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10 things you need to know today: March 21, 2013
Obama meets with Palestinians, Congress tries to avert a shutdown, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
President Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas walk during an arrival ceremony on March 21 in Ramallah.
President Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas walk during an arrival ceremony on March 21 in Ramallah. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

1. OBAMA PUSHES FOR REVIVING MIDEAST PEACE TALKS
President Obama met with Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank on Thursday to underscore the importance of renewing peace negotiations with Israel. Before his arrival, however, a fresh volley of rockets from the Gaza Strip served as a reminder that the Islamist Hamas faction, which controls Gaza, remains committed to Israel's destruction. On Wednesday, Obama began his first trip to Israel as president by reaffirming the "unbreakable bonds" between the U.S. and the host country. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu projected a unified front on security issues that have caused friction between them in the past, including the need for renewed peace negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel. [Washington Post, New York Times]
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2. BILL TO PREVENT A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN GOES TO HOUSE
The Senate has passed a short-term spending bill to keep the government running through September. The bipartisan 73-26 vote sends the legislation to the House, which is expected to approve it on Thursday. Without a new spending package by March 27, federal programs and agencies would have run out of money and shut down. The measure keeps in place, for now, $85 billion in automatic "sequester" spending cuts. The next deadline in the ongoing battle over taxes and the budget comes up in late July or August, when Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling again. [Reuters]
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3. COLORADO ENACTS STRICT GUN LAWS
Colorado's Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, signed strict new gun laws on Wednesday, requiring firearms buyers in his state to submit to background checks and banning the sale of magazines with more than 15 rounds. The move angered gun-rights advocates but won praise from groups calling for Congress to pass similar restrictions nationwide. "If legislation like this can pass in Colorado, it can happen anywhere," said Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns in Washington, D.C. "It shows that it's entirely possible to respect the Second Amendment, and still do much more to keep guns out of the wrong hands." [Wall Street Journal]
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4. AUSTRALIA'S PRIME MINISTER SURVIVES LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday survived a challenge to her leadership position, assuring that she will lead her ruling Labor Party into Sept. 14 elections. Gillard called the leadership vote after a senior member of her party said their faction was doomed to defeat unless it replaced Gillard with her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, whom Gillard pushed aside in a 2010 party coup. Gillard won, though, when Rudd conceded that he didn't have enough support and declined to run against her. Gillard's troubles aren't over, though. Her unpopular minority government is expected to lose to the conservative opposition in September. [New York Times]
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5. EUROPE PRESSURES CYPRUS ON BAILOUT
European Central Bank officials on Thursday warned Cyprus they would pull the plug on the country's banks unless it proposed an acceptable bailout plan by Monday. The eastern Mediterranean island's leaders are trying to come up with a Plan B to raise $7.5 billion toward a $13 billion bailout plan the country needs to avert a financial collapse. The Cypriot parliament, in a 0-36 vote with 19 abstentions, this week rejected a proposal to come up with the money by imposing a tax on deposits in the country's banks, with some angry lawmakers calling the idea "bank robbery." [Reuters]
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6. COLORADO POLICE SEEK PRISON OFFICIAL'S KILLER
Colorado authorities searched Wednesday for a possible witness to the Tuesday night murder of the head of the state's prison system, Tom Clements, who was gunned down as he answered the doorbell at his home. A woman was seen speedwalking in the neighborhood around the time of the shooting. Police are also looking for a "boxy" two-door sedan that was seen idling near Clement's home about 15 minutes before someone in his house called 911. Police said Clement might have been targeted due to his high-profile position. The killing came hours before the state's Democratic governor signed controversial new gun-control laws. [ABC News]
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7. SOUTH KOREA TRACES CYBERATTACK TO CHINA
South Korean authorities said Thursday that a cyberattack that disrupted computer networks at banks and broadcasters originated from an IP address in China. The unidentified hackers sent malware to six organizations, causing outages on their networks Wednesday. South Korean officials said they still can't say who was responsible for the attack, only that it was routed through the address in China. An official in South Korea's presidential office, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said Seoul is leaving "all possibilities open, while bearing a strong suspicion that North Korea conducted the attack." [BBC News]
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8. FEDERAL RESERVE STANDS BY STIMULUS
Federal Reserve officials wound up a meeting on Wednesday saying they intended to continue the central bank's policy of pumping money into the economy to boost the recovery. Despite a series of encouraging economic reporters recently, the Fed's policy makers say economic growth won't pick up without some help, so they'll keep buying up bonds and keeping short-term interest rates near zero until the unemployment rate, currently 7.7 percent, falls to 6.5 percent. "We are seeing improvement," Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said. "One thing we would need is to see this is not temporary improvement." [Associated Press]
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9. MICHELLE SHOCKED SAYS SHE'S 'DAMN SORRY' FOR HOMOPHOBIC REMARKS
Folk singer Michelle Shocked has apologized for anti-gay comments that led to the cancelation of 10 of her 11 upcoming concerts across the U.S. Shocked, 51, said she was "damn sorry" for the remarks, made at a San Francisco concert on Sunday, but that they had been misunderstood. Shocked said she was trying to defend some Christians who believe that homosexuality is against God's law when she suggested that allowing gay marriage would lead to the End Times, but that she doesn't share their beliefs. "I judge not," she said. [New York Times]
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10. DEEP THROAT STAR HARRY REEMS DIES
Former porn actor Harry Reems, who starred with Linda Lovelace in the notorious 1972 film Deep Throat, has died of pancreatic cancer at age 65, one of his close friends, Don Schenk, said Wednesday. Reems was arrested in 1974 on obscenity charges, becoming a cause celebre in a case that had broader implications for artistic freedom. Despite the support of Jack Nicholson and other actors, Reems' co-star Lovelace testified against him. Reems was convicted in 1976, but the verdict was overturned the next year. In the late 1980s, he moved to Utah, won a battle with alcoholism, and launched a new career, in real estate. [Hollywood Reporter]

 
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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