Mixed messages. President Barack Obama gave Israelis something to cheer about during a joint press conference this morning with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. CBS News reports the president made no mention of halting settlements before the two parties resume peace talks, a key Palestinian demand. Obama reiterated his opposition to Jewish settlements in disputed areas but said they should not be used as an excuse to continue delaying negotiations. The president is on the second of a three-day visit to the Holy Land.
Stepping into the gap. When he gets home, the president will have a stopgap-spending bill to sign. Earlier today, the House approved a measure already passed by the Senate to fund government agencies and discretionary programs through Sept. 30. The bill also gives some military and domestic agencies flexibility in implementing the automatic spending cuts that went into effect earlier this year.
No guilty plea. The Army psychiatrist charged in the attack on the Fort Hood Army base in Texas will not be allowed to plead guilty, a judge ruled on Wednesday. Under military law, Maj. Nidal Hasan cannot plead guilty because he faces the death penalty for a shooting spree that killed 13 and wounded 32. Anwar Awlaki, the American member of al-Qaeda in Yemen, who was later killed in a U.S. drone strike, allegedly inspired Hasan’s attack. On Wednesday, the military judge overseeing the case also ruled the trial, which is expected to begin July 1 and last for months, would remain in Texas.
Record flood. The National Weather Service is predicting two Midwest communities along the Red River could experience one of the top five floods in their history when the heavy snowpack begins to melt in early April. The agency gave the river a 50 percent chance of topping 38 feet in Fargo, N.D., and nearby Moorhead, Minn. Flood stage is 18 feet. The chance of heavy rain just as the snow is melting will add to the area’s misery. Fargo officials plan to make an additional 500,000 sandbags to add to their existing 750,000-bag reserve.
Cautiously optimistic. Sales prices for existing homes rose again in February, prompting economists to start talking cautiously about an economic recovery. Nationally, home prices reached their highest level since November 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve described the economy as improving “modestly,” but cautioned against too much enthusiasm amid ongoing high unemployment.