Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post   



-Pope Francis visits ancient basilica in Rome on first full day as pontiff--In his first morning as supreme pontiff and leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis visited the ancient Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, slipping in a side entrance and praying for a half an hour. The 8 a.m. stop (3 a.m. Eastern) at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Italy’s largest basilica, was not a surprise. Minutes after his quick election on the second day of deliberations inside the papal conclave, Francis asked his fellow cardinals if they would wait until later Thursday to return to the Sistine Chapel with him for a special, private Mass. By Jason Horowitz and Anthony Faiola

-WorldViews blog: Sorry, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not the first non-European pope by Max Fisher

-Pope Francis: His name reflects ‘his ministry for the poor’ by Joel Achenbach

-D.C. area Catholics embrace symbolism of the election of first Latin American pope by Michelle Boorstein


- Iran, al-Qaeda relationship is showing cracks, U.S. officials and analysts say--Iran’s expulsion of a senior al-Qaeda official appears to signal a crackdown on the terrorist group that has long been granted safe haven within its borders, U.S. officials say. Iran’s ouster of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former al-Qaeda spokesman and the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, marked at least the third time in the past year that a prominent al-Qaeda figure has left the country after living for years in a limbo between houseguest and home detainee. U.S. officials and terrorism experts say the tougher stance appears to reflect growing tensions between Iran’s Shiite clerics and the Sunni Muslim terrorist group, particularly over the civil war in Syria, where they are backing opposing sides, reports Joby Warrick.


-Xi’s election to presidency completes China’s leadership transition--Xi Jinping was named China’s new president Thursday, completing a months-long highly choreographed transition of power. The announcement came after a largely ceremonial vote of parliamentary delegates at the National People’s Congress. Xi, 59, has been China’s top leader since November when he took control of its highest military body as well as the ruling Communist Party — where the country’s real power resides. Thursday’s vote was a mere formality — with only one vote against and three abstentions out of nearly 3,000 cast — but experts have scrutinized the ongoing parliamentary meeting the past two weeks for clues of emerging power factions and what policy directions Xi may take, reports William Wan.





-Democrats challenge Obama on Medicare and Social Security cuts--On one side of the Capitol, President Obama sought to convince House Republicans on Wednesday that he is serious about reining in the rising cost of federal health and retirement programs. But on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats rolled out a 10-year spending plan that sent a different message: Not so fast. While Democratic leaders are offering quiet support for Obama’s renewed campaign to strike a grand bargain with Republicans that would include cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a significant number of Democratic lawmakers are digging in their heels and vowing to protest any reduction in promised benefits. By Lori Montgomery


-Op-ed by John Boehner: Obama’s outreach is nice, but where’s the leadership?-- So it was a good meeting. House Republicans welcomed the chance for a frank exchange of ideas with President Obama on Wednesday. Outreach is always positive, and more Republicans in this town need the opportunity to have an open dialogue with our president. I hope these discussions continue. Yet, while this may have been the first time some of my colleagues have heard the president’s arguments so personally and directly, I’ve heard them all many times before. If we’re going to find bipartisan solutions, the president will have to move beyond the same proposals and Democratic dogma.


-The Fix: 5 Things to Watch at CPAC--The Republican Party and the conservative movement’s nascent efforts to find their new identities will be center-stage over the next three days at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a yearly Washington confab featuring the top figures and minds on the political right. Over at Post Politics, we’ll keep you updated on the blow by blow down at the Gaylord Hotel in suburban Maryland. And the agenda can be found on the CPAC website. But before the festivities begin Thursday morning, we thought it would be helpful to set the stakes a little. Below are five key plotlines to keep tabs on, by Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan.


-NRA money helped reshape gun law--As the Obama administration pushes for gun-control legislation, it will have to contend with the changed legal understanding of the Second Amendment that culminated in Heller. That transformation was brought about in large part by a small band of lawyers and scholars backed by the NRA. For more than three decades, the NRA has sponsored legal seminars, funded legal research and encouraged law review articles that advocate an individual’s right to possess guns, according to the organization’s reports. The result has been a profound shift in legal thinking on the Second Amendment. And the issue of individual gun-possession rights, once almost entirely ignored, has moved into the center of constitutional debate and study. For proponents of stricter gun control, the NRA’s encouragement of favorable legal scholarship has been a mark of its strategic, patient advocacy, reports Peter Finn.

-The Root: A 'Good Guy With a Gun' Is Dead--The death of Virginia State Police Trooper Junius Walker shows why the NRA's position is misguided. By Jack White


-Michelle Obama returns to Vogue cover as a first lady who’s melded style, influence-- First lady Michelle Obama will appear on the cover of the fashion glossy when the April issue arrives on newsstands in less than two weeks. But with this sophomore turn on the Vogue cover, the sight of her smiling visage and freshly cut locks in the pages of the fashion industry’s guardian of establishment aesthetics is less of a surprise and more of an expectation. Obama seems to have settled comfortably into her pop-culture status as a fashion icon, having boldly indulged in such who-the-heck-are-they designers as Thom Browne and Bibhu Mohapatra. With the aid of celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz and a village of stylists led by Vogue fashion editor Tonne Goodman, there was a near guarantee of a flattering image for the historical record. By Robin Givhan



-Wonkblog: The Senate Democrats’ vague, conservative budget--The surprise when comparing the House Republicans’ budget and the Senate Democrats’ budget is just how much more conservative the Democratic effort is. I don’t mean ideologically conservative, of course. I mean conservative in the sense that the dictionary defines it: “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.” There is little in the federal government Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) does not confidently propose to remake. Medicare becomes a voucher system in which we trust government regulators to keep private insurers in line. By Ezra Klein


-Is Ireland an economic example or an exception for the euro zone?-- In Europe’s grand battle over growth vs. austerity, has Ireland proved that austerity works? The country successfully sold longer-term government bonds Wednesday, a sign that international investors regard its rebound as durable and that it will end its reliance on an international bailout program later this year. It would be the first euro-zone country to achieve that milestone. The economy is growing — slowly — despite a regional recession. Employment and foreign investment are rising. Even as other European nations have considered slowing their drive to balance budgets so governments could borrow and spend more, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said the country will meet its promised European deficit targets in the next two years, reports Howard Schneider.


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