Sandy HookElementary School in Newtown Dec. 14 have prompted towns across Connecticut to evaluate school security. The responses have been varied, ranging from improved entry security to proposals for new classroom doorlocks and the hiring of security guards. But Enfield appears to be ahead of the pack in its effort to place armed guards in every school.
Richmond Times Dispatch: McDonnell seeks to bar abortion coverage in health exchange
Abortion rights advocates are blasting an amendment Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed to bar abortion coverage by insurers operating in the federal health exchange in Virginia. The General Assembly approved a similar amendment in 2011, when it anticipated a state-run health exchange under the federal health care law. The state has since opted for a federally run exchange, and McDonnell is proposing to amend legislation passed this year to cement an anti-abortion provision under a federal exchange.
Wilmington News Journal: VP Biden visits newly designated First State National Monument
Calling it a “proud moment for all of us here,” Vice President Joe Biden celebrated Delaware’s first national monument Tuesday at the Old Sheriff’s House in Old New Castle, one of three designated sites in his home state that advocates argue will attract much-deserved federal and tourism money. “Today was a long time coming,” Biden said a day after President Barack Obama declared the Delaware sites a national monument. “It never made sense to me that we didn’t get the same recognition” as other states, he said. Delaware previously was the only state not to have a national park or monument.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Biden cheers on Delaware basketball team
Denver Post: 211 Crew prison gang's violent culture roils behind, beyond bars
The founder of a prison gang whose leaders are under investigation for possibly ordering a hit on Colorado prison chief Tom Clements formed the gang to protect white prisoners after a black inmate broke his jaw in the Denver County Jail, sources and court records indicate. Over the next 17 years, Benjamin Davis, 37, molded the "211 Crew" into a Colorado white supremacist prison gang that preys on other inmates, demands that members outside prison smuggle drugs into prison and orders beatings for members who step out of line.
Tampa Bay Times: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson calls for investigation of mortgage aid program
Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for a federal investigation of Florida's Hardest Hit Fund, a $1 billion mortgage assistance program that has denied aid to thousands of desperate homeowners while helping felons, tax scofflaws and people chronically in debt. Nelson's request was prompted by a Tampa Bay Times investigation that uncovered dozens of homeowners with questionable backgrounds getting aid.
The State: SC to be test market for immigration reform message
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham called South Carolina ground zero in the fight for immigration reform as evangelicals join Republicans in pushing for change. The Republican party and evangelical movement are using conservative, religious South Carolina as a test market for their message that immigration is as much a moral issue as an economic one. An Upstate minister and a Columbia businessman stood with Graham as he laid out his four-point reform plan in a Columbia news conference that featured as many national reporters as local ones. “If you can sell it here, you can sell it anywhere,” Graham said of the message.
CNNMoney: Stakes high as Cyprus sweats bank controls
Banks in Cyprus were closed for an 11th day running Tuesday, as officials tried to work out how to reopen them without causing further massive damage to the island's economy and unnerving depositors elsewhere in the eurozone. Unable to prop up its banks, Cyprus on Monday accepted a 10 billion euro bailout from the European Union. In return, it agreed to raise billions from big depositors in its two main lenders - Bank of Cyprus and Popular Bank - and to wind down Popular. Fear of a bank run prompted the island nation's central bank to drop plans to open some banks Tuesday. Instead, it extended a prolonged bank holiday through Wednesday.
NYT: Europeans Planted Seeds of Crisis in Cyprus
When European finance chiefs explained their harsh terms for rescuing Cyprus this week, many blamed the tiny Mediterranean nation’s wayward banking practices for bringing ruin on itself. But the path that led to Cyprus’s current crisis — big banks bereft of money, a government in disarray and citizens filled with angry despair — leads back, at least in part, to a fateful decision made 17 months ago by the same guardians of financial discipline that now demand that Cyprus shape up.
Financial Times: Secret HQ set up in London to fight cyber crime
Britain’s security services are to open a new unit in London to work with business to protect UK companies from the growing threat of cyber attacks by China, Russia and Iran. The new initiative – formally called the Cyber Security Information Sharing partnership – will be established at an undisclosed location in London, where around a dozen officers from the Government Communications Headquarters and MI5 will work with business representatives to monitor potential threats.
CNN: U.N. chief proposes peacekeeping troops in Mali
Up to 11,200 peacekeeping troops could maintain stability in Mali under a new U.N. proposal. And up to 1,440 police could also participate in a U.N.-led mission there, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the U.N. Security Council released Tuesday. Under the proposal, the West African multinational force currently in Mali would eventually become part of the U.N. stabilizing mission.
ALSO SEE: Der Spiegel: Malian Coup Leader Sanogo: 'I Saved the Country'
WSJ: Israel and Turkey Explore Energy Ties
Israel's apology to Turkey over a deadly 2010 raid will boost cooperation over Syria's civil war, but it also has a compelling economic incentive: the possible export of billions of dollars of Israeli natural gas to Turkey and beyond, say analysts and officials. Quiet contacts between Israel and Turkey over gas cooperation have been going on in recent months, but both sides knew nothing could progress before the dispute over the raid was resolved, said Alon Liel, a former Israeli envoy to Turkey with knowledge of the talks.
BBC: Somalia refugees abused and raped – Human Rights Watch
Internally displaced people in Somalia are suffering sexual violence and other forms of abuse, reports the Human Rights Watch (HRW) campaign group. The abuse takes place at the hands of armed groups, including government forces, it says. In the report, women who fled famine and conflict describe being gang-raped in camps in the capital, Mogadishu. Managers of the camps – often allied to militias – siphon off food and other aid, the HRW report says.
Haaretz: Arab League approves $1b plan to protect 'Islamic and Arab character' of East Jlem
The Arab League on Tuesday approved a Qatari proposal to set up a $1 billion fund for Arab East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of an independent state under any peace deal with Israel. Arabs say that Israeli settlement-building on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war, including Arab East Jerusalem, has made a two-state solution backed by the United States unfeasible. Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, said his country will contribute $250 million to the fund, which he called for in an opening speech to an Arab summit in Doha that focused on the crisis in Syria and stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
CNN: Myanmar imposes more curfews to try to prevent attacks on Muslims
As sectarian tensions continue to boil in central Myanmar, authorities have imposed curfews in more towns in an attempt to stop groups of Buddhists from setting fire to mosques and Muslims' homes. The fresh restrictions come after a state of emergency was declared last week in the city where clashes between the two communities first broke out, leaving at least 40 people dead. Officials on Tuesday put dusk-to-dawn curfews in place in the townships of Gyobingauk, Okpo and Minhla, the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper, reported in its Wednesday edition.
CNN: After coup, looters target hospitals in Central African Republic
Days after a coup plunged the Central African Republic into chaos, looters roamed the streets of the capital, robbing hospitals and preventing fearful residents from seeking treatment. A coalition of rebels ousted President Francois Bozize this week, the latest in a series of coups since the nation gained independence from France in 1960. After the deposed president fled the nation, a rebel leader declared himself in charge and urged residents to welcome the new leadership. But as the political turmoil rages, aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian crisis as attacks escalate.
CNNMoney: S&P 500 less than 2 points from record high
Will Wednesday finally be the day the S&P 500 hits a new all-time high? The S&P 500 is now less than 2 points away from its all-time closing high of 1,565.15. The blue chip index rose nearly 1% Tuesday, following better than expected reports about the U.S. economy and easing concerns about Cyprus.
WSJ: Berkshire Set to Get Big Goldman Stake
Leave it to Warren Buffett to find a way to get hold of 10 million Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +0.29% shares without handing over a penny. The billionaire chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRKB +1.39% accepted the stake in exchange for giving up his company's right to purchase a larger number of Goldman shares at a below-market price, according to terms of the deal announced Tuesday. The pact, worth about $1.5 billion after Tuesday's close, puts an exclamation point on the Omaha, Neb. company's financial-crisis lifeline to Goldman. Berkshire's realized and paper winnings on the 2008 preferred-stock investment now exceed $3 billion, making it one of Mr. Buffett's most lucrative bets in recent years.
Financial Times: Global pool of triple A status shrinks 60%
The global pool of government bonds with triple A status from the three main rating agencies, the bedrock of the financial system, has shrunk more than 60 per cent since the financial crisis triggered a wave of downgrades across the advanced economies.
The expulsion of the US, the UK and France from the “nine-As” club has led to the contraction in the stock of government bonds deemed the safest by Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, from almost $11tn at the start of 2007 to just $4tn now, according to Financial Times analysis.