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10 things you need to know today: February 21, 2013
Jesse Jackson Jr. pleads guilty, the Pentagon braces for the sequester, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2009: The past few years have not been good to the once-rising star of the Democratic Party.
Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2009: The past few years have not been good to the once-rising star of the Democratic Party.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

1. JESSE JACKSON JR. PLEADS GUILTY TO SPENDING CAMPAIGN MONEY ON HIMSELF
Former U.S. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat, pleaded guilty Wednesday to using $750,000 in campaign money to pay for living expenses and buy everything from a $43,350 Rolex to stuffed animals, elk heads, and fur capes. Jackson's wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson, also entered a guilty plea to one count of tax fraud connected to the same allegations. Under a plea deal, prosecutors will recommend that Jackson, the son of famed civil rights leader and former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, receive a sentence of 46 to 57 months in prison. "Tell everybody back home I'm sorry I let 'em down, OK?" Jackson told reporters. [New York Times, Chicago Tribune]
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2. PISTORIUS DETECTIVE FACES ATTEMPTED MURDER CHARGE
In a potential blow to the case against Paralympic and Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius, South African police said Thursday that the lead detective in the murder investigation, Hilton Botha, is himself facing attempted murder charges. In 2011, Botha and two other officers allegedly fired on a minivan they were trying to stop. Prosecutors weren't aware of Botha's legal situation when they put him on the stand this week to bolster their argument that Pistorius should be held without bail while he faces a murder charge for the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home. Botha is scheduled to face the charges in court in May. [USA Today]
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3. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT BRACES FOR SEQUESTER
The Pentagon on Wednesday officially notified Congress that it plans to furlough its 780,000 civilian workers if lawmakers don't avert deep spending cuts, known as the sequester, scheduled to hit on March 1. The Pentagon is legally required to give Congress notice of the move 45 days in advance, so the clock is now ticking, the most recent sign that Washington insiders expect the reductions to take effect despite last-minute negotiations among Republicans and Democrats to reach a deal. "This is one of the most distasteful tasks I have faced in my four years in this job," said Robert Hale, the Pentagon's comptroller. [Federal News Radio]
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4. BLAST TARGETS SYRIAN RULING PARTY HQ
A car bomb blew apart a checkpoint on a busy highway in front of the headquarters of Syria's ruling Baath Socialist Party in central Damascus on Thursday, killing at least 31 people, according to opposition activists. The blast incinerated 17 cars, Syrian state TV said, and damaged 40 more. State media said the attack was a suicide bombing by "terrorists." Central Damascus has been insulated from much of the fighting in the country's two-year civil war, but rebels have been stepping up attacks on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's power base in the last month. [CNN, Reuters]
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5. ACTIVISTS ACCUSE MEXICAN SECURITY FORCES OF ABUSES
Human Rights Watch issued a report Wednesday saying that Mexican security forces were behind the disappearances of many of the people who have gone missing in the country's shadowy drug war. The activist group investigated 249 missing persons cases, and found evidence that 149 of the people were dragged off by police or soldiers, or at least with their help. U.S. lawmakers have threatened to withhold millions of dollars in security aid in recent years over concerns of police and military abuses in Mexico. [Washington Post]
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6. DOMENICI ADMITS FATHERING A CHILD OUTSIDE MARRIAGE DECADES AGO
In a startling revelation, former senator Pete Domenici sent a statement to the Albuquerque Journal on Wednesday disclosing that he fathered a child in the 1970s with the 24-year-old daughter of a Senate colleague. The woman, Michelle Laxalt, also sent a statement to the paper, confirming the relationship and identifying their son as Nevada attorney Adam Paul Laxalt. Domenici and Laxalt reportedly believed someone was preparing to release the information in an attempt to smear the 80-year-old Republican Domenici, who has long been known as an upstanding family man. [Christian Science Monitor]
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7. FRENCH HOSTAGES SEIZED IN CAMEROON REPORTEDLY FREED
French TV reported Thursday that seven French hostages kidnapped in Cameroon have been found alive and are now safe in the custody of Nigerian authorities. In the first case of foreigners being seized in Cameroon's mostly Muslim north, the hostages, four children and three adults, were captured by Islamist militants this week during a tourist excursion to the Waza national park near the Nigerian border. French authorities said they could not yet confirm the hostages had been freed, and security officials in the region said they could only confirm that Nigerian forces had the kidnappers surrounded. [Reuters, Bloomberg]
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8. NEW YORK TIMES MOVES TO SELL BOSTON GLOBE
The New York Times Co. is planning to sell the New England Media Group, including The Boston Globe, and has hired an investment bank, Evercore Group, to solicit buyers. The Times tried to sell the Globe in 2009, and had threatened to close the newspaper because it was losing money, but changed its mind after getting cost-saving concessions, including wage cuts, from Globe employees. Since then, the company has sold its newspapers in Florida and California, along with other properties, in a bid to focus on the Times brand and journalism. [Boston Globe]
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9. SONY ANNOUNCES PLAYSTATION 4
Sony introduced its PlayStation 4 on Wednesday evening, describing the first update of its iconic video-game console in seven years as being like a "supercharged PC." The first three generations of Playstation generated huge profits for the company and pushed the envelope for serious gamers, and the Playstation 4 marks a bid to reclaim that past glory with enhanced graphics and a souped-up eight-core processor to juggle more complex tasks. Sony hasn't announced a launch date, but it's hoping that delivering the new PlayStation to gamers this year will help revive its faltering electronics business by getting a jump on the next version of Microsoft's Xbox. [New York Times, Reuters]
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10. EMELI SANDE CAPS A STELLAR YEAR AT BRIT AWARDS
Scottish singer Emeli Sandé was crowned best British female solo artist at Wednesday's Brit awards, capping off a banner year in which her Our Version of Events overtook Adele's 21 to become the country's best-selling album of 2012. She also won best album, a year after being named rising star at the last Brits ceremony. Another big winner was singer-songwriter Ben Howard, who won for British breakthrough act and British male solo. "It was kind of genuine shock," Howard said. "I thanked my mum on the first one, so that was pretty rock and roll." [Guardian, Telegraph]

 

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