Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post:
- Federal appeals court considers release of postmortem Osama bin Laden photos--The dramatic raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound plays out on the big screen this month in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” but the government’s actual photos of the deceased al-Qaeda leader and his burial remain classified. A federal appeals court on Thursday will consider whether the public has a right to view postmortem images of bin Laden. The lawsuit, filed by a conservative-leaning watchdog group, seeks the release of 52 photos that followed the operation in May 2011. The government argues, and a lower court judge agreed, that the photos must be kept secret in the interest of national security, reports Ann E. Marimow.
- In Chavez’s absence, U.S. works to open communication with Venezuela--CARACAS, Venezuela — With cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez battling for his life, the Obama administration has embarked on a discreet but concerted weeks-long diplomatic initiative to open channels of communication with his sharply anti-American government. The effort to break through a years-old deep freeze with one of the world’s top oil suppliers comes as Venezuela plunged deeper into an institutional crisis Wednesday over Chavez’s long absence since undergoing surgery Dec. 11 in Cuba. But American officials have been preparing for a post-Chavez scenario, one in which they can engage Caracas on a variety of concerns the State Department has had about the Venezuelan government’s policies, reports Juan Forero.
- Role of Syrian women evolves as war rages on--ANTAKYA, Turkey — Hiba Alhaji’s flight from Syria was sparked when she was summoned for interrogation after she encouraged her university students to join protests against the government. Her inquisitors never realized the trunk of her car parked outside was full of guns she was running for the rebels. Afraid it was just a matter of time before she was found out, Alhaji says she left Aleppo the next day for Turkey, where she founded the Free Syrian Women Organization. She now channels her revolutionary spirit into distributing food and medicine for refugees, and counseling women who were raped before they, too, fled the civil war in their homeland, reports Carol Morello.
- In campaign for tougher gun laws, Obama and allies work to tilt public opinion--The White House is working with its allies on a well-financed campaign in Washington and around the country to shift public opinion toward stricter gun laws and provide political cover to lawmakers who end up voting for an assault-weapons ban or other restrictions on firearms. With President Obama preparing to push a legislative agenda aimed at curbing the nation’s gun violence, pillars of his political network, along with independent groups, are raising millions of dollars and mapping out strategies in an attempt to shepherd new regulations through Congress. But the efforts, designed in large part to counter opposition from the National Rifle Association, face serious political obstacles on Capitol Hill, reports Philip Rucker, .
-The Fix: 5 senators to watch in gun control debate--Vice President Joe Biden is promising to produce a package of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence by the end of the month, a move that will trigger a major legislative brouhaha on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks. Biden, a veteran of congressional slugfests, made clear in remarks on Wednesday that he was both open to compromise and committed to action. “This is a problem that requires immediate attention,” he said. “I want to make clear that we’re not going to get caught up in the notion that, unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing.” While all 535 Members of Congress will have something to say — they are politicians, after all — on whatever Biden and his task force propose, some members matter more than others, report Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake.
-OPINION: Obama needs some binders of women by Ruth Marcus--About all those white guys: What a shame. Not an outrage, but a shame. The face of power that President Obama has chosen to present to the country and the world with his second-term Cabinet picks is striking — except for the African American president at the top of the pyramid — for its retro look, white and male. It’s “Mad Men” Goes to Washington, except Peggy’s leaving. On the foreign policy team, white guy for secretary of state, white guy for defense secretary, white guy for CIA. For Treasury secretary, white guy. Obama’s replacement as chief of staff — as yet unnamed, but the rumor mill names no one but . . . white guys. To be clear: I’ve got nothing against white guys. Some of my best husbands are white guys. White guys get to be secretary of state, too, and John Kerry will be the first in 16 years.
-The Insiders: Where is the Republicans’ compromise?--Like his beloved Alabama football team, fellow insider Ed Rogers has been on a roll lately. While I have been studying “Grey's Anatomy” diagrams of the knee to gauge RGIII’s prognosis, Ed has been delivering a broadside against Democrats: yesterday, it was that they don't care about deficits; today, it is that they would rather beat up marginal Republicans on gun control than achieve a compromise. There's the magic word: “compromise.” It has been missing from the Republican vocabulary since President Bill Clinton took office. Clinton’s 1993 economic plan, which by the way set the stage for not only a balanced budget but also large surpluses, passed with nary a Republican vote. By Carter Eskew
-The Root: How Will Obama Tackle Education Reform? As we count down to a second term, a look at his approach to the achievement gap. When it came to improving education generally and addressing the achievement gap specifically, the Obama administration was quick to pick up the charge and has focused on it consistently, even taking on the not-yet-mainstream issue of racial disparities in school discipline, Deborah Vagins, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Root. Vagins says that the administration was "very receptive" to addressing what's known as the "school-to-prison pipeline" -- the idea that children are pushed out of public schools and into the criminal-justice system because of overreliance on racially discriminatory, punitive school discipline -- among other issues with consequences for educational equality, reports Jenee Desmond-Harris.
-CFPB releases new mortgage rules in bid to reduce risky lending--The government is establishing new rules for mortgages that will make it harder for some borrowers to qualify but that are designed to prevent the kind of risky lending that nearly caused the housing market to collapse during the financial crisis. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday will roll out the first of several far-reaching changes to the nation’s mortgage market, limiting upfront fees and curtailing practices such as interest-only payments that can leave homeowners stuck with unsustainable loans. The agency also will set standards for how much income a consumer must have to obtain a mortgage. This marks the first time the government has spelled out what constitutes a “qualified mortgage,” an effort to prevent the widespread toxic loans that hurt millions of Americans during the housing crisis, reports Danielle Douglas.
-Wonkblog: AIG won’t join suit against government, order restored to universe--The AIG board met Wednesday to hear arguments over whether the giant insurer should join a controversial lawsuit against the government alleging that its 2008 bailout of the firm unfairly punished shareholders. Surely fearing a public relations blowback, it has elected not to join an effort launched by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, a former chief executive of the company and major shareholder. If anything, the public outcry to disclosure that it would even consider suing the government for the unfavorable terms of its bailout–several lawmakers weighed in, aghast that the board would even consider such a move–may have made the board’s choice even more stark. That is particularly true given that it recently launched an entire publicity campaign around the idea of “Thank you, America,” full of patriotic themes and proud assertions of the fact that the insurer has now returned all its bailout money to the Treasury at a profit to taxpayers. Trying to get some of that money back would surely have undermined the campaign, reports Neil Irwin.
- Obama selects White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to head Treasury--President Obama recently said he would love to hire a top executive into his administration. But for the job of Treasury secretary, he didn’t pick a corporate executive, a famous economist or a former politician — he has decided to tap a trusted adviser, White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew, an expert on the nation’s ongoing budget wars. Obama plans to nominate Lew to take over from Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the president’s longest-serving economic adviser, according to two people familiar with the pick. The selection signals that Obama’s second term will not initially focus on big new ideas to create jobs or expand government investment in the economy, report Zachary A. Goldfarb, Jim Tankersley and Chris Cillizza,.
The Fix: Who is Jack Lew? By Sean Sullivan http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/01/09/who-is-jack-lew/