Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

- Sour U.S.-Russia relations threaten Obama’s foreign policy agenda- A poisonous unraveling of U.S. relations with Russia in recent months represents more than the failure of President Obama’s first-term attempt to “reset” badly frayed bilateral relations. It threatens pillars of Obama’s second-term foreign policy agenda as well. From Syria and Iran to North Korea and Afghanistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin holds cards that he can use to help or hurt Obama administration objectives. Obama badly needs Russian help to get U.S. troops and gear out of landlocked Afghanistan. He also wants Russian cooperation — or at least a quiet agreement not to interfere — on other international fronts, reports Anne Gearan.


-Obama says U.S. warplanes involved in Somali rescue mission- U.S. military fighter jets provided backup support to a failed French hostage rescue mission in Somalia, the White House announced Sunday in a rare public acknowledgment of American combat operations in the Horn of Africa. In a letter to Congress, President Obama said U.S. combat aircraft “provided limited technical support” to French forces late Friday as they attempted to rescue a French spy who had been held captive for more than three years. The risky mission by French commandos ended disastrously after a gun battle with Islamist fighters from the al-Shabab militant network. The hostage, identified by his cover name, Denis Allex, was presumed killed and a French soldier was reported missing, reports Craig Whitlock.


-Clearing Palestinian protestors from West Bank site, Netanyahu pledges to build settlement- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Sunday to follow through with plans for settlement construction in a key West Bank area known as E-1 after police evicted scores of Palestinian protesters who had set up a tent camp there. “We will complete the planning, and there will be construction,” Netanyahu told Army Radio hours after the eviction, but he cautioned that the planning process for the new development “will take time.” Netanyahu, who is in the home stretch of an election campaign, moved swiftly against the Palestinian encampment, a new form of grass-roots protest modeled after scores of wildcat outposts set up by Jewish settlers on West Bank hills without government approval, reports Joel Greenberg.



- Lines harden in debate over guns- Opposing forces in the debate over the nation’s gun laws staked out starkly different positions Sunday, with the head of the largest gun rights group declaring confidence that a ban on assault weapons would not win passage from lawmakers, while advocates of tightening restrictions on guns said such measures can be approved. “I would say that the likelihood is that they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress,” National Rifle Association President David Keene said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Keene’s comments came two days before a self-imposed deadline for an Obama administration task force led by Vice President Biden to offer concrete policy recommendations on curbing gun violence, reports Sean Sullivan.


- Bloomberg wants to change the GOP- Michael Bloomberg, America’s most prominent and deep-pocketed advocate for gun control, would rather rehabilitate Republicans than oust them. “Somebody got them the way they are now,” the mayor of New York said in a recent interview as he sat in the bullpen offices of City Hall, surrounded by a buzzing staff, blinking Bloomberg terminals and clocks telling the same time in each of the five boroughs. “Why can’t you change them?” On Monday, Bloomberg will headline a summit on guns at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, another opportunity for the outspoken mayor to deliver an indictment of Washington’s failure to do anything meaningful on the issue. Although the Democrat-turned-Republican-

turned-indepen­dent says he practices a “noble and practical” brand of post-partisan politics, when it comes to gun laws, he is more aligned with one party than the other, reports Jason Horowitz.


-The Federal Eye: GOP amendment would cut fed-worker benefit to offset Hurricane Sandy relief- The National Treasury Employees Union on Friday slammed a Republican House proposal that would offset emergency funding for Hurricane Sandy with spending cuts that would affect the federal workforce. Congress has already dedicated about $10 billion to the federal flood insurance program in Sandy’s wake, but lawmakers are considering a separate relief package expected to total about $50 billion. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has proposed a pair of amendments to the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act that would offset about $17 billion in emergency funding by requiring across-the-board 1.63 percent cuts for all federal agencies and by ending the mass-transit benefit for federal workers, reports Josh Hicks.


The Fix: Colin Powell: Chuck Hagel ‘superbly qualified’ to be defense secretary- Former secretary of state Colin Powell on Sunday defended former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel’s qualifications to be the next defense secretary, saying in a lengthy interview that he expects him to be confirmed. “I think he gets confirmed,” Powell said on NBC News’s “Meet The Press.” I think he’s ultimately superbly qualified, based on his overall record, based on his service to the country, based on how he feels about troops and veterans and families.  I think he will do a great job as secretary of defense.” Powell, who endorsed Hagel the day President Obama announced his nomination, pushed back against concerns some senators have raised about Hagel’s record on Iraq, Iran and Israel, reports Sean Sullivan.


-Wonkblog: Treasury: We won’t mint a platinum coin to sidestep the debt ceiling- The Treasury Department will not mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin to get around the debt ceiling. If they did, the Federal Reserve would not accept it. That’s the bottom line of the statement that Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, gave me today. “Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit,” he said. The inclusion of the Federal Reserve is significant. For the platinum coin idea to work, the Federal Reserve would have to treat it as a legal way for the Treasury Department to create currency. If they don’t believe it’s legal and would not credit the Treasury Department’s deposit, the platinum coin would be worthless, reports Ezra Klein.


-Va. governor’s proposal to eliminate gas taxes finds many fans among businesses- Alexandria Yellow Cab driver Sultan Sakhi has been driving for 24 years. All Alexandria Yellow Cab drivers own their own vehicles and pay for their upkeep — and every month, Sakhi puts more than $1,000 worth of gas into his Toyota Camry. Sakhi’s financial burdens might be eased some if Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is successful in changing how the state pays for transportation projects. McDonnell recently proposed eliminating Virginia’s gas tax of 17 cents per gallon in exchange for raising the state’s 5 percent sales tax to 5.8 percent. He would also assess an annual fee of $100 on alternatively fueled cars, reports Mohana Ravindranath.


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