Top news: President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he will withdraw 34,000 troops from Afghanistan within a year, seek aggressive action to combat climate change, and negotiate a trade deal with Europe, laying out a modest foreign policy agenda in the first State of the Union address of his second term.
Along with the troop reduction in Afghanistan, Obama pledged that a residual force would remain in the country to combat al Qaeda. Though the troop drawdown represents an important step in ending the U.S. presence there, Obama made only fleeting mention of administration's ongoing use of drone strikes in countries like Yemen and Pakistan, saying only in a veiled reference that "we must enlist our values in the fight" and "forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations."
On climate change, Obama encouraged Congress to pass a cap-and-trade regime to regulate carbon emissions and threatened that if it failed to take action the White House would bypass Congress to aggressively pursue regulations that would cut emissions.
As part of a package of initiatives to boost job growth, Obama announced that he would seek a trade deal with Europe, which, if signed, would be the largest bilateral trade deal ever. Wednesday morning European and American officials announced that they would begin negotiations as early as this summer.
Syria: Heavy fighting is underway in Damascus as rebels have launched an assault on the capital and government forces are striking back hard with airstrikes and artillery to rob the rebels of their foothold in the capital city.
- Egyptians marked the two year anniversary of the fall of Hosni Mubarak with angry protests in the streets of Cairo against his successor.
- With the death toll in Syria now over 70,000, Qatar handed over control of the Syrian embassy in that country to the opposition.
- Iran is set to meet with I.A.E.A. inspectors to discuss the country's nuclear program.
- North Korea's neighbors upped their military preparations and initiated a new round of diplomatic maneuvers in response to the latest North Korean nuclear test.
- The Australian foreign minister has ordered a review into the handling of a prisoner who died in Australian custody and is believed to have been a Mossad agent.
- A Tibetan protester set himself on fire and ran down a street in the capital, Kathmandu, chanting anti-Chinese slogans, making him the latest in a string self-immolations to protest Chinese rule there.
- Pope Benedict XVI said in his weekly audience that he had resigned "for the good of the church."
- Italy's former spy chief Niccolo Pollari was sentenced to ten years in jail for his role in the 2003 C.I.A. rendition of a terror suspect.
- The lower house of the French legislature passed sweeping legislation to allow same-sex marriage and to permit same-sex couples to adopt children.
- An official at the Guantanamo Bay prison admitted that a hidden microphone had been placed in a meeting room used by prisoners and their attorneys but insisted conversations between them had not been monitored.
- Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto unveiled a long-awaited program for combatting drug violence, announcing that he will spend $9 billion on social programs to combat violence.
- Police in southern Chile clashed with members of the Mapuche indigenous group, which has been engaged in a long-running property rights dispute with the government.
- With a constitutional referendum and elections looming later this year, Zimbabwe's election chief resigned, citing poor health.
- A Somali journalist held without charges for speaking out on behalf of a reporter arrested on charges stemming from a rape accusation against government forces was freed.
- The Malian government said that it is "hesitant" at the prospect of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the country.