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10 things you need to know today: March 1, 2013
The sequester spending cuts hit, the Vatican begins the search for a new pope, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
A helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI passes St. Peter's Basilica on its way out of Vatican City.
A helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI passes St. Peter's Basilica on its way out of Vatican City. Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images

1. CONGRESS FAILS TO REACH A DEAL BEFORE SEQUESTER DEADLINE
The $85 billion in broad spending cuts known as the sequester start taking effect on Friday, after Republicans and Democrats in Congress failed to make a last-minute deal. Two alternative deficit-reduction plans went nowhere in the Senate on Thursday, and many House members left for the weekend hours before the automatic cuts to everything from defense to education, part of a 2011 deal to raise the debt ceiling, were scheduled to begin kicking in. President Obama is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday to discuss what to do next, but neither side expects a miracle fix, as Democrats are determined to replace the sequester's cuts with both spending reductions and revenue increases, while Republicans say hiking taxes is out of the question. [CNN]
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2. LEADERLESS VATICAN BEGINS PROCESS OF CHOOSING A NEW POPE
With Benedict XVI's resignation, the Catholic Church is without a leader. On Friday, the Vatican enters a "sede vacante" or "vacant see," the period during which the College of Cardinals holds deliberations and a conclave to choose the next pope, which must convene within 20 days. The former pontiff, the first to step aside in 600 years, pledged his allegiance to the next pope from a seaside papal retreat, after leaving the Vatican palace for the last time. Now, he said, "I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth." [Associated Press, Huffington Post]
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3. U.S. URGES SUPREME COURT TO REJECT CALIFORNIA GAY-MARRIAGE BAN
The Obama administration jumped into a Supreme Court fight over marriage equality on Thursday, urging the justices to rule that California's ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, is unconstitutional. Justice Department lawyers argued that denying gay couples the right to marry violates the Constitution's equal protection clause. The federal government is not directly involved in the case, but the lawyers who filed the challenge to California's ban, along with gay-rights organizations, had lobbied the administration to step in, saying it shouldn't stay silent. [New York Times]
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4. HOUSE APPROVES VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
The House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, sending the bill, already approved by the Senate, to President Obama for his signature. The legislation is designed to protect women from domestic violence. It includes more than $650 million for state and local governments to spend over five years on services such as transitional housing and legal advice for victims. House Republicans, who objected to some of the final bill's provisions, had proposed a scaled down version. After that failed, some Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the Senate bill, which also includes protections for immigrants and gay, lesbian, and transgender people. [ABC News]
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5. ARREST MADE IN DEATH OF MISSISSIPPI'S FIRST OPENLY GAY MAYORAL CANDIDATE
Mississippi authorities have charged a man with the death of Marco McMillian, the first openly gay candidate ever to run for mayor in the state. The Coahoma County Sheriff's Department said Lawrence Reed, 22, of Shelby, Miss., had been charged in the death of McMillian, 34. The local coroner did not immediately release a cause of death, but said Thursday that politics didn't appear to have been a factor in the case. McMillian's body was found near the Mississippi River on Wednesday. That morning his SUV had been involved in a crash. He wasn't in the car at the time, but Reed was. [USA Today]
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6. SOUTH AFRICA SUSPENDS POLICE INVOLVED IN DRAGGING DEATH
South Africa on Friday suspended eight police officers suspected of involvement in the death of a man dragged through a busy street while bound to a vehicle. The victim, a 27-year-old taxi driver from Mozambique named Mido Macia, reportedly parked illegally, jamming traffic, then allegedly resisted arrest. The incident was captured on a video that stirred outrage. President Jacob Zuma said the abuse was "horrific" and unacceptable. "No human being should be treated in that manner," he said. [Reuters]
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7. DOZENS DIE IN PROTESTS OVER WAR-CRIME VERDICT IN BANGLADESH
At least 44 people have died in clashes that erupted between protesters and security forces in Bangladesh on Thursday, after a special war crimes tribunal sentenced an Islamic leader to death. Delawar Hossain Sayedee, a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party, was convicted for crimes against humanity committed 42 years ago, during the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of young protesters celebrated the verdict as a victory for justice, but furious Jamaat followers called it a politically motivated travesty. [New York Times]
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8. BRADLEY MANNING ADMITS LEAKS
After almost three years in custody, Army private Bradley Manning pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 of the charges against him in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history. Manning, 25, who publicly admitted for the first time that he leaked material to the Wikileaks website, said he did it to make the public aware of the suffering caused by U.S. military policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized," he said. The charges could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors also plan to continue pursuing a dozen other charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence. [ABC News]
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9. GROUPON FIRES CEO
Groupon's board on Thursday fired Andrew Mason, the company's eccentric CEO and founder, a day after the daily-deals service reported a worse-than-expected quarterly loss that sent Groupon's stock price plummeting by 24 percent. Groupon was once considered the next big thing among internet startups. Its fortunes have been sinking, however, due to competition and a general cooling of enthusiasm for services offering limited-time bargains. Mason informed employees of the move in a cheeky email. "I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family," he wrote. "Just kidding — I was fired today." [Wall Street Journal]
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10. RODMAN'S NORTH KOREA TRIP GETS EVEN WEIRDER
Former basketball star Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea raised eyebrows from the start. But the tattooed former Chicago Bull really pushed the envelope on Friday, when he wrapped up his visit by calling the Hermit Kingdom's enigmatic young leader, Kim Jong Un, an "awesome kid." The unlikely pair on Thursday watched an exhibition basketball game together — featuring members of the Harlem Globetrotters, who traveled with Rodman to shoot an episode of a sports documentary — and Rodman declared that he had told Kim "you have a friend for life." [Reuters, Guardian]

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