Top news: Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected to announce Thursday that female service members will soon be allowed to serve in combat roles previously open only to men. The announcement follows the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on openly gay service members in 2011, and removes the final impediment to a fully inclusive military.
According to defense officials, the decision was made upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and will be fully implemented by 2016. For years activists and lawmakers have been pushing for the military to open combat roles to women, and last year the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon for its discriminatory policy. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), outgoing head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, called the decision "an historic step for equality and for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation."
Already, women represented 2 percent of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, where counterinsurgency strategy made the front lines diffucult to discern. In 11 years of war, 84 women have been killed.
Benghazi: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified for six hours Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs committee on the State Department's handling of the deadly 9/11 terrorist attack in Libya's second city. She again acknowledged responsibility for the security lapses at the consulate, but delivered a spirited defense of the Obama administration's response to the crisis, dismissing Republican allegations of a White House cover-up and at times growing emotional during her testimony. At one point, when asked by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis) about shifting explanations for the attack, she pounded the table and demanded, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
- A U.S drone strike in northern Yemen killed at least six members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to local sources.
- The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted Jordan's first parliamentary election since the Arab uprisings began in 2011.
- The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said Wednesday that wheat and barley production in Syria has been halved since the conflict broke out 22 months ago.
- South African police arrested 256 people during a protest in Sasolburg that left two people dead.
- A rights group accused the Malian army of carrying out summary executions in the fight against Islamist militants for control of the north.
- Kenya broke ground on a $14.5 billion project to build a new IT and business hub in Konza.
- A Thai judge sentenced a former magazine editor to 10 years in prison for publishing articles that defamed King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
- Japan reported a record high trade deficit of $78 billion for 2012.
- A Japanese envoy told Chinese officials Wednesday that Japan wants to improve relations between the two countries.
- Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro claimed Wednesday that he is the target of an assassination plot.
- Mexican authorities arrested 11 members of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel in connection with the recent killing and dismembering of 16 people.
- A Mexican court ordered the release of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman previously sentenced to 60 years in prison for kidnapping.
- British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed Wednesday to hold a referendum on UK membership in the EU by 2017.
- Bosnia postponed its first census since the 1992-1995 war because of regional disagreements.
- Portugal saw strong demand in its first bond sale since receiving a bailout in May 2011.