The $85 billion automatic spending cuts have begun to kick in after President Obama failed to reach a budget deal with congressional Republicans. The cuts are likely to slow down government services across the board, with expected disruptions over time in areas including air travel, food inspections and child services. As the Friday deadline to reach a deal expired, Obama placed the blame squarely on Republicans.
President Obama: “We shouldn’t be making a series of dumb, arbitrary cuts to things that businesses depend on and workers depend on, like education and research and infrastructure and defense. It’s unnecessary, and at a time when too many Americans are still looking for work, it’s inexcusable. And let’s be clear: None of this is necessary. It’s happening because a choice that Republicans in Congress have made. They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.”
In the aftermath of the deadline, Obama has again signaled his willingness to cut spending on so-called entitlements like Medicare and Social Security to appease Republican demands. On Sunday, White House senior economic official Gene Sperling said Obama already discussed entitlement reform with lawmakers from parties over the weekend.
Military prosecutors have decided to bring the maximum charges against U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning after he admitted to the largest leak of state secrets in U.S. history. In a bid to secure a reduced sentence, Manning acknowledged on the stand last week he gave classified documents to WikiLeaks in order to show the American public the “true costs of war” and “spark a debate about foreign policy.” Manning pleaded guilty to reduced charges on 10 counts, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But instead of accepting that plea, military prosecutors announced Friday they will seek to imprison Manning for life without parole on charges that include aiding the enemy. Manning’s court-martial is scheduled to begin in June.
A State Department review has concluded the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline does not pose a serious threat to the environment. The long-awaited assessment acknowledges extraction of tar sands oil produces more greenhouse gases than conventional sources. But it says that increase is only between 5 to 19 percent, not the far greater numbers critics have alleged. The review is seen as a major boost to the pipeline’s chances as President Obama nears a decision on its fate. In a statement, the environmentalist group Sierra Club denounced the assessment, saying: “Whether this failure was willful or accidental, this report is nothing short of malpractice. … [President Obama] should throw the State Department’s report away and reject the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline.”
The United States has apologized after the mistaken killing of two young boys in Afghanistan. The victims, 11 and 12 years old, were collecting firewood with their donkeys when a helicopter opened fire. It was at least the second deadly attack by the U.S.-led occupation force on Afghan civilians in less than a month. A recent U.S. air strike in Kunar province killed up to 10 civilians.
At least 45 people have been killed and more than 135 wounded in a bombing in the Pakistani city of Karachi. The attack hit near a Shia area, but it remains unclear if it is connected to a recent wave of sectarian violence by Sunni militants.
The Obama administration has pledged $250 million in new aid to Egypt. Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement after a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Kerry says he was provided assurances Egypt will move ahead on talks with the International Monetary Fund over economic reforms. Addressing protests of his visit, Kerry said the United States does not seek to interfere in Egyptian affairs.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “I emphasize again, as strongly as I can, we’re not here to interfere. I’m here to listen. We’re not here to urge anybody to take one particular action or another, though we have a point of view, and certainly I will express that. But what we support is democracy and the people and the nation of Egypt.”
Egypt was Kerry’s seventh stop on a nine-country tour. He is now in Saudi Arabia.
Two U.S. sailors have been handed prison sentences in Japan for the rape of a Japanese woman on the island of Okinawa. The servicemembers were given terms of nine and 10 years after admitting to brutally raping the victim in a parking garage last October. The incident sparked large protests and led the U.S. military to impose curfews and drinking restrictions for its forces stationed in Japan.
U.S. doctors have announced the first-ever known instance of curing a baby born with HIV. Virologists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore attributed the breakthrough to a three-drug cocktail administered immediately after the baby was born. Study author Dr. Deborah Persaud said the case could provide a model for treating babies born with HIV worldwide.
Dr. Deborah Persaud: “The child remains off of antiretroviral therapy and is doing well. So we believe that perhaps the initiation of very early antiretroviral therapy prevented the formation of the viral reservoirs in central memory CD4T cells that are the barriers to a cure, and really sets the stage for a pediatric cure agenda going forward.”
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan has announced plans to name an emergency manager for the city of Detroit after declaring a “fiscal emergency.” The move would replace Detroit’s city council with an unelected technocrat able to make sweeping decisions. Emergency management decrees have disproportionately affected Michigan’s African-American population. Including Detroit, 50 percent of African Americans in the state would now live under unelected leadership.
Farmworkers in Florida have kicked off a march pressuring a major food distributor to ensure humane working conditions for those harvesting its tomatoes. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ two-week, 200-mile “March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food” urges the company Publix to drop its rejection of a “fair food agreement” covering farmworkers. The CIW has previously won agreements with food giants including Whole Foods, Subway, McDonald’s and Burger King after similar public campaigns. The march is scheduled to end later this month at Publix’s headquarters in Lakeland, Florida.
Thousands of people gathered in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday to mark the upcoming 48th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Alabama state troopers and local police attacked a peaceful march by 600 civil rights demonstrators from Selma to Montgomery. The marchers were just a few blocks into their planned route when they were tear-gassed and beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River. Sunday’s participants crossed the bridge in the march’s annual reenactment. They were led by a delegation that included Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who was brutally beaten when he helped lead the original march in 1965. On the eve of Sunday’s march, the chief of the Montgomery Police, Kevin Murphy, apologized to Lewis on behalf of the city for the first time. Shortly after the apology, Murphy and Lewis appeared for a joint interview.
Kevin Murphy: “What I did today should have been done a long time ago. It needed to be done. It needed to be spoken, because we have to live with the truth, and it is the truth.”
Rep. John Lewis: “It meant a great deal. I feel very good for the chief of the Montgomery Police Department to offer an apology. I teared up. I tried to keep from crying. And I accepted the apology.”
The Selma crackdown ultimately led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Its anniversary comes just days after conservative members of the Supreme Court signaled their intent to strike one of the law’s key provisions, ensuring federal oversight of election laws in states with a history of racial discrimination.
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