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10 things you need to know today: March 13, 2013
Lawmakers unveil 2014 budget proposals, Bob Dylan receives prestigious award, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
Bob Dylan performs in California in 2009.
Bob Dylan performs in California in 2009. Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

1. BUDGET BATTLE BEGINS IN CONGRESS
The battle over the federal government's 2014 budget has begun in Congress. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled his spending plan on Tuesday, proposing a partial privatization of Medicare and a repeal of President Obama's health-care reform law. Senate Democrats plan to release a competing plan on Wednesday calling for raising taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, and spending nearly $100 billion on a new jobs package. Both sides have rejected key elements of each others' plans. "They're opening bids. But they're opening bids from three years ago," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the bipartisan Concord Coalition. "The real question is: Do they start a negotiation this year?" [Washington Post]
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2. COLORADO APPROVES GAY CIVIL UNIONS
Applause erupted in the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday as state lawmakers approved civil unions for gay couples, seven years after voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state. Just months ago, Republicans used their one-vote majority in the state House to block the measure, which will grant gay couples rights similar to marriage. But Democrats regained control of the House in last year's elections after making civil unions a campaign rallying cry. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the legislation soon, making Colorado the ninth state recognizing gay civil unions. Nine others and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. [Associated Press]
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3. REGULATORS ACCEPT PLAN TO CHECK NEW DREAMLINER BATTERIES
The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday approved Boeing's plan for certifying the redesigned battery system for its 787 Dreamliner jets, a key step toward getting regulators to let the new aircraft fly again. Dreamliners were grounded in January after several batteries overheated — one causing a non-fatal fire — on 787s operated by Japanese airlines. "This comprehensive series of tests will show us whether the proposed battery improvements will work as designed," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. [MarketWatch]
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4. FIRST VOTES FAIL TO PRODUCE A NEW POPE
Catholic Cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday for a second day of voting to choose the next pope, but puffs of black smoke revealed that their first two ballots of the day ended without the two-thirds majority needed to elect the global church's next leader. There will be up to two more rounds of voting on Wednesday to pick a successor to Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign in six centuries. A crowd is waiting outside to see white smoke arising from a chimney, the sign that the new pontiff has been chosen. [Reuters, Financial Times]
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5. 'CANNIBAL COP' CONVICTED OF KIDNAPPING PLOT
A federal jury on Tuesday found New York City police officer Gilberto Valle, 28, guilty of plotting to kidnap, cook, and eat women he tracked using a police database. Defense lawyers argued that Valle, dubbed the "cannibal cop" by tabloid newspapers, never went beyond online fantasy role playing. Prosecutors said Valle went beyond fantasizing and took concrete steps toward kidnapping women. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on June 19, but his lawyers say they'll appeal. [Reuters]
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6. GOOGLE ACKNOWLEDGES VIOLATING PRIVACY DURING STREET VIEW MAPPING
Google on Tuesday admitted that employees in its Street View mapping project had violated people's privacy by collecting passwords, email, and other personal information from unencrypted wireless networks. The acknowledgement came as part of a settlement with 37 states and the District of Columbia that also required the internet search giant to set up a privacy program within six months that will include an annual privacy week event for employees. The deal also included a $7 million fine. "We work hard to get privacy right at Google," Niki Fenwick, a Google spokeswoman, said, "but in this case we didn't, which is why we quickly tightened up our systems to address the issue." [New York Times]
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7. MAINE TOWN REJECTS LAW REQUIRING HOUSEHOLDS TO HAVE GUNS
Voters in the 140-person town of Byron, Maine, unanimously rejected a proposal to require every household to have a gun and ammunition. About 50 people showed up at a town meeting Monday night to discuss the law, and everyone, including Selectwoman Anne Simmons-Edmunds, who proposed it, wound up voting against it. Simmons-Edmunds said she only wanted time to change the wording of the measure and strengthen exemptions, but Maine state senator and self-avowed National Rifle Association member John Patrick, who lives about 12 miles from Byron, said the ordinance was "too much." [CNN]
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8. NASA SAYS MARS COULD HAVE ONCE SUPPORTED LIFE
The latest findings by the Mars rover suggest that the planet might have had plenty of water and minerals to support tiny microbes — billions of years ago. "We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it," California Institute of Technology geology professor John P. Grotzinger, principal investigator for the NASA mission, said Tuesday at a news conference. Still, NASA scientists say the rover has yet to turn up any evidence that microbes did once exist on Mars. [New York Times]
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9. CHINA INSISTS DEAD PIGS HAVEN'T CONTAMINATED SHANGHAI'S WATER
China is insisting that Shanghai's water supply is safe, even though thousands of dead, bloated pigs have been plucked from a river that flows through the center of the city and feeds its reservoirs. "No pollution has been found" in city water, officials said in the Shanghai Daily on Wednesday. The claim was met with skepticism on the country's popular microblog service, Sina Weibo. "Since when is finding dead rotting pigs in a major river not a public health problem?" Weibo user @Muyunsanjun2011 asked. "Answer: When this happens in China." [CNN]
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10. BOB DYLAN HONORED BY ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS
Bob Dylan has become the first rock star to be voted into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters, home to artists from writer Ezra Pound to composer Duke Ellington. The century-old institution's executive director, Virginia Dajani, said the academy's board couldn't decide whether Dylan, who created some of the nation's best-known protest music decades ago, belonged for his words or for his music, so they made him an honorary member, putting him in the company of Meryl Streep, Woody Allen, and Martin Scorsese, whose films include a documentary about Dylan. [USA Today]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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