Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post

Today’s Top World News from The Washington Post


- The rise of the bitcoin: Virtual gold or cyber-bubble?-- A currency surging in value at a breathtaking rate this week belongs to no nation and is issued by no central bank. It can be used to buy gold in California, a hamburger in Berlin or a house in Alberta. When desired, it can offer largely untraceable transactions. The coin in question now has a global circulation worth more than $1.4 billion on paper. Yet almost no one, it seems, knows the true identity of its creator. In the United States, this mysterious money has become the darling of antigovernment libertarians and computer wizards prospecting in the virtual mines of cyberspace. In Europe, meanwhile, it has found its niche as the coinage of anarchic youth, reports Anthony Faiola and T.W. Farnam:


- Waning hopes for nuclear deal spur calls for U.S. outreach to Iranian public-- With hopes dimming for a diplomatic end to the Iranian nuclear stalemate in the coming months, some U.S. policy veterans are advising a novel approach to improving ties with the Islamic Republic: showing a little love for ordinary Iranians. A report by a panel of U.S. experts, which was released Thursday, calls on the Obama administration to engage more directly with the Iranian people, in part to counter increasingly negative attitudes toward Americans following nearly two years of harsh economic sanctions, reports Joby Warrick:


- As N. Korean threats intensify, first signs of jitters in the South-- This bustling South Korean capital has been defined for decades as a place of traffic jams and luxury shopping malls, long days of work and longer nights of drinking rice liquor. Residents rarely behaved as though their routines could be upended in minutes by the Kim regime to the north and its 10,000 artillery pieces. But after years of largely ignoring threats from North Korea, some residents say they are becoming a bit jittery, with the ascension of an unpredictable young leader in Pyongyang and levels of hostile rhetoric not seen since the early 1990s, reports Chico Harlan:






- Senator wants to let federal prosecutors carry guns on the job-- Concerned about the recent shooting deaths of two state prosecutors, a Texas senator says that federal prosecutors should be allowed to carry firearms when working on federal property. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a former state attorney general, wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. late Wednesday requesting more information on Justice Department policy regarding when and where federal prosecutors may carry firearms. Current policy bars prosecutors from carrying personal firearms to their offices, even if they hold state-issued concealed-carry licenses, reports Ed O’Keefe:


- Maryland’s leftward swing-- Benefits for illegal immigrants. Same-sex marriage. Strict regulations on gun purchases. Over the past two years, Maryland has enacted laws that represent a dramatic liberal shift, even for a state long dominated by Democrats. Driving the progressive swing is Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the Maryland General Assembly, which now embraces legislation that it previously rejected. Emboldened by victories in statewide referendums, the governor and his allies have imposed tax increases, repealed the death penalty and approved a system to provide more than $1 billion in subsidies to a potential offshore wind farm, reports Paul Schwartzman:


- Top Obama campaign aides join primary bid against Democratic incumbent Mike Honda-- Top officials from President Obama’s 2012 campaign team have joined a primary bid against an incumbent Democratic congressman with strong labor backing and an endorsement from Obama himself. Rep. Michael M. Honda, in his seventh term representing a district in the southern San Francisco Bay area of California, faces the challenge from Ro Khanna, a former Commerce Department official who has written a book about renewing American manufacturing. The district, covering the north side of San Jose and the south side of Fremont, is home to some of America’s biggest tech giants, including Apple, Yahoo and Cisco. Khanna says he hopes to bring the collaborative culture at those companies to Congress, reports T.W. Farnam:


- The Fix: Public wants Constitution to decide same-sex marriage, not states-- Most voters say same-sex marriage should be decided by the U.S. Constitution, even as many pols have suggested that individual states should determine whether it ought to be legal. In a new Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday, 56 percent said that same-sex marriage should be decided for all states on the basis of the Constitution. Just 36 percent said states should make the call. In the Quinnipiac poll, nearly seven in 10 Democrats support a constitutional decision. Republicans are more divided, with 49 percent siding with the states and 45 percent preferring a constitutional mandate, reports Sean Sullivan:




- Obama budget would cut entitlements in exchange for tax increases-- President Obama will release a budget next week that proposes significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security and fewer tax hikes than in the past, a conciliatory approach that he hopes will convince Republicans to sign onto a grand bargain that would curb government borrowing and replace deep spending that took effect March 1. When he unveils the budget on Wednesday, Obama will break with the tradition of providing a sweeping vision of how he would govern if he were untethered from political realities., reports Zachary A. Goldfarb:


- Consumer bureau fines mortgage insurers $15M over alleged kickbacks-- For more than a decade, four of the nation’s largest mortgage insurers paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to home lenders in exchange for business, raising insurance prices for consumers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Thursday. The consumer watchdog agency fined Genworth Mortgage Insurance Corp., United Guaranty Corp., Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. and Radian Guaranty Inc. a total of $15.4 million for an alleged scheme that the bureau said was a common practice in the lead-up to the nation’s housing meltdown, reports Danielle Douglas:


- Japan opens the spigot, with a torrent of yen planned to boost the economy-- Japan plans to flood its economy with freshly printed yen in coming months in an effort to shock one of the world’s major industrial powers out of a 20-year-old stupor. The impact of an unexpectedly ambitious move by the Bank of Japan on Thursday could course quickly through the world economy, pulling down the value of Japan’s currency and with it the prices of the cars, electronics and other goods the country sells worldwide. That could mean a larger U.S. trade deficit with the country and a more difficult market for American exports, which will become more expensive in Japan by comparison, reports Howard Schneider:


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