Cuts from the sequester could be implemented in a matter of hours; the Vatican is currently without a pope; and a Florida man is swallowed up by a massive sinkhole. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama defends her controversial Oscars appearance, Justin Bieber celebrates his birthday by partying until 6 A.M., and Daniel Radcliffe might star in the next “Frankenstein” movie.
Caitlin + Liza
Countdown to spending cuts: a matter of hours, http://bit.ly/ZOiDcB
Expectations are low that Washington will reach a deal that will prevent $85 million in spending cuts, known as the sequester, from going into effect later Friday. With just hours left, many Congressmen left the House for the weekend, signaling they have given up on negotiations. Though the president is set to meet with congressional leaders throughout the day, experts say the two sides are not likely to come to an agreement. If the sequester goes into effect, spending cuts will slash funding for government agencies across the board.
Vatican takes first steps running Pope-less Church, http://apne.ws/Y3WMqV
The Vatican began its “sede vacante” with Pope Benedict’s official resignation on Thursday night, taking the first steps of its transition period without a pope. Several key Vatican officials who will temporarily take charge of running the church will meet on Monday to set a date for the conclave, the election of the next pope. The College of Cardinals will likely elect Benedict’s successor within the next 20 days, and will also discuss challenges currently facing the Catholic church.
Florida Sinkhole: Rescue Crews Try to Reach Man Swallowed by Massive Chasm, http://huff.to/XH628f
A Florida man was swallowed up by a sinkhole that opened up beneath his bedroom on Friday, requiring rescue crews to help extract him from the huge chasm. Officials estimate the sinkhole was 30 feet wide at the surface and reached 100 feet across below the surface. Though the outside of the house was left completely intact, the entire bedroom was swallowed up. The man’s brother was also in the house at the time of the collapse, and was unsuccessful in his rescue attempt. “He was screaming my name. I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him,” the brother said. The man is still missing and may be dead.
Death Toll From Bangladesh Unrest Reaches 44, http://nyti.ms/XL7Fys
At least 44 were killed in a clash between protesters and security forces in Bangladesh on Thursday, when violence erupted after a special war crimes tribunal sentenced an Islamic leader to death. Protestors took to the streets to celebrate the sentencing of Delawar Hossain Sayedee, who committed crimes against humanity during the country’s 1971 war for independence from Pakistan, and demanded further justice for leaders of Sayedee’s Islamic party, Jamaat. Furious Jamaat members have called for a nationwide strike, with bloodshed erupting and party members fighting police officers. Jamaat holds that the government is manipulating the war crimes justice system to attack political rivals.
Chinese TV Special on Executions Stirs Debate, http://nyti.ms/Z6C6Aw
The Chinese government aired a two-hour television broadcast on Friday during which four foreign drug traffickers were sent to their deaths by lethal injection. The program ended just before the execution of the men, who were accused of killing 13 Chinese sailors two years ago, and included graphic images of triumphant police officers and of the accused men in shackles. Heated debate ensued over whether the broadcast was a long-awaited show of justice or a tasteless display of violence. “Rather than showcasing rule of law, the program displayed state control over human life in a manner designed to attract gawkers,” criminal law professor Han Youyi said.
President Obama calls for U.S. Supreme Court to strike down California’s gay marriage ban, http://bit.ly/YLsflR
President Obama urged the Supreme Court to strike down California’s Proposition 8 on Thursday, saying the voter-approved gay marriage ban violates equal rights for same-sex couples. Though President Obama has expressed his support for gay marriage, his comments on Thursday mark the first time the administration has targeted a state’s right to outlaw same-sex marriage. The federal government had previously refrained from taking a stance in the last three major gay rights cases. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments challenging Proposition 8 on March 26.
Michelle Obama Defends Controversial Oscars Appearance, http://bit.ly/XL1wT2
Justin Bieber Celebrates His Birthday Shirtless, Parties Until 6 A.M., http://usm.ag/Z2ls3D
Daniel Radcliffe in Final Talks to Star in Fox’s “Frankenstein”, http://bit.ly/Z2INlW
Jennifer Lawrence Says She Sets Up Bradley Cooper, http://bit.ly/13tenjv