HARI SREENIVASAN: Syrian President Bashar Assad accepted the resignation of his entire Cabinet today. It was a gesture to calm pro-democracy protests that began more than a week ago. Up to 60 people have been killed since then, as police fired on crowds.
Earlier today, pro-government demonstrators massed in the central square in Damascus under a 45-foot poster of Assad. They waved flags and carried pictures of the president. Assad has ruled for 11 years. He holds the majority of power in the authoritarian regime.
In Iraq, gunmen killed as many as 56 people in a siege in Saddam Hussein's hometown. At least eight attackers seized the provincial headquarters in Tikrit. They took hostages before Iraqi troops surrounded the site. Footage showed smoke rising from the building as the battle raged. Officials said the gunmen executed the hostages, then blew themselves up. In addition to the dead, nearly 100 people were wounded.
The war of words over spending heated up today in the U.S. Congress. It came as talks have largely broken down on funding the government for the rest of the current fiscal year. The House majority leader, Eric Cantor, suggested Republicans might refuse to pass another short-term funding bill if there's no agreement on spending cuts.
He blamed top Senate Democrats.
REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va., House majority leader: I think that we have now seen, as the American people have, that Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer decided that they are not going to be for cutting spending.
So, if that's the case, there's only one other alternative. They have got to lay out a plan as to how they're going to sustain these types of deficit and the debt. You either cut spending, or you raise taxes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: On the Senate side, Majority Leader Reid charged, the Republicans pulled back from a possible deal that would prevent a government shutdown.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., majority leader: They seem to be afraid to anger a small, extreme minority in their party that is willing to shut down the government, put the economy on the risk of killing at least 700,000 jobs. Republicans need to decide which is worse: angering their Tea Party base or shutting down the government and threatening our fragile economy even more.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The current short-term bill funding the government expires on April 8.
U.S. consumer confidence fell this month, after hitting a three-year high in February. The business research group Conference Board reported the drop today and blamed rising gas and food prices.
But Wall Street took the news in stride. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 81 points to close at 12,279. The Nasdaq rose 26 points to close above 2,756.
Those are some of the day's major stories.