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10 things you need to know today: March 6, 2013
Hugo Chavez dies, a winter storm creeps across the country, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
A man clears snow from Chicago's Millennium Park skating rink on March 5.
A man clears snow from Chicago's Millennium Park skating rink on March 5. Brian Kersey/Getty Images

1. VENEZUELA'S HUGO CHAVEZ DIES
The Venezuelan government announced Tuesday that President Hugo Chavez, the country's longtime leader, died Tuesday following a battle with cancer. He was 58. Chavez was an intensely polarizing figure in both his native land and around the world, simultaneously praised as an anti-imperialist revolutionary and condemned as a power-hungry authoritarian who was leading Latin America down a dangerous path toward socialism. Police were deployed nationwide to prevent unrest, and Vice President Nicolas Maduro called on the bitterly divided nation to mourn as one. "Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment: Love." [New York Times, BBC News]
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2. STOCK RALLY PUSHES DOW TO RECORD HIGH
The Dow Jones industrial average shot 126 points higher on Tuesday to close at a record high of 14,253.77, smashing the old record of 14,164.53 set in October 2007, before the recession. The Dow — a benchmark index that includes 30 blue-chip companies, including Walmart, Coca-Cola, and General Electric — sank to a low of 6,547 four years ago, and recovered faster than expected, even though the economic recovery is still painfully slow. [Boston Globe]
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3. GOVERNMENT OFFICES SHUT DOWN AS WASHINGTON BRACES FOR SNOW
Federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area shut down on Wednesday as a winter storm — which some have dubbed the "snowquester" — that battered the Midwest a day earlier began blanketing the nation's capital with snow. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang predicted that 5 to 10 inches could fall inside the Capital Beltway. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights into the area, threatening to disrupt travel for several days. The snowfall could be the worst Washington has seen in two years. [Washington Post]
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4. COMMITTEE SENDS BRENNAN CONFIRMATION TO FULL SENATE
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 on Tuesday to back John Brennan as the next CIA director, sending the nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. Senators from both parties had held up the nomination to get more information on the role of Brennan, President Obama's counterterrorism adviser and a 25-year CIA veteran, in the administration's use of lethal drone attacks on terrorism suspects. Despite the concerns and a possible GOP delay of the vote by the full Senate, Brennan was expected to be confirmed. [USA Today]
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5. TSA LIFTS BAN ON SMALL KNIVES ON PLANES
The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday that passengers can carry small pocketknives, golf clubs, and other items onto airplanes. Small blades have been banned in carry-on luggage since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in which hijackers wielded box cutters. TSA Administrator John Pistole said the change, which takes effect April 25, would bring the U.S. in line with other countries, reflecting the fact that explosives — not small blades — are the main risk to airline safety. The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, representing 90,000 flight attendants, asked Pistole to reconsider, saying the changes would endanger the lives of air travelers. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
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6. SYRIAN REBELS SEIZE THEIR FIRST BIG CITY
Syrian rebels took control of their first major city, Raqqa, on Tuesday, marking a milestone in their two-year effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Government jets responded by bombing buildings taken over by opposition forces in the one-time stronghold of the regime in the country's north. Rebels also captured the regional governor. On Wednesday, Lebanon's foreign minister, Adnan Mansour, called on the Arab League to lift Syria's suspension to make it easier for diplomats to negotiate a solution to the conflict. [Washington Post, Reuters]
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7. BOLSHOI DANCER CONFESSES IN ACID ATTACK
Moscow police say a Bolshoi Ballet dancer and two other men have confessed to taking part in a January attack on the company's artistic director, Sergei Filin. A masked attacker threw sulfuric acid into Filin's face, damaging his eyesight and disfiguring him. Dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, who had been playing the lead role in "Ivan the Terrible," reportedly confessed to being the mastermind of the attack, which shocked Russians and exposed bitter infighting at the famed dance company. [BBC News]
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8. SOUTH KOREA RESPONDS TO NORTH KOREA'S THREATS
South Korea's military responded on Wednesday to war threats from North Korea, warning that it would strike the North's "command leadership" if provoked — a thinly veiled threat against the communist nation's leader, Kim Jong Un. North Korea, emboldened by successful recent missile and nuclear tests, has been escalating its rhetoric this week. With the United Nations Security Council considering new sanctions as punishment for the nuclear test last month, Kim warned that he might scrap a 60-year cease-fire with South Korea, and the North Korean People's Army threatened to attack South Korea and the U.S. with "lighter and smaller nukes." [New York Times]
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9. ZIMMERMAN'S LAWYERS SAY THEY'LL SKIP 'STAND YOUR GROUND' HEARING
George Zimmerman's attorneys surprised observers on Tuesday by announcing that they would not be asking a judge to allow them to use Florida's "stand your ground" law as a defense in the Trayvon Martin case. Zimmerman's lawyers had been planning to ask a judge to dismiss second-degree murder charges against Zimmerman at an April hearing, because, they say, he shot and killed the unarmed teenager in self-defense. If that hearing had gone Zimmerman's way, he would have walked free. If not, it would have given prosecutors an opportunity to pick apart his testimony. Now Zimmerman's legal team is focusing on preparations for the trial, in June. [ABC News]
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10. JON STEWART TAKING A BREAK FROM THE DAILY SHOW
Comedy Central superstar Jon Stewart is reportedly taking a 12-week break from The Daily Show this summer. Stewart, who has hosted the popular satirical news show for 14 years, will use the time to direct his first film, Rosewater. Stewart wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of BBC journalist Maziar Bahari's best-selling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, about Bahari's 2009 arrest by the Iranian government while covering an election protest. While Stewart is gone, Daily Show correspondent John Oliver will guest host. [Hollywood Reporter]

 

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