Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 14, 2012

Santorum sweeps the South, Panetta says the U.S. will stay the course in Afghanistan, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. SANTORUM SWEEPS ALABAMA, MISSISSIPPIRick Santorum pulled off narrow, stunning victories in Tuesday's GOP presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, despite being heavily outspent by Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich, who's on his home turf in the South, finished a close second in both states, and said he would stay in the race until the Republican convention in August. "The elite media's efforts to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed," Gingrich said. Romney came in third in both Southern states but won two smaller nominating contests in Hawaii and American Samoa. [New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

2. PANETTA VISITS AFGHANISTAN, SAYS U.S. WILL STAY Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Afghanistan Wednesday as a weekend massacre blamed on an American soldier elicited calls for the U.S. to pull out of the country early. Meeting with Afghan provincial leaders, Panetta said the U.S. was committed to staying the course and carrying out its mission in Afghanistan. Panetta is scheduled to be in the country for two days and will meet with President Hamid Karzai and Afghan defense officials. [Associated Press]………………………………………………………………………………

3. ASSAD RESPONDS TO U.N. PROPOSAL After visiting Damascus over the weekend and giving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad what he called "concrete proposals," U.N. envoy Kofi Annan has received a response from Assad, which he'll describe in more detail later Wednesday. Assad's forces continue their brutal crackdown on rebel enclaves, and an Amnesty International report says Syrians detained by government forces have been "thrust into a nightmarish world of systemic torture." [Reuters]

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4. SWISS BUS CRASH KILLS 22 At least 28 Belgians, 22 of them children, were killed late Tuesday when their bus crashed in a tunnel in Switzerland on the way home from a ski holiday. It was "a tragic day for all of Belgium," the country's prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, said. [BBC]………………………………………………………………………………

5. SENATE VOTES AGAINST PAY FREEZE EXTENSION The Senate on Tuesday narrowly rejected a Republican-led measure that would have extended a pay freeze for federal employees through January 2014 to help pay for tax credits, deductions, and energy projects. "The Republicans are coming forward with another attack on federal workers," Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) said in a discussion before the measure came to vote. [Washington Post]………………………………………………………………………………

6. RISING SEA LEVELS ENDANGER U.S. COASTS Rising sea levels have doubled the risk of "once-a-century" floods that would imperil the lives of the nearly five million Americans who live on coasts from California to Maine, according to three government reports released Wednesday. "Sea level rise is like an invisible tsunami, building force while we do almost nothing," one expert who worked on the reports said. [MSNBC]………………………………………………………………………………

7. MOST BANKS PASS STRESS TEST The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that 15 out of 19 of the country's largest banks have enough capital to cover losses and survive another deep recession. Ally Financial, Citigroup, SunTrust, and MetLife would likely require some sort of assistance, either from the government or investors, to weather the storm. [Fortune]………………………………………………………………………………

8. IPHONE OWNER SUES APPLE OVER SIRI A New York man has filed suit against Apple, alleging that the company is being "misleading and deceptive" about iPhone voice assistant Siri's abilities. The man says Siri doesn't perform as well as commercials claim. Meanwhile, Siri recently added Japanese support to her capabilities, but seems to be struggling with the new language. [Washington Post]………………………………………………………………………………

9. BRITANNICA TO GO DIGITAL After 244 years, Encyclopaedia Britannica is abandoning print and will be published exclusively online. The current print run will be the last. "The real tradition is not whether or not we print but that we bring scholarly knowledge to as many knowledge seekers as we can," Britannica president Jorge Zauz says. "That tradition we're very happy to continue." [Fox News]………………………………………………………………………………  

10. 25-YEAR-OLD WINS IDITAROD Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska late Tuesday. At 25, Seavey, who finished the race in nine days, four hours and 29 minutes, is the youngest musher ever to win. [Associated Press]

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