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Sequester Countdown: New York Times: "With automatic federal budget cuts almost certain to take effect in one week, the White House and top Democrats on Friday sought to increase the pressure on Congressional Republicans to agree to a compromise that could prevent disruptions in government services after March 1. Jay Carney ... said the administration backed a plan by Senate Democrats to enact a combination of spending cuts and tax increases that would buy time for negotiations over a larger deficit reduction package. He called on Republicans, who say they will not accept any tax increases, to begin talks."
Making The Case: Politico Pro: "Senior White House and Cabinet aides have been holding daily meetings this week focusing on the real-world implications of the budget battle and how to shame Republicans into coming to the table — even after the cuts take effect on March 1. They’ve even turned their Cabinet members loose, dispatching them across the country after previously keeping them under a gag order on the spending cuts. The White House put the Office of Management and Budget in charge of the messaging on the domestic side of the cuts for agencies, keeping agency heads on a short leash when it came to talking about sequester — leaving Obama to do most of the talking himself. The Cabinet trips suggest the White House realizes they need to bring new voices into the fight as both sides jockey to avoid getting blamed for the cuts in the closing days."
Case In Point: Washington Post: "Hundreds of air traffic control towers could be closed, and travelers could face flight delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours — a result of $600 million in cuts expected to hit the Federal Aviation Administration on March 1, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned in a surprise appearance at Friday’s White House briefing. LaHood said the impact on the country’s infrastructure would be 'enormous.' He said he expected that layoffs and delays could begin at airports across the country around April 1 — and once those began — Congress could expect to hear about it."
The Sequester Has Driven the Internet Crazy: A sampling: Gawker: Kate Upton and Ryan Gosling Explain the Sequester; BuzzFeed: The Sequester Is Terrible For Traffic; Daily Beast: 8 Ways the Sequester Could Ruin Your Life; Marketplace: Rename the sequester: Suggestions; WaPo's WonkBlog: These 21 animals have strong feelings on the sequester.
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The "VatiLeaks" Report: CBS News: "The pope has transferred a top official from the Vatican's secretariat of state to Colombia amid swirling media speculation about the contents of a confidential report into the Vatican's leaks scandal. Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, insisted Friday that the transfer of Monsignor Ettore Balestrero had been months in the works and had nothing to do with the leaks investigation or what the Vatican considers baseless reporting. ... Italian newspapers for days have been rife with un-sourced reports of the contents of the dossier, which was presented to Benedict in December. It was prepared by three cardinals after they investigated the origins of the leaks. ... Vatican officials have repeatedly dismissed the reports as baseless. Italian newspapers have suggested that Pope Benedict was shocked to learn from the cardinals' research of infighting among various factions in the Vatican's governing bureaucracy, the Curia. ... [S]ome reports have suggested a homosexual lobby among church officials within the Curia. Newspapers have even claimed blackmail of a sexual nature as the factions vie for power."
Of a "Worldly Nature": Guardian: "Last May Pope Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting. According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising 'two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red' had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope's successor upon his election. The newspaper said the cardinals described a number of factions, including one whose members were 'united by sexual orientation.' In an apparent quotation from the report, La Repubblica said some Vatican officials had been subject to 'external influence' from laymen with whom they had links of a 'worldly nature.' The paper said this was a clear reference to blackmail."
Lance's Legal Trouble: Associated Press: " The Justice Department has joined a lawsuit against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong that alleges the former, seven-time Tour de France champion concealed his use of performance-enhancing drugs and defrauded his long-time sponsor, the U.S. Postal Service. The lawsuit alleges that riders on the postal service-sponsored team, including Armstrong, knowingly violated their agreements with the postal service by regularly using banned substances and methods to enhance their performance."
Judge Blocks Apple's Proxy Vote: Wall Street Journal: " Afederal judge has granted a bid by Greenlight Capital Inc. to block an upcoming proxy vote on an Apple Inc. shareholder proposal, after the hedge fund objected to the bundling of several differing shareholder proposals in one vote. Greenlight, founded by David Einhorn, claimed in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that Apple improperly bundled multiple shareholder requests into one proxy measure. The fund wants the measures voted on separately. ... Apple argued that the proposals could be grouped together because they comprised a single action: an amendment of Apple's articles of incorporation. However, Judge Sullivan said he found that argument 'unavailing.' The lawsuit comes as Mr. Einhorn has publicly called on Apple to return to shareholders more of the $137 billion in cash the company is holding."
Update From Vegas: Associated Press: "The Maserati driver who died after being peppered with gunfire from someone in a Range Rover SUV, sparking a fiery crash that killed two others, was identified Friday as an aspiring rapper originally from Northern California. The Clark County coroner confirmed that Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr. was killed, although the cause of death was still being investigated. It wasn't clear Friday if Cherry died of gunshots or the crash." Cherry performed under the name Kenny Clutch.
Niger Drone Base: Washington Post: "President Obama announced Friday that about 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to the West African country of Niger, where defense officials said they are setting up a drone base to spy on al-Qaeda fighters in the Sahara. In a letter to Congress, Obama said about 40 U.S. military personnel arrived in Niger on Wednesday, bringing the total number of troops based there to 'approximately' 100. He said the troops, who are armed for self-protection, would support a French-led military operation in neighboring Mali, where al-Qaeda fighters and other militants have carved out a refuge in a remote territory the size of Texas. The drone base in Niger marks the opening of another far-flung U.S. military operation against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, in addition to ongoing combat missions in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia."
Nate Silver's Oscar Predictions: FiveThirtyEight: "[O]ur method [looks] solely at the other awards that were given out in the run-up to the Oscars: the closest equivalent to pre-election polls. These have always been the best predictors of Oscar success." Best Picture: Argo; Best Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln; Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln; Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook; Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln; Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables.
Counter-Point: Slate's Dan Kois: "I don’t trust Silver’s calculations—or rather, I don’t trust his data. Sure, he’s using as evidence such important precursors as the editing guilds’ awards and the Critics’ Choice prize. But even the Directors’ Guild only has an 80 percent success rate over the past 25 years. You know what precursor has a better success rate than that? Getting nominated for Best Director. That has a 96 percent success rate over the past 25 years and a 98.75 percent success rate over the past 80. If Nate Silver added that data point to his metrics, I suspectArgo wouldn’t be such a prohibitive favorite." More Slate Oscar coverage here; and the Slate Culture Staff Oscar Pool here.
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