Senate confirms Kerry — The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to confirm Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as secretary of state, filling a crucial national security spot in President Barack Obama’s second-term Cabinet. Kerry, who ran as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, will replace Hillary Clinton, who will step down as America’s top diplomat on Friday. After the 94-3 vote, Kerry submitted a letter of resignation, effective Friday, to give up the Senate seat he has held since 1985. He will take the oath of office in a private ceremony.
Transportation secretary plans departure —Ray LaHood, the former Republican congressman from Illinois who has run the nation’s Transportation Department under President Barack Obama, will not serve a second term, he told department employees in a letter Tuesday. “I’ve told President Obama, and I’ve told many of you, that this is the best job I’ve ever had. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of you," LaHood wrote. He cited the department’s efforts to curb distracted driving and to increase the efficiency of automobiles by raising emissions standards. As transportation secretary, LaHood was at the center of efforts to reduce fatigue among pilots and called for greater investment in high-speed rail. He also pushed for large fines against Toyota for safety problems and for a new transportation bill in Congress.
Condemned woman gets reprieve —The first woman scheduled to be executed in the U.S. since 2010 won a reprieve Tuesday, mere hours before she was scheduled to be taken to the Texas death chamber in Huntsville, Texas. State District Judge Larry Mitchell, in Dallas, rescheduled Kimberly McCarthy’s punishment for April 3 so lawyers for the former nursing home therapist could have more time to pursue an appeal focused on whether her predominantly white jury was improperly selected on the basis of race. McCarthy is black. The 51-year-old McCarthy was convicted and sent to death row for the 1997 stabbing, beating and robbery of a 71-year-old neighbor.
Former judge pleads guilty to bank fraud — A former Michigan Supreme Court justice pleaded guilty to bank fraud Tuesday in Ann Arbor for concealing assets, including a Florida home she and her husband owned, while urging a bank to let her unload a Michigan house in a short sale, claiming financial hardship. Diane Hathaway, 58, who resigned from the state’s highest court last week, could face up to 18 months in prison under the terms of her deal with federal prosecutors. But her attorney, Steve Fishman, said after the hearing that he will ask a judge to sentence her to probation.
Mass execution uncovered in Syria — The bodies of at least 65 people, some with hands tied behind their backs, were found in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo Tuesday as the government and rebels trying to overthrow it blamed each other for the latest mass killing. The bodies, almost all men in their 20s and 30s, were discovered in the contested neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr, the director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman said.
S. Korea tries to lauch satellite — South Korea has launched a rocket in its third attempt to place a satellite in space from its own soil. It wasn’t immediately clear if today’s launch succeeded. It comes just weeks after archrival North Korea successfully launched its own satellite to the surprise of the world. South Korean liftoffs in 2009 and 2010 failed. Two more recent launch attempts were aborted at the last minute because of technical problems. Today’s attempt came amid increased tension on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s threat to explode its third nuclear device.
Police: Outdoor flare caused nightclub fire in Brazil — Penny-pinching by a band known for its onstage pyrotechnic displays may have cost more than 230 people their lives at a nightclub in southern Brazil, according to a police inspector leading the investigation into this weekend’s deadly blaze. Inspector Marcelo Arigony told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that members of the band knowingly purchased flares meant for outdoor use because they cost a mere $1.25 a piece, compared with the $35 price tag for an indoor flare. “The flare lit was for outdoor use only, and the people who lit them know that," said Arigony “They chose to buy those because they were cheaper than those that can be used indoors." Arigony, whose cousin died in the fire, added: “The pyrotechnics were part of their show — the guys even wore gloves onstage so they wouldn’t burn their hands."