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10 things you need to know today: February 28, 2013
The pope is set to exit, Rosa Parks statue unveiled in Washington, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
The nine-foot bronze statue makes the civil rights icon the first black woman honored with a full-length statue in the Capitol.
The nine-foot bronze statue makes the civil rights icon the first black woman honored with a full-length statue in the Capitol. Win McNamee/Getty Images

1. SENATE POISED FOR FINAL SEQUESTER VOTES BEFORE DEADLINE
The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on dueling proposals to prevent painful across-the-board spending cuts from kicking in on Friday. Democrats are pushing a bill that would replace the automatic cuts, known as the sequester, with a combination of spending cuts and a minimum 30 percent tax on millionaires, while Republicans are proposing the same $85 billion in spending cuts for 2013, but putting the burden on President Obama to decide what gets cut. Neither side, however, is expected to be able to muster the 60 votes they'll need to avoid a filibuster and get a bill passed. With little hope for a bipartisan deal, the Office of Management and Budget is preparing to put the cuts in motion on the March 1 deadline. [USA Today]
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2. WOODWARD FEUDS WITH THE WHITE HOUSE
Bob Woodward, the veteran reporter for The Washington Post, is claiming that the White House threatened him over a recent story in which he questioned President Obama's account of how the sequester came to be. Woodward said the official — identified by BuzzFeed as Gene Sperling, who heads President Obama's White House Economic Council — "yelled at me for about a half hour." The official then followed up with an email apologizing, and said, "You're focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest.... I think you will regret staking out that claim." Woodward said he took that as a threat, although some other veteran reporters said he was making a big deal out of the kind of heated exchange that occurs frequently in Washington. [The Week, Politico]
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3. SENATE CONFIRMS LEW AS TREASURY SECRETARY
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Jack Lew as Treasury secretary with little fuss, a day after President Obama's pick for Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, squeaked through in a tight, partisan vote. Obama expressed gratitude after the 71-26 vote to confirm Lew, his former chief of staff and budget adviser. "Jack was by my side as we confronted our nation's toughest challenges," Obama said. "His reputation as a master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle has already helped him succeed in some of the toughest jobs in Washington." [New York Times]
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4. ROSA PARKS STATUE UNVEILED IN THE CAPITOL
Congressional leaders and President Obama on Wednesday unveiled a 9-foot bronze statue of Rosa Louise Parks, making the civil-rights icon the first black woman honored with a full-length statue in the Capitol. Parks was a 42-year-old seamstress and civil-rights activist when, in 1955, she broke the law by refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., so a white passenger could take her spot up front. Her arrest sparked a year-long boycott that fueled the civil-rights movement. Obama said Parks, who died in 2005, showed that people don't have to simply accept injustice. "Rosa Parks tells us there's always something we can do," Obama said. [Los Angeles Times]
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5. POPE BENEDICT BEGINS LAST DAY AT THE VATICAN
Benedict XVI is saying goodbye to the Catholic Church's College of Cardinals early Thursday at the start of his final day as pope. Benedict, the first pontiff to resign in 600 years, is expected to spend the day quietly before leaving the Vatican palace for the last time at 5 p.m., local time, and heading to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside of Rome. In the next two weeks, the College of Cardinals will convene to begin the process of picking a successor, and Benedict will become "pope emeritus" and lead a secluded life of prayer. [ABC News]
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6. SPACE TOURIST TITO UNVEILS PLAN FOR MARS MISSION
Multimillionaire space tourist Dennis Tito on Wednesday unveiled plans for a high-risk mission to Mars that would start in 2018, nearly two decades ahead of a schedule suggested by President Obama three years ago. Tito, who paid $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station in 2001, said he would pay start-up costs, but that ultimately the project would need more private sponsors to cover the expected $1 billion cost. The plan is to send two Americans, possibly a married couple, on a no frills, 501-day flight that would take advantage of a rare planetary alignment and send a craft on a slingshot trip around Mars, coming as close as about 150 miles, before returning to Earth. [Christian Science Monitor]
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7. U.S. SENDING ONLY NON-MILITARY AID TO SYRIAN REBELS
Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the Obama administration had decided to send aid directly to Syrian rebels for the first time. Kerry said the U.S. would provide only non-lethal aid, such as food and medical supplies. Kerry said the U.S. would more than double its assistance to the Syrian opposition, giving it an extra $60 million. Still, the news disappointed some opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as they had been hoping the U.S. would take the next step and agree to provide the rebels with arms. [Reuters]
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8. BOEING APOLOGIZES FOR DREAMLINER TROUBLES
Boeing executives have told Japan's leading airlines they're sorry for the technical problems that led to the grounding of the aircraft-maker's new 787 Dreamliner jets last month. Raymond Conner, head of Boeing's commercial aircraft division, said the incidents, which included overheating lithium-ion batteries, were "deeply regretful." All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines operate nearly half of the 50 Dreamliners delivered to customers so far. "On behalf of the Boeing Company and the 170,000 people which I represent today," Conner said, "I want first to apologize for the fact that we've had two incidents with our two very precious customers, ANA and JAL." [CNN]
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9. SPIELBERG TO HEAD CANNES JURY
Steven Spielberg has been picked to head the jury for the influential Cannes film festival in 2013. Spielberg has long been a favorite at the French festival — his feature debut, Sugarland Express, premiered there, as did his 1982 sci-fi blockbuster E.T. Spielberg has been asked to be president of the Cannes jury several times before, but this will be the first time his schedule permitted him to accept. "He's always been shooting a film," festival president Gilles Jacob said. "So when this year I was told, 'E.T., phone home,' I understood and immediately replied, 'At last!'" [Los Angeles Times]
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10. LEGENDARY PIANIST DIES
Van Cliburn, a concert pianist who enjoyed a moment of rock-star fame in the '50s, died Wednesday at his home in Texas. He was 78. Cliburn vaulted to international fame in 1958 when he won the gold medal in the inaugural year of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Americans viewed the feat as a Cold War triumph over the Soviet Union. When the then-23-year-old Texan returned to the U.S., he was welcomed with a ticker-tape parade in New York City — the first musician to receive the honor. He went on to play sold-out concerts to out-of-control fans. [New York Times]

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