1. The world confronts its nuclear issue
As Japan continues to assess the damage from a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami, it's also racing to thwart a total nuclear meltdown at several damaged reactors. Already, many governments are rethinking their own nuclear futures. Some Americans worry that California might be prone to a similar catastrophe, and West Coasters are panicking over the unlikely possibility that Japan's radiation could float across the Pacific and inflict harm here. Still, in spite of all of the dread, several inspiring stories of rescue and reunion have emerged in Japan. See our complete coverage here.

2. The West threatens Gadhafi with military strikes
With Moammar Gadhafi seizing the upper hand in his violent assault on Libya's rebels, the U.N. authorized military force against him. Immediately, Gadhafi declared a ceasefire, though it remains to be seen if this really signals an end to the conflict. Beyond Libya, Bahrain became a new battleground for protests, and Saudi troops were dispatched to intervene. Will the House of Saud stamp out the pro-democracy movement? For more coverage of the Arab revolts, click here.

3. Republicans spar on the budget
Facing an open revolt from the Tea Party right, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) looks ready to strike a compromise with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown. Still, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) could try to block any deal. Meanwhile, GOP budget guru Paul Ryan has his own plan to rein in entitlement spending, but David Frum sees long-term pitfalls in cutting Medicare for the young. View more stories on the budget battle.

4. Obama tries to fix America's schools
The president called on Congress to fix George W. Bush's landmark No Child Left Behind law without reducing funding for education. But some commentators question whether Obama might be wiser starting from scratch. Something's got to give, with 80 percent of American schools reportedly failing (including, ironically, Barack H. Obama Elementary School in New Jersey). Have we reached a new low when the SAT is asking college hopefuls to discuss reality TV in an essay question? Here's more education coverage.

5. March Madness tips off
As the annual college basketball tournament got underway, President Obama made his selections, to the chagrin of those Republicans who believe POTUS has more pressing issues to tackle. Such brickbats didn't stop amateur psychologists from dissecting what the president's picks say about him. As for the actual games, the NCAA introduced a new 68-team format this year that inevitably upset traditionalists. See our full coverage of this year's NCAA tournament.