Today’s top world stories from The Washington Post:

Today’s top world stories from The Washington Post:


- Kony 2013: U.S. quietly intensifies effort to help African troops capture infamous warlord-- For 15 hours, a team of U.S. Special Forces soldiers shepherded four dozen South Sudanese commandos through an unremitting nighttime rainstorm, plunging into elephant grass so tall and thick they could not gaze beyond the reach of their arms. They heard the telltale cry of a panther and the ripples of crocodiles lurking in the bogs. Quicksand sucked a few men down to their waists before their comrades could haul them out. Their destination was a crude encampment used by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a band of rebels led by the messianic warlord Joseph Kony, who has spent years kidnapping and killing villagers — and eluding his pursuers — across a wide swath of central Africa. By the time the troops reached the camp, as beams of morning light pierced the treetop canopy, the rebels had absconded again. The soldiers gave chase for a day, summoning tracking dogs and an infrared-equipped drone, but their quarry melted into the dense Congolese jungle. By Rajiv Chandrasekaran


- Italy’s train wars: The long, winding road of competition-- In this land where train schedules were once rough estimates and riding a chugging “locale” could feel like traveling by mechanical bull, the hypermodern Italo locomotives aimed to shake up the state-controlled world of Italian rail. Offering sumptuous leather seats, top-shelf prosecco and a cinema car showing first-run movies, Italo high-speed trains — operated by a Rome-based company whose investors include the chairman of Ferrari — began running last spring. But even as they whisk passengers from the canals of Venice to the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at speeds around 200 mph, Italo trains have become less a symbol of the future than a cautionary tale of what can happen when you mention the “C word” — competition — in crisis-hit Europe. Italy’s rail wars have become a litmus test for efforts to inject more dynamism into ailing European economies. For Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV), the company that operates Italo trains, the results so far have been tragicomic, a reminder of how hard it can be to wrest power from state-run companies — a process that economists say is essential to putting the continent on firmer ground. By Anthony Faiola


- For South Korean, rescues of people abducted by North Korea come with controversy-- The walls of Choi Sung-yong’s office are covered with the yellowed head shots of missing South Korean men. Most haven’t been seen since the 1960s or 1970s, when they were snatched by North Korean agents and detained with no explanation. One of the missing men is Choi’s father. South Korea’s government has had little success in bringing them home. So, after years of mounting frustration, Choi has gone rogue. He has become South Korea’s most high-profile advocate for the disappeared, a brash campaigner using shadowy brokers, bribes and lies to spirit the men out of one of the world’s most repressive countries. Since 2000, nine abductees have escaped the North, and Choi says eight of those — including a fisherman who returned last month — wouldn’t have made it out without his help. Those eight “owe me their lives,” Choi says. But on the fractured Korean Peninsula, even a seemingly noble act like rescuing the abducted can cause unforeseen anguish. By Chico Harlan


-WORLD VIEWS: 7 ridiculous restrictions on women’s rights around the world



-Obama didn’t know about surveillance of U.S.-allied world leaders until summer, officials say-- In the midst of the controversy over U.S. surveillance this summer, top intelligence officials held a briefing for President Obama at the White House — one that would provide him with a broad inventory of programs being carried out by the National Security Agency. Some of those programs, including the collection of e-mails and other communications from overseas, had already been disclosed because of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But Obama was also informed of at least one program whose scope surprised him: “head of state collection.” That program, whose targets included the communications of U.S. allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, began in 2002, according to administration officials. Obama never knew that the program targeted American allies, officials said, adding that he was aware of collection efforts aimed at leaders of “adversarial countries.” Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe still-classified activities in general terms, declined to outline the scope of the “head of state” collection program. They added that although Obama ordered the curtailing of some of the program and informed Merkel that the United States was not currently monitoring her calls, he was not angered that intelligence officials had not told him sooner about the extent of the eavesdropping. By Scott Wilson and Anne Gearan

THE SWITCH: Three congressmen asked the government to disclose more about NSA spying in 2009. It said no. By Andrea Peterson


- Judge blocks parts of Texas abortion law-- A federal judge in Texas blocked two key parts of the state’s controversial abortion law Monday, ruling that one part is unconstitutional while another provision imposes an undue burden on women in some instances. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel represents a legal victory for abortion providers, who had challenged new requirements that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic and that all abortions must take place in surgical centers, rather than allowing women to take abortion drugs at home. Eleven abortion clinics and three doctors filed a federal lawsuit last month saying that the requirements, which were to take effect Tuesday, would end abortion services in more than a third of the state’s licensed facilities and eliminate services in Fort Worth and five other major cities. Abbott had said the new restrictions, adopted in summer, were aimed at providing better medical protections for women and fetuses. By Juliet Eilperin


-NEW POLL: McAuliffe opens up double-digit lead over Cuccinelli in Virginia governor’s race-- Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened a double-digit lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli II in the race for Virginia governor, in a new poll capturing increasing dissatisfaction among voters with Cuccinelli’s party and his conservative views. According to a new Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll, McAuliffe tops Cuccinelli 51 percent to 39 percent among likely voters in the Nov. 5 election. McAuliffe led by eight percentage points in a poll taken last month. Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who has capitalized on voter unrest with the two major-party candidates, is at 8 percent, according to the new poll. The margin between the two major-party candidates is driven by a huge gender gap. Among men, the two candidates are running even, with Cuccinelli at 45 percent and McAuliffe at 44 percent. But among women, Cuccinelli trails by 24 points — 58 percent to 34 percent. By Laura Vozzella and Peyton M. Craighill

Va. gubernatorial candidates bring in big names for late campaigning



- At the source of the shutdown, the economy falters — and anger at Barack Obama runs high-- Tom Hackett’s life in the meat business was nearly gone by 4 p.m. on Thursday. What remained behind yards and yards of polished glass were a few scattered remnants of his final inventory — a couple of flank steaks, some shrimp, a lonely half a pound of bologna. Hackett stood behind the case and lamented that in a few hours he would be closing the store he has run for five years. The weak local economy killed it, he said, and so did the new chain grocery store down the street and the bank that said it couldn’t lend to him anymore. But the biggest culprit, he said, was a man in Washington whose name Hackett could not bring himself to speak. “I’m going to go hide for two years,” he said, until “he” — President Obama — is on his way out. “It’s sad. People are hurting. There’s no reason for it to be happening, other than what he’s doing.” By Jim Tankersley


-WONKBLOG: Food stamps will get cut by $5 billion this week — and more cuts could follow-- The U.S. food-stamp program is set to shrink in the months ahead. The only real question is by how much. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) currently costs about $80 billion per year and provides food aid to 14 percent of all U.S. households — some 47 million people. Those numbers swelled dramatically during the recession. But the food-stamp program is now set to downsize in the weeks ahead. There's a big automatic cut scheduled for Nov. 1, as a temporary boost from the 2009 stimulus bill expires. That change will trim about $5 billion from federal food-stamp spending over the coming year. And that's not all: The number of Americans on food stamps could drop even further in the months ahead, as Congress and various states contemplate further changes to the program. By Brad Plumer


- WONKBLOG: Obviously Wall Street is ambivalent about record Apple profits-- Apple watchers, that breed of investors and tech geeks who anticipate every new iProduct iteration with bated breath, were even more excited than usual about the company’s earnings call on Monday. A lot rode on the outcome: Angst about Apple’s potential decline has grown since game-changing new products like a television or a smart watch failed to appear, iPad sales have flattened, and rival Samsung took the lead in phones last quarter. The Cupertino tech giant did a little bit to allay their fears. It brought in record revenue of $37.47 billion, beating expectations, and sold 33.8 million iPhones — up 26 percent year over year. But its profits were down for the third straight quarter — gross margins fell to 37 percent from 40 percent a year earlier, disappointing investors. Part of the problem in the earnings report may be the fact it didn't capture some of Apple’s pipeline of new toys. While demand for the iPhone 5S was strong, supply backlogs meant that consumers couldn’t buy them as quickly as they wanted. By Lydia DePillis


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