Today’s top world news from The Washington Post:

Today’s top world news from The Washington Post:


- Rape has become ‘significant’ part of Syrian war, says humanitarian group-- Rape has become a “significant and disturbing feature” of the war in Syria, one that many refugees cite as their leading reason for fleeing the country, according to a report released Monday by a New York-based humanitarian organization. The victims are primarily women and girls who are attacked in public, at roadblocks or at home by “armed men.” The report, by the International Rescue Committee, does not specify whether those men are primarily from government forces or from rebel ranks. Family members are often forced to watch, according to the report, and gang rape is not uncommon. In addition, it says, there is an “alarming lack” of medical and psychological support for survivors of the attacks, reports Jenna Johnson.


- Afghans want withdrawal of village police trainers-- Days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama seemed to agree on the future role of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a division has emerged over one of the American military’s most prized defense programs.

Top Afghan officials said Obama’s pledge last week to remove U.S. troops from Afghan villages should apply to Special Operations forces charged with training the Afghan Local Police. But U.S. officials said they assumed that the policy would apply only to traditional military operations and would include an exemption for the police trainers, whose mission they see as critical to security throughout Afghanistan, reports Kevin Sieff.


- French warplanes hit central Mali in fierce fighting between soldiers, Islamist guerrillas-- French warplanes turned the fury of their bombing runs to central Mali on Monday after a column of Islamist guerrillas swept southward along the Mauritanian border and captured the town of Diabaly, in what was described as fierce fighting with Malian troops. The new push brought the desert fighters to within 250 miles northeast of Bamako, the capital. It also dramatized the extent to which the irregular Islamist forces, well armed and mobile aboard speedy pickup trucks, remain a threat even after four days of French bombing and the deployment of more than 500 French troops to bolster the overwhelmed Malian army, reports Edward Cody and Craig Whitlock.

-WORLD VIEWS: Is Mali another loss for counterinsurgency? By Max Fisher



- Poll: Most Americans support new gun-control measures after Newtown massacre-- Most Americans support tough new measures to counter gun violence, including banning assault weapons and posting armed guards at every school, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. More than half of Americans — 52 percent in the poll — say the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has made them more supportive of gun control; just 5 percent say they are now less apt to back tighter restrictions. Most also are at least somewhat worried about a mass shooting in their own community, with concern jumping to 65 percent among those with school-age children at home. The findings, which also show broad bipartisan support for mandatory background checks to purchase firearms at gun shows, came as President Obama said Monday that he will lay out specific White House proposals on gun-control legislation and executive actions this week, reports David Nakamura and Jon Cohen.


- Obama: No negotiations with GOP over debt ceiling-- President Obama vowed Monday that he would not negotiate with Republicans over the federal debt ceiling, warning that Social Security checks would be delayed and the nation could enter a new recession if Republicans do not agree to raise the limit on government borrowing. In the final news conference of his first term, Obama said Republicans were threatening to hold “a gun at the head of the American people” and that he would not trade spending cuts, as Republicans demand, for an agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, reports Zachary A. Goldfarb and Philip Rucker.

- Bernanke: Debt ceiling only ‘symbolic’ by Ylan Mui

-DANA MILBANK: President Congeniality talks tough


- On inaugural eve, Obama’s most virulent foes want the celebration stopped-- Eldon Bell, a retired Air Force officer and physician, is making no plans to see Barack Obama’s second inauguration, in part because Bell considers the president arrogant and dishonest, but more so because Bell is not yet persuaded that the swearing-in will occur at all. “Whether I watch depends on who’s being inaugurated,” says Bell, 78. “If it’s this guy, probably not, because I don’t pay much attention to illegitimate things.” Preparations for Obama’s Jan. 21 inauguration are in full swing: Construction crews are building bleachers and a special seating area for dignitaries, while military officials are organizing the deployment of an army of National Guard members and active-duty personnel for the parade and other events planned for Jan. 21. At this late date, Bell and his fellow believers in the notion that Obama was born overseas or is otherwise ineligible to be president still expect some court somewhere to buy into one of their theories. After more than 100 court cases, no judge has, reports Marc Fisher.


-THE ROOT: Powell Calls Out GOP on Race -- Now What?-- As President Obama grapples with criticism that his Republican predecessor's cabinet better reflected the diversity of our country than the first black president's, one of President George W. Bush's most high-profile black cabinet members is harshly criticizing the GOP for racial insensitivity. In an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Powell declared himself still a Republican but also made it clear that the party has a long way to go in gaining the trust and votes of African Americans. Citing specific instances of racially offensive comments, Powell said, "There's also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities." By Kelli Goff


- 401(k) breaches undermining retirement security for millions-- A large and growing share of American workers are tapping their retirement savings accounts for non-retirement needs, raising broad questions about the effectiveness of one of the most important savings vehicles for old age. More than one in four American workers with 401(k) and other retirement savings accounts use them to pay current expenses, new data show. The withdrawals, cash-outs and loans drain nearly a quarter of the $293 billion that workers and employers deposit into the accounts each year, undermining already shaky retirement security for millions of Americans. With federal policymakers eyeing cuts to Social Security benefits and Medicare to rein in soaring federal deficits, and traditional pensions in a long decline, retirement savings experts say the drain from the accounts has dire implications for future retirees, reports Michael A. Fletcher.


- Will SEC’s new rules on marketing be a boon for start-ups or a risk for investors?-- The ads may start coming in the next few months through e-mail, on billboards, even via a passing reference on Facebook — companies looking to give you a chance to invest on the ground floor of a start-up that could hit it big. The tantalizing offers may be legitimate or pie-in-the-sky schemes, and that’s the messy reality that federal regulators must address as they craft new rules that will fundamentally change how private offers are marketed to potential investors. Companies that sell their shares to the public constantly disclose all sorts of details about their operations under the watchful eye of regulators, a time-consuming and expensive process that’s meant to help investors make sound decisions, reports Dina ElBoghdady.


- Regulators hit JPMorgan with two enforcement actions-- Federal regulators Monday ordered JPMorgan Chase to fix the poor risk management that led to the bank’s $6 billion trading loss last year. The bank is also being pressed to improve the way it monitors cash transactions that may have enabled terrorists and drug dealers to launder money. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve slapped the nation’s largest bank with two cease-and-desist orders that call for sweeping changes to the bank’s practices. There are no monetary penalties attached to either order. The orders are the latest in a string of enforcement actions that the bank has faced in the past two years for a wide range of activity, including deficiencies in residential mortgage servicing and deceptive marketing of credit protection products, reports Danielle Douglas.

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