In a Nov. 16 file photo, President Barack Obama acknowledges House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio while holding bipartisan talked aimed at averting the "fiscal cliff." (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)
National editor's pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:
White House: 'Fiscal cliff' fears could hurt Christmas shopping
Adding to the potential consequences of going over the "fiscal cliff," White House economists warned Monday that fear of massive tax increases could curb consumer confidence and put a damper on Christmas spending. "As we approach the holiday season, which accounts for close to one-fifth of industry sales, retailers can't afford the threat of tax increases on middle-class families," says the report by the president's National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisers.
Securities and Exchange Commission member Elisse Walter was chosen to lead the agency after Mary Schapiro leaves next month. (SEC/AP Photo)
President Barack Obama spoke during the weekend about the looming spending cuts and tax increases with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, aides said, and the fiscal cliff was a top order of business as Congress reconvened after the holiday weekend. Several Republicans are now saying they no longer consider themselves bound by the no-new-taxes pledge they signed with anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. They include Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bob Corker of Tennessee and John McCain of Arizona, as well as Reps. Peter King of New York and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Obama names replacement for departing SEC chair
Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Schapiro announced Monday that she is stepping down, and President Barack Obama chose one of the commission's five members to take her place. Elisse Walter, a Democrat appointed in 2008 by President George W. Bush, can serve through 2013 without Senate approval. She was previously a senior official at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities industry watchdog. "I'm confident that Elisse's years of
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announces in Tel Aviv on Monday tjat he is quitting politics after general elections in January. (Oded Balilty/AP Photo)
experience will serve her well in her new position, and I'm grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency," Obama said in a statement. Schapiro is credited with helping reshape the SEC in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, but some critics say she was not aggressive enough at prosecuting executives at banks whose practices contributed to the crisis.
Ehud Barak surprises Israel by quitting politics
Ehud Barak, Israel's current defense minister and former prime minister, made a surprise announcement Monday that he was quitting politics. His departure could mean the loss of a moderating influence on the hawkish prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to win re-election easily on Jan. 22. "I didn't make this decision without hesitating, but I made it wholeheartedly," Barak told a news conference, saying he had been struggling with the decision for weeks. Barak's small, centrist Independence Party has made gains in the polls in the wake of the recent military campaign in Gaza, which Barak led. But the party previously was so unpopular that it was at risk of not sending a single member to parliament. "I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an object of desire for me," said Barak, 70.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood cancels mass pro-Morsi rally
Egyptians carry the body of Gaber Salah, who was killed in clashes with security forces, at a funeral procession Monday in Cairo. (Hussein Tallal/AP Photo)
Muslim Brotherhood had planned a mass rally on Tuesday in support of the embattled President Mohamed Morsi's seizure of near-absolute powers, but it has canceled those plans to "lessen congestion" and avoid "public tension." Egyptians continued to stage violent protests against Morsi, who met Monday with the Supreme Judiciary Council, which oversees the courts. He assured the judges that his decree is "temporary" and limited only to "sovereignty-related issues," according to presidential spokesman Yasser Ali. Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer, dismissed Ali's remarks as "keeping Morsi above the law." Secular and Christian delegates to a 100-seat body that is drafting a constitution have withdrawn in protest, claiming that Morsi's Islamist
In this file frame grab made from video, Edward Archbold celebrates winning a roach-eating contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, Fla., on Oct. 6.
(Courtesy Sarah Bernard/AP Photo)
allies are hijacking the process to produce a charter that will infringe on the rights of liberals, women and Christians. The Health Ministry said Monday that 444 people have been wounded in protest-related clashes since Friday, and 49 remain hospitalized.
Roach eater choked to death, autopsy says
The Florida man who dropped dead after winning a cockroach-eating contest choked to death on insect parts, according to an autopsy released Monday. Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach died from "asphyxia due to choking and aspiration of gastric contents," says a report released by the Broward County medical examiner's office. It said his airway was obstructed by cockroach body parts, leaving him unable to breathe. Shortly after winning the Oct. 6 contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, Archbold collapsed in front of the store. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. About 30 other contestants did not fall ill. The medical examiner's office said tests for drugs were negative, and the death was ruled an accident.
The Wire, a summary of top national and world news stories from the Associated Press and other wire services, moves weekdays. Contact Karl Kahler at 408-920-5023; follow him at twitter.com/karl_kahler.