Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post


- Hopes for Syrian negotiations disappear as two sides reject Russian overture-- A small window of opportunity for a political solution to the Syrian crisis appeared to close Thursday when the government of President Bashar al-Assad rejected a meeting in Moscow with the head of the opposition coalition. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said that, despite reports about a Moscow “meeting with the opposition,” the regime was open only to talks inside Syria. The rebel Syrian Opposition Coalition, which has rejected any talks until Assad leaves power, also said there would be no Moscow meeting, reports Karen DeYoung:


-OPINION: Learn to live with a nuclear North Korea-- After North Korea’s nuclear test Tuesday, the West’s reaction has been as predictable as it will be ineffective: lots of hand-wringing, calls for more sanctions, warnings of vague consequences if North Korea continues to violate U.N. resolutions. As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, the North Koreans’ provocations “will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.” Unfortunately, none of these actions will curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. For years, we’ve tried carrots and, more often, sticks with the Hermit Kingdom, to little avail. Even the 1994 agreement between Washington and Pyongyang that temporarily froze Kim Jong Il’s plutonium program did not really constrain the regime — it merely shifted to a parallel uranium-enrichment program. And North Korea has conducted two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009. It’s time for a new approach, reports Ted Galen Carpenter:


- China wages a quiet war of maps with its neighbors-- Bitter maritime disputes between China and its neighbors have recently sent fighter jets scrambling, ignited violent protests, and seen angry fishermen thrown in jail. But beneath all the bellicose rhetoric and threatening posture, China also has been waging a quiet campaign, using ancient documents, academic research, maps and technical data to bolster its territorial claims. The frenetic pace of such research — and the official appetite for it — comes after decades of relative quiet in the field and has focused heavily on the two hottest debates: China’s quarrel with six other nations over a potentially oil-rich patch of the South China Sea and its tense feud with Japan over a small sprinkling of land called the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese and the Senkaku Islands by the Japanese, reports William Wan:


- WorldViews: China’s state newspaper slams Valentine’s Day for causing ‘debauchery of decadent cadres’-- People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, has taken an important step in maintaining its tradition of absurdity and unintentional self-parody. The paper, which claims a readership of 2.4 million, published a short article blaming Valentine’s Day for the recent spate of corruption and sex scandals among Communist Party officials. Really. New Chinese leader Xi Jinping, like his predecessor Hu Jintao did before him, is making official corruption a high priority. But the past year has seen some high-profile and embarrassing revelations of corruption, most notably in the dramatic downfall of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, reports Max Fisher:






- Senate Republicans filibuster Hagel nomination--Senate Republicans delivered a sharp rebuke to President Obama on Thursday when they began a filibuster of Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. The confirmation process stalled Thursday when GOP senators deprived Hagel of the 60 votes needed to move it to its final stages. Republicans said they were seeking a delay so they could look more closely at the nominee. Both sides still think the former GOP senator from Nebraska will be confirmed, but the filibuster brought stark condemnations from Obama and Senate Democrats, who decried it as an unprecedented partisan move against a nominee to lead the Pentagon, reports Paul Kane:


- Obama touts plan for universal preschool-- President Obama visited a preschool here Thursday to tout early education for all 4-year-olds from low- and modest-income families, part of a three-day campaign-style promotion of ideas outlined in his State of the Union address. Reprising a theme from his speech two days earlier, he told an audience of teachers, parents and young students that “education has to start at the earliest possible age.” Obama wants to guarantee preschool at age 4 for all children from poor and working-class backgrounds. He also wants to support local initiatives to provide education for middle-class children of the same age, as well as for infants and toddlers from low-income families, reports Zachary A. Goldfarb:


- Poll finds support for five-day mail delivery-- Most Americans approve of the U.S. Postal Service’s decision last week to end Saturday mail delivery, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday. The poll found that 54 percent of Americans support the five-day delivery plan while 32 percent disapprove of it. The survey also showed that the change garners bipartisan support, with at least 50 percent of Democrats, Republicans and independents supporting it. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe’s decision to move forward with five-day delivery looks like an attempt to circumvent Congress’s long-standing resistance to the plan, which the Postal Service believes will save about $2 billion annually, reports Josh Hicks:


- The Fix: The growing debate over whether Washington has a ‘spending problem’-- Ask any Republican about government spending, and you’re virtually assured of receiving the same reaction: It needs to be reined in — big time. Ask a Democrat, and the answer is increasingly difficult to predict. In the past week, leading Democrats have answered the question of whether Washington has a spending problem in conflicting ways, with at least two big names offering forceful arguments that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem. But doing so not only risks putting them at odds with the GOP, but with majority of Americans, too, reports Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake:


- The Root: Rubio Repeats a Failed Message-- Time magazine tells me that Marco Rubio is "the Republican Savior." If his response to Barack Obama's State of the Union is any indication of his potential on the national stage, then Hillary Clinton should start practicing the oath of office tomorrow. It was not merely a weak response; it was, in fact, an awful little speech, which did no more than slightly tweak a failed message. Let's be fair. Rubio faced at least two major challenges last night. First, Barack Obama gave what I regard as the second-best speech of his national political career. If there was any doubt, all such reservations have been laid to rest. His second challenge was the House Republicans, a group that contains elements that make sensible, practical compromise with this rejuvenated president exceedingly difficult, reports  Lawrence D. Bobo:




- Awash in liquidity, the global economy remains sluggish-- There’s plenty of money in the world. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news: The flood of dollars, euros, yen and pounds pumped into the global economy by major central banks in recent years has yet to pay off in the form of job creation, investment and stronger economic growth. It has kept banks afloat, let corporations build large cash reserves and restructure debt and, arguably, staved off a worldwide depression, reports  Howard Schneider:


- Warren fights for CFPB again, but this time as a senator-- Four years ago, Elizabeth Warren was a Harvard Law professor crusading for the creation of a consumer protection agency to police the abusive practices that harmed millions of Americans during the financial crisis. Now that Warren has taken office as a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, she is fighting from inside the system to keep the upstart Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s power intact as her Republican colleagues vow to block the confirmation of CFPB director Richard Cordray. Senate Republicans are urging President Obama to alter the structure of the bureau by subjecting it to annual appropriations and installing a five-member board for greater transparency and accountability. The White House, however, insists that the bureau remain an independent regulator, reports  Danielle Douglas:


- Senate Democrats propose cuts, tax hikes on rich to avoid sequester-- With another fiscal deadline just two weeks away, Senate Democrats on Thursday announced a plan to protect the Pentagon and other federal agencies from deep, automatic spending cuts in part by raising taxes on millionaires. The $110 billion package would postpone the cuts, known as the sequester, through the end of this year, preserving the paychecks of federal workers and averting a hit to the economy that by official estimates could destroy 750,000 jobs. But the primary goal of the proposal is political: Republicans, who oppose any new taxes, must defend that position in the face of across-the-board cuts that Democrats say would threaten military readiness, reverse gains in border security and throw 70,000 preschoolers out of Head Start programs, reports  Lori Montgomery:


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