Today’s top World News from The Washington Post:
-U.S. expands secret intelligence operations in Africa-- The U.S. military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa, establishing a network of small air bases to spy on terrorist hideouts from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator, according to documents and people involved in the project. At the heart of the surveillance operations are small, unarmed turboprop aircraft disguised as private planes. Equipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals, the planes refuel on isolated airstrips favored by African bush pilots, extending their effective flight range by thousands of miles. About a dozen air bases have been established in Africa since 2007, according to a former senior U.S. commander involved in setting up the network, reports Craig Whitlock.
- Syria rebels retreat from key northern town--BEIRUT — Syrian government forces seized control of the northern town of Haffah on Wednesday after rebels retreated in the face of a withering offensive that saw the army rely heavily on combat helicopters for the first time. The fall of Haffah after an eight-day battle marked a setback for the rebel Free Syrian Army, which in recent weeks has been steadily asserting its presence across large swaths of the north and center of the country. Haffah, a mostly Sunni hillside town near the strategic port city of Latakia, had marked the westernmost expansion of the rebels’ reach, giving them a foothold in the regime’s Alawite heartland, reports Liz Sly.
-Opinion by David Ignatius: Lebanon sitting on the edge: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-lebanon-sitting-on-the-edge/2012/06/13/gJQAPJ5waV_story.html
- In Mexico, case of ex-governor and narcos reads like crime thriller--MEXICO CITY — The political watchers are now calling it the Yarrington Affair, and it is beginning to read just like a Robert Ludlum thriller, alive with conspiracy theories and hidden motives. There are drug cartels, luxury condos and the highest political stakes. But so far, there’s no Jason Bourne, no lone hero. The story begins with a suave Mexican politician ensnared in a widening corruption probe during the middle of a presidential election, as the ruling party becomes panicky about an impending loss of power. For the first time, people responding to a global survey are more likely to view China and not the United States as the world’s leading economic power, reports William Booth.
-British Prime Minister David Cameron begins testimony at media ethics inquiry-- British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday became the highest-ranking politician to appear before a media ethics inquiry triggered by the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal. He is expected to be grilled for several hours over his links with Rupert Murdoch and former top executives from the media mogul’s empire. Cameron was characteristically upbeat as he began his interrogation, which follows days of testimony by senior politicians, including three former British prime ministers. In early testimony, he readily conceded that the relationship between politicians and the press has become too cozy, reports Karla Adam.
- Japan moves closer to restarting 1st nuclear reactors since tsunami--Japan is on the verge of returning to atomic power after a local mayor on Thursday gave his approval to restart a pair of reactors, idled in the wake of last year’s nuclear accident. The nuclear restart could come as soon as this weekend, Japanese media reported. It would mark a controversial victory for the central government, which has spent months arguing that Japan needs nuclear power to sustain its fragile economy, reports Chico Harlan.
OTHER TOP NEWS
-Romney doubles down on economic message as slowdown weakens Obama--The spring slowdown in the economy has further exposed President Obama’s greatest political vulnerability going into his reelection campaign and forced him into a more urgent and aggressive debate with Mitt Romney on the central issue of the presidential election. On Wednesday, Romney pounced. In a speech before business leaders, he not only blamed Obama for not turning around the economy but also indicted the central philosophy underlying the president’s efforts. Obama is expected to return fire on Thursday in what the White House is calling a major speech that will characterize Romney’s economic philosophy as a return to the flawed policies of the George W. Bush years, report Zachary A. Goldfarb and Philip Rucker.
- Obama to contrast his economic plan with Mitt Romney’s in speech--President Obama will travel to Cleveland on Thursday to deliver what aides describe as a speech that will sharply cast November’s election as a choice between his economic stewardship and an alternative that would return the country to the policies that caused the downturn. The address comes at a moment when some Democrats are calling for a change of course in the president’s campaign message, which they say is too backward-looking and does not explain how Obama would continue to try to boost the anemic economy. Obama advisers have dismissed such concerns. But they are nonetheless billing the event as a major framing speech that the president worked on extensively and that will be followed by a blitz of surrogate appearances in key battleground states, report Amy Gardner and David Nakamura.
- Attorney General Holder embattled on two fronts--For more than three years, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has tried to play a double role — political and apolitical at once. He has cast himself as the country’s nonpartisan top cop, but also as the Obama administration’s best weapon for a liberal view of justice. But now, more than ever, Holder is struggling to do both jobs. An inquiry involving the apolitical side of his position — involving a botched gun-trafficking investigation in Arizona — has made the attorney general newly vulnerable to his political opponents. Next week, a House committee could vote to cite him for contempt of Congress, accusing him of withholding information in that case. That would be the latest in a series of setbacks for Holder, a soft-spoken former judge and close friend of President Obama. He also is facing questions about his oversight of an investigation of national security data leaked to reporters, report David A. Fahrenthold and Sari Horwitz.
-The Root: Security Leaks Draw Scrutiny of White House--The White House is facing another case of leaked information with the release on Wednesday of a document detailing the Obama administration's trade negotiations. Posted on the website of the consumer-rights advocacy group Public Citizen, the leaked document reveals that a proposed trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region would controversially give broader political power to multinational corporations. The details come on the heels of other leaks that have plagued the Obama administration. The appearance in recent New York Times and Newsweek articles of classified national-security information regarding President Obama's input on a terrorist "kill list" and cyberattacks against Iran's nuclear program has spurred questions and criticism about White House policies, reports Cynthia Gordy.
- Ex-lawmaker lobbyists more likely to put leftover campaign money to political use--Retiring U.S. lawmakers face tough restrictions on what they can do with their leftover campaign money, but some have found ways to make fat political bank accounts work for them, according to a new study. Those who become lobbyists are much more likely than other former lawmakers to put remaining money to political use — donating to lawmakers who have the ability to help their lobbying clients, according to the report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which tracked 57 House members who left Congress in 2007 and 2008.
The roughly two dozen in the group who became lobbyists have given much more than the other retirees to politicians and much less to charity, reports T.W. Farnam.
- Google, Amazon lead rush for new Web domain suffixes in bids to ICANN--Amazon and Google are staking claims to large swaths of the Internet under a new system for labeling Web domains, bolstering their ability to control traffic as the Web expands beyond the realms of “.com,” “.gov” and “.org.” The bids by those companies to acquire new domain names such as “.book,” “.shop” and “.movie” renewed fears among competitors that a powerful few will dominate the Internet marketplace of the future. A slate of roughly 2,000 new Web suffixes, including “.app” and “.sex,” was revealed Wednesday by the nonprofit organization tasked with regulating domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, report Hayley Tsukayama and Peter Whoriskey.
-JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon apologizes for trading losses in Hill testimony--JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon faced a reckoning in Congress on Wednesday, learning that emotions in Washington are still raw four years after the financial crisis and that politicians are still hotly debating the government’s response. In contrite and straightforward testimony, he apologized for the bank’s $2 billion or more in trading losses last month, saying they were the result of an errant strategy at a unit that was supposed to reduce risk. He said the bank may take back some of the payments made to employees involved in the strategy. He said it had all been “embarrassing.” Some on the Senate banking committee demanded more, reports Zachary A. Goldfarb.
- Divided OPEC grapples with whether to cut production, prop up oil prices--With the global economy at a tipping point, a deeply divided Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna wrangled over whether to cut production and prop up crude oil prices. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter and the cartel member with the greatest latitude for tightening or opening its taps, arrived vowing to maintain its output and hold the line on quotas for the group. Other OPEC members, led by Iran and Venezuela, have wanted to trim output quotas to boost the price of oil. For the first time, people responding to a global survey are more likely to view China and not the United States as the world’s leading economic power, reports Steven Mufson.http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/divided-opec-grapples-with-whether-to-cut-production-prop-up-oil-prices/2012/06/13/gJQACYGtaV_story.html