Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post:
- U.S. reducing plans for large civilian force in post-2014 Afghanistan--The Obama administration has ordered significant cutbacks in initial plans for a robust U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan after U.S. combat troops withdraw two years from now, according to U.S. officials. Learning from Iraq, where postwar ambitions proved unsustainable, the White House and top State Department officials are confronting whether the United States needs — and can protect — a large diplomatic compound in Kabul, four consulates around the country and other civilian outposts to oversee aid projects and monitor Afghanistan’s political pulse. Planners were recently told to reduce personnel proposals by at least 20 percent, a senior administration official said. Karen DeYoung reports.
- In Egypt, protests turn violent as political crisis intensifies--CAIRO — Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi clashed with opposition protesters outside the presidential palace Wednesday in the fiercest violence of the country’s two-week-old political crisis, pelting each other with stones and molotov cocktails and intensifying the pressure on Egypt’s embattled new government. Three of Morsi’s advisers resigned Wednesday evening over the conflict, which has pitted Egypt’s first democratically elected president and his Islamist backers against a broad coalition of liberals, secularists, human rights activists and loyalists to the old regime. Analysts and protesters said the deepening crisis could soon provoke intervention by the country’s military, report Abigail Hauslohner and Stephanie McCrummen.
- Israel advances controversial plans to build in West Bank’s E-1 area--JERUSALEM — Defying mounting international protests, Israel moved ahead Wednesday with plans for a West Bank settlement project near Jerusalem that has been widely condemned as diminishing prospects for a territorially viable Palestinian state. An Israeli planning committee approved release of the plan for public objections, a first step in a process that could take months and is subject to government approval before building can begin. Still, the move demonstrated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s determination to advance the project, part of a settlement construction surge announced last week in response to a successful bid by the Palestinians to upgrade their status at the United Nations to that of a non-member observer state, reports Joel Greenberg.
-Battery maker that received stimulus money could be sold to Chinese company--A bankrupt battery manufacturer that was a cornerstone of President Obama’s effort to make the United States a global leader in clean-energy technology could end up in the hands of a Chinese company when it goes on the auction block Thursday. Congressional Republicans call the company, A123 Systems, which received $133 million in federal stimulus grants, a textbook case of how the Obama administration wasted taxpayer money trying to nurture new industries. Administration officials say the stimulus money was used to build a new manufacturing facility in Michigan that could remain open under new owners, even if they turn out to be foreign, reports Steven Mufson.
-Some in GOP urge lawmakers to back tax hikes for changes in safety-net programs--A growing chorus of Republicans is urging House leaders to abandon their staunch opposition to higher tax rates for the wealthy with the aim of clearing the way for a broad deal that would also rein in the cost of federal health and retirement programs. With less than a month before the “fiscal cliff” deadline, President Obama remains adamant about allowing tax rates to rise for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers. Without such a deal, he is “absolutely” ready to go over the cliff, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Wednesday on CNBC. Many GOP centrists and some conservatives are calling on House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to concede on rates now, while he still has some leverage to demand something in return, report Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman.
-The Fact Checker: Obama’s claim of the ‘largest’ discretionary cuts ‘in history’ by Glenn Kessler
-The Fix: Why House Republicans may thwart a ‘fiscal cliff’ deal by Aaron Blake
-Dana Milbank: Republicans wave the white flag
- An Obama win on taxes for rich could still mean middle class takes a hit--While many Americans may worry about seeing their income drop if the nation goes over the “fiscal cliff,” Chris Adams has a different problem. An agreement that raises taxes on the wealthy and spares the middle class could still mean that he loses all his income next year. Laid off in May from an operations job, the resident of Avon Lake, Ohio, has been relying on federal unemployment benefits that expire at the end of month. President Obama wants to extend them, but top GOP congressional aides say the president has little hope of doing that if he continues to play hardball and insist that tax rates on the wealthy rise, reports Zachary A. Goldfarb.
- Hispanic campaign donors look for new ways to flex their political muscle--They are an unlikely trio, these relative newcomers to the world of major-league political fundraising: a Hollywood actress who gained fame as a desperate housewife, a Texan who grew up walking picket lines with his labor-organizer father and a Harvard-educated lawyer from Puerto Rico. But they may be on their way to becoming big players in a city where access to money means access to influence. One of the most remarked-on stories of the 2012 election was the impact of the nation’s rapidly growing Hispanic population at the ballot box. Largely overlooked was the emergence of a cadre of wealthy Latinos as a force in political fundraising, reports Karen Tumulty.
- Latino Voice Alfonso Aguilar also conservative voice for immigration reform--But not just any conservative. Aguilar is a 43-year-old Puerto Rican-born former official in the George W. Bush administration; an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage; a supporter of free markets and limited government. But on immigration, he has differed sharply with his party’s orthodoxy, unapologetically embracing comprehensive reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. With Obama promising to push immigration reform early in his second term, Aguilar is poised to be a driving force in the debate, helping to shape how Republicans respond to an issue of paramount importance to about 12.5 million Latino voters — a growing segment of the electorate that has continued to skew Democratic. In many ways, Aguilar already is a pivotal presence, reports Krissah Thompson.
-Justices consider court role in international custody cases--Judges are used to deciding disputes, and Supreme Court justices especially are accustomed to having the last word. So an attorney for the Scottish mother at the heart of an international child-custody case was gentle in telling the justices on Wednesday that the services of the U.S. courts are no longer required. “It’s an answer that justices and judges typically don’t want to hear,” Washington lawyer Stephen J. Cullen said. “But it is the answer. . . . There is nothing left to be done.” Some justices considering the case did not seem quite so resigned, reports Robert Barnes.
-The Root: Fiscal Cliff: Bad for U.S., Good for Obama? In 1995 then-President Bill Clinton clashed with Republican leaders over finalizing a budget. After they failed to reach an agreement, the federal government shut down, with nearly a million workers temporarily out of work. A CNN poll conducted at the time found that 49 percent of Americans blamed GOP leaders for the shutdown, while only 26 percent blamed President Clinton. Furthermore, while 48 percent said that they approved of the president's handling of the talks, just 22 percent approved of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's. The fallout from the shutdown laid the groundwork for a number of political dominoes that would eventually fall. It solidified Gingrich's image as someone willing to put partisanship ahead of working with others to actually get things done for the American people, and that perception spread like a toxin affecting his party. After the Republican Revolution of 1994, when Republicans gained seats and, more important, control of the House, the GOP would lose seats in 1996 and President Clinton would gain re-election, despite an impeachment scandal, reports Keli Goff.
- Parents don’t want children’s information collected on the Internet, poll finds--Parents overwhelmingly say they object to the collection of personal information on children over the Internet, according to a new poll released just before federal officials are set to vote on a controversial proposal to strengthen child privacy laws. According to a survey released Thursday by child-advocacy groups, nine out of 10 adults said they believed advertisers should get a parent’s permission before collecting the name, address or other personal data of a user under 13. Those businesses should never be able to ask for a child’s location or information about a child’s friends, respondents said, reports Cecilia Kang.