Quote of the day.
"This is a population that's hidden. They're forgotten about. They're out of sight, out of mind." Erika Kelly, assistant vice president for policy and legislation, Meals On Wheels Association of America, on the elderly poor the organization serves as it faces budget cuts through sequestration.
1. 5 things to watch for in the State of the Union.
The president views the speech as finishing a thought that began with the Inauguration, aides say, with a deeper focus on job creation and the economy but no shortage of attention to the controversial social issues that top his to-do list.
2. In Afghanistan pullout, Pentagon favors phased reduction over 3 years.
The Pentagon is pushing a plan that would keep about 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan once the NATO military mission there ends in 2014 but significantly shrink the contingent over the following two years, according to senior U.S. government officials and military officers.
3. As cuts loom, the political forecast is mostly hostile.
After days of private strategy sessions, Republicans and Democrats are poised this week for the same kind of ugly partisan combat over spending and taxes that’s spawned fiscal chaos and sent Congress’ approval ratings plunging.
4. Rising voice of gun ownership is female.
In the debate over firearms regulations, the voices of gun owners have largely been those of men. But at firing ranges across the country, a growing number of women are learning to use firearms and honing their skills.
(New York Times)
5. Q & A on Benedict's bombshell.
When you're talking about a church with more than 2,000 years of history, you don't get a chance to use terms such as "uncharted waters" very often, but that's precisely where Catholicism finds itself in the wake of Benedict XVI's bombshell announcement that he plans to resign Feb. 28.
(National Catholic Reporter)
6. A turbulent tenure for a quiet scholar.
If written words alone could keep the church on course, Benedict would likely be viewed as a solid success. … But when it came to the major challenges facing the church in the real world, Benedict often appeared to carom from one crisis to the next.
(New York Times)
7. North Korea conducts third controversial nuke test.
Defying U.N. warnings, North Korea on Tuesday conducted its third nuclear test in the remote, snowy northeast, taking a crucial step toward its goal of building a bomb small enough to be fitted on a missile capable of striking the United States.
8. Militant threats test role of a Pentagon command in Africa.
Created five years ago to focus on training the armed forces of dozens of African nations and strengthening social, political and economic programs, the Pentagon’s Africa Command now finds itself on a more urgent mission: confronting a new generation of Islamist militants who are testing the United States’ resolve to fight terrorism without being drawn into a major conflict.
(New York Times)
9. Iran converts uranium to fuel, easing bomb fears.
Iran acknowledged on Tuesday that it was converting some of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, a move that could help to prevent a dispute with the West over its nuclear program hitting a crisis in mid-2013.
10. Mali 'hesitant' over U.N. peace force.
The government of Mali is "hesitant" over the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force, a senior U.N. official says.