Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post:
- Three Israelis killed by rocket fired from Gaza Strip; Israel intensifies air offensive-- Israeli jets and drones hit dozens of targets overnight in an intense air campaign against militant targets in the Gaza Strip the day after a missile strike killed the Hamas military chief in an operation that raised the specter of an all-out conflict. Israeli officials said Wednesday’s attacks were aimed at crippling the military capabilities of Gaza-based militants who fire rockets into southern Israel and warned that it could evolve into a ground operation. But the barrage of rockets fired from Gaza continued unabated. Three Israelis were killed early Thursday when a rocket struck an apartment building in Kiryat Malakhi in southern Israel, Israeli police said, reports Karin Brulliard and Joel Greenberg. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/hamas-leader-in-gaza-killed-by-israeli-strike/2012/11/14/de2ea690-2e72-11e2-9ac2-1c61452669c3_story.html
- On Benghazi attack, angry words from Obama and Republicans--An escalating showdown between President Obama and leading Republican lawmakers over a deadly September attack in Libya turned angry and personal Wednesday. Obama accused Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) of trying to “besmirch” the reputation of Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and to hold her potential nomination as secretary of state hostage to their demand for a broad Watergate- and Iran-contra-style investigation of alleged intelligence and security lapses surrounding the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, which killed four Americans. “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said at his first news conference since last week’s election. Glaring across the East Room of the White House, he called the accusations against Rice “outrageous” and said she had “nothing to do with Benghazi,” reports Karen DeYoung.
- Xi Jinping takes over reins of Chinese Communist Party at time of heightened anxiety--BEIJING — China on Thursday completed its once-in-a-decade leadership transition, naming, as expected, Xi Jinping, the 59-year-old son of a famed Communist revolutionary general, to the party’s top position, general secretary. He will also take over in March as the country’s president from outgoing leader Hu Jintao. The transition ends months of internal rivalry, secrecy and speculation, and will determine the country’s future at a time of economic worries, increased regional tensions and widespread clamor for reform. In a surprise, Hu also relinquished his title as chairman of the Central Military Commission, the body that runs China’s 2.3 million-member army, report William Wan and Keith B. Richburg.
- In post-Gaddafi Tripoli: The Bee Gees, burgers and militia gun battles--TRIPOLI, Libya — Fuad Gritla, the morning host on 100.7 FM, knows his listeners in Libya’s capital are grouchy, and he’s trying to help. Tripoli has not witnessed the change that many had hoped it would see a year after Moammar Gaddafi’s fall. Political progress has been downright sluggish. There are lots of weapons and little security. And people here are getting more and more anxious. “The Libyan people are very cranky, so we’re trying to cheer them up in the morning,” Gritla said, turning the dial up on a track from the Bee Gees. “Our slogan is, ‘Your voice and your voice only.’ We try to give people what they want.” Radio Zone 100.7 is just one of some two dozen new radio stations to hit Tripoli’s airwaves since the dictator’s fall, reports Abigail Hauslohner.
-White House, Congress scrutinize FBI’s inquiry into Petraeus--The FBI’s handling of the investigation that forced CIA Director David H. Petraeus to resign came under new scrutiny Wednesday as FBI Director Robert S. Mueller faced questions on Capitol Hill and President Obama alluded to lingering questions about the course of the inquiry. In his first public comments on the controversy, Obama said he has seen no evidence that the scandal exposed classified information that might harm national security. But he stopped short of approving the FBI’s handling of the inquiries into the personal e-mail communications of Petraeus and U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, report Greg Miller and Sari Horwitz.
OPINION by Jonathan Capehart: Don’t forget about Holly Petraeus
- In first post-election news conference, Obama lays out second term--President Obama said in his victory speech last week that “elections matter.” On Wednesday, he made clear how much the election matters to him — and to the way he intends to govern in his second term. Appearing in his first post-victory news conference, the customarily cautious Obama spoke like a politician with nothing to lose after winning the last race of his life. Over the course of an hour, he struck an unabashedly populist tone in characterizing his second-term “mandate” to help the poor and the middle class, and he warned his partisan rivals that voters had sided with his approach to the economy during the long campaign. There was a confidence and ease in Obama’s manner far removed from the listlessness of his first presidential debate in Denver six weeks ago. There also was a stridency that had been absent during key moments in his first term, much to the dismay of his supporters, reports Scott Wilson.
-OPINION by Ruth Marcus: Obama’s message to GOP is, Ante up
- Romney: Obama’s gift giving led to loss--Mitt Romney is blaming his loss in the presidential election on “Obamacare” and other “gifts” he says President Obama handed out to African Americans, Hispanics and other core supporters, according to news reports Wednesday. The defeated Republican candidate told donors in a conference call that Obama targeted those demographics, along with young voters and women, through programs such as health-care reform and “amnesty” for children of illegal immigrants, according to articles posted online by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Both papers appeared to have listened to the call or obtained at least partial transcripts, report Jerry Markon and Karen Tumulty.
- The new boom: Shale gas fueling an American industrial revival--The shale gas revolution is firing up an old-fashioned American industrial revival, breathing life into businesses such as petrochemicals and glass, steel and toys. Consider the rising fortunes of Ascension Parish, La. Methanex Corp., which closed its last U.S. chemical plant in 1999, is spending more than half a billion dollars to dismantle a methanol plant in Chile and move it to the parish. Nearby, a petrochemical company, Williams, is spending $400 million to expand an ethylene plant. And on Nov. 1, CF Industries unveiled a $2.1 billion expansion of its nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing complex, aiming to displace imports that now make up half of U.S. nitrogen fertilizer sales. These companies all rely heavily on natural gas. And across the country, companies like them are crediting the sudden abundance of cheap natural gas for revving up their U.S. operations, reports Steven Mufson.
- Obama says no ‘red lines’ on top tax rate, signaling some flexibility in debt talks--President Obama cracked open the door to compromise with Republicans on tax rates for the nation’s wealthiest households Wednesday, saying he is “open to new ideas” for increasing their tax bills without letting the top rate rise as scheduled in January to 39.6 percent. Obama flatly rejected Republican calls to let the top rate remain at 35 percent, where it has stood for more than a decade under legislation adopted during the George W. Bush administration. And he shot down a GOP proposal to cap deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving and other expenses in return for extending the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy. But in a break with the position he took on the campaign trail, Obama said he would not insist on drawing “red lines” around 39.6 percent, the rate in effect for top earners during the Clinton administration, report Lori Montgomery and Zachary A. Goldfarb.
-Wonkblog: Fed minutes show lots of talk, no action, on new strategy--Federal Reserve leaders had a lively debate at their last meeting over whether and how to announce specific levels of inflation and unemployment that would lead them to hike interest rates, but couldn’t reach agreement as they got into the knotty details of what those thresholds would be and how exactly they would work. That picture, of lots of talk but no action, emerges from minutes of their meeting Oct. 23-24, which were released Wednesday afternoon. Leaders of the central bank were clearly intrigued by the idea, first proposed by Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and most recently endorsed by vice-chair Janet Yellen, of telling the world what unemployment rate or inflation level would prompt them to start seriously thinking about hiking interest rates from their current ultra-low levels, reports Neil Irwin.
-The Root: Our Big, Fat Fiscal Cliff-Hanger--If we go over the edge at year's end, Republicans have themselves to blame, not Obama. (The Root) -- If the nation plunges over the fiscal cliff at year's end, President Barack Obama won't take the fall. The blame will lie at the feet of congressional Republicans. After four years of sheer obstructionism -- behavior that was called out during the presidential campaign season -- most Americans are pointedly aware of who is willing to further wreck the nation's economy and who would like to rescue it. Fifty-three percent of the nation believes that if a fiscal agreement isn't reached by New Year's Eve, Republicans in Congress are the ones to blame, reports a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. It also reports that only 38 percent believe that the president and the Republican Congress will reach a deal, reports Monroe Anderson.
-In Sandy’s wake, recovery remains a frustrating fight-- As President Obama prepares to visit the New York City area Thursday, the federal response to the storm — which killed more than 100 people in 10 states and knocked out power to 8.5 million — is intensifying. Nearly 60 federal agencies are involved, from the Defense Department, which has flown in hundreds of vehicles to help restore power, to the Internal Revenue Service, which is helping aid groups get tax exempt status. “The response hasn’t been perfect,” Obama said Wednesday. “But it’s been aggressive and strong and fast and robust.” FEMA, which is leading the government’s effort, is operating more than 60 disaster recovery centers in the affected states and has sent more than 7,000 people. “They’re doing a tremendous job, especially if you compare their response to Katrina,’’ said Bruce Lockwood, a vice president for the International Association of Emergency Managers. He said FEMA proved especially adept at “pre-positioning” supplies and people before the storm. Still, with each passing day the federal government’s limitations become clearer. Lisa Rein and Jerry Markon report.