CNN: U.S., South Korea begin military exercises
A new joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States began Monday, the South Korean defense ministry said. The latest military drills involving the two allies are called Key Resolve and follow the Foal Eagle joint exercises that began March 1, which are scheduled to last two months.
CNN: 6 teens killed, 2 injured when overcrowded SUV flips into pond
The eight teenagers crammed into an SUV that was only supposed to seat five. They were driving a vehicle they didn't have permission to use. And they were speeding down a two-lane northeastern Ohio road. But any poor judgment was quickly eclipsed by a tragic crash that cut short six young lives.
CNN: U.S. gas prices see first dip in months
U.S. gasoline prices broke a nearly three-month upward spiral in early March, and motorists can expect a bit more relief in the coming weeks, according to the latest Lundberg Survey. The average price of regular across the continental United States stood at $3.74 on Friday, a 5½-cent drop from the last Lundberg report on February 22, survey publisher Trilby Lundberg said. That comes after an increase of nearly 54 cents since late December, she said.
NYT: Harvard Search of E-Mail Stuns Its Faculty Members
Bewildered, and at times angry, faculty members at Harvard criticized the university on Sunday after revelations that administrators secretly searched the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans in an effort to learn who leaked information about a student cheating scandal to the news media. Some predicted a confrontation between the faculty and the administration.
WSJ: As Asbestos Claims Rise, So Do Worries About Fraud
Three decades after Manville Corp. collapsed under an avalanche of asbestos litigation, personal-injury claims continue to pile up at a rate of 85 per day. They find their way to a small office building in suburban Virginia, where processors evaluate the paperwork of pipe fitters and welders and shipbuilders who say they contracted debilitating lung diseases from the company's insulation products. By last March, a Manville bankruptcy trust had already paid out nearly $4.3 billion. So when a beneficiary of one David E. Knight came to the trust saying the former seaman had succumbed to the deadly cancer mesothelioma, the administrators didn't blink. Within five weeks, the claimant received a check for $26,250. The only problem: There was no such Mr. Knight. Police say the claim was phony, filed by an employee of a law office specializing in extracting payouts from asbestos bankruptcy trusts.
WSJ: Painkiller Abuse Hits New States
The epidemic in painkiller-abuse gripping the Southern and Eastern U.S. is tightening its hold on the Western part of the country, having blindsided law enforcement and public health authorities. "We're just in the beginning stages of grasping the full magnitude of this issue," said Elisha Figueroa, Idaho's drug-policy administrator, who started noticing that prescription-drug abuse was becoming pervasive in her state about two years ago. The painkiller issue is so new to the region that states are still diagnosing the problem and developing policies and regulations to combat it. The problem arrived after Western states fought a long battle against rampant methamphetamine abuse.
San Francisco Chronicle: Tough limits on tracing guns questioned
In 2003, the National Rifle Association feared that Chicago's bid to access federal data on guns used in crimes would spell doom for firearms makers and retailers. With the help of Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., the NRA pushed language through Congress barring the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing gun-trace information with cities and severely restricting access for state and local law enforcement. Ten years later, the measure known as the Tiahrt amendment is coming under renewed scrutiny from lawmakers, including several members of Congress from the Bay Area who are pushing gun control legislation in the wake of the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December.
CNN: Republicans, while skeptical, welcome Obama outreach
– Whatever you choose to call it – a charm offensive, an olive branch or just dinner – President Barack Obama's outreach to congressional Republicans is certainly a change of pace. And on Sunday, those Republicans seemed guardedly optimistic the new approach from the White House could work, though they were quick to acknowledge that no amount of broiled sea bass could produce the kind of compromise that's eluded the two sides since Republicans took control of the House in 2010.
CNN: Source: Assistant attorney general to be nominated for Labor secretary post
Thomas E. Perez, now the U.S. assistant attorney general heading the Justice Department's civil rights division, will be nominated to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, a Democratic source said. A former federal prosecutor and official in his home state of Maryland, Perez was sworn into his current post in October 2009.
NYT: Sequestration gives Obama path to create leaner military
At a time when $46 billion in mandatory budget cuts is causing anxiety at the Pentagon, administration officials see one potential benefit: There may be an opening to argue for deep reductions in programs long in President Barack Obama's sights, and long resisted by Congress. On the list are not only base closings but also an additional reduction in deployed nuclear weapons and stockpiles, and a restructuring of the military medical insurance program that costs more than America spends on all of its diplomacy and foreign aid around the world. Also being considered is a scaling back in next-generation warplanes, starting with the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history.
CNN: Ryan says House GOP budget will include Obamacare repeal
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan says the budget he will unveil this week counts on a repeal of President Barack Obama's signature health reform law, a position which is unacceptable to many Democrats and unlikely to become law. Asked on "Fox News Sunday" about the political reality that a repeal of Obamacare is unlikely, Ryan responded, "Well, we believe it should, that's the point. That's what budgeting is all about. … It's about making tough choices to fix our country's problems. We believe that Obamacare is a program that will not work."
Roll Call: First Budget in Four Years for Senate Democrats
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee say they hope to keep the focus during this week’s expected marathon markup on setting a sound course for the country’s fiscal future. Though such issues have dominated the national political conversation since 2008, this week marks the first time in four years that members will actually debate a budget resolution, with proceedings expected to kick off Wednesday.
WaPo: As momentum builds toward tax reform, lobbyists prepare for a fight
An army of lobbyists has been mobilizing in the halls of Congress over recent months in anticipation of what could be a monumental struggle later this year over reforming the tax code. While the standoff over sequester spending cuts and other budget battles have been grabbing headlines, momentum has quietly been building toward a once-in-a-generation push to overhaul federal taxes, an effort that would likely affect nearly every family and business.
WSJ: Senators Struggle Over Work Visas
The little-loved visa system for low-wage temporary workers is shaping up as one of the toughest tangles facing senators in their bid to overhaul U.S. immigration laws. A bipartisan Senate group, labor unions and business groups all agree it is time to overhaul the visa system for foreign workers who come to the U.S. for low-wage jobs because it can be arduous, costly and offers few protections for workers. However, there are sharp divides over how to do it.
Politico: GOP senators not eager to buck their leaders
Saxby Chambliss appears to be a ripe target for President Barack Obama on the grand bargain: He’s a retiring Republican senator who for years has been eager to cut a large-scale deficit deal. But will he and other GOP senators buck their party’s leadership in order to strike a deal with the White House? “It’s not going to happen,” Chambliss told POLITICO. “We’re not going to negotiate; that’s the leaders’ role.”
HuffPo: Ashley Judd Senate Run: Actress, Activist Planning To Declare Candidacy, Sources Say
Ashley Judd, the 44-year-old actress and social activist, has told key advisers and political figures that she is planning to announce her candidacy for U.S. Senate here this spring. Judd told one close ally that she plans to announce her run for the Democratic nomination for the 2014 race “around Derby” - meaning in early May when the Kentucky Derby brings national attention to Louisville and the Bluegrass State.
ALSO SEE: National Journal: What Ashley Judd Could Learn From Al Franken
BuzzFeed: South Carolina Blog Co-Owner Could Primary Lindsay Graham
The first woman to ever graduate from the Citadel — who is also the co-owner of a controversial South Carolina political blog — is weighing a primary challenge to Senator Lindsey Graham in 2014, two Republican sources suggested Saturday. Conservatives have long mulled a challenge to Graham, seen in some circles as too establishmentarian for the state's conservative grassroots, and allies of Senator Rand Paul — whose filibuster last week Graham denounced — hope State Senator Tom Davis, who backed Paul for president, will enter the race. But another conservative candidate could be Nancy Mace, best known in local political circles as the partial owner of FITSNews, whose name is short for "Faith In The Sound" after a George Michael lyric and which has for several years served as the center ring of the state's sometimes hallucinatory political circus.
CNN: Quinn makes NYC mayoral bid official
Christine Quinn, the front-running Democratic candidate to become the next mayor of New York, made her bid official Sunday, saying her aim was to keep the metropolis "a place for the middle class."
CNN: Al Qaeda claims responsibility for attack on Syrian convoy
Al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for the destruction of a Syrian Army convoy in western Iraq last week that killed some 48 Syrians and nine Iraqi soldiers. The militant group released a statement on jihadist forums Monday.
ALSO SEE: CNN: U.N.: Number of Syrian refugees escalating at rapid rate
CNN: ISAF chief: Karzai claim of U.S., Taliban collusion is 'categorically false'
The commander of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan has taken exception to President Hamid Karzai's contention that the United States and the Taliban were holding daily talks, and that the militant group prefers that foreign troops remain in the country. "We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage," said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force. On Sunday, after a weekend bombing in Kabul that killed at least nine people, Karzai said there are "ongoing daily talks between Taliban, American and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states."
CNN: Blast near Hagel's briefing, killing nine
An explosion rocked Kabul on Saturday, hours after the newly appointed U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel landed in the Afghan capital. At least nine people were killed and 14 others injured, police said. A suicide bomber apparently targeted the Afghan ministry of defense, said Charlie Stadtlander, ISAF spokesman.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Hagel, Karzai meet after strained Afghan weekend
NYT: As North Korea Blusters, South Flirts With Talk of Nuclear Arms
As their country prospered, South Koreans have largely shrugged off the constant threat of a North Korean attack. But breakthroughs in the North’s missile and nuclear programs and fiery threats of war have heightened fears in the South that even small miscalculations by the new and untested leaders of each country could have disastrous consequences. Now this new sense of vulnerability is causing some influential South Koreans to break a decades-old taboo by openly calling for the South to develop its own nuclear arsenal, a move that would raise the stakes in what is already one of the world’s most militarized regions.
ALSO SEE: Reuters: North Korea cuts off hotline with South Korea
WaPo: Susan Rice as national security adviser? U.N. ambassador said to be front-runner
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who lost out in a bruising bid for the job of secretary of state, may have the last laugh. Rice has emerged as far and away the front-runner to succeed Thomas E. Donilon as President Obama’s national security adviser later this year, according to an administration official familiar with the president’s thinking. The job would place her at the nexus of foreign-policy decision making and allow her to rival the influence of Secretary of State John F. Kerry in shaping the president’s foreign policy.
Jerusalem Post: US senator, Treasury press EU to blacklist Hezbollah
In an exchange with US Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) on drying up Iranian funds for the financing of its alleged nuclear weapons program, Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen said the US government is diligently working to convince the EU to label Hezbollah a terrorist group. The Banking Committee hearing took place on Thursday and revealed growing efforts by Cohen and the powerful treasury department for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence that he heads, to push the Europeans to take action against Hezbollah for the terror attack on Israeli and Bulgarians in July.
Reuters: Americans are training Syria rebels in Jordan: Spiegel
Americans are training Syrian anti-government fighters in Jordan, the German weekly Der Spiegel said on Sunday, quoting what it said were participants and organizers. Spiegel said it was not clear whether the Americans worked for private firms or were from the army but said some wore uniforms. The training focused on use of anti-tank weaponry. Some 200 men have already received such training over the past three months and there are plans in the future to provide training for a total 1,200 members of the "Free Syrian Army" in two camps in the south and the east of the country.
AVIATION, REGULATION and JUSTICE:
CNN: Schumer calls proposed knife rules a distraction for TSA
Sen. Charles Schumer, saying he sees few tangible benefits for passengers, called Sunday on the Transportation Security Administration to reverse its decision to allow small pocketknives on airplanes. At an afternoon news conference in New York, Schumer said TSA agents would be distracted by having to measure knives and other items like baseball bats.
WSJ: JFK Mishap Renews Focus on Taxiways
A low-speed ground collision between an Air India Ltd. jet and a JetBlue Airways Corp. JBLU +1.25% plane next to a terminal at New York's JohnF.KennedyInternationalAirport could renew calls for steps to prevent such tarmac hazards. The taxiway accident, which didn't result in any injuries, is the second time a bigger jet has clipped the tail of a smaller plane near gates at JFK. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, early Saturday the wing of an arriving Air India Boeing BA +0.22% 777 rolling to its gate hit the horizontal stabilizer of a Jet Blue Airways Corp. Airbus A320 that was pushing back to depart. An FAA spokeswoman said the aircraft weren't being directed by air-traffic controllers when they bumped into each other. The FAA is investigating.
Denver Post: Colorado Democrats vying to advance five gun bills
A far-reaching package of Democrat-sponsored gun-control bills will move closer to becoming law — or be halted — Monday when the Colorado Senate reconvenes. Democrats hold a 20-15 majority in the Senate and were able to advance five bills Friday, despite more than 12 hours of impassioned floor debate largely from Republicans assailing the measures as flawed and ineffective.
Tampa Bay Times: Gov. Rick Scott balancing teachers' priorities, Republicans' priorities
Gov. Rick Scott is in a tight spot with teachers. To score points with rank-and-file educators, Scott has made $2,500 pay raises for classroom teachers a top budget priority. But to stay in their good graces — and possibly win their votes in 2014 — Scott will need to bat down a number of education proposals moving through the Florida Legislature, including the hot-button parent trigger bill and a pitch to increase facilities funding for charter schools.
San Jose Mercury News: Immigration reform: Gay, lesbian couples want to be included
Even as they brace for the U.S. Supreme Court's looming deliberations on same-sex marriage, thousands of gay and lesbian couples are looking to another civil rights battle - equality in immigration law. About 48,000 same-sex couples in the United States include at least one immigrant partner who is not a citizen, according to a study released Friday by UCLA's Williams Institute. Even if those couples are legally married, the federal government denies them the visas that allow opposite-sex immigrant spouses to become Americans.
Boston Herald: Sources: Mayor won’t back Lynch
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and at least one major union are rebuffing pleas by U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch to get involved in the Democratic Senate battle, dealing a potentially lethal blow to Lynch’s campaign, the Truth Squad has learned. “They’re staying out of it,” said one influential union leader who has spoken with Menino and his advisers.
Austin American-Statesman: More Guard soldiers dying from car crashes, suicide than in combat
Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, roughly twice as many Texas Army National Guard soldiers have died of suicide as in combat, an American-Statesman investigation has found. Records on the Guard soldiers’ cause of death also identified vehicle crashes as their top killer, claiming the lives of 54 since 2001, or 32 percent of all fatalities among Texas National Guard soldiers . Four Texas National Guard soldiers died of drug overdoses over that time.
The State: Sheheen’s book suggests ways to improve SC; 2014 governor’s race on his mind?
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen still is not saying whether he will run for governor again, but the Kershaw County Democrat has a new book that outlines his ideas on how to improve South Carolina. And it reads a lot like a campaign platform.
Syracuse Post-Standard: After $10 million campaign, Rep. Dan Maffei says it's time to take money out of politics
Rep. Dan Maffei, after winning the most expensive campaign on record for a Central New York congressional seat, says it is time to take the big money out of politics. Despite the millions of dollars in special-interest money spent on his behalf, Maffei says he's ready to change the system and back it up with tough legislation. In his first month in office, he signed on as a co-sponsor of two House bills aimed at campaign finance reform – both of which seek to limit the influence of big donors and special interests, including super PACs that can spend unlimited amounts of money on federal campaigns.
CNN: Cardinals huddle one last day before conclave to elect new pope begins
Preparations, both spiritual and practical, neared completion at the Vatican on Monday, where Roman Catholic cardinals will gather to begin the process of selecting the next pope. The conclave - the secret papal election - begins Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel, which has been closed to the public while Vatican staff readied the ornately decorated vestry for deliberations. The first public signs of preparations appeared over the weekend as workmen scaled the roof of the chapel on Saturday to install the chimney which will release the black or white smoke that signifies whether a new pope has been elected.
CNN: India rape suspect found dead in jail cell. Police say suicide; parents allege murder
One of the men accused of gang raping and fatally beating a woman on a New Delhi bus was found dead in his jail cell Monday. Police say Ram Singh hanged himself. But his lawyer and parents claim he was murdered.
CNN: Report: A decade after Hussein, Iraq still grapples with human rights abuses
Ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains "enmeshed in a grim cycle of human rights abuses," Amnesty International said in a report Monday.
CNN: Capriles tosses hat in presidential ring as Venezuelan race heats up
Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has announced that he will run in next month's presidential election to replace the late Hugo Chavez. He faces an uphill battle against acting President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in last week and was Chavez's hand-picked successor. According to state news, the candidates have until Monday to register for the April 14 election. "Nicolas, I will not give you a free path," Capriles told reporters Sunday. "You will have to defeat me with votes." Capriles, 40, ran against Chavez last year and lost. But he mounted one of the fiercest challenges during the late president's 14 years in power.
CNN: Italy, UK, Greece confirm Nigeria hostage deaths
Britain, Italy and Greece on Sunday confirmed that hostages from their countries were among seven construction workers reported killed in Nigeria over the weekend. "This was an act of cold-blooded murder, which I condemn in the strongest terms," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement announcing that a British construction worker was among the dead. Nigerian militant group Ansar al-Muslimeen claimed responsibility for the February kidnappings of the seven construction workers from an office in northeastern Nigeria.
WaPo: In Japan, two years after Fukushima nuclear accident, work resumes on new plant
At the remote northwestern tip of a snowy peninsula, beyond a small road of fishing shacks and empty one-story homes, 600 construction workers and engineers are building a brand-new nuclear plant for a country still recovering from the most severe atomic accident since Chernobyl. The main reactor building is already at its full height, though draped in heavy fabric to protect it from the wind and freezing temperatures. A 500-foot crane swivels overhead. A completed power line stretches along a nearby ridge, where it might one day carry electricity down the peninsula and back toward the Japanese mainland — a place still fiercely divided over the long-term role of nuclear power.
ALSO SEE: CBS: Navy vets say Fukushima meltdown made them sick
WSJ: Myanmar Opposition Picks Leaders Amid Party Discord
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy announced a senior team dominated by long-serving members to lead it into Myanmar's 2015 national elections, while she appealed for an end to party infighting that has raised questions about its capacity to govern.
WSJ: Beijing to Shake Up Foreign-Policy Team
China is expected to promote Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to a position overseeing the country's diffuse foreign-policy apparatus this week, part of a major shake-up of its diplomatic leadership at a time of rising military tensions with Japan and uncertainty over the direction of ties with the U.S. Mr. Yang is likely to succeed Dai Bingguo as state councilor responsible for foreign affairs—the country's top diplomatic position—according to Chinese foreign-policy scholars and diplomats in Beijing. Among his most pressing challenges will be managing relations with Washington and coordinating the behavior of interest groups such as the military and state-owned enterprises, which have become important foreign-policy actors but at times drive conflicting agendas.
Der Spiegel: Germany's New Anti-Euro Party
Anti-euro political parties in Europe in recent years have so far tended to be either well to the right of center or, as evidenced by the recent vote in Italy, anything but staid. But in Germany, change may be afoot. A new party is forming this spring, intent on abandoning European efforts to prop up the common currency. And its founders are a collection of some of the country's top economists and academics.
BBC: Trial of dead Russia lawyer Sergei Magnitsky delayed
The trial of a dead Russian lawyer has been delayed, amid criticism from the United States and European Parliament. Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pre-trial detention in 2009, is accused of helping the investment fund Hermitage Capital evade $17.4m (£11.7m) in taxes. He was arrested after testifying that interior ministry officials had used the UK-based firm to embezzle $230m by filing false corporate tax returns. It is said to be the first posthumous prosecution in Russian legal history
CNN: Falkland Islands hold referendum on disputed status
People living in the Falkland Islands are voting in a referendum on their political status on Sunday and Monday at a time of heightened tensions between Argentina and Britain over their sovereignty. The two countries went to war over the territory, known to the Argentinians as Las Malvinas, in 1982 after the then-military government in Argentina landed troops on the islands.
CNNMoney: Stocks: Manufacturing and consumers in play
The momentum in stocks could pick up steam or stall as investors test the depth of the U.S. economic recovery from reports on manufacturing and consumers that are due out throughout the week. Stocks wrapped up one of the best weeks of the year, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq ending the past week up more than 2%. All three major indexes are already up between 7% and 10% so far this year.
CNBC: China on Alert as Inflation Creeps Up
After a year of benign inflation consumer prices are ticking up in China amid an uneven economic recovery, posing a dilemma for policymakers. The country's consumer price index (CPI) rose to a higher-than-expected 3.2 percent in February from a year earlier, compared with 2 percent in January, raising the question whether the People's Bank of China (PBOC) will tighten monetary policy in the near-term to control inflation, or focus on supporting growth.