Obama Admin Delays Keystone XL Pipeline Decision Until Spring; Nebraska Gov. Approves New Route

The Obama administration has again delayed its decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, now saying it will not come before March. President Obama initially sidestepped the issue in 2011 by putting it off until after the November election. On Tuesday, the State Department confirmed the White House will not announce a decision in the year’s first quarter. The news comes as backers of the Keystone XL received a boost with an announcement of support from Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. In a letter to the White House, Heineman signed off on his state’s section of the proposed Keystone route from Canada after it was altered to avoid a key aquifer in the Sandhills. The Keystone decision is seen as one of the most critical environmental issues of Obama’s presidency, with supporters saying it will boost the economy and energy independence, and opponents claiming it will endanger local communities and the environment through the increased greenhouse gases of extracting tar sands oil. The environmental group 350.org is organizing a Presidents’ Day rally against the pipeline in Washington, D.C., next month.

Supreme Court Rebuffs Industry Challenge to EPA Air Pollution Regulation

The Supreme Court has refused to hear an industry group’s challenge of the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for air pollution. The move leaves intact a 2010 regulation limiting emissions of sulfur dioxide.

Obama Backs Temporary Plan to Lift Debt Ceiling

President Obama has tacitly endorsed a House Republican plan to lift the debt ceiling for the next four months. The measure would lift enforcement of the federal government’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit until May 18. In a statement, the White House said it "would not oppose" the temporary move. A House vote is expected today.

Protests Mark Roe v. Wade’s 40th Anniversary

Protests on both sides of the reproductive rights debate were held Tuesday to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Dozens of abortion opponents rallied outside of the Supreme Court ahead of what they say will be a larger so-called March for Life near Capitol Hill on Friday. Meanwhile, in Jackson, Mississippi, abortion rights advocates held a demonstration outside of the state’s lone abortion clinic, which has faced repeated threats of closure.

Poll Finds Record Support for Abortion Rights in U.S.

A new poll coinciding with Roe v. Wade’s 40th anniversary shows national support for abortion rights is at an all-time high. According to The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, a record 70 percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. And for the first time on record, a majority now believes abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

3 Wounded in Shooting at Texas College

Two people are in custody after a shooting left three wounded, one critically, at a college campus near Houston, Texas. The incident at Lone Star College marked at least the third shooting at a U.S. school or college in the past two weeks.

Police: New Mexico Suspect Planned More Shootings

Authorities in New Mexico say the 15-year-old boy accused of shooting dead five members of his family planned on continuing his rampage before he was caught. Nehemiah Griego is in custody for allegedly killing his parents and three siblings. Each of the victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Police say Griego was armed with several weapons, including an assault rifle, and had planned to shoot more victims at a local Wal-Mart.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills 4 in Yemen

At least four people have been killed in the latest U.S. drone strike in Yemen. The victims were reportedly driving from what Yemeni officials called a militant training ground when they were hit. It was at least the fourth U.S. attack inside Yemen in as many days. Recent U.S. drone strikes have sparked at least two protests this month by outraged residents who have claimed the loss of civilian life.

Yemeni Minister Criticizes U.S. Drone Strikes

Also on Tuesday, a Yemeni Cabinet member became the first to forcefully criticize the U.S. drone strikes in public. Yemeni human rights minister Hooria Mashhour denounced the drone strikes and called on the Yemeni government to conduct ground operations instead of allowing pilotless U.S. bombings from the sky. Mashhour said: "[Fighting terrorism] can be applied without harming civilians and without leading to human rights violations. ... The [U.S.] declared [militants] as enemies who could be targeted wherever they are found. All we are calling for is justice and reliance on international regulations ... and to be true to our commitment to our citizens in that they all deserve a fair trial."

U.S. Begins Flying French Troops to Mali

The United States has begun transporting French troops and equipment as part of its effort aiding France’s intervention in Mali. U.S. military planes have made a number of flights from France to Mali’s capital of Bamako since Monday. The United States is also assisting France with intelligence, potentially with surveillance drones.

17 Killed in Iraq Bombings

At least 17 people were killed across Iraq on Tuesday in a series of bombings. The deadliest attack occurred in Taji, where a suicide bomber killed seven people and wounded 24 near an army base.

Netanyahu Claims Narrow Victory in Israeli Election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in Israel’s national election. Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc emerged from Tuesday’s vote with a narrow edge over Israel’s more centrist parties. Netanyahu is now tasked with forming a governing coalition, one that is expected to include extreme-right parties that openly support annexing the occupied West Bank.

Molestation Victims Call for New Probe of L.A. Church Leaders for Concealing Abuse

Victims of child molestation by priests in the Los Angeles Catholic Church are demanding justice following the disclosure top church officials conspired to conceal the abusers’ crimes. Newly disclosed internal documents have confirmed the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles deliberately hid evidence of child molestation for more than a decade, transferring abusive priests out of state to avoid prosecution, stopping them from confessing to therapists who would have been forced to inform police. Manuel Vega, a child abuse victim who was part of a 2007 settlement, called for a new investigation of the now-retired archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and his top adviser, Thomas Curry.

Manuel Vega: "To feel the hands of the priest on my neck, to feel his breath on the back of my neck, to hear him talk to me, to feel his body against me, to feel him violating me — there’s smells, there’s touches, there’s feelings — you have to put yourself into that moment to understand what the Catholic Church is protecting. This is what Cardinal Mahony, this is what Bishop Curry, this is what vicars of clergy, nuns, attorneys — this is what they all got together and spoke about and in secret made these deals to protect these priests."

The files of around 75 priests accused of abuse are slated to become public in the coming weeks under the terms of the 2007 settlement reached with more than 500 victims.

Pentagon Clears Gen. Allen of Wrongdoing in Petraeus Scandal

A Pentagon probe has cleared General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, of wrongdoing in the scandal that brought down CIA Director David Petraeus late last year. Allen was investigated after the FBI uncovered thousands of what it called "potentially inappropriate" emails between Allen and Jill Kelley, the woman who complained of harassment from Petraeus’ lover, Paula Broadwell. Kelley’s complaint to the FBI led to the discovery of Broadwell and Petraeus’ relationship, prompting Petraeus’ resignation. Allen succeeded Petraeus in Afghanistan in 2011.

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