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Manic Monday Markup 2/11/13…

…And the World:

We begin today in the Vatican, where Pope Benedict the XVI made the shocking announcement that he will step down as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of the month.  The decision sent ripple around the world as the world’s largest Christian denomination heads toward a new papal election amid a period of scandal and internal division over the church’s positions in the modern world.  The New York Times notes that the last time a pope abdicated was during the crisis of a schism in the fifteenth century.  NPR notes that Benedict’s decision caught Vatican officials by surpriseThe Washington Post suggests this could actually be a sign of a good manager.  Bringing this global event to Springfield, Chris Stewart at CBS 3 has an interview with local clergy.

Meanwhile North Korea is said to have launched its third Nuclear Test.

More bad news for British Prime Minister David Cameron.  Another Guardian poll shows Cameron’s Conservative Party is down twelve points to the opposition Labour Party.  This comes as Cameron’s own Health Secretary is attributing a recent cap on benefits to the nation’s struggling economy.

In South Africa, a prominent black anti-Apartheid activist is said to announce her political plans ahead of next year’s general election.  Maphela Ramphele’s potential political party could pose a challenge to the dominant African Nation Congress.  Holding the ANC accountable appears to be part of Ramphele’s intent, but it could also upend the Opposition Democratic Alliance attempts to eat into the ANC’s historically lopsided wins.  The DA says they’re not worried though.

The Feds:

Reports are coming in that President Barack will deliver a bit of economic populism in tomorrow’s State of the Union.  The President will shift away from talk of deficits and return the focus to jobs and the economy.  One group hoping for a shout out this year?  Unions.  Also the Los Angeles Times takes a behind the scenes look at the speechwriting behind the speech.

The Republicans will feature Florida Senator Marco Rubio in their official response, a “dubious” honor.  However, like Paul Ryan before him, Rubio will not be alone tomorrow now.  Ryan’s response to the State of the Union in 2011 was followed by Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response.  Senator Ran Paul will give the Tea Party response this year.  That could complicate things for Rubio.

Normally after a storm like Friday/Saturday’s snowstorm would merit a return of our “Storm Stories” section, but instead we will feature a story in three section.  Here? The scourge of Connecticut?  Mother Nature.  The Times writes about the five disaster declarations the state has received since Governor Dan Malloy took office in 2011.  The CT Mirror looks ahead to Tuesday when commuters return to snow choked cities and into the environmental impact of snow dumpingThe Hartford Courant digs deeper (Ha!) into Hartford residents’ commute.  Not to be left out, Rhode Island, also hammered by the snowstorm tries to go back to normal.

Staying in Connecticut, but returning to the State of the Union, the Courant’s Capitol Watch blog notes connections to Newtown among guests of the First Lady and the Congressional Delegation including Senator Murphy, Rep. Larson, Rep Himes.  The blog also notes the gun victim guests of other members of Congress nationwide.  Also don’t miss Gabby Giffords’s new ad and this Times piece on her new role as “responsible solutions” advocate.

The State of Things:

Massachusetts was also hammered by the weekend snowstorm.  While Western Massachusetts got hit hard, with varying responses by communities, the worst was out east.  The Boston Globe Editorial Board notes that advance planning, including a rare shutdown of roads helped avert a great deal of disaster.  Boston, however, continues to dig out, although no records were set.

The storm did not stop Democrats from gathering signatures to get on the special Senate election ballot (h/t Garrett Quinn).  Nor did it stop other Democrats from announcing their interest in seats not even vacated yet.  Republican’s on the other hand?  Assuming both get the 10,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot, Republicans could have a primary, too.  State Rep. Dan Winslow announced his candidacy last week and today Gabriel Gomez filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.  Wait, who?  Don’t miss Shira Schoenberg’s interview of Winslow and, aw hell, CBS 3’s interview with  the guy who made this Republican scramble possible.

On the infrastructure front, Western Mass inches closer toward better rail service, including connections up and down the Connecticut River in New England.

City Slickers:

Springfield DPW officials are receiving harsh blowback after the city’s handling of the snowstorm cleanup.  Many streets went unplowed through the weekend, in part perhaps due to the scheduling fail that left the city’s plowing suspended for seven plus hours during the day on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Mayor Domenic Sarno, in a politically wise move decided to negotiate with both MGM and Penn National to hammer out a host agreement that will be submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.  In playing Solomon, Sarno puts off a political headache that has surrounded Springfield’s bid for several weeks now.

Twitter Chatter:

The Pope’s announcement today was truly an event for the ages, almost biblical were the Good Book subject to revisions.  Whatever the appropriate adjective may be, if you believe God makes his opinion known acting through the ordinary, there is now evidence to back this up.  Today we award the Tweet Prize to Agence France-Presse, the French equivalent of the Associated Press and one of the world’s major news wire.  Tweeting a photograph of a lightning bolt strike St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the AFP may have fortuitously recorded reaction from the heavens.