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Welcome to Overnight News Digest, where the regular crew informs and entertains you with tonights top stories from the nation and the world.

Tonight's top story, as well as most of the other news, comes from Reuters.

North Korea agrees to nuclear moratorium
By Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON | Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:03pm EST

(Reuters) - North Korea has agreed with the United States to suspend major elements of its atomic weapons program in a surprise breakthrough that could pave the way for the resumption of long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks with the secretive state.

But the announcement, made simultaneously on Wednesday in Pyongyang and Washington and accompanied by pledges of U.S. food aid, was met with very guarded optimism by analysts and diplomats who noted that efforts to defuse tensions on the divided Korean peninsula had seen many false dawns.

"These are concrete measures that we consider a positive first step toward complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

More news after the jump.

International News

Banks gorge on 530 billion euros of ECB funds
By Paul Carrel
FRANKFURT | Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:36am EST

(Reuters) - Banks grabbed 530 billion euros at the European Central Bank's second offering of cheap three-year funds on Wednesday, fuelling expectations that credit will flow to businesses and borrowing costs will ease for governments hit by the euro zone crisis.

In the space of two months, the ECB has now injected more than a trillion euros into the financial system, banishing the threat of a credit crunch.

A total of 800 banks borrowed money at the tender, with demand exceeding the 500 billion euros expected by traders polled by Reuters and the 489 billion allotted in the first such operation in December.

Insight: How the Greek debt puzzle was solved
By Luke Baker and Sophie Sassard
BRUSSELS/LONDON | Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:42am EST

(Reuters) - Wolfgang Schaeuble was playing Sudoku on his iPad as he waited to hear whether Greece's negotiating team had persuaded private creditors to accept a bigger loss on their Greek bonds.

Germany's finance minister needed this last piece of the debt restructuring puzzle to fall into place. Without the private creditors - banks, insurers and investment funds - a 130 billion euro deal to save Greece from default could fall apart. The consequences for the euro area would be catastrophic.

Schaeuble finally got what he wanted only hours before dawn on February 21 after negotiations that ran all night. What emerged was the world's biggest debt restructuring deal, affecting some 206 billion euros of Greek government bonds, according to law firm Linklaters which acted as adviser.

U.S News

At least nine killed as tornadoes strike U.S. Midwest
By Bruce Olson
HARRISBURG, Illinois | Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:35pm EST

(Reuters) - Powerful storms that spawned tornadoes ripped through the U.S. Midwest on Wednesday, killing nine people, including six in Illinois who were crushed when a house was lifted up and fell on them, authorities said.

Three people in Missouri were also killed by a storm that struck during the night. A tornado temporarily closed the famous entertainment strip in Branson, Missouri, where country music shows and other performers draw thousands of people a day.

Two men and four women died when a pre-dawn tornado struck Harrisburg, Illinois, a town of nearly 10,000 people, Mayor Eric Gregg said, describing the storm damage as "horrific."

Factory, income data support growth outlook
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON | Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:09pm EST

(Reuters) - The economy grew slightly faster than initially thought in the fourth quarter and a gauge of factory activity in the Midwest hit a 10 month-high in February, pointing to underlying strength in the economy.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 3 percent annual rate, the quickest pace since the second quarter of 2010, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday in its second estimate.

The reading, which was up from the 2.8 percent pace the government reported last month and reflected modest upward revisions to almost all components of GDP, added to the recent run of fairly upbeat economic reports.

The tone of the GDP report was further bolstered by upward revisions to income and savings data, which should help support consumer spending in the face of rising gasoline prices.

Bernanke warns of slow progress ahead on jobs
By Mark Felsenthal and Pedro da Costa
WASHINGTON | Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:31pm EST

(Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday offered a tempered view of the U.S. economy, pouring cold water on the notion that recent upbeat signs herald a stronger recovery.

Bernanke told Congress that unless growth accelerated, the unacceptably high U.S. unemployment rate would not keep dropping.

But he stopped short of signaling further Fed bond purchases, dashing the hopes of some traders in financial markets who were betting on more monetary stimulus.

"The job market is far from normal," Bernanke said. "Continued improvement ... is likely to require stronger growth in final demand and production."

Romney appeals for working-class votes in Ohio
By Sam Youngman
BEXLEY, Ohio | Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:18pm EST

(Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appealed for the support of working-class Americans in industrial Ohio on Wednesday, a day after narrowly averting a humiliating defeat by rival Rick Santorum in Romney's home state of Michigan.

Romney focused almost exclusively on the U.S. economy, China and stiff criticism of President Barack Obama's leadership at his first campaign events after Tuesday's Michigan primary.

"The reason I won yesterday in Michigan and Arizona is because I'm talking about the issue people care most about and I understand that issue," Romney said at a rally in Bexley, outside the state capital of Columbus.

Opportunity lost, Santorum retools for must-win Ohio
By Sam Youngman
GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan | Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:52am EST

(Reuters) - After missing a golden opportunity to dethrone the front-runner, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has begun to retool his message as he turns his sights to Super Tuesday.

Santorum fell to rival Mitt Romney in the latter's home state of Michigan even though it appeared as late as Tuesday afternoon that Santorum could steal a win here and reset the race for the chance to take on President Barack Obama in the November general election.

In a speech on Tuesday after results were known, Santorum moved his message away from the social issues for which he is known and tightened his focus on themes dear to blue-collar voters who will have a big say when the race moves to Super Tuesday next week, which includes what is now the must-win state of Ohio.

Gay woman wants priest relieved of duties after communion
By Joe Danielewicz
WASHINGTON, D.C. | Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:07pm EST

(Reuters) - A lesbian woman from the nation's capital wants a Catholic priest relieved of his duties after he denied her communion at her mother's Maryland funeral because she lives with another woman, she said on Wednesday.

The local archdiocese has apologized for the actions of Father Marcel Guarnizo, but Barbara Johnson, who is gay and lives with her lesbian partner, said that was not enough.

Guarnizo officiated at a funeral mass for Loetta Johnson on Saturday at Saint John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, about 25 miles northwest of Washington. He told attendees that only church members in a "state of grace" would be allowed to receive communion, Johnson said.

Texas doctor accused of huge health fraud scheme
By Judy Wiley
DALLAS | Wed Feb 29, 2012 1:21pm EST

(Reuters) - A Texas doctor and six others were arrested on Tuesday on charges they tried to defraud federal healthcare programs of nearly $375 million in what U.S. officials described as one of the largest schemes allegedly orchestrated by a single doctor.

Dr. Jacques Roy, 54, of Rockwall, Texas, was charged with certifying or directing the certification of more than 11,000 patients for home healthcare services, which led to Medicare being improperly billed for more than $350 million and Medicaid being billed for more than $24 million.

The alleged scheme ran between January 2006 and November 2011, though it was not immediately clear how much was paid out by the two federal programs to Roy and the others accused in the indictment unsealed on Tuesday.


Wall St snaps 4-day advance after Bernanke remarks
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK | Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:09pm EST

(Reuters) - Stocks slipped on Wednesday, snapping a four-day winning streak after comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke disappointed investors hoping for a strong signal of more stimulus.

The Fed chairman's comments drove the dollar .DXY up 0.7 percent against a basket of major currencies and sent materials lower. Gold fell 5 percent in late trading. The S&P Materials Index .GSPM lost 1.7 percent, making it the S&P 500's worst-performing sector.

Bernanke offered a tempered view of the U.S. economy, pouring cold water on the notion that recent upbeat signs herald a stronger recovery. But he gave no hint of new asset purchases, which the Fed has used in recent years to boost growth.

Oil ends February higher on upbeat Fed report
By Gene Ramos
NEW YORK | Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:14pm EST

(Reuters) - Oil jumped back to positive territory in late trading on Wednesday, ending the month sharply higher as the Federal Reserve said that the U.S. economy expanded modestly in January through mid-February as hiring increased across several of its districts.

The Fed's Beige Book report, a snapshot of U.S. economic activity in its districts, was upbeat enough to erase session losses that hit crude oil futures on both sides of the Atlantic.

Oil futures recovered after two straight days of losses. In the morning session, prices fell after U.S. government data showed a larger-than-expected increase in crude oil inventories last week, at a time when refinery activity slowed sharply.

James Murdoch gives up News International role
By Yinka Adegoke and Mark Hosenball
Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:29pm EST

(Reuters) - James Murdoch resigned as executive chairman of News International on Wednesday, raising new doubts he can succeed his father Rupert as CEO of parent company News Corp in the wake of a phone hacking scandal at the unit he oversaw.

It also raises the possibility that one of his older siblings -- Elisabeth or Lachlan -- could emerge as an eventual contender for the top job, according to people familiar with the matter.

Other sources suggested a contrarian view of James' departure from News International, interpreting the move to focus him on operations based out of corporate headquarters in New York as Rupert defying his doubters by bringing his embattled son closer to the company's power center. That would dovetail with another counterintuitive move the elder Murdoch made recently: launching a Sunday edition of his tabloid The Sun newspaper in London last week amidst an investigation that had led to the arrest of several journalists at that paper in addition to those of the now-defunct News of the World.

Microsoft unveils Windows 8 for public test
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE | Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:18am EST

(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp unveils the first widely available test version of Windows 8 on Wednesday, giving the public the first chance to try out the slick, new-look operating system it hopes will restore the company's fading tech supremacy.

Windows 8, as the first Microsoft operating system compatible with low-power microprocessors designed by ARM Holdings Plc, will run on tablets as well as desktops and laptops.

"The operating system has begun to be seen as largely irrelevant," said Sid Parakh, an analyst at fund firm McAdams Wright Ragen, which holds Microsoft shares. "This is the release that will have to prove its relevance all over again."


Former Monkee Davy Jones dies at age 66 in Florida
By Piya Sinha-Roy and Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES | Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:35pm EST

(Reuters) - Davy Jones, a onetime teen heartthrob as a member of the 1960s made-for-television pop band The Monkees, died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack near his home in Florida, according to his longtime publicist. He was 66.

Jones was stricken while attending to horses he kept in Indiantown, Florida, about halfway between the Atlantic coast and Lake Okeechobee, spokeswoman Helen Kensick said. He had lived with his third wife, Jessica Pacheco-Jones, in Hollywood, Florida, in recent years, she said.

She gave no further details of his death.

This story is why this section does not have the header "On the Lighter Side." :-(

In other sorry entertainment news, Snooki is pregnant.  No excerpt is necessary. :-P

Lady Gaga lends star wattage to youth empowerment
By Ros Krasny
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts | Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:42pm EST

(Reuters) - Pop diva Lady Gaga brought her star power, her mom and some of her famous friends, including Oprah Winfrey, to Harvard University on Wednesday to launch a new foundation aimed at empowering young people and stamping out bullying.

"If you have revolutionary potential, you must make the world a better place and use it," Gaga said as she officially kicked off the "Born this Way Foundation," named after her 2011 hit album and single, with a series of events at the top U.S. university. "This is about transformative change in culture."

The singer has often given a voice for people she feels lack representation in the media, and she formed the foundation to address issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying and mentoring.

Martin Bashir a 'Work in Progress': From Princess Diana and Michael Jackson to MSNBC
By Lucas Shaw at TheWrap
Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:50pm EST

The bookshelves in Martin Bashir’s office at Rockefeller Center are empty. Hundreds of books sit in boxes, but they remain unopened.

“I came here a year ago, and I am never particularly confident things will be a success,” Bashir told TheWrap. “I decided I will not put anything in my bookcase until we pass a year.”

Bashir’s MSNBC show hit that one-year mark on Tuesday, and signs are trending up. His ratings have been on an upward trajectory since September, capped off by an average of 453,000 daily viewers in February. That is a 25 percent increase over a year ago.

Also read: MSNBC's Phil Griffin: 'We Have a Monopoly on Smart People'

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