CNN: North Korea says it's pulling workers out of joint industrial zone
North Korea said Monday that it would pull all of its workers out of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, an economic cooperation zone with the South that is the last major symbol of cooperation between the two countries. The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said the country was halting all ongoing activity in the zone and would consider shutting it down for good.
CNN: U.S. gas prices down 32 cents from 2012 peak
A year ago at this time, U.S. gasoline prices averaged $3.97 a gallon. It was the highest average in all of 2012. But it's a much different story this year, as prices continue to fall. The average per-gallon cost in the continental United States is now $3.65, 32 cents less than last year's peak, according to Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the Lundberg Survey. That's a 6-cent decrease from two weeks ago and a 15-cent decrease from six weeks ago.
WSJ: Housing Prices Are on a Tear, Thanks to the Fed
The U.S. housing market has broken out of a deep slump, and prices are shooting up faster than anyone thought possible a year ago. For many homeowners, that is a cause for celebration. But the speed at which prices are rising is prompting murmurs of concern that the Federal Reserve's campaign to reduce interest rates could be giving the housing market a sugar high. Prices of existing homes rose 10% in February nationally from a year ago. They have been rising during the seasonally slow winter months—and they show signs of jumping further as the spring buying season gets under way. What's going on?
CNN: Forget falling stars: NASA plans to catch an asteroid
NASA is planning to catch an asteroid and place it in orbit around the moon. Seriously. What sounds like something from science fiction is actually a part of President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year, according to a Florida senator. The budget is expected to be unveiled this week. "In a nutshell, the plan in NASA's hands calls for catching an asteroid with a robotic spacecraft and towing it back toward Earth, where it would then be placed in a stable orbit around the moon," read a statement from the office of Florida Sen. Bill Nelson. Astronauts would then travel to the asteroid where "there could be mining activities, research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth and testing to develop technology for a trip to deep space and Mars," it said.
WSJ: Fewer Foreigners Eye U.S. Graduate Science Programs
Students from China may be rethinking the value of a U.S. graduate degree. Ending nearly a decade of double-digit growth, applications from Chinese citizens to U.S. graduate schools declined 5% for the coming academic year amid worries about unstable funding for science programs and tight immigration policies. Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, says budget spats in Washington have thrown into question the funding of academic programs that rely heavily on federal dollars, such as science and engineering. Students pursuing advanced degrees in so-called STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math—often receive multiyear financial-aid packages in the form of fellowships, but many schools can't guarantee that long-term assistance now because of the uncertainty of federal funding.
CNN: Hepatitis A scare at NYC restaurant prompts 239 to get vaccinated
More than 200 people received hepatitis A vaccinations over the weekend after learning that a Manhattan restaurant employee handling sweets was infected with the virus, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Patrons of the Alta tapas restaurant in Manhattan's West Village from March 23 to April 2 could have been exposed. Of the 239 people who received vaccinations over the weekend, 31 were restaurant employees. The restaurant believes that about 3,000 people ate at Alta tapas during the time frame, 15% of whom - or 450 - ordered dessert.
USA Today: As marijuana goes legit, investors rush in
Brendan Kennedy and Michael Blue are nice boys. Really. They're bankers. Yale MBA classmates. Wearers of ties. And, if luck and changing laws cooperate, they'll be drug barons of a certain kind. Kennedy, 40, and Blue, 34, are in the vanguard springing up to seize the market for legal marijuana, which is accelerating with last fall's legalization of most personal pot consumption in Colorado and Washington state. They're running a Seattle private-equity fund, Privateer Holdings, designed to buy up the smaller marijuana-related businesses to create one bigfat one.
CNN: Man who took hostages at Hillary Clinton's office is missing
Leeland Eisenberg is missing yet again. The 52-year-old New Hampshire man, who took hostages six years ago at one of Hillary Clinton's campaign offices, was not in his Manchester halfway house when he was supposed to be Sunday afternoon, according to the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. Authorities say they are considering it an escape because Eisenberg did not let anyone know he was leaving, as he is required to do. They said he is not considered armed or dangerous. This is at least the second time Eisenberg has left authorities wondering about his whereabouts.
Hartford Courant: Obama Comes To Hartford To Push Gun Control
Using the bully pulpit to urge a response to a tragedy unlike any he has faced in office, President Barack Obama comes to Hartford on Monday in a last-ditch attempt to revive Democrats' faltering efforts to pass stricter federal gun legislation. His speech at the University of Hartford marks the second time that the president has visited the state since the Newtown shootings locked the nation's attention on gun control. Obama first came here days after the Dec. 14 massacre that killed 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
NYT: Obama Must Walk Fine Line as Congress Takes Up Agenda
The days ahead could be decisive ones for the main pieces of President Obama’s second-term agenda: long-range deficit reduction, gun safety and changes to immigration law. …Members of both parties say Mr. Obama faces a conundrum with his legislative approach to a deeply polarized Congress. In the past, when he has stayed aloof from legislative action, Republicans and others have accused him of a lack of leadership; when he has gotten involved, they have complained that they could not support any bill so closely identified with Mr. Obama without risking the contempt of conservative voters.
BuzzFeed: Obama Takes Control In The Second Term
President Barack Obama has begun his second term by consolidating his personal control of the White House, Democrats in and outside the Administration say, reflecting a shift from his less centralized first term. The shift has become clear in the new style of management under Obama's new Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, who — unlike his predecessors — acts more as Obama's enforcer than as a principal in his own right. Once, McDonough's predecessors, notably Rahm Emanuel, made strategic choices and served as the key liaisons to Congress. Now, Obama sets the strategy and priorities and makes the calls to Capitol Hill himself; and the chief of staff's role has been handed to a trusted ally who shares the president's vision
Politico: GOP ready to pierce Obama budget
President Barack Obama might think he’s offering a compromise budget on Wednesday when he formally unveils it. But Senate Republicans — a group Obama will try to woo with a dinner that night — are expected to vigorously push back, casting the 2014 spending plan as another attempt to raise taxes to fuel more deficit spending. Communication staffers for Republican senators met Thursday to map out how they would respond to the budget and to organize a united front.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Obama to propose changes to Medicare and Social Security in new budget
CNN: Former Obama team member pushes White House to reject pipeline
Bill Burton spent the greater part of the past two years working to get President Barack Obama re-elected. Now he's in a different job, calling on the president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project, which Obama's administration last month said would have no significant effect on the environment. In an e-mail sent to Sunday news show staffs, Burton previewed the launch of a new coalition, "All Risk, No Reward," which takes a strong stance against its approval.
WaPo: Gun legislation’s prospects improve
Prospects for a bipartisan deal to expand federal background checks for gun purchases are improving with the emergence of fresh Republican support, according to top Senate aides. The possibility that after weeks of stalled negotiations senators might be on the cusp of a breakthrough comes as President Obama and his top surrogates will begin on Monday their most aggressive push yet to rally Americans around his gun-control agenda. Even though polls show that a universal background-check system is supported by nine in 10 Americans, the president has been unable to translate popular support for the measures into legislative momentum on Capitol Hill. But in a move that could draw other Republicans as well as Democrats from conservative states who have not yet backed Obama’s agenda, Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), a key Democratic broker, has spent the past few days crafting the framework of a possible deal with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.).
ALSO SEE: CBS: Newtown families on gun control, part one
READ: Gabby Giffords op-ed in the NY Daily News: Join the fight for safer U.S.
CNN: McCain: ‘I don’t understand’ threats to block gun bill debate
Sen. John McCain said Sunday that he opposes the thought of filibustering a debate over gun legislation that will probably be brought to the Senate floor this week, despite threats of such action by fellow Republican senators. “I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand,” Arizona's McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” A trio of first-term GOP senators–Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas–stated in a letter last month that they will block any gun control legislation that they consider a threat to Second Amendment rights.
CNN: Springtime for immigration reform?
Last November, Hispanic voters planted the seeds for serious immigration reform when they backed President Barack Obama by a record margin. This April, we'll see if those seeds can grow in Capitol Hill's toxic partisan soil. Congress returns from spring break Monday, and immigration reform tops the agenda. The Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" is preparing to release its long-awaited plan for resolving the status of 11 million undocumented men, women, and children now living in America's shadows. Can a unique confluence of factors - a Democratic president trying to build his legacy, a Republican Party grappling with new demographic realities - overcome the usual strong bias for inaction in a sharply divided Congress? The answer remains unclear.
CNN: House members optimistic about immigration overhaul
WATCH: VIDEO – Legislation could change everything for this immigrant family. CNN's Athena Jones reports
WSJ: Many in U.S. Illegally Overstayed Their Visas
Proponents of overhauling the U.S. immigration system increasingly point to the fact that about 40% of the 11 million undocumented workers in the country aren't low-wage workers who sneaked over the southern border illegally, but rather foreigners who arrived legally and simply never left. Those working to create a path to citizenship for people here illegally often make the distinction to highlight the diverse immigration issues the U.S. faces. Little is known about the demographics of the so-called overstayer population, but some studies suggest they tend to be better educated and more fluent in English than those who crossed the border illegally. They also are more likely to hail from European, Asian and African countries. And in many cases, they used tourist visas to enter the U.S.
The Hill: Intel panel hopes to avoid new cybersecurity fight with Obama
The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee are seeking to avoid another fight with the White House on cybersecurity this year. The House Intelligence panel will mark up the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, by House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) on Wednesday. The two lawmakers argue the bill is desperately needed to give companies the ability to receive valuable threat intelligence from the government so they can thwart the rising number of cyberattacks against their computer systems in real time.
HuffPo: 'Missing In Action': Congress Ignores America's Poverty Crisis
At a time when Republicans on Capitol Hill are expressing outrage over canceled White House tours, something more deserving of outrage is taking place: tens of millions of the nation's most vulnerable are taking hits on all sides. The nation's poverty rate is frozen at a high of 15 percent. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, for the most part, aren't even talking about it. "Missing in action," Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said of Congress' record on poverty. It has been a topic of discussion among Washington lawmakers in fleeting moments. Language about making poverty a national priority found its way into the Democratic Party platform last year and into President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in February. Democrats tucked a line into their budget proposals this year calling for a strategy to cut poverty in half in 10 years. Yet the issue has all but disappeared from the legislative agenda in Congress as lawmakers focus squarely on deficit reduction.
CNN: President Bill Clinton: 'I think America will have some very good choices for president'
Former President Bill Clinton may have stoked more speculation about his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her potential run for president. Asked during a Q-and-A session on Saturday if he'd rather take eight more years as president or complete 16 projects at the Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton said – after a pause – "I would rather keep doing what I'm doing." "Because I think America will have some very good choices for president," he continued, drawing applause from the audience as they presumably clapped and cheered for his wife.
National Journal: Rand Paul Will Be the First Presidential Contender to Visit All 3 Early Primary States
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky will be the first potential 2016 Republican contender to touch base in all three of the states hosting the earliest nominating contests, revealing raw electoral ambitions to surpass his father’s standing as a leader of the tea-party movement. Paul already visited South Carolina in January, when he addressed a group of Republican business leaders, and he’s planning to return this summer to headline a state GOP event. He’s also scheduled to deliver keynote speeches at the annual dinners hosted by the state Republican parties in Iowa and New Hampshire on May 10 and May 20, respectively. While in New Hampshire, he and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus are planning to hold a roundtable meeting with tea-party activists. The first-term senator’s pace exceeds those of any of his possible rivals at this early stage.
Roll Call: Rules of the Game: Lame-Duck FEC Invites Scofflaws
Already short one officer, the Federal Election Commission will soon have a dubious distinction: As of April 30, all five of its remaining commissioners will be serving expired terms. By now President Barack Obama’s failure to fully staff the dysfunctional agency barely even riles government watchdogs. In theory composed of three Republicans and three Democrats, the FEC has been deadlocked for so long that, some argue, the agency could hardly grind to more of a halt. But the FEC’s growing backlog of work, protracted stalemates and failure to enforce or even explain the rules is taking a toll. At a minimum, political players are increasingly confused about how to reconcile already-complicated election laws with the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling to deregulate political spending. (The FEC has yet to issue regulations interpreting that ruling.)
CNN: Americans, Afghan civilians killed in weekend violence
The death toll has surged from weekend violence in Afghanistan, with six Americans and more than a dozen Afghan civilians reportedly among the casualties. Five Americans - including a U.S. diplomat, a civilian from the Defense Department and three U.S. service members - were killed while delivering books to an Afghan school, when a suicide bomber struck their convoy in southern Afghanistan's Zabul province Saturday. Another U.S. service member was killed in a separate attack Saturday. The diplomat's death was a grim reminder of the risks and importance of pushing for change in "one of the toughest places on earth," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. … In separate clashes in Kunar province on Saturday, local officials said, at least 11 children were killed in a NATO operation aimed at Taliban targets. NATO officials said they were investigating reports of civilian casualties.
ALSO SEE: CNN: U.S. diplomat died 'doing what she loved' in Afghanistan
CNN: Kerry to seek diplomatic 'off-ramp' for North Korea
When he visits Asia later this week, Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss potential diplomatic incentives for North Korea once it stops its bellicose rhetoric and threatening behavior, senior administration officials tell CNN. Officials warn any resumption of talks with North Korea is premature, and could only come once Pyongyang adheres to its international obligations. But they say Kerry hopes the new emphasis on diplomacy will give the North Koreans a face-saving way to de-escalate the current situation. "Secretary Kerry agrees that we have to have a robust deterrent because we really don't know what these guys will do," one senior official said. "But he also knows that the North Koreans need a diplomatic off-ramp and that they have to be able to see it."
WATCH: VIDEO – Jill Dougherty reports on the start of Secretary of State Kerry's trip through the Mideast and Asia.
ALSO SEE: NYT: U.S. Designs a Korea Response Proportional to the Provocation
CNN: New North Korean nuclear test not imminent, South says
South Korea on Monday clarified comments made by the country's unification minister about the possibility of a new nuclear test by North Korea. It said that although the minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, had said that there were indications that North Korea may be preparing to carry out its fourth nuclear test, there were no unusual signs at this point, suggesting a test wasn't imminent. "What he meant was that North Korea has been continuously preparing for a nuclear test since its third nuclear test and that it is waiting for a political decision to carry out the test," the Unification Ministry said.
WSJ: U.N. Aide to Seek Redress on Cash Award
A U.N. whistleblower who won a wrongful-dismissal case after accusing top U.N. officials of corruption, but who was then awarded a fraction of his claim, is appealing to the State Department to withhold a portion of American dues to the multilateral organization. James Wasserstrom, an American who was a senior U.N. official in Kosovo, said his award in March of $65,000 by a U.N. tribunal, 2% of his $3.2 million claim, could have a chilling effect on future U.N. whistleblowers. …Mr. Wasserstrom, who now works at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said he would send a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday asking that the U.S. withhold 15% of its U.N. dues.
NYT: Targeted Killing Comes to Define War on Terror
When Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was taken into American custody at an airport stopover in Jordan last month, he joined one of the most select groups of the Obama era: high-level terrorist suspects who have been located by the American counterterrorism juggernaut, and who have not been killed. Mr. Abu Ghaith’s case — he awaits a federal criminal trial in New York — is a rare illustration of what Obama administration officials have often said is their strong preference for capturing terrorists rather than killing them.
Forbes: WikiLeaks' "PLUS D" Aims To Digitize America's Secret Diplomatic History
Not so long ago, WikiLeaks represented the world’s most radical group of investigative journalists. Lately, Julian Assange‘s organization has been acting more like radical librarians. On Sunday night, WikiLeaks announced the Public Library of United States Diplomacy, (PLUS D) an effort to digitize both secret and formerly secret documents from U.S. diplomatic history. The group has started with a searchable archive that includes the 250,000 leaked State Department memos it had previously titled Cablegate and added to them 1.7 million files from the State Department during the 1973 to 1976 tenure of Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State. In total, the archive includes about a billion words.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Airline quality report sorts out the duds from the dynamos in 2012
If you travel on a plane and arriving on time makes a difference, try to book on Hawaiian Airlines. In 2012, passengers got where they needed to go without delay on the discount carrier more than nine times out of 10, according to a study released on Monday. In fact, Hawaiian got even better from 2011 when it had a 92.8% on-time performance. Last year, it improved to 93.4%. The Airline Quality Rankings Report looks at the 14 largest U.S. airlines and is based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation figures. It's co-authored by Brent Bowen, the head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University, and Dean Headley of Wichita State. In addition to on-time performance, the joint project looks at three other categories: rate of consumer complaints, mishandled bags and denied boarding performance.
Politico: Quicker screening could ease airport lines
First came the knives. Now come the laptops and shoes. As it eases restrictions on blade-carrying passengers to speed up the airplane boarding process, the Department of Homeland Security also wants to allow more low-risk travelers to breeze through airport checkpoints. It’s all an attempt to make travel easier for air passengers as the sequester threatens to make lines longer. The push would include a major expansion of two trusted-traveler programs that let prescreened passengers bypass much of the security routine when preparing to board a plane or enter the U.S. Supporters like Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano say the changes would enhance, not weaken, post-Sept. 11 security measures by allowing the government to focus on the real bad guys.
LA Times: Gov. Brown will mean business on his weeklong trip to China
Gov. Jerry Brown is stepping back onto the world stage. After two years largely spent cloistered in California tending to the fiscal crisis, he starts a weeklong visit to China on Tuesday in a bid to reclaim the state's reputation as a global economic powerhouse and innovator. The visit will lack the glitz of Brown's travels as governor decades ago, with rock star companions and international paparazzi replaced by dozens of state bureaucrats and business officials. While abroad, Brown plans to sign pacts forging government research partnerships and limiting Chinese greenhouse gas emissions. He'll announce deals involving California clean-technology companies — electric vehicle makers, a firm that converts trash to electricity — and reinforce his mantra that good environmental policy is good economics. But mostly, Brown hopes the trip will translate into Chinese money for California.
Boston Globe: Outside money attacking Stephen Lynch in Senate race
As the Red Sox take the field for the first time this season at Fenway Park on Monday, a plane circling nearby will drag a banner that reads “Steve Lynch for Oil Evil Empire.” The attack is not from US Representative Stephen F. Lynch’s Democratic rival or any of the Republicans in the race for the US Senate. Instead, it comes courtesy of Thomas F. Steyer, a billionaire California hedge-fund executive and Democrat who has chosen to bombard Lynch with theatrical attacks from the skies and from the streets. He has poured $400,000 into the Massachusetts race so far, bankrolling planes with banners, trucks with video screens, and canvassers who plan to knock on 300,000 doors statewide.
WaPo: Two D.C. hospitals vie to establish costly cancer treatment option
Two of the region’s largest hospital systems are competing to offer a controversial cancer treatment — joining what critics say is a nationwide medical arms race as hospitals scramble for dominance by investing millions of dollars in technology that has not been proven to be better than cheaper alternatives for some cancers. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Sibley Memorial Hospital, part of Johns Hopkins Medicine, are vying to establish proton beam therapy, a cutting-edge radiation treatment touted by supporters as more precise in targeting tumors and safer for healthy tissue than conventional X-rays.
AFP: French military considering purchase of US drones: source
France is considering buying US-made unarmed Reaper surveillance drones to boost its military capabilities, a source in the defence ministry told AFP on Friday. France's deficit of surveillance drones was highlighted during its recent intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali, where the United States deployed several Predator drones in support of French forces. "A letter has been sent to Washington to evaluate the feasibility" of France purchasing drones, the source said. "It does not commit France, it is part of a reflection on the possibility."
Daily Telegraph: EU failings can't be 'brushed under the carpet', David Cameron to tell leaders
The Prime Minister issued the warning as he set to make the case for reform in Brussels to three of Europe's most powerful leaders – Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, Francois Hollande, the French president, and Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister. It is his first major European tour since he promised that his party would seek to repatriate powers from Brussels and hold a referendum on EU membership in the next parliament. During the trip, he will seek to reassure his fellow leaders that the “best outcome” for Britain is membership of a reformed EU, amid fears that the UK is drifting apart from Brussels.
CNN: 'Anonymous Arab' cyberattacks hit Israel
Several Israeli government websites appeared to crash as anti-Israeli hackers launched cyberattacks Sunday, but Israeli hackers also claimed their own victory. The website that promoted the "OpIsrael" cyberattacks was itself hacked. Instead of anti-Israeli messages, it was playing Israel's national anthem, "Hatikvah." A group calling itself Anonymous Arab said in a YouTube video posted last week its cyberattack plan would come in three phases.
CNN: One killed at funeral after Muslim-Christian clashes
As mourners gathered at a church to grieve four Christians killed in Saturday clashes with Muslims, fresh violence broke out Sunday, leaving another person dead in Egypt. The violence erupted at St. Mark Cathedral of Abassiya, a Coptic Christian church in Cairo. At least 66 people were injured in the clashes, according to Egypt's Health Ministry.
Financial Times: Egypt seeks increase to IMF loan
Egypt is seeking an increase to its $4.8bn loan request from the International Monetary Fund, the country’s planning minister said on the weekend, amid growing signs of social discord and economic pressure. Egypt’s minister for planning and international co-operation, Ashraf al-Araby, said officials now in talks with a visiting IMF team in Cairo were proposing to increase the loan from the $4.8bn agreed in previous negotiations in order to close the country’s widening budget gap. A spokesman for Mohamed Morsi, president, declined to confirm the request, saying only that talks were ongoing.
Bloomberg: Portugal Plans More Spending Cuts After Ruling on Salaries
Portugal will carry out more spending cuts this year after the Constitutional Court blocked a plan to suspend a monthly salary payment to state workers and pensioners. “I will give instructions to the ministries to proceed with the necessary reductions in operating expenses to compensate for what was blocked by the Constitutional Court’s ruling,” Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said in Lisbon yesterday. …Passos Coelho is battling rising joblessness and lower demand from European trading partners as he cuts spending and raises taxes to meet the terms of the country’s 78 billion-euro ($101 billion) aid plan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
CNN: Darfur supporters seek $7.25 billion to rebuild ravaged region
An international donors' conference on Darfur kicked off Sunday in Doha with the hope of raising $7.25 billion to bring aid and sustainable development to the troubled region in Sudan. "There is an opportunity to assist the people of Darfur through massive generosity," said Ali Al-Zatari, the representative of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Sudan. Darfur still needs stability," Al-Zatari added. He said 3.5 million people need humanitarian assistance, and 1.5 million of them live in camps. The conference, whose participants include the UN, the governments of Qatar and Sudan, and the World Bank, seeks to "to mobilize financial support for the recovery and development needs in Darfur."
CNN: Syrian airstrike kills 15, including children, opposition says
A Syrian airstrike in Aleppo has killed at least 15 people, including nine children, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday. A single bomb landed in the mostly Kurdish district of Sheikh Maksoud, the group said. Kurdish activists say the number of dead is expected to rise because there are many injured and in critical condition.
The Guardian: Syrian troop redeployments raise concerns over Golan Heights security
The Syrian government has withdrawn large numbers of troops from the Golan Heights in a move that has cast doubt over the future of a UN peacekeeping force on the strategically vital plateau and increased the risk of an intervention by Israel in the conflict. Western diplomats said the Syrian redeployments near the Golan ceasefire line were the most significant in 40 years, with at least several thousand soldiers thought to have been moved in recent weeks to battle fronts closer to Damascus. Rebel groups have moved into the vacuum, and Israel fears that jihadists will use the area as a staging ground for attacks on territory it controls.
ALSO SEE: WSJ: Syria's Escalating War Bleeds Into Lebanon
CNN: Chile set to exhume body of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda
Chilean authorities will exhume the body of poet Pablo Neruda on Monday to determine whether he died of prostate cancer or was killed. Neruda died on September 23, 1973, just 12 days after a right-wing military coup ousted socialist President Salvador Allende and brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. Neruda, a Communist Party member, criticized the coup and Pinochet. Twelve days later, he was dead.
CNNMoney: Stocks: Fed minutes, retail sales in play
After markets pulled back last week, investors will be on the lookout for new reports on the broader U.S. economy to redirect stocks back to record-high territory. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed out their weakest week of the year last week, following a disappointing jobs report on Friday. The S&P 500 dropped 1%, while Nasdaq lost 2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1% for the week, marking its second worst performance of the year. Several potential market movers are slated to come out of Washington on Wednesday, including President Obama's budget proposal, the U.S. Treasury budget, and minutes from last month's Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
CNNMoney: Australia, China strike deal on currency
Trade between Australia and China just got a little easier. The Australian dollar is set to become only the third currency to trade directly with the Chinese yuan - a move that will help internationalize China's currency and smooth transactions between the major trading partners. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the deal Monday during a trip to Shanghai. … Australia now exports more goods to China than any other country, and trade between the countries is growing. In practical terms, direct convertibility means that Australian businesses operating in China will no longer have to use U.S. dollars to purchase goods. Instead, they will be able to use Australian currency without a conversion, which should lower costs.
Bloomberg: Trust in Gold Not Bernanke as U.S. States Promote Bullion
Distrust of the Federal Reserve and concern that U.S. dollars may become worthless are fueling a push in more than a dozen states to recognize gold and silver coins as legal tender. Lawmakers in Arizona are poised to follow Utah, which authorized bullion for currency in 2011. Similar bills are advancing in Kansas, South Carolina and other states. The Tea Party-backed measures are mostly symbolic - you still can’t pay for groceries with gold in Utah. They reflect lingering dollar concerns, amplified by the Fed’s unconventional moves in recent years to stabilize the economy, said Loren Gatch, who teaches politics at the University of Central Oklahoma.