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News Wrap: Senate Readies to Pass First Budget in Four Years

March 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Senate looked ready to pass its first budget in four years in a midnight finish. The final vote was set to come later tonight or early tomorrow morning, after a flurry of votes on dozens of amendments dubbed vote-a-rama. The nonbinding budget bill would impose almost $1 trillion dollars of tax increases coupled with $875 billion dollars in spending cuts.

Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware said crafting a budget should be about more than the bottom line.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-Del.: We need to do it in a way that both stabilizes our deficit and debt, makes critical investments in growing our economy and preserves the core of the programs on which Americans rely. This is not just about numbers. It is also about values. It is also about priorities.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama called Democrats out for how they were using the word balance during the debate.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R-Ala.: Also, using the word balance, they hope people will hear it and think that this means we have got a balanced budget. They know they don’t have a balanced budget. They won’t tell the American people they don’t have one. They just use the word. But it’s not in their document.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Sessions forced a vote on an amendment to put Democrats on record in opposition to balancing the budget by the end of the decade. It failed on a near-party line vote.

Lawmakers in North Dakota moved to outlaw abortion today. The Republican-controlled legislature there passed a bill defining life as starting at conception. It is one in a series of anti-abortion measures that have passed this year. The bill now goes to the state’s Republican governor, Jack Dalrymple. He opposes abortion, but has not said whether he would sign the bill into law.

A compounding pharmacy in Augusta, Ga., is recalling all of its injectable medicines after an inspection by the Food and Drug Administration. Earlier this week, the same pharmacy recalled the drug Avastin when five patients got serious eye infections after using the medicine. FDA inspectors found issues at the pharmacy that call into question the sterility of its drugs.

The president of Myanmar declared a state of emergency in several townships after fighting between Buddhists and Muslims left at least 20 people dead. The city of Meikhtila was covered in thick black smoke as firefighters raced to put out fires set by rioting mobs. And police fanned out and seized machetes and hammers along the way. Ethnic violence has spread in Myanmar over the past two years, when decades of military rule ended and the country turned toward democracy.

The parliament of Cyprus adopted laws today to create a solidarity fund to pool state assets and impose capital controls on banks. The votes were the first of several as the island nation raced against a Monday deadline to qualify for an international bailout. Cyprus needs to raise $7.5 billion dollars to get a $13 billion dollar bailout from the Eurozone and International Monetary Fund.

Stocks on Wall Street rose in anticipation that Cyprus would reach a deal. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 90 points to close at 14,512. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 3,245. For the week, the Dow lost one-hundredth of a percent; the Nasdaq slipped a 10th of one percent.

The universe is 80 million years older than previously thought. That’s according to astronomists working with the European Space Agency. They analyzed a new, more precise satellite image of cosmic radiation left over from the Big Bang that created the cosmos. The scientists now think the universe began 13.8 billion years ago and is expanding more slowly than first thought.

The celebrated Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe died today in Boston after a brief illness. Achebe is best known for telling the history of his native country and the story of Africa after colonial rule. His first novel, “Things Fall Apart,” was published in 1958 and sold more than 10 million copies.

In 2008, he sat down with Jeff on the NewsHour.

CHINUA ACHEBE, Author, “Things Fall Apart”: After my novel “Things Fall Apart” was published, it just looked as if people had been waiting everywhere, in Africa, in Nigeria, in Igboland, to tell their own version of their story, as if something was holding them before. And it seems to me that that’s a very good thing, indeed.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Achebe was 82 years old. Jeff’s full interview with him from 2008 is online on our Art Beat page.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jeff.