Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

-Pope Benedict to resign, citing age and waning energy- Pope Benedict said Monday that he will resign at the end of February because he no longer has the strength to fulfill the duties of his office, news services reported. “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” Benedict said in a statement issued by the Vatican at midday in Rome (6 a.m. Washington time). Benedict, 85, is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. His decision means that for the first time in centuries, there will be a living former pope looking on as his successor leads the Catholic church, reports Debbi Wilgoren.


-In speech, Ahmadinejad reiterates willingness for direct talks with U.S.- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday reiterated his desire to engage in direct talks with the United States, on the condition that the West stop pressuring his country. “Take your guns out of the face of the Iranian nation and I myself will negotiate with you,” he said at an event attended by tens of thousands of Iranians in Tehran’s Azadi Square. A fresh round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, involving Iran, the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany, is scheduled for Feb. 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Last week, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that talks between Iran and the United States would not solve the ongoing dispute, reports Jason Rezaian.


-Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria in event that Assad falls, officials say- Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials. The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. But officials think Iran’s long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in Syria in case the country fractures into ethnic and sectarian enclaves, report Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick.


-New urgency to cross along tougher U.S. border- In Tecate, Mexico — It does not matter much, when you are on this side of the fence, whether there will be a path to citizenship or something short of it. The path that matters is the one up and over the canyons and ridges of “La Rumorosa,” the Whisper Trail, one of the last places left along the California border where someone with no money and a little desert smarts has a decent shot of getting back in. Limon was one of a few here who had heard the talk in recent weeks of U.S. immigration reform, on Telemundo newscasts or secondhand, and he said it had added extra urgency to get back into the States. The finer points of the faraway debate were not particularly relevant. But if the Americans were finally going to change their laws and offer a chance to stay, no one wanted to be stuck on the wrong side of the border, reports Nick Miroff.



-Marco Rubio emerges as GOP’s star. But is he the answer for Republicans?- Lately, it seems just about everyone is fascinated by the junior senator from Florida. Time’s current cover proclaims Marco Rubio “The Republican Savior.” The Web site BuzzFeed last week solicited his views on immigration, climate change, gay rights — and the relative artistic merits of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. That test of his hip-hop fluency came after Rubio released a Spotify playlist of 16 songs he is listening to, generating a flood of instant analysis in the blogosphere. Next up: On Tuesday night, Rubio will give the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address — in English and Spanish, report Karen Tumulty and Manuel Roig-Franzia.


-Obama weighing executive actions on housing, gays and other issues- President Obama is considering a series of new executive actions aimed at working around a recalcitrant Congress, including policies that could allow struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages, provide new protections for gays and lesbians, make buildings more energy-efficient and toughen regulations for coal-fired power plants, according to people outside the White House involved in discussions on the issues. One of the first orders is expected this week, when the Obama administration will call for the creation of new standards on what critical private-sector companies should do to protect their computer systems from hackers, reports Zachary A. Goldfarb.


-Gun debate divides Democrats and tests Obama’s second-term strategy- The politically treacherous debate over the nation’s gun laws has thrown President Obama’s second-term negotiating style into sharp relief. In earlier legislative skirmishes, Obama was pragmatic above all, making a first offer and then a second and a third as he sought compromise with a bitterly divided Congress. But in his legislative push to curb the nation’s gun violence, Obama’s willingness to make concessions has been absent, at least so far. The president set a clear marker — to enact the toughest gun restrictions in generations — and has since worked to rally the public to his side while waiting for wavering lawmakers to come along, report Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe.


-U.S. said to be target of massive cyber-espionage campaign- A new intelligence assessment has concluded that the United States is the target of a massive, sustained cyber-espionage campaign that is threatening the country’s economic competitiveness, according to individuals familiar with the report. The National Intelligence Estimate identifies China as the country most aggressively seeking to penetrate the computer systems of American businesses and institutions to gain access to data that could be used for economic gain. The report, which represents the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, describes a wide range of sectors that have been the focus of hacking over the past five years, including energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotives, according to the individuals familiar with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified document, reports Ellen Nakashima.


-Wonkblog: Cap-and-trade is still alive in New England. Is it working?- Remember cap-and-trade? Back in 2010, Democrats in Congress had a proposal to set a nationwide limit on U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and let businesses trade pollution permits. But the climate bill died, and cap-and-trade mostly vanished from discussion. Except in the Northeast. For the past decade, ten states stretching from Maine to Maryland have been experimenting with their own modest cap on carbon pollution from electric power plants. And, this week, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced that it would continue to cut emissions by tightening the cap between now and 2020, reports Brad Plumer.


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