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Rubio's Moment: NBC News: "Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver Republicans' response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday, GOP leaders announced Wednesday. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., selected Rubio -- an influential Latino conservative who was first elected in 2010 -- to speak for Republicans in their official response to the president's speech. The State of the Union response slot is often seen as a potential launching platform for politicians who harbor national ambitions; fittingly, Rubio is one of the most-hyped figures in the GOP, and is thought to have designs on the party's presidential nomination in 2016. The honor carries a degree of risk, however: many past figures to deliver their party's response have been panned for their performance."
Boy Scouts Punt Decision on Gay Ban: Associated Press: "Faced with intense pressure from two flanks, the Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday it needed more time for consultations before deciding whether to move away from its policy of excluding gays as scouts or adult leaders. Possible changes in the policy — such as a proposal to allow sponsors of local troops to decide for themselves on gay membership — will not be voted on until the organization’s annual meeting in May, the national executive board said at the conclusion of closed-door deliberations. As the board met over three days at a hotel in Irving, near Dallas, it became clear that the proposed change would be unacceptable to large numbers of Scouting families and advocacy groups on the left and right. Gay-rights supporters said no Scout units should be allowed to exclude gays, while some conservatives, including religious leaders whose churches sponsor troops, warned of mass defections if the ban were eased."
Snow and Rain Won't Stop 'Em, But Saturdays Will: Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. Postal Service is moving to end Saturday mail delivery as part of a strategy to curb losses at the agency, which swelled to $15.9 billion in the most recent fiscal year. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said Wednesday that the Postal Service will halt Saturday mail delivery to homes and businesses Aug. 5, but continue to deliver packages and Express Mail that day. Post office boxes would continue to receive mail Saturdays as well. The change will result in a $2 billion annual savings for the agency, it said."
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Looking Ahead to Tomorrow: National Journal: "John Brennan, President Obama's pick to head the CIA, faces a frustrated Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, where he will be grilled on the Obama administration's increased use of drones and the harsh interrogations that took place during the Bush administration. Brennan was a top aide to former CIA director George Tenet during the time just after the 9/11 attacks when harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, were being used. He has since said he opposed the program. ... The hearing could shed further light on the drone attacks, which have been carried out from Yemen to Pakistan but are rarely discussed publicly by administration officials."
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Obama's Latest Cabinet Pick: The Hill: "President Obama on Wednesday announced he is nominating Sally Jewell, the CEO of outdoor gear giant REI, to succeed outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. ... Jewell is the first new female Cabinet nominee for Obama's second term. The president has come under some criticism for not nominating more women to his Cabinet, though officials have said the group will become more diverse as it is filled out. Jewell, who will need to be confirmed by the Senate to succeed Salazar, spent two decades working in the banking industry before becoming REI’s CEO in 2005, and began her career as an engineer for Mobil Oil Corp., before Mobil merged with Exxon."
The Sequester: New York Times: "Congressional Democrats, sensing a shift in political momentum, said Wednesday that they were closing in on legislation to temporarily head off deep across-the-board spending cuts, convinced that once federal furloughs and layoffs begin next month, political pressure on Republicans to accept more tax increases will become irresistible. At a closed-door retreat in Annapolis, Md., this week, Senate Democratic leaders struck a populist tone, urging the party to stand its ground in the battle over nearly $1 trillion in military and domestic cuts over 10 years, set to begin March 1. Democrats want a temporary reprieve from those cuts, financed by a mix of spending cuts and tax loophole closings that they believe will rally public support. ... Republican leaders are no less firm that the cuts — known as sequestration — will come into force in three weeks unless Democrats agree to equivalent spending cuts elsewhere in the budget, without tax increases."
Lance May Not Be Off the Hook Just Yet: ABC News: "Federal investigators are in the midst of an active criminal investigation of disgraced former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, ABC News has learned. The revelation comes in stark contrast to statements made by the U.S. Attorney for Southern California, Andre Birotte, who addressed his own criminal inquiry of Armstrong for the first time publicly on Tuesday. Birotte's office spent nearly two years investigating Armstrong for crimes reportedly including drug distribution, fraud and conspiracy—only to suddenly drop the case on the Friday before the Super Bowl last year. ... [A] high level source told ABC News,'"Birotte does not speak for the federal government as a whole. ... Agents are actively investigating Armstrong for obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation.'"
Kim Jong-Un's Even Getting on China's Nerves: NBC News: "It remains unclear just when, if ever, North Korea will attempt its controversial third nuclear test, but there are growing signs that the reclusive nation's biggest political ally is growing weary of its behavior. A strongly worded editorial in China's state-run Global Times newspaper Wednesday called on Beijing to get tough with Pyongyang if it conducts a nuclear test. 'If North Korea insists on a third nuclear test despite attempts to dissuade it, it must pay a heavy price,' the paper said. It called on China to cut economic aid to the struggling country as punishment."
Trouble in Tunisia: Reuters: "The killing of an outspoken critic of Tunisia's Islamist-led government on Wednesday sparked street protests by thousands who fear religious radicals are stifling freedoms won two years ago in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings. Chokri Belaid was shot at close range as he left for work by a gunmen who fled on the back of a motorcycle; crowds poured on to the streets of Tunis and other cities, attacking offices of the main ruling party Ennahda, and by the end of the day the Islamist prime minister promised a national unity government."
Is Google's Ad Delivery Racist? ABC News: "A Google search for a 'racially associated name' is more likely to trigger advertisements suggesting the person has a criminal background, according to a study by a Harvard professor. Latanya Sweeney, a professor of government and technology at Harvard University and a specialist in online privacy, found that queries for a 'black identifying' name were more likely to trigger an advertisement suggesting an arrest record than names traditionally given to white babies. The study involved searches for 2,184 racially associated names as determined by prior workplace discrimination studies. Sweeney focused her analysis on Google.com and a highly trafficked news website that displays the widely used Google AdWords advertisements. Names often given to black babies, such as DeShawn, Darnell and Jermaine, generated ads suggesting an arrest record in 81 to 86 percent of the searches on one website and 92 to 95 percent on the other."
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