OBAMA-CHIEF OF STAFF
NEW: AP sources: McDonough likely for chief of staff
WASHINGTON (AP) — People familiar with the White House thinking say President Barack Obama is likely to name top national security aide Denis McDonough as his next chief of staff.
Still, White House officials say the president has not made a final decision on the key West Wing post.
The 43-year-old McDonough currently serves as Obama's deputy national security adviser. He also advised Obama on foreign policy matters during the 2008 presidential campaign.
The people familiar spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter ahead of the president.
Senate panel sets hearings with Clinton, Kerry
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will testify before a Senate panel next Wednesday on the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the committee will hold a confirmation hearing on her successor the following day.
Senate aides said the Foreign Relations Committee notified senators Wednesday night that Clinton would testify Jan. 23. The panel will hold a hearing on the nomination of Sen. John Kerry to be the next secretary of state on Jan. 24.
Kerry is the chairman of the committee and will retain that title until his widely expected Senate confirmation. However, his likely successor, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, will preside over both hearings.
Clinton also is scheduled to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 23.
FAA grounds Boeing 787s to address battery fires
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal officials say they are temporarily grounding Boeing's 787 Dreamliners until the risk of possible battery fires is addressed.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it will issue an emergency safety order requiring U.S. airlines to temporarily cease operating the 787, Boeing's newest and most technologically advanced plane.
The agency said it will work with Boeing and U.S. air carriers to develop a plan allowing 787s to "resume operations as quickly and safely as possible." United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier with 787s. It has six.
Only days ago, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared the plane safe.
But after an emergency landing in Japan early Wednesday, two Japanese airlines voluntarily grounded their 787s.
The FAA order applies only to U.S. carriers, but aviation authorities in other countries usually follow the lead of the country where the manufacturer is based. Fifty Dreamliners have been delivered in the U.S. and around the world.
Air India says Indian regulators have also ordered it to stop flying Boeing 787 aircraft.
Desert drama: Islamists take hostages in Algeria
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — There's a desert standoff deep in the Sahara.
The Algerian army has surrounded a natural gas complex where Islamist militants are hunkered down with dozens of hostages after a rare attack that appeared to be the first violent shock wave from the French intervention in Mali.
A militant group that's claimed responsibility says 41 foreigners, including seven Americans, are being held.
An Algerian official says one Briton and one Algerian were killed in the attack, while a Norwegian and two other Britons were among six wounded.
The militants say the attack was in revenge for Algeria's support of France's military operation against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighboring Mali.
The militants appear to have no escape, with troops surrounding the complex and army helicopters overhead.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. "will take all necessary and proper steps" to deal with the attack. He has not detailed what such steps might be, but condemned the action as a "terrorist attack." He likened it to al-Qaida activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Obama unveils gun plan, concedes tough fight ahead
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is urging a reluctant Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
But, in an emotion-laden plea to curb gun violence in America, he conceded "this will be difficult."
The president's sweeping, $500 million plan, coming one month after the school massacre in Connecticut, marks the most comprehensive effort to tighten gun laws in nearly two decades. But his proposals, most of which are opposed by the National Rifle Association, face a doubtful future in a divided Congress where Republicans control the House.
Seeking to circumvent at least some opposition, Obama signed 23 executive actions on Wednesday, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research on gun violence. But he acknowledged that the steps he took on his own would have less impact than the broad measures requiring approval from Capitol Hill.
Speaking at a White House ceremony with school children and their parents today Obama said, "To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act." And he said "Congress must act soon."
KENTUCKY COLLEGE SHOOTING
3rd person dies after Ky. college shooting
HAZARD, Ky. (AP) — A 12-year-old girl allegedly shot by her cousin's ex-boyfriend at an eastern Kentucky College has died of her injuries.
Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said Taylor Jade Cornett died shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday at University of Kentucky Medical Center.
Taylor was shot Tuesday, along with her father and her female cousin in the parking lot of Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard.
Police said 21-year-old Dalton Stidham was charged with murder and attempted murder in the case.
Va. inmate who fought for death penalty executed
JARRATT, Va. (AP) — A man who strangled his prison cellmate and made good on a vow to continue killing if he wasn't executed has been put to death in Virginia's electric chair.
Robert Gleason Jr. was pronounced dead by authorities at 9:08 p.m. Wednesday at the Greensville Correctional Center.
The 42-year-old inmate was the first executed in the U.S. this year and the first to choose to die by electrocution since 2010. In Virginia and nine other states, inmates can choose between electrocution and lethal injection.
Gleason had fought last-minute attempts by former attorneys to stop the execution. He told The Associated Press he deserved to die for what he did.
Gleason was serving life in prison for a 2007 murder when he killed his cellmate in 2009. He strangled another inmate in 2010.
Military leaders warn Congress of 'hollow' force
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's top military leaders are warning Congress in unusually stark terms that its failure to pass a 2013 defense budget — coupled with the threat of automatic budget cuts — has pushed the Pentagon to the brink of a crisis.
They wrote in a joint letter to congressional leaders that the readiness of U.S. armed forces is at a "tipping point."
A copy of the letter was provided to The Associated Press Wednesday.
The military leaders said that troops in combat and those who are being treated for wounds will get the funds needed. But the rest of the force will be severely compromised if the Pentagon has to continue operating on last year's budget.
Among those signing the letter was Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Accumulating snow could follow rain in Ala., Miss.
ATLANTA (AP) — Forecasters say accumulating snow could hit Alabama, Mississippi and other areas of the South that have been dealing with days of soaking rains.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for much of north Alabama and central Mississippi. Forecasters say parts of both states could get from 1 inch to 2 inches of snow.
In Mississippi, the snow could cause slush on some bridges overnight. But forecasters aren't expecting widespread treacherous driving conditions.
Snow in Alabama could begin overnight and continue possibly into Friday.
The biggest threat was northeast of Birmingham, particularly in higher elevations.
Some areas of Alabama have received as much as 6 inches of rain since Sunday.
Forecasters say north Georgia, including areas of metro Atlanta, also could get ice and snow Thursday.
NEW: Obama names 8 citizens to highlight his successes
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is featuring eight Americans as "citizen co-chairs" of his inauguration, a new role created to highlight his first-term accomplishments with examples of lives improved by his actions.
Inaugural planners say the honorees include a woman with a brain tumor no longer denied health care for a pre-existing condition. Another is an autoworker who got her job back after the General Motors bailout. A third is a gay pilot-in-training kicked out of the Air Force before the president repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Inauguration officials said Wednesday that the president has met all eight of the individuals during his first term.
The eight will participate in the National Day of Service on Saturday, appear in Monday's inaugural parade and attend official balls.Tags: