Hagel confirmation — A bitterly divided Senate panel on Tuesday approved President Barack Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the nation’s defense secretary in a rancorous session at which Republican questioned the former GOP senator’s truthfulness and challenged his patriotism. On a party-line vote of 14-11, the Armed Services Committee voted to send the nomination to the full Senate, where Republicans have threatened to delay a vote on the president’s choice to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Sequestration warning — Senior Defense Department officials warned Congress on Tuesday that the looming sequestration cuts represent a dire and unprecedented threat to the U.S. military, with the potential to harm everything from combat readiness at a time of dangerous international tensions to the Pentagon’s efforts to reduce military suicide.
Syria conflict — Syrian insurgents seized control of a northern military airfield on Tuesday and captured usable warplanes for the first time in the nearly 2-year-old conflict, according to rebels and activist groups. The development, if confirmed, would represent the second strategic setback for President Bashar Assad’s government this week. The reported seizure of Al Jarrah airfield in Aleppo province, which was corroborated by rebel video clips uploaded on the Internet, came a day after insurgent fighters announced that they had taken control of Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam.
Stranded cruise passengers — The head of Carnival Cruise Lines said Tuesday his company was working hard to ensure the thousands of passengers stranded on a disabled ship in the Gulf of Mexico were as comfortable as possible while the vessel was being towed to port in Alabama. The reassurances made by Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill were in sharp contrast to what some passengers have told relatives about dirty and hot conditions aboard the ship, including overflowing toilets and limited access to food.
Patrols in Mali — Soldiers from Niger and Mali patrolled downtown Gao on foot Tuesday, combing the sand footpaths through empty market stalls to prevent radical Islamic fighters from returning to this embattled city in northern Mali. The heavy presence of troops near the waterfront reflects efforts to fortify the Niger River landing point where the militants invaded on Sunday and launched a five-hour-long gun battle.
Bangladesh protests — Huge daily demonstrations in the heart of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, are upending the nation’s politics and illustrating how heavily the country’s bloody past still weighs on its present. Thousands of protesters, most of them college students and other young people, demonstrated again Tuesday, fueled by broad public anger over a recent ruling by the country’s special war crimes tribunal that they say was too lenient.
Italian spymaster sentenced — The former head of Italy’s military intelligence agency, Nicolo Pollari, was given a 10-year jail term by an appeals court on Tuesday for his involvement in the U.S.-sanctioned kidnapping of a terrorist suspect. Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian Muslim cleric also known as Abu Omar, was illegally abducted by the CIA in a Milan street in 2003 and flown to Egypt via the U.S. air base at Ramstein, Germany. He was held until 2007 without charges and alleges he was tortured.
Guam mass stabbing — A man accused of killing two Japanese visitors and injuring a dozen others after crashing his car and stabbing people in a major tourist district in Guam has been arrested and faces multiple charges, police said early today. Chad Ryan Desoto, 21, is charged with two counts of murder, 13 counts of attempted murder and 13 counts of aggravated assault. No motive or other details on the investigation were released.
Jesus portrait in school — An Ohio school district will keep a portrait of Jesus hanging in the school building where it’s been for 65 years, saying it is protecting students’ free speech rights. The board voted 4-0 Tuesday night to keep the painting up despite a federal lawsuit that contends the portrait unconstitutionally promotes religion in a public school.
— From wire reports