Claiming blame. A conservative Republican who works for the Internal Revenue Service claims he and a colleague are responsible for singling out Tea Party and “patriot” groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. The IRS manager made the statements during an interview with congressional investigators, which Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., released Sunday. During appearances on television talk shows, Cummings said the transcript proves the IRS scandal was not politically motivated. But Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the manager’s comments did not provide any “enlightening” information or contradict the testimony of other agency employees.
On trial. The trial for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood-watch captain accused of murdering a black teenager, begins today after the judge denied defense attorney Mark O'Mara’s request for a delay. O’Mara blamed prosecutors for delays in turning over evidence, saying he needed more time to interview Treyvon Martin’s family. Zimmerman claims he shot Martin in self-defense after the 17-year-old attacked him. But Martin was not armed, fueling speculation that Zimmerman shot him in cold blood after stalking him as he walked through a gated neighborhood. In a blow to the defense, the judge ruled last month Zimmerman’s attorneys could not bring up Martin’s history of drug use, trouble at school, or conflict with his mother.
In decline. South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela remains hospitalized today with a lung infection. In a two-sentence statement, the government described the former president’s condition as “serious but stable.” As the nation’s first black leader, the 94-year-old statesman is revered as a father figure, referred to by many by his clan name, Madiba. Mandela spent several decades in prison under the country’s white-only leadership. His lung problems developed during his time in the prison camp.
Credit worthy? Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s raised its assessment of the United States from “negative” to “stable” today, citing higher revenue coming to the government after the post-fiscal cliff tax hikes. The S&P is the only agency to downgrade the country from its AAA rating, the highest available. Analysts say they do not expect future financial uncertainty, even though legislators will have to grapple with another request to raise the debt ceiling later this year.