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Obama's Sequester-Delaying Proposal: Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to pass a small package of spending cuts and tax changes to delay the start next month of deep reductions in domestic and defense spending that could deliver a fresh blow to a fragile economic recovery. With time running out, Obama said, Congress should adopt measures to postpone the automatic spending reductions, known as the sequester, for a few months. Without any action, the cuts, worth $1.2 trillion over a decade, are scheduled to take effect March 1 and are causing deep anxiety among government workers and contractors. Obama did not outline a specific proposal, and he said he still favored a broad deal of spending cuts and tax changes — which would eliminate deductions and loopholes that benefit the wealthy and certain industries — to replace the sequester."
The GOP's Reaction: Reuters: "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said spending cuts, and not tax increases, were needed to address the country's fiscal woes. 'The American people will not support more tax hikes in place of the meaningful spending reductions both parties already agreed to and the president signed into law,' McConnell said in a statement. 'Now that Congress has acted on the tax issue, the president needs to lay out significant spending reforms — the other side of the ‘balance' as he defines it.'"
Meanwhile: New York Times: "The budget office, in its first analysis since the year-end tax deal between the White House and Congress raised taxes on high incomes, showed that the deficit for this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 would be $845 billion after four post-crisis years of deficits higher than $1 trillion. That $845 billion difference between government receipts and spending would be equal to 5.3 percent of the nation’s total output, or gross domestic product — about half of what it was relative to the size of the economy in fiscal year 2009 when Mr. Obama took office but still higher than the roughly 3 percent level that many economists consider the maximum that is sustainable in a growing economy. While the annual deficit is projected to decline as the economy recovers, the budget office once again emphasized that the deficit will rise later in the decade and continue do to so as the population ages — forcing greater spending for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — and health care prices keep rising."
Instant Analysis: Moneybox: "The noncrazy worry about large projected long-term deficits has nothing to do with deficits and instead is about the fact that buying health care services for all these old people is likely to be very expensive. It happens to be the case that the CBO currently draws the lines so as to make that register as a lot of borrowing, but paying for it with higher taxes wouldn't be fun either. The question is whether we can find some more efficient ways to get treatment to the elderly. The Affordable Care Act contains some ideas, and hopefully some of them will pan out. But more has to be done."
The Case of the Super Bowl Blackout: CBS News: "The cause of a 34-minute blackout at the Super Bowl remains under investigation, but public records released Monday show Superdome officials were worried about a power outage several months before the big game. An Oct. 15 memo released by the Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District, which oversees the Superdome, says tests on the dome's electrical feeders showed they had 'some decay and a chance of failure.' Entergy New Orleans, the company that supplies the stadium with power, and the structure's engineering staff 'had concerns regarding the reliability of the Dome service from Entergy's connection point to the Dome,' the memo says. Those concerns were due in part to 'circumstances that have previously occurred with the electrical service regarding transient spikes and loads.'"
The Real Super Bowl Mystery: Deadline: "How is it that the San Francisco TV market, which includes Oakland and San Jose and is the sixth-biggest in the U.S., finishes 28th in the overnight ratings among Nielsen’s 56 local metered markets? ... In the final totals, SF drew a 46.5 local rating, a Ray Guy punt away from Baltimore’s leading 59.6 — the latter number means 3 of every 5 TVs were tuned to the game, a record for the city according to the Baltimore Sun. So is it that the Niners fans were turned off by (and therefore they turned off) the team’s shaky start? Their team was down 28-6 before the lights went out. ... It all runs contrary to our very unscientific poll showing that the city was awash in red and gold for two weeks leading up to the game, with buzz levels high. So this is really a head-scratcher."
Obama Will Make His First Presidential Trip to Israel: Associated Press: "Obama will visit Israel in the spring, the White House said Tuesday, marking his first visit to the staunch U.S. ally since becoming president. While in the region, Obama will also visit the West Bank and Jordan. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the visit to Israel in late January, when Obama congratulated Netanyahu on his success in Israel's recent election. The White House has not released the date of Obama's trip or details about Obama's itinerary, but Israel's Channel 10 reported that a visit had been scheduled for March 20."
Bad Astronomy: Colorado Creationism Bill Dies in Committee
Pentagon Will Extend (Some) Benefits to Same-Sex Couples: Washington Post: "The Pentagon has decided to extend certain benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian personnel, according to officials and people notified about the decision, responding to the increasingly vocal appeals of same-sex couples in the military. The military expects to announce the decision this week. Officials at the Pentagon would not say which new benefits the department has determined it can extend to same-sex couples without violating the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that bars the federal government from legally recognizing same-sex unions. Gay rights advocates have called for benefits including housing privileges, access to base recreational facilities and joint duty assignments for couples in the military. Legal experts say, however, that the Pentagon will be unable to extend more than 100 benefits while the Defense of Marriage Act remains in place."
Meanwhile, Across the Atlantic: BBC News: British Members of Parliament "have approved same-sex marriage in England and Wales in a key [House of] Commons vote, despite the opposition of dozens of Conservative MPs. The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day's debate on the bill. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the move as "an important step forward" that strengthens society. ... MPs were given a free vote on the bill, meaning they were not ordered to vote a particular way by party whips. Their decision to back the bill at second reading signifies that they approve of it in principle. The legislation will now receive more detailed parliamentary scrutiny."
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Kim Jong-Un's Scare Tactics: Reuters: "North Korea stepped up its bellicose rhetoric on Tuesday, threatening to go beyond carrying out a promised third nuclear test in response to what it believes are 'hostile' sanctions imposed after a December rocket launch. It did not spell out the actions it would take. North Korea is not capable of staging a military strike on the United States, although South Korea is in range of its artillery and missiles and Japan of its missiles."
Gun Sales: Associated Press: "The number of federal background checks for firearms sales declined in the U.S. last month, as retailers continue to run out of guns to sell during a buying spree driven by Washington's new focus on gun control. Background checks decreased 10 percent nationally between December and January, with large declines in the Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia as well as Texas, according to an Associated Press analysis of new FBI data published Tuesday. Firearms sales surged around the country after the December shooting spree in Newtown."
Obama's Speechwriter Is Going to Hollywood: Los Angeles Times: "Jon Favreau's career took off when, at age 23, he interrupted U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama during a speech rehearsal to offer some suggestions for improvement. That cheeky move led to a seven-year tour as Obama's lead speechwriter, an assignment that ends March 1 as Favreau considers trying his hand at another form of drama — as a screenwriter, perhaps in Los Angeles. The departure subtracts a vivid personality from the president's operation, defined since the beginning by Obama's spoken words and the team that wrote them. ... Favreau will turn over his seat to Cody Keenan, a Chicago native who is taking the lead on writing the State of the Union address. Keenan is an original member of the team of twentysomethings that Favreau assembled for a tough assignment: writing for a writer with exacting standards."
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