Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post:
- Syrian forces fire short-range ballistic missiles at rebels--Government forces have fired at least a half-dozen short-range ballistic missiles at rebel groups in northern Syria over the past several days, according to U.S. officials, a potentially significant escalation of a civil war that has killed more than 40,000 people. U.S. officials and the group Human Rights Watch also alleged Wednesday that Syrian government forces are dropping incendiary devices similar to napalm weapons on rebel fighters in populated areas. The officials described the tactics as acts of desperation as rebels gain momentum in the nearly two-year-old fight to oust President Bashar al-Assad, reports Karen DeYoung.
-Walter Pincus: Sorting the terrorists--Who is a terrorist “affiliated” with al-Qaeda? Who is really affiliated with al-Qaeda, and who in turn threatens the United States? And what does the United States do about any of it? These hard questions must be confronted. And they’re being dealt with daily at various levels of the government — with varying responses. One day after the State Department declared it a terrorist organization because of its support from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the militant Syrian group Jabhat al-Nusra announced that it had formed its own mujaheddin council. Considered one of the most capable fighting rebel forces, al-Nusra “has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition, while it is in fact an attempt by AQI to hijack the struggle of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday.
- Opponents of Egypt’s Morsi-backed charter urge ‘no’ vote instead of boycott--CAIRO — Egypt’s fractious opposition urged its supporters Wednesday to vote “no” on a contentious Islamist-backed draft constitution but left open the possibility of boycotting Saturday’s vote altogether if several conditions were not met. Hamdeen Sabahi, a leader of the opposition National Salvation Front, called the charter “distorted and flawed and lacking the most important condition, which is national agreement.” “For this, the Front has decided to call for Egyptians to go to the polls and vote ‘no,’ ” Sabahi said at a news conference. But the decision — coming just three days before voting begins in Egypt — will probably have little practical impact on the street, according to analysts, who say the opposition is vastly out-organized by President Mohamed Morsi’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood supporters, reports Stephanie McCrummen.
-Groups vow to push ‘right to work’ in other states--LANSING, Mich. — The conservative groups that supported Michigan’s new “right to work” law — winning a stunning victory over unions, even in the heart of American labor — vowed Wednesday to replicate that success elsewhere. But the search for the next Michigan could be difficult. National unions, caught flat-footed in the Wolverine State, pledged to offer fierce opposition wherever the idea crops up next. They consider the laws a direct attack on their finances and political clout at a time when labor influence is already greatly diminished. In addition, few Republican governors who could enact such legislation seem eager to bring the fight to their states, report Felicia Sonmez and David A. Fahrenthold.
-The Fix: The Michigan right-to-work battle, explained by Sean Sullivan
- At federal government agencies, survey finds sagging job satisfaction--It’s no secret that federal workers are feeling worn down. They’ve had their salaries frozen and are at the center of a partisan debate over the value of their work. A report due out Thursday, based on the largest sample ever of the workforce of 2 million, confirms a steady decline in morale and ebbing commitment. Despite positive feedback at some agencies, job satisfaction across the government has hit its lowest point in almost a decade. Just 52.9 percent of employees at the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, for example, are satisfied with their jobs, making it the lowest-ranked large agency, followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The seventh annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings pose a challenge for the Obama administration as President Obama, who pledged to reinvigorate federal work and make government “cool again,” embarks on a second term, reports Lisa Rein.
-Federal Eye Blog: Everything you need to know about the ‘Best Places to Work’ report by Josh Hicks
-The Fix: The Republican brand problem-- What those numbers make clear is that the Republican brand is badly damaged. It is regarded by too many people as an uncompromising relic of the past — a party that lacks new ideas and is, therefore, forced to largely serve as a blockade to the other side. (That’s the biggest reason, by the way, why Republicans should be interested in compromising on the fiscal cliff. They gap between how Obama is regarded and how they are seen is enough to make going over the cliff a genuine political loser for them.) Republicans have and will continue to insist that they have put out new ideas, but the reality is that the American public doesn’t perceive them that way. The good news for Republicans is that some of the party’s brand issues may well take care of themselves, report Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake.
-Op-Ed: We need Congress’s help on Sandy relief--By Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Dannel P. Malloy-- As Congress works to put our nation’s fiscal house in order, its leaders and members should not leave Washington until they have fulfilled another of their critical obligations: to provide aid to the Northeast, a region facing unprecedented damage and devastation. Time and again, members of our states’ congressional delegations have joined with our neighbors to send hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to battered regions across our great nation. They did so in the spirit of compassion, recognizing that in times of crisis no region, state or single American should have to stand alone or be left to fend for themselves.
-The Root: Michigan Labor Fight Hurts Blacks More--(The Root) -- On the heels of a major loss for organized labor in Wisconsin earlier this year, when the state's governor signed a law limiting collective bargaining rights (a law later struck down by a judge and pending appeal), unions are now under siege in the state of Michigan. On Tuesday Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a series of controversial "right to work" laws, which will limit the powers of the state's organized labor force. Among the measures: Union dues can no longer be compulsory in private workplaces with labor contracts, which critics fear will sap union finances and clout. The move has sparked national outrage among progressives, as well as fear among many members of the working class. But black working men and women may have particular reason to worry, reports Keli Goff.
- Executives push for ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, even if their tax concerns have to wait--With corporate tax rates and tax breaks up for grabs, chief executives are personally stepping forward to lobby Congress and the White House on taxes, seeking to set priorities while conceding that some taxes will have to go up. The business executives, while unenthusiastic about higher taxes, say that avoiding the “fiscal cliff” is their No. 1 priority and that many other key issues can be taken care of in broader tax reform negotiations they hope would take place next year. “Most have focused less on the particulars of a tax agreement and more on just the need to get something done to provide certainty,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, report Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin.
- Fed ties stimulus to jobs, inflation in unprecedented steps to bolster economy--The Federal Reserve will take steps to bolster the economy until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent or inflation looks likely to exceed 2.5 percent, the central bank said Wednesday in a historic move that for the first time specifies the Fed’s goals for the nation’s economy. The Fed also said it would buy $45 billion in Treasury bonds a month, on top of $40 billon a month it is already buying in mortgage bonds, in an effort to flood markets with money and reduce interest rates on a wide range of loans. Lower interest rates tend to stimulate borrowing, economic activity and employment. The actions signaled the Fed’s concerns that high unemployment — what Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke called “an enormous waste of human and economic potential” — will cast a long shadow over the nation for years. Fed officials projected that the jobless rate, now at 7.7 percent, would not reach 6.5 percent until near the end of 2015 at the earliest, reports Zachary A. Goldfarb.
- Cybersecurity firm identifies ‘credible threat’ to 30 U.S. banks--Hackers may stage a massive fraud attack on 30 U.S. national, investment and regional banks early next year, according to a new cybersecurity report. The report, scheduled to be released Thursday by McAfee Labs, warns the financial industry to be wary of software that creates fraudulent online banking transactions. Hackers could create fake bank transactions, or skim a portion of high-dollar bank transfers, the report said. The report links the threat to a program called Project Blitzkrieg, which hackers say has been in development since 2008 and has already stolen $5 million. The attacks have now reached the United States, McAfee reports. There have been 300 to 500 U.S. victims in the past couple of months, and the effort could reach full strength by spring, said Pat Calhoun, a network security expert at McAfee, reports Hayley Tsukayama.