Showing posts with label Business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Business. Show all posts

Sequester: What Will Happen, What Won't Happen

When it comes to critical elements of the sequester timeline, not much is known -- because federal agencies have been tight lipped.

Asked when specific effects will be felt, officials at three federal departments declined to discuss the timing of sequester cuts and their consequences. Some departments were waiting for President Obama's Friday night sequester order and subsequent guidance they expected to receive from the Office of Management and Budget before talking about what would and wouldn't happen and when.

Read more: 57 Terrible Consequences of the Sequester

"There's no calendar of dates for specific actions or cuts on specific dates," Department of Health and Human Services public affairs officer Bill Hall told ABC News. "Again, these cuts need to be applied equally across all agency programs, activities and projects. There will be wide variation on when impacts will occur depending on a given program."

Some cuts won't be felt for a while because they have to do with government layoffs, which require 30 days notice, in most cases.

For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration won't begin layoffs until at least April 7, one FAA official estimated.

But some cuts don't involve furloughs, and could conceivably be felt immediately.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the timeline of layoffs to cybersecurity contractors and first responders funded through states, as well as limited Coast Guard operations and cuts to FEMA disaster relief.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development said it could not comment on cuts to housing vouchers, rent assistance for AIDS patients, maintenance for housing projects.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Imag

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The Department of Health and Human Services declined to discuss the specific timing of cuts to Head Start services, low-income mental-health services, AIDS/HIV testing, and inpatient substance-abuse treatment.

Read More: Automatic Cuts Could Hurt on Local Level

So even as the sequester hits, we still don't know when some of its worst effects will be felt.

Here's what we do know:

What Will Happen Saturday

      Air Force Training. At a briefing Friday, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that "effective immediately, Air Force flying hours will be cut back."

More from Carter, via ABC News' Luis Martinez: "What does that mean for national security? What it means is that as the year goes on, apart from Afghanistan, apart from nuclear deterrence through two missions we are strictly protecting, the readiness of the other units to respond to other contingencies will gradually decline. That's not safe. And that we're trying to minimize that in every way we possibly can."

      Closed Doors at the Capitol. ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports that Capitol Police issued a memo announcing it would have to close some entrances to the Capitol, writing: "At this time it is anticipated that the U.S. Capitol Police will be required to close some entrance doors and exterior checkpoints, and either suspend or modify the hours of operation for some of the U.S. Capitol Complex posts located inside and outside of the CVC and Office Buildings."

      Capitol Janitor Furloughs. After President Obama warned that janitors at the Capitol will be furloughed, ABC News' Sunlen Miller reported that was not entirely true: The Senate sergeant at arms, Terrance Gainer, told ABC News that no full-time salaried Capitol Police officers would face furloughs or layoffs at this time. They will, however, see a "substantial reduction in overtime," Gainer told ABC News.

      Delayed Deployment for USS Truman Aircraft Carrier. This has already happened, the Associated Press reported Friday morning: "One of the Navy's premiere warships, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, sits pier-side in Norfolk, Va., its tour of duty delayed. The carrier and its 5,000-person crew were to leave for the Persian Gulf on Feb. 8, along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg."

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Sequester Set to Trigger Billions in Cuts

Nobody likes the sequester.

Even the word is enough to send shivers of fiscal panic, or sheer political malaise, down the spines of seasoned politicians and news reporters. And today, the sequester will almost certainly happen, a year and a half after its inception as an intentionally unpalatable event amid the stalemate of the debt-limit crisis in 2011.

Automatic budget cuts will be triggered across federal agencies, as President Obama will be required to order sequestration into effect before midnight Friday night. The federal bureaucracy will implement its various plans to save the money it's required to save.

Now that the sequester will probably happen, here are some questions and answers about it:


The cuts were originally slated for $109 billion this year, but after the fiscal-cliff deal postponed the sequester for two months by finding alternate savings, the sequester will amount to $85 billion over the remainder of the year. Over the rest of the year, nondefense programs will be cut by nine percent, and defense programs will be cut by 13 percent.

If carried out over 10 years (as designed), the sequester will amount to $1.2 trillion in total.


Most government programs will be cut, including both defense and nondefense spending, with the cuts distributed evenly (by dollar amount) over those two categories.

Some vital domestic entitlements, however, will be spared. Social Security checks won't shrink; nor will Veterans Administration programs. Medicare benefits won't get cut, but payments to providers will shrink by two percent. The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), food stamps, Pell grants, and Medicaid will all be shielded from the sequester.

But lots of things will get cut. The Obama administration has warned that a host of calamities will befall vulnerable segments of the population.


Questions persist over whether or not it really does.

The sequester will mean such awful things because it forces agencies to cut things indiscriminately, instead of simply stripping money from their overall budgets.

But some Republicans, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, have suggested that federal agencies have plenty of flexibility to implement these cuts while avoiding the worst of the purported consequences. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused President Obama of trying to "distort" the severity of the sequester. The federal government will still spend more money than it did last year, GOP critics of sequester alarmism have pointed out.

The White House tells a different story.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the sequestration law forces agency heads to cut the same percentage from each program. If that program is for TSA agents checking people in at airports, the sequester law doesn't care, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano can't do anything about it.

Agency heads do have some authority to "reprogram" funds, rearranging their money to circumvent the bad effects. But an OMB official told ABC News that "these flexibilities are limited and do not provide significant relief due to the rigid nature of the way in which sequestration is required by law to be implemented."


Not until April -- but some of the cuts could be felt before then.

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Benedict Pledges 'Obedience' to New Pope

In his farewell remarks to colleagues in the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years, promised "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his eventual successor.

Benedict, in a morning meeting at the Vatican, urged the cardinals to act "like an orchestra" to find "harmony" moving forward.

Benedict, 85, is spending a quiet final day as pope, bidding farewell to his colleagues and moving on to a secluded life of prayer, far from the grueling demands of the papacy and the scandals that have recently plagued the church.

His first order of business was a morning meeting with the cardinals in the Clementine Hall, a room in the Apostolic Palace. Despite the historical nature of Benedict's resignation, not all cardinals attended the event.

With their first working meeting not until Monday, only around 100 cardinals were set to attend, the Vatican press office said Wednesday. Those who are there for Benedict's departure will be greeted by seniority.

Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, thanked Benedict for his service to the church during the eight years he has spent as pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI Delivers Farewell Address

In the evening, at 5:00 p.m. local time, Benedict will leave the Vatican palace for the last time to head to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside Rome. Before his departure, the German-born theologian will say some goodbyes in the Courtyard of San Damaso, inside the Vatican, first to his Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and then to the Swiss Guards who have protected him as pontiff.

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From there it is a short drive to a heliport for the 15-minute flight via helicopter to Castel Gandolfo, just south of the city. Benedict will not be alone on his journey, accompanied by members of the Pontifical Household such as two private secretaries, the head of protocol, his personal physician and his butler.

Once Benedict lands in the gardens at Castel Gandolfo, he will be greeted a group of dignitaries, such as the governor of the Vatican City state Giovanni Bertello, two bishops, the director of the pontifical villas, and the mayor and parish priest. Off the helicopter and into a car, Benedict will head to the palace that he will call home for the coming months. From a window of the palace, Benedict will make one final wave to the crowd at the papal retreat.

It is there, at 8:00 p.m., that Benedict's resignation will take effect once and for all. Once the gates to the residence close, the Swiss Guards will leave Benedict's side for the last time, their time protecting the pontiff completed.

Pope Benedict's Last Sunday Prayer Service

For some U.S. Catholics in Rome for the historic occasion, Benedict's departure is bittersweet. Christopher Kerzich, a Chicago resident studying at the Pontifical North American College of Rome, said Wednesday he is sad to see Benedict leave, but excited to see what comes next.

"Many Catholics have come to love this pontiff, this very humble man," Kerzich said. "He is a man who's really fought this and prayed this through and has peace in his heart. I take comfort in that and I think a lot of Catholics should take comfort in that."

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Pope Thanks Crowd in Final Public Appearance

On his final full day as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI thanked a huge crowd for respecting his historic decision to step down and told them that God will continue to guide the church.

"The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God's will and a deep love of Christ's Church," Benedict said to cheers in his last public words as pope.

Benedict, 85, is the first pope to resign in 600 years. He told the crowd today that he was "deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world."

Pope Benedict's Last Sunday Prayer Service

Under sunny skies on this late February day, hundreds of thousands of people, some waving flags, some banners, flocked to Vatican City to see Benedict make a final lap around St. Peter's Square. Throughout his eight-year papacy, Benedict has conducted a weekly audience from St. Peter's. Before delivering his last papal address today, Benedict waved to the festive group of supporters as he toured the square in his glass-encased popemobile.

The city of Rome planned for more than 200,000 people to head to the Vatican for today's event. Streets around St. Peter's were blocked off to cars as pedestrians from around the world headed to the square.

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The conclave to elect Benedict's replacement will start next month at a date yet to be determined. Benedict issued a decree known as a "motu poprio" that will allow cardinals to convene the conclave sooner than the March 15 date that would have been mandated under the old rules.

Benedict today asked the faithful to pray for him and for the new pope.

"My heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his church," Benedict said.

The German-born Benedict, who had appeared frail at times in recent months, seemed more energized in his remarks today. He has said he will devote more time to prayer and meditation after he leaves the papacy.

Benedict will meet Thursday with his cardinals in the morning and then flies by helicopter at 5 p.m. to Castel Gandolfo, the papal residence south of Rome. Benedict will greet parishioners there from the palazzo's balcony, his final public act as pope.

Then, at 8 p.m., the exact time at which his retirement becomes official, the Swiss Guards standing outside the doors of the palazzo at Castel Gandolfo will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church finished.

In retirement, Benedict will continue to wear white and will be called "Pope Emeritus," or the "Supreme Roman Pontiff Emeritus" or "Your Holiness," the Vatican announced Tuesday. Benedict will ditch his trademark red shoes, opting for a pair of brown shoes given to him on a trip to Mexico. But he will still reside on Vatican grounds in a former nunnery.

Benedict's final days as pope have been marked by controversy. For nearly a week now Italian newspapers speculated that Benedict really resigned because of a dossier he was given detailing a sex and blackmail scandal in the Catholic Church. The Italian media news reports do not state any attribution.

It turns out a dossier does exist. The Vatican spokesman Monday underscored that the contents of the dossier are known only to the pope and his investigators, three elderly prelates whom the Italian papers have nicknamed "the 007 cardinals."

But the dossier itself will remain "For the Pope's Eyes Only."

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Senate Expected to Vote on Hagel Nomination

After a battle lasting nearly two months, characterized by tough interrogation and a partisan divide, lawmakers are expected to confirm President Obama's nomination of Republican Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense this afternoon.

The Senate returns today after a week off from debating Hagel's merit. Republicans blocked a cloture vote to confirm Hagel on Valentine's Day, pushing the decision back until after their President's Day recess.

Democrats framed that rejection as a filibuster, while Republicans said they needed another week to discuss the candidate's record.

"This is a very controversial nominee, there is a desire to not end debate now," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that Thursday. "We feel like come back next week, after the break, unless there is some bombshell I'd be ready to move on to vote."

Ten days later, GOP Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona predicted the Senate will go through with a vote today. The nomination is likely to pass but with many no votes from the GOP.

A group of 15 Republicans sent a letter to Obama last week asking him to withdraw Hagel's nomination. Coburn, one of the senators who signed that letter, said the fight among lawmakers over Hagel's qualifications would weaken him should he become secretary.

"I like Chuck Hagel as an individual, but the fact is, in modern times, we haven't had one defense secretary that's had more than three votes against him," Coburn said on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend. "And you're going to have 40 votes against him, or 35 votes. And that sends a signal to our allies as well as our foes that he does not have broad support in the U.S. Congress, which limits his ability to carry out his job."

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McCain did not sign that letter.

"I do not believe that Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of defense, but I do believe that elections have consequences -- unfortunately," McCain told CNN's Candy Crowley Sunday on "State of the Union," explaining why he chose not to sign. "And the president of the United States was reelected."

Obama announced his support for Hagel two weeks before the kick-off of his second term.

Hagel is a former GOP senator from Nebraska and Purple-Heart-decorated Vietnam veteran. If confirmed, he would be the first former enlisted member of the Armed Forces to serve as secretary of defense, but he has been an unpopular pick from the start, with groups claiming he was anti-Israel and anti-gay rights.

The hearings over Hagel's nomination have had tense moments, with many serious accusations and at least one bordering on the bizarre.

Republicans have raised questions about Hagel's finances. A letter signed by 20 senators faulted Hagel for failing to disclose information about compensation he and organizations he worked with received during the last decade.

McCain also accused Hagel of being on "the wrong side of" history for his opposition to President Bush's 2007 surge of American troops in Iraq.

A conservative website attacked Hagel for taking money from a group called "Friends of Hamas," which was later revealed to be an imaginary entity dreamed up by New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman.

If confirmed, Hagel would take the place of departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Panetta bemoaned the drawn-out confirmation hearing process at an event at the Pentagon, saying the experience was "like it's 'Groundhog Day' around here."

"I have a hard time," Panetta told an audience gathered to honor former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "You know? I've got -- My office is packed up. Sylvia is packing at home. I'm ready to go."

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Best Moments From the Academy Awards

Host Seth MacFarlane took the stage at the 2013 Oscars with an opening monologue revealing he was ready to poke fun at the star-studded audience.

"The quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now," he said.

But it wasn't too long before MacFarlane was interrupted. William Shatner, dressed as his iconic character Captain Kirk from "Star Trek," descended on the stage to warn MacFarlane that he was about to ruin the Oscars and be branded the worst host ever.

"The show is a disaster. I've come back in time … to stop you from ruining the Academy Awards," Shatner said.

Seth MacFarlane's Boobs Tribute

Shatner tried to steer MacFarlane away from singing an "incredibly offensive song that upsets a lot of women in the audience."

Cue MacFarlane's medley "We Saw Your Boobs," a laundry list set to music of acclaimed actresses in Hollywood who all bared their breasts in film.

MacFarlane was joined by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles to call out Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Naomi Watts, Jodie Foster, Hilary Swank and countless others who we've seen nude in film.

Not every joke funnyman Seth MacFarlane made landed with the A-list crowd at the 85th annual Academy Awards.

The host elicited gasps from the crowd when he introduced "Django Unchained" as "the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who's been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or, as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie."

Another joke that somehow earned a too-soon nod? A throw to President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

"I'd argue that the actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth," MacFarlane said.

MacFarlane's jab at Mel Gibson didn't land too smoothly either. MacFarlane said the N-word laden "Django Unchained" screenplay was "loosely based on Mel Gibson's voicemails."

Oscars' Movie Musical Tribute

The theme of the 85 annual Academy Awards was celebrating music in film, and the tributes to movie musicals didn't disappoint.

Featured performers included Catherine Zeta-Jones belting "All That Jazz" from 2002's Best Picture winner "Chicago," Jennifer Hudson's show-stopping "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from 2006's "Dreamgirls," and the cast of this year's Best Picture nominee "Les Miserables" reuniting on stage for "One Day More."

Introducing the Von Trapp Family

To introduce Christopher Plummer to the stage to present the award for Best Supporting Actress, MacFarlane couldn't help but make a joke out of the actor's infamous role as Captain Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music."

MacFarlane came out to announce the Von Trapp family singers, but no one came out. Instead, a man dressed in a Nazi uniform ran in to tell him that they were gone.

Kristen Stewart Hobbles on Stage to Present

When Daniel Radcliffe took the stage to present the award for Achievement in Production Design, he was joined by his hobbling co-presenter Kristen Stewart, who was seen crutching along the red carpet during the pre-show.

The "Twilight" star's makeup artist told People magazine that the actress "cut the ball of her foot, quite severely, on glass two days ago."

The Associated Press reported that backstage, Best Supporting Actress winner Anne Hathaway told Stewart to "break a leg."

Jennifer Lawrence's Unstable Victory

Jennifer Lawrence was so shocked to take home the Oscar for Best Actress that she lost her footing on her way up to the stage to accept her award.

"You guys are just standing up because I fell and that's really embarrassing," she said to the audience.

Lawrence regained her composure to give her acceptance speech, extending a special thank you to "the women this year," who she called "so magnificent and so inspiring."

Daniel Day-Lewis a Three-Peat Best Actor Winner

It was a highly anticipated win for Daniel Day-Lewis, who took home the award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Abe Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

Lewis cracked a joke in his acceptance speech, saying he was supposed to be cast as Margaret Thatcher and presenter Meryl Streep was the first choice for Lincoln.

"Meryl Streep was Steven's first choice to play Lincoln… I'd like to see that version," Lewis said.

Michelle Obama Announces Best Picture Winner

In one of the biggest surprises of the night, the Academy brought out First Lady Michelle Obama to help Jack Nicholson introduce the nominees for Best Picture.

Rocking her new bangs and a silver gown, the first lady, live from the White House, announced "Argo" as this year's Best Picture.

"It was a thrill to announce the #Oscars2013 best picture winner from the @WhiteHouse! Congratulations Argo!" FLOTUS tweeted afterwards.

Ben Affleck Triumphs at Oscars

Ben Affleck was flabbergasted by his win for Best Picture for "Argo." His frenzied, heartfelt acceptance speech resonated as he thanked his wife, Jennifer Garner, and ended on an inspirational high note.

"I want to thank my wife, who I don't normally associate with Iran. I want to thank you for working on our marriage. It is work, but it is the best kind of work," he said.

"I was here 15 years ago or something and you know I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all, really just a kid. I went out and I never thought I'd be back here and I am because of so many of you who are here tonight …. I want to thank them for what they taught me, which is that you have to work harder than you think you possibly can, you can't hold grudges. It's hard, but you can't hold grudges. And it doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life because that's going to happen. All that matters is that you got to get up."

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Crash at Daytona Exposes Risks to Fans

The risks of racing extend beyond the drivers.

Fans can wind up in the danger zone, too.

A horrifying crash on the last lap of a race at Daytona International Speedway injured at least 30 fans Saturday and provided another stark reminder of what can happen when a car going nearly 200 mph is suddenly launched toward the spectator areas.

The victims were sprayed with large chunks of debris — including a tire — after rookie Kyle Larson's machine careened into the fencing that is designed to protect the massive grandstands lining NASCAR's most famous track.

"I love the sport," said Shannan Devine, who witnessed the carnage from her 19th-row seat, about 250 feet away. "But no one wants to get hurt over it."

The fencing served its primary purpose, catapulting what was left of Larson's car back onto the track. But it didn't keep potentially lethal shards from flying into the stands.

"There was absolute shock," Devine said. "People were saying, 'I can't believe it, I can't believe it. I've never seen this happen, I've never seen this happen. Did the car through the fence?' It was just shock and awe. Grown men were reaching out and grabbing someone, saying, 'Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!' It was just disbelief, absolute disbelief."

From Daytona to Le Mans to a rural road in Ireland, auto racing spectators have long been too close to the action when parts start flying. The crash in the second-tier Nationwide race follows a long list of accidents that have left fans dead or injured.

The most tragic incident occurred during the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans, when two cars collided near the main stands. The wreck sent debris hurtling into the crowd, while one of the cars flipped upside down and exploded in a giant fireball.

Eighty-three spectators and driver Pierre Levegh were killed, and 120 fans were injured.

The Daytona crash began as the field approached the checkered flag and leader Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski. That triggered a chain reaction, and rookie Kyle Larson hit the cars in front of him and went airborne into the fence.

The entire front end was sheared off Larson's car, and his burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence. Chunks of debris from the car were thrown into the stands, including a tire that cleared the top of the fence and landed midway up the spectator section closest to the track.

"I thought the car went through the fence," Devine said. "I didn't know if there was a car on top of people. I didn't know what to think. I'm an emotional person. I immediately started to cry. It was very scary, absolutely scary. I love the speed of the sport. But it's so dangerous."

The fencing used to protect seating areas and prevent cars from hurtling out of tracks has long been part of the debate over how to improve safety.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti lost close friend Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas in the 2011 IndyCar season finale, when Wheldon's car catapulted into the fencing and his head struck a support post. Since his death, IndyCar drivers have called for studies on how to improve the safety barriers.

Franchitti renewed the pleas on Twitter after the Daytona crash, writing "it's time (at)Indycar (at)nascar other sanctioning bodies & promoters work on an alternative to catch fencing. There has to be a better solution."

Another fan who witnessed the crash said he's long worried that sizable gaps in the fencing increase the chances of debris getting through to the stands.

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Cyberattacks Bring Attention to Security Reform

Recent accusations of a large-scale cyber crime effort by the Chinese government left many wondering what immediate steps the president and Congress are taking to prevent these attacks from happening again.

On Wednesday, the White House released the administration's Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets as a follow-up to the president's executive order. The strategy did not outwardly mention China, but it implied U.S. government awareness of the problem.

"We are taking a whole of government approach to stop the theft of trade secrets by foreign competitors or foreign governments by any means -- cyber or otherwise," U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel said in a White House statement.

As of now, the administration's strategy is the first direct step in addressing cybersecurity, but in order for change to happen Congress needs to be involved. So far, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is the most notable Congressional legislation addressing the problem, despite its past controversy.

Last April, CISPA was introduced by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. The act would allow private companies with consumer information to voluntarily share those details with the NSA and the DOD in order to combat cyber attacks.

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

The companies would be protected from any liabilities if the information was somehow mishandled. This portion of the act sounded alarm bells for CISPA's opponents, like the ACLU, which worried that this provision would incentivize companies to share individuals' information with disregard.

CISPA passed in the House of Representatives, despite a veto threat from the White House stemming from similar privacy concerns. The bill then died in the Senate.

This year, CISPA was reintroduced the day after the State of the Union address during which the president declared an executive order targeting similar security concerns from a government standpoint.

In contrast to CISPA, the executive order would be initiated on the end of the government, and federal agencies would share relevant information regarding threats with private industries, rather than asking businesses to supply data details. All information shared by the government would be unclassified.

At the core of both the executive order and CISPA, U.S. businesses and the government would be encouraged to work together to combat cyber threats. However, each option would clearly take a different route to collaboration. The difference seems minimal, but has been the subject of legislative debates between the president and Congress for almost a year, until now.

"My response to the president's executive order is very positive," Ruppersberger told ABC News. "[The president] brought up how important information sharing is [and] by addressing critical infrastructure, he took care of another hurdle that we do not have to deal with."

Addressing privacy roadblocks, CISPA backers said the sharing of private customer information with the government, as long as personal details are stripped, is not unprecedented.

"Think of what we do with HIPAA in the medical professions; [doctors do not need to know] the individual person, just the symptoms to diagnose a disease," Michigan Gov. John Engler testified at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in an attempt to put the problem into context.

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Oscar Pistorius Sobs as Bail Ruling Is Expected

The fourth and likely final day of the bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius, the Olympian accused of murdering his girlfriend Feb. 14, opened with arguments from the prosecution that the runner's version of events is improbable and the defense countering that Pistorius had no intent to kill the woman.

Pistorius, who gained global acclaim for racing at the 2012 London Olympics, shot his model-girlfriend through a closed bathroom. He says he killed Reeva Steenkamp accidentally, but prosecutors allege that he took a moment to put on his prosthetic legs, indicating that he thought out and planned to kill Steenkamp when he shot her three times through the bathroom door.

Pistorius sobbed today in court. Barry Roux, his defense attorney, said the prosecution has misinterpreted the assigning of intent, meaning that the runner's intent to shoot at a supposed intruder in his home cannot be transferred to someone else who was shot -- in this case, Steenkamp.

"He did not want to kill Reeva," Roux told the court.

PHOTOS: Paralympics Champion Charged in Killing

When Magistrate Desmond Nair, who has been overhearing the bail hearing, asked Roux what the charges should be if Pistorius intended to kill an intruder, the defense attorney responded that he should be charged with culpable homicide.

Culpable homicide is defined in South Africa as "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being."

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Roux also made light of the prosecution's argument that Pistorius is a flight risk, saying that every time the double-amputee goes through airport security, it causes a commotion. He said that Pistorius' legs need constant maintenance and he needs medical attention for his stumps.

The prosecution argued today that the onus is on Pistorius to provide his version of events, and his version is improbable.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel also spoke of Pistorius' fame and his disability, even relating him to Wikipedia founder Julian Assange, who is now confined to Ecuador's London Embassy, where he has been granted political asylum.
"[Assange's] facial features are as well known as Mr. Pistorius' prostheses," Nel said.

Nel argued that Pistorius' prostheses do not set him apart, stating that it's no different to any other feature, and the court cannot be seen to treat people with disabilities accused of a crime, or famous people accused of crime, any differently.

Pistorius has said that in the early hours of Feb. 14 he was closing his balcony doors when he heard a noise from the bathroom. Fearing an intruder, and without his prosthetic legs on, he grabbed a gun from under his bed and fired through the closed bathroom door, he told the court.

But prosecutors say that's implausible, that the gun's holster was found under the side of the bed where Steenkamp slept, and that Pistorius would have seen she wasn't there. Prosecutors also say the angle at which the shots were fired shows Pistorius was already wearing his prosthetics when he fired.

Meanwhile, Lt. General Vinesh Moonoo was named Thursday the new chief investigator to the murder case after the surprise revelation that the former head detective and the prosecution's key witness, Hilton Botha, was charged with seven counts of attempted murder in connection to a 2011 shooting. The charges against Botha amount to an significant oversight by the state, which could sway the court's opinion.

Prosecutors maintain that Pistorius was out to kill on the night of Valentine's Day, prompting him to fire four shots into the locked bathroom door that Steenkamp was behind.

Friends of the couple say they were happy, and there is no reason why Pistorius would intentionally hurt Steenkamp.

"If Oscar was to ask her to get married, she would have said yes," friend Kevin Lerena said. "That's how happy and joyful their relationship was."

Ampie Louw, Pistorius' trainer, spoke with reporters outside the courthouse today, saying that he hopes Pistorius gets bail and can start training again, but that he won't push it.

"I'm not the legal side of it. But I'm ready," he said. "We can start training Monday if he's out."

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Lead Pistorius Cop Facing Attempted Murder Charge

Hilton Botha, the detective at the center of the Oscar Pistorius murder case, is facing his own attempted murder charges in connection with a 2011 shooting in which he and other police officers allegedly fired a gun at passengers in a vehicle.

Botha is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder in connection to the October 2011 incident in which he and two other officers allegedly fired shots at a minibus they were attempting to stop. It's unclear whether any of the passengers were injured.

Botha has been outlining details this week at the Olympic runner's bail hearing of his investigation into the Feb. 14 shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp at Pistorius' home in Pretoria, South Africa. Botha was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene, where Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, was found fatally shot three times.

PHOTOS: Paralympic Champion Charged in Killing

Pistorius, a double-amputee who walks on carbon fiber blades, says he killed his girlfriend accidentally.

Prosecutors say they were unaware of the charges against the detective when he took the stand this week, according to The Associated Press.

Oscar Pistorius Bail Hearing: New Evidence Revealed Watch Video

Oscar Pistorius: Defense Presents New Evidence Watch Video

"The prosecutors were not aware of those charges [against Botha]," Medupe Simasiku of the National Prosecution Agency said. "We are calling up the information so we can get the details of the case. From there, we can take action and see if we remove him from the investigation or if he stays."

FULL COVERAGE: Oscar Pistorius Case

Botha muddled testimony and eventually admitted Wednesday at Pistorius' bail hearing that the suspect's account of the Valentine's Day shooting did not contradict the police's version of events.

A spokesman for the NPA admitted today that charges pending against Botha were not helpful for the credibility of the prosecution's case, but that the case would hinge on forensic evidence, not the testimony of a police officer.

Pistorius has argued in court that he was closing his balcony doors when he heard a noise from the bathroom. Fearing an intruder, and without his prosthetic legs on, he grabbed a gun from under his bed and fired through the closed bathroom door, he told the court.

But prosecutors say that's implausible, that the gun's holster was found under the side of the bed where Steenkamp slept, and that Pistorius would have seen she wasn't there. Prosecutors also say the angle at which the shots were fired shows Pistorius was already wearing his prosthetics when he fired.

Defense attorneys representing Pistorius tore into investigators Wednesday, accusing them of sloppy police work and saying the substance that police identified as testosterone, which they found in his bathroom, was an herbal supplement.

In a statement overnight, Pistorius' family said the new testimony brought "more clarity" to the hearing.

Meanwhile, Steenkamp's cousin told CNN that she wants to believe Pistorius' story.

"That is what in my heart, I hope and wish is the truth, because I would not like to think my cousin suffered," Kim Martin, Steenkamp's cousin, told CNN's Piers Morgan. "I would not like to think that she was scared."

Steenkamp's brother Adam Steenkamp said the family is trying to focus on better days.

"We're remembering the positive," he said. "We're remembering the good."

Pistorius today was dropped by two of his sponsors, Nike and Thierry Mugler.

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Pistorius Shots Said to Come From High Angle

At the second day of a bail hearing for Olympian Oscar Pistorius, a South African investigator who arrived at the scene of the Feb. 14 fatal shooting said that Reeva Steenkamp was shot from a high angle, which prosecutors say contradicts the runner's account that he was not wearing his prosthetics when he shot his girlfriend to death.

Pistorius, a double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades, appeared in court for the second day in a row after his arrest in the death of girlfriend Steenkamp at his gated home in Pretoria, South Africa.

Read Oscar Pistorius' Full Statement to the Court

PHOTOS: Paralympic Champion Charged in Killing

Arresting officer Hilton Botha told the court today that the 26-year-old was standing in the master bathroom when he shot the supermodel, who was crouched in a defensive position behind a locked door in a smaller powder room. He also said that the bullets that were fired had been fired from high up, and the bullets seemed to be coming in a downward direction.

"[The angle] seems to me down. Fired down," Botha told the court.

Pistorius said Tuesday that he went to the bathroom and fired through the door before putting on his prosthetic legs.

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Oscar Pistorius: Was Shooting Premeditated? Watch Video

He said he mistakenly shot his girlfriend, thinking she was an intruder.

Prosecutors also said that they found two boxes of testosterone in the bedroom, although the defense disputes that, saying it's just herbal supplements.

The court also heard that a witness, a neighbor who lives about 2,000 feet away from Pistorius' home, heard nonstop fighting the morning of the shooting.
"We have a witness who says she heard non-stop shouting and fighting between 2 and 3 a.m.," said prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who added that another witness saw lights on at the time of the gunshots.

Pistorius says he spent a quiet night with Steenkamp before the shooting.

Nel said that Pistorius' actions and phone calls on the night indicate pre-planning, and that there was a "deliberate aiming of shots at the toilet from about 1.5 meters [about 5 feet]."

He says Steenkamp was shot on the right side of her body.

Officer Botha also said Pistorius should be considered a flight risk because investigators discovered that he has offshore bank accounts and a house in Italy.

"I think it would be hard to get him back," Botha told the court. "This is a very serious crime, shooting an unarmed woman behind closed door."

Prosecutors also say they may file more charges for unlicensed ammunition, after a special-caliber .38 round was found in a safe in Pistorius' home.

Botha told the court today that he arrived at Pistorius' home at 4:15 a.m. Valentine's Day to find Steenkamp already dead, dressed in a white shorts and a black vest, and covered in towels. The only thing that Pistorius said was, 'I thought it was a burglar,'" according to Botha.

The 26-year-old sprinter Tuesday denied that he willfully killed Steenkamp, telling the court that he shot the woman through his bathroom door because he believed she was an intruder.

Botha said today that he attended Steenkamp's postmortem, and that she had three entrance wounds: one on the head, one in the elbow and one in the hip.

Describing the scene to the court, Botha said that the shots fired into the bathroom were aimed at the toilet bowl.

The shooter "would have to walk into the bathroom and turn directly at the door to shoot at the toilet the way the bullets went," he said.

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Oscar Pistorius Charged With Premeditated Murder

A South Africa magistrate has charged Olympian Oscar Pistorius with a Schedule 6 offense, meaning that the alleged murder of his girlfriend was preplanned or premeditated.

Pistorius, a double-amputee who gained worldwide fame for running on carbon-fiber blades, allegedly shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, four times at his gated home in Pretoria, South Africa, Feb. 14. South African prosecutors laid out part of their case against the 26-year-old athlete at today's bail hearing.

"[Pistorius] shot and killed an innocent woman," Gerrie Nel, the senior state prosecutor, said in court, adding that there is "no possible explanation to support" the notion that Pistorius thought Steenkamp was an intruder.

PHOTOS: Paralympic Champion Charged in Killing

Police responding to neighbors' calls about shouting and gunshots at Pistorius' home in the guarded and gated complex in the South African capital discovered Steenkamp's body. A 9-mm pistol was recovered at the home.

At the hearing, for which Pistorius arrived early at the courthouse this morning in a gray suit and tie,
the state made it clear it would be asking for the alleged crime to be categorized as preplanned or premeditated.

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Prosecutors said Steenkamp had arrived at the house with the expectation of spending the night with Pistorius. They said that Steenkamp was shot while in the bathroom, which is about 21 feet from the main bedroom, and that the two rooms are linked by a passage. The door to the toilet was broken down from the outside, prosecutors said, inferring that the bathroom door had been locked.

Prosecutors believe it's a case of premeditated murder because, they say, Pistorius had to stop, put on his prosthetic legs, grab a gun and then walk 21 feet to a bathroom.

The premeditated murder charge means that he would be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, and that he is likely to be denied bail, which is expected to be decided later today.

South Africa has moved away from the jury system, in light of its brutally racist past, so Pistorius' fate will rest in the hands of a judge and two magistrates.

The prosecution said that the defense will no doubt argue for the charge to be downgraded to a Schedule 5 murder, but that was clearly wrong, according to the prosecution.

In a Schedule 5 offense, the onus is on the prosecution to prove that it would be in the interest of justice to keep the accused behind bars and not release him on bail. A Schedule 6 offense is a more serious category, wherein the defense has to prove that it would be in the interest of justice to release the accused person on bail.

The defense made it clear today that it is going to argue that Pistorius thought a burglar was inside that bathroom. The defense said prosecutors have no way to prove that he knew who was in there, and that they are prepared to submit evidence of other men who have shot wives and children, mistaking them for burglars.

News reports in local papers have said that police are investigating whether Pistorius had an anger-management problem that led to the incident. They focused on a bloody cricket bat that might have been used when Steenkamp died.

Meanwhile, the Steenkamp family planned a private memorial service at Victoria Park crematorium in the south coast city of Port Elizabeth today. As Pistorius stood before the court, Steenkamp's body was being transported to Port Elizabeth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Country Singer Mindy McCready Dead at 37

Mindy McCready, the country singer who soared to the top of the charts with her debut album, "Ten Thousand Angels," but struggled with substance abuse, served time in jail and fought a lengthy battle with her mother over custody of her son has died of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said. She was 37.

Deputies from the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a report of gun shots fired at McCready's Heber Springs, Ark., home at around 3:30 p.m. today.

There they found McCready on the front porch. She was pronounced dead at the scene from what appeared to be a single self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a statement from the sheriff's office.

PHOTOS: In Memoriam 2013

McCready's boyfriend, David Wilson, died in January of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McCready was ordered to enter rehab shortly after Wilson's death, and her two children, Zander, 6, and 9-month-old Zayne were taken from her. She was released after one day to undergo outpatient care.

McCready scored a number-one Billboard country hit in 1996 with "Guys Do It All the Time," but in recent years, the country crooner has received more media attention for her troubled personal life than her music.

She has been arrested multiple times on drug charges and probation violations and has been hospitalized for overdoses several times, including in 2010, when she was found unconscious at her mother's home after taking a painkiller and muscle relaxant.

Angela Weiss/Getty Images

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Her mother, Gayle Inge, was appointed to be her son Zander's legal guardian in 2007 after McCready was arrested for violating probation on a drug-related charge. The boy's father is McCready's ex-boyfriend Billy McKnight.

Following a custody hearing in May 2011, McCready released a statement, saying, "We have progressed in a positive manner to reunite me and my son, Zander. I feel very optimistic this will happen in the near future."

But just six months later, in November 2011, was accused of violating a court order for failing to bring Zander back to her mother in Florida after a visit. The boy was placed in foster care while McCready and her mother worked out the custody dispute.

McCready's struggle with substance abuse was broadcast in 2010 on the third season of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew."

McCready also claimed to have carried on a decade-long affair with baseball star Roger Clemens that began was she was 15 years old and he was 28. Clemens denied that the relationship was sexual in nature.

"You know what, I don't think I'm ever going to be one of those people that has a normal, quiet existence," McCready told ABC Radio in 2010. "I've been chosen for some reason to be bigger and larger than life in every way. Negative and positive."

McCready, who was born and raised in southern Florida, moved to Nashville when she was 18 to start her music career.

Within a few months, she was starting to work with producer David Malloy, who got her tapes to RLG Records. The company signed her to a contract after seeing her in concert, giving her a record deal less than a year after her arrival in Nashville.

Her debut album, "Ten Thousand Angels," went gold within six months of its release in April 1996, and eventually went multi-platinum. Two more followed: "If I Don't Stay the Night," in 1997; and "I'm Not So Tough" in 1999.

Her most recent album, "I'm Still Here," featuring new versions of her early hits "Ten Thousand Angels" and "Guys Do It All the Time," was released in March 2010.

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Meteor Blast Creates Rush to Cash In

The shattered glass and broken walls caused by the massive explosion of a monstrous meteor over this remote, industrial Russian city is not even cleaned up, and people are already trying to cash in.

Some residents want to turn this city known mostly for its tank factory into a tourist destination, while others from all around the world are determined to find fragments of the meteorite.

Meteor hunters say it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. A small piece of the space rock that exploded over Russia Friday could be worth thousands of dollars, and bigger chunks could fetch hundreds of thousands.

SEE PHOTOS: Meteorite Crashes in Russia

"I haven't been able to sleep for the last two days because of this," said Michael Farmer, who runs the website Meteor Hunter. "This is a once in a lifetime event. We've never seen anything like this in the last hundred years."

He said he started planning a trip to Chelyabinsk as soon as the meteorite exploded.

"The next morning I was on the phone working on visas. I'd like to get a visa and get over to Russia as quickly as possible," he said. "When this type of thing happens, you know hours count so we try to arrange that as fast as possible."

A day after a massive meteor exploded over this city in central Russia, a monumental cleanup effort is under way.

Authorities have deployed around 24,000 troops and emergencies responders to help in the effort.

Officials say more than a million square feet of windows -- the size of about 20 football fields -- were shattered by the shockwave from the meteor's blast. Around 4,000 buildings in the area were damaged.

Nasha gazeta, Photo

The injury toll climbed steadily on Friday. Authorities said today it now stands at more than 1,200. Most of those injuries were from broken glass, and only a few hundred required hospitalization.

According to NASA, this was the biggest meteor to hit Earth in more than a century. Preliminary figures suggest it was 50 feet wide and weighed more than the Eiffel Tower.

RELATED: Meteor Events: Rare, but Dangerous

NASA scientists have also estimated the force of the blast that occurred when the meteor fractured upon entering Earth's atmosphere was approximately 470 kilotons -- the equivalent of about 30 Hiroshima bombs, but it did not cause major damage because it occurred so high in the atmosphere.

"This was caused by a small asteroid, about 15 meters in diameter, coming in at around 18 kilometers per second, that's in excess of 40-thousand miles per hour," NASA planetary scientist Paul Abell said. "As the asteroid comes in, it interacts with the atmosphere and effectively it converts all the energy, the kinetic energy of the asteroid, the mass of the asteroid and the velocity and it's actually that velocity, the asteroid just effectively explodes and that creates the pressure wave, the blast wave that comes down."

Treasure hunters hoping to cash in on the bits of space rock aren't the only ones eager to find pieces of the meteor, Abell said. Scientists say the material could offer valuable information.

"One of the things we'd like to learn is first of all, what was the composition of the asteroid, where did it come from," he said. "We know it came from the asteroid belt but can we link it to a bigger asteroid and also, get an idea of the dispersal pattern."

WATCH: Meteor Mystery in San Francisco Bay Area Skies

Residents said they still can't believe it happened here.

"It was something we only saw in the movies," one university student said. "We never thought we would see it ourselves."

Throughout the city, the streets are littered with broken glass. Local officials have announced an ambitious pledge to replace all the broken windows within a week. In the early morning hours, however, workers could still be heard drilling new windows into place.

Authorities have sent divers into a frozen lake outside the city, where a large chunk of the meteor is believed to have landed, creating a large hole in the ice. By the end of the day they had not found anything.

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Budget Cut Warnings Harsher Than Reality?

Get ready for two weeks of intensifying warnings about how crucial, popular government services are about to wither — including many threats that could eventually come true.

President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans made no progress last week in heading off $85 billion in budget-wide cuts that automatically start taking effect March 1. Lacking a bipartisan deal to avoid them and hoping to heap blame and pressure on GOP lawmakers, the administration is offering vivid details about the cuts' consequences: trimmed defense contracts, less secure U.S. embassies, furloughed air traffic controllers.

Past administrations have seldom hesitated to spotlight how budget standoffs would wilt programs the public values.

When a budget fight between President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans led to two government shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, some threats came true, like padlocked national parks.

Others did not.

Clinton warned that Medicare recipients might lose medical treatment, feeding programs for the low-income elderly could end and treatment at veterans hospitals could be curtailed. All continued, thanks to contractors working for IOUs, local governments and charities stepping in and the budget impasse ending before serious damage occurred.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Imag

This time, at stake is not a federal shutdown but a so-called sequester. Between March 1 and Sept. 30 — the remainder of the government's budget year — it would mean reductions of 13 percent for defense programs and 9 percent for other programs, according to the White House budget office.

The cuts, plus nearly $1 trillion more over the coming decade, were concocted two years ago. Administration and congressional bargainers purposely made them so painful that everyone would be forced to reach a grand deficit-cutting compromise to avoid them.

Hasn't happened.

A look at the sequester and the chilling impact the administration says it would have, based on letters and testimony to Congress:

—A key reminder: Social Security, Medicare and veterans' benefits, Medicaid and a host of other benefit programs are exempted. The cuts take effect over a seven-month period; they don't all crash ashore on March 1. And if a bipartisan deal to ease them is ever reached, lawmakers could restore some or all of the money retroactively.

—On the other hand: Left in effect, these cuts are real even though their program-by-program impact is unclear. The law limits the administration's flexibility to protect favored initiatives, but the White House has told agencies to avoid cuts presenting "risks to life, safety or health" and to minimize harm to crucial services.

—Defense: Troops at war would be protected, but there'd be fewer Air Force flying hours, less training for some Army units and cuts in naval forces. A $3 billion cut in the military's Tricare health care system could diminish elective care for military families and retirees. And, in a warning to the private defense industry, the Pentagon said it would be "restructuring contracts to reduce their scope and cost."

—Health: The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.6 billion, trimming cancer research and drying up funds for hundreds of other research projects. Health departments would give 424,000 fewer tests for the AIDS virus. More than 373,000 people may not receive mental health services.

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Nightmare Ends: Passengers Leave Disabled Ship

After five days without power in the Gulf of Mexico, the more than 4,200 people aboard the Carnival Triumph returned home to the U.S., with many of them telling their horror stories for the first time.

Passengers began to disembark the damaged ship around 10:15 p.m. CT Thursday in Mobile, Ala. The last passenger disembarked the ship at 1 a.m. local time, according to Carnival's Twitter handle.

Passenger Brandi Dorsett was thankful to be home, especially for her mother, who was with her on the ship. Dorsett said she wasn't pleased with the doctor on staff.

"My mother is a diabetic, and they would not even come to the room because she cannot walk the stairs to help her with insulin. She hasn't had insulin in three days," Dorsett said.

Click Here for Photos of the Stranded Ship at Sea

The Carnival Triumph departed Galveston, Texas, last Thursday and lost power Sunday after a fire in the engine room disabled the vessel's propulsion system and knocked out most of its power.

After power went out, passengers texted ABC News that sewage was seeping down the walls from burst plumbing pipes, carpets were wet with urine, and food was in short supply. Reports surfaced of elderly passengers running out of critical heart medicine and others on board squabbling over scarce food.

"It's degrading. Demoralizing, and then they want to insult us by giving us $500," Veronica Arriaga said after disembarking the ship.

Passengers were already being given a full refund for the cruise, transportation expenses and vouchers for another cruise. Carnival Cruise Lines is now boosting that offer to include another $500 per person.

As the ship docked, passengers lined the decks of the Triumph, waving and whistling to those on shore. "Happy V-Day" read a homemade sign made for the Valentine's Day arrival, while another sent a starker message: "The ship's afloat, so is the sewage."

AP Photo/John David Mercer

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WATCH: Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill Apologizes to Passengers

Some still aboard chanted, "Let me off, let me off!" and "Sweet Home Alabama."

Kendall Jenkins was one of many passengers who were photographed kissing the ground when they exited the ship. Jenkins, like many passengers, created makeshift beds out of lounge chairs on the ship's deck after the raw sewage smell became too much to contend with.

"We kind of camped out by our lifeboat. We would have nightmares about Titanic basically happening," passenger Kendall Jenkins told ABC News Radio.

"I am just so blessed to be back home," she added.

Cruise Ship Newlyweds Won't Be Spending Honeymoon on a Boat

Approximately 100 buses were waiting to take passengers on the next stage of their journey. Passengers had the option to take a bus ride to New Orleans or Galveston, Texas, where the ill-fated ship's voyage began. From there, passengers will take flights home, which Carnival said it would pay for.

Inside the buses, Carnival handed out bags of food that included French fries, chicken nuggets, honey mustard barbecue sauce and apples.

Deborah Knight, 56, decided to stay in Mobile after the arduous journey was over rather than board a bus for a long ride. Her husband Seth drove in from Houston, and they checked in at a downtown Mobile hotel.

"I want a hot shower and a daggum Whataburger," said Knight.

She said she was afraid to eat the food on board and had gotten sick while on the ship.

For 24-year-old Brittany Ferguson of Texas, not knowing how long passengers had to endure their time aboard was the worst part.

"I'm feeling awesome just to see land and buildings," Ferguson said, who was in a white robe given to her on the cruise ship. "The scariest part was just not knowing when we'd get back," she told The Associated Press.

Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill praised the ship's crew and told reporters that he was headed on board to apologize directly to its passengers shortly before the Carnival Triumph arrived in Mobile.

"I know the conditions on board were very poor," Cahill said Thursday night. "I know it was very difficult, and I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests for that. ... Clearly, we failed in this particular case."

Luckily no one was hurt in the fire that triggered the power outage, but many passengers aboard the 900-foot colossus said they smelled smoke and were living in fear.

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'Blade Runner' Charged With Murder of Girlfriend

Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic and Paralympic athlete known as the "blade runner," was taken into custody in South Africa today and charged with the murder of his girlfriend, who was fatally shot at his home.

Police in the South African capital of Pretoria received a call around 3 a.m. today that there had been a shooting at the home of 26-year-old Pistorius, Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told the Associated Press. When police arrived at the scene they found paramedics trying to revive 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, the AP reported.

At a news conference early today, police said a 26-year-old man, whom they have not named, was arrested and has requested to be taken to court immediately. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court.

RELATED: 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius Faster Than a Horse

AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File

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Mogale said the woman died at the house, and a 9-mm pistol was recovered at the scene and a murder case opened against Pistorius, the AP reported.

Police said this morning that there were no other suspects in the shooting, and that Pistorius is at the police station.

The precise circumstances surrounding the incident are unclear. Local reports say he might have mistaken her for a burglar, according to the AP.

VIDEO: Double Amputee Races to Win Olympic Gold

Police said they have heard reports of an argument or shouting at the apartment complex, and that the only two people on the premises were Steenkamp and Pistorius.

Police confirmed there have previously been incidents of a domestic nature at the home of Pistorius.

Pistorius, a sprint runner, had double below the knee amputations, and a part of his legs has been replaced with carbon fiber blades. In 2012, he became the first double-leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, competing in the men's 400-meter race.

He also competed in the Paralympics, where he won gold medals in the men's 400-meter race, in what became a Paralympics record. He also took the silver in the 200-meter race.

Steenkamp, according to her Twitter bio, is a law graduate and model. She tweeted Wednesday, "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay."

Steenkamp recently appeared on the cover of FHM magazine, in commercials and was due to appear on a reality-TV show, "Tropika Island of Treasure."

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Charred Human Remains Found in Burned Cabin

Investigators have located charred human remains in the burned-out cabin where they believe suspected cop killer and ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was holed up as the structure burned to the ground, police said.

The human remains were found within the debris of the burned cabin and identification will be attempted through forensic means, the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department said in a news release early this morning.

Dorner barricaded himself in the cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Tuesday afternoon after engaging in a gunfight with police, killing one officer and injuring another, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said.

Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the department, which is the lead agency in the action, said Tuesday night investigators would remain at the site all night.

FULL COVERAGE: Christopher Dorner Manhunt

When Bachman was asked whether police thought Dorner was in the burning cabin, she said, "Right. We believe that the person that barricaded himself inside the cabin engaged in gunfire with our deputies and other law enforcement officers is still inside there, even though the building burned."

Bachman spoke shortly after the Los Angeles Police Department denied earlier reports that a body was found in the cabin, contradicting what law enforcement sources told ABC News and other news organizations.

Police around the cabin told ABC News they saw Dorner enter but never leave the building as it was consumed by flames, creating a billowing column of black smoke seen for miles.

A news onference is scheduled for later today in San Bernardino.

Christopher Dorner Manhunt: Police Exchange Fire With Possible Suspect Watch Video

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One sheriff's deputy was killed in a shootout with Dorner earlier Tuesday afternoon, believed to be his fourth victim after killing a Riverside police officer and two other people this month, including the daughter of a former police captain, and promising to kill many more in an online manifesto.

PHOTOS: Former LAPD Officer Suspected in Shootings

Cops said they heard a single gunshot go off from inside the cabin just as they began to see smoke and fire. Later they heard the sound of more gunshots, which was the sound of ammunition being ignited by the heat of the blaze, law enforcement officials said.

Police did not enter the building, but shot tear gas inside.

One of the largest dragnets in recent history, which led police to follow clues across the West and into Mexico, apparently ended just miles from where Dorner's trail went cold last week.

It all began at 12:20 p.m. PT Tuesday, when a maid working at a local resort called 911, saying she and another worker had been tied up and held hostage by Dorner in a cabin, sources said.

The maid told police she was able to escape, but Dorner had stolen one of their cars, which was identified as a purple Nissan.

The San Bernardino Sheriff's Office and state Fish and Game officers spotted the stolen vehicle and engaged in a shootout with Dorner.

Officials say Dorner crashed the stolen vehicle and fled on foot only to commandeer Rick Heltebrake's white pickup truck on a nearby road a short time later.

"[Dorner] said, 'I don't want to hurt you, just get out and start walking up the road and take your dog with you.' He was calm. I was calm. I would say I was in fear for my life, there was no panic, he told me what to do and I did it," Heltebrake said.

"He was dressed in all camouflage, had a big assault sniper-type rifle. He had a vest on like a ballistic vest," Heltebrake added.

Ten seconds later, Heltebrake said, a "volume of gunfire" could be heard.

The gunfire was from Dorner, who exchanged fire with two deputies, sources said.

The two deputies were wounded in the firefight and airlifted to a nearby hospital, where one died, police said. The second deputy was in surgery and was expected to survive, police said.

Police sealed all the roads into the area, preventing cars from entering the area and searching all of those on the way out. All schools were briefly placed on lockdown.

Believing that Dorner might have been watching reports of the standoff, authorities asked media not to broadcast images of police offficers' surrounding the cabin, but sent him a message.

"If he's watching this, the message is: Enough is enough," Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Andy Smith told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. "It's time to turn yourself in. It's time to stop the bloodshed. It's time to let this event and let this incident be over."

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Obama Calls N. Korea Nuke Test 'Highly Provocative'

President Obama called North Korea's latest nuclear test "a highly provocative act" that undermines regional stability and threatens international peace.

North Korea announced earlier today that it successfully tested a miniaturized nuclear device underground, according to state media.

Official state media said the test was conducted in a safe manner and is aimed at coping with "outrageous" U.S. hostility that "violently" undermines the North's peaceful, sovereign rights to launch satellites. Unlike previous tests, North Korea used a powerful explosive nuclear bomb that is smaller and lighter, state media reported.

Still, Obama said in a statement this morning, "The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies.

"The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region," he added.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on North Korea's nuclear test later this morning.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement expressing "firm opposition" to the test.

North Korea Says it Has Conducted a Nuclear Test Watch Video

"We strongly urge the DPRK (North Korea) to abide by its denuclearization commitments, and to refrain from further actions that could lead to a deterioration of the situation," the statement read. "Safeguarding Korean Peninsula and East Asian peace and stability serves the shared interests of all parties."

China, North Korea's main ally in the region, has warned North Korea it would cut back severely needed food assistance if it carried out a test. Each year China donates approximately half of the food North Korea lacks to feed its people and half of all oil the country consumes.

Suspicions were aroused when the U.S. Geological Survey said it had detected a magnitude 4.9 earthquake Tuesday in North Korea.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization told ABC News, "We confirm that a suspicious seismic event has taken place in North Korea."

"The event shows clear explosion-like characteristics and its location is roughly congruent with the 2006 and 2009 DPRK nuclear tests," said Tibor Toth, executive secretary of the organization.

"If confirmed as a nuclear test, this act would constitute a clear threat to international peace and security, and challenges efforts made to strengthen global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," Toth said in a statement on the organization's web site.

Kim Min-seok, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman, told reporters that North Korea informed United States and China that it intended to carry out another nuclear test, according to the AP. But U.S. officials did not respond to calls from ABC News Monday night.

The seismic force measured 6 to 7 kilotons, according to South Korea.

"Now that's an absolutely huge explosion by conventional terms. It's a smallish, but not tiny explosion by nuclear terms. It's about two-thirds the size of the bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima," James Acton, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told ABC News.

North Korea threatened in January to carry out a "higher-level" test following the successful Dec. 12 launch of a long range rocket. At the time, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un said his country's weapons tests were specifically targeting the United States.

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Vatican Says Pope Benedict Will Resign Feb. 28

Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he will resign Feb. 28, saying his role requires "both strength of mind and body."

The pope's decision makes him the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years. A conclave to elect a new pope will take place before the end of March. The 85-year-old pope announced the decision to resign in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals.

VIDEO: Pope Benedict to Resign, Vatican Says

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he said. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering."

Pope Benedict XVI was the oldest pope to be elected at age 78 on April 19, 2005. He was the first German pope since the 11th century and his reign will rank as one of the shortest in history at seven years, 10 months and three days.

Pope Benedict Brings Message of Peace to Middle East Watch Video

RELATED: Pope Benedict XVI Resigns: The Statement

The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415.

Vatican officials said they've noticed that he had been getting weaker, while Benedict said he is aware of the significance of his decision and made it freely.

Benedict has been a less charismatic leader than his predecessor, John Paul II, but tending to the world's roughly 1 billion Catholics still requires stamina Benedict seems to believe he now lacks.

PHOTOS: Pope Benedict XVI Through the Years

"Obviously, it's a great surprise for the whole church, for everyone in the Vatican and I think for the whole Catholic world," the Rev. John Wauck, a U.S. priest of the Opus Dei, told "Good Morning America" today. "But, at the same time, it's not completely surprising given what the pope had already written about the possibility of resigning.

"It's clear in terms of his mental capacity he's in excellent shape, he's very sharp, and so when he says he's making this official with whole freedom, it's clear that that's the case, that makes one believe that this is an act taken out of a sense of responsibility and love for the church."

It is a road that leads back to the 1930s.

Ratzinger started seminary studies in 1939 at the age of 12. In his memoirs, he wrote of being enrolled in Hitler's Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. In 1943, he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit in Munich. He says he was soon let out because he was a priest in training.

He returned home only to find an army draft notice waiting for him in the fall of 1944.

As World War II came to an end, the 18-year old Ratzinger deserted the army. In May 1945, U.S. troops arrived in his town and he was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

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