National editor's pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:
After pledging for two days to pull out of the city of Goma by Friday, rebels in eastern Congo now say they are indefinitely delaying their withdrawal. The M23 rebels, widely believed to be backed by Rwanda, held out the possibility that they would leave Goma by Sunday, saying they needed an extra 48 hours for "logistical reasons." But a rebel commander later cried foul when U.N. peacekeepers blocked rebels from entering the airport and seizing weapons belonging to the Congolese army. "The (U.N.) is blocking us," Gen. Sultani Makenga said. "They are not letting us organize ourselves logistically, and letting us reach our ammunitions at the airport. This could change everything. We will not leave until this is solved. It depends on the (U.N.) now." A spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission denied that it was obstructing the rebels' withdrawal. "We are not blocking them from leaving Goma, that is absolutely not true," Madnodje Mounoubai said. "They are complaining because they want access to the airport, and want access to the arms that belong to the FARDC (the Congolese army) that are stored at the airport. This is something that we will not allow or tolerate." A barge carrying 280 Congolese policemen arrived on the shore of Lake Kivu for a hand-over ceremony, but the officers had to stay on the boat because the rebels were not handing over anything. The rebels, named for a March 23, 2009, accord that was supposed to incorporate them into the Congolese army, are believed to be a Rwandan proxy seeking access to Congo's mineral wealth.
Islamist delegates hastily approved a new constitution for Egypt after an all-night session, and tens of thousands of Egyptians marched in furious protest Friday. In a telling sign of the nation's deep divisions, protesters interrupted Friday prayers at a mosque attended by President Mohamed Morsi, who contradicted the preacher praising him. When the sheik compared Morsi to the Prophet Muhammad, saying he had also enjoyed vast powers, the crowd started chanting, "No to tyranny!" Morsi himself then took the podium to object to the language used, saying one-man rule contradicts Islam. A crowd of perhaps 200,000 converged in Tahrir Square for a mass rally in which people shouted "Constitution: Void!" and "The people want to bring down the regime!" Tens of thousands also marched in Alexandria and other cities. The constitution approved overnight was the work of an assembly boycotted by Christians and liberals and dominated by Islamists sympathetic to Morsi. It will be put to a nationwide referendum, possibly in mid-December.
Embarking on what John Boehner calls a pointless "victory lap," President Barack Obama took his case for a "fiscal cliff" deal to a Tinkertoy factory in Pennsylvania on Friday. At a Rodon Group manufacturing facility in Hatfield, Pa., the president said he's been keeping a list of "naughty and nice" members of Congress, some of whom would get a K'NEX set for Christmas, though if others allow middle-class tax cuts to rise it would be a "lump of coal" and a "Scrooge Christmas" for all. House Speaker Boehner, meanwhile, said Obama's offer of $1.6 trillion in new revenue and entitlement savings of about $400 billion over the next decade would be a "crippling blow" that the economy could not afford. Obama noted that "nothing's easy" in Washington. "So there is going to be some prolonged negotiations and all of us are going to have to get out of our comfort zones to make that happen," he said. "I'm willing to do that. I'm hopeful that enough members of Congress in both parties are willing to do that as well." White House aides said the road trip, criticized by Republicans as unhelpful, was part of a dual strategy of having the president's team meet with members of Congress while Obama travels the country pressuring Congress to act.
The House on Friday approved a bill popular with Silicon Valley that would grant visas to foreign students graduating with advanced science and math degrees, but it was dead on arrival in the Senate, where majority Democrats want a more comprehensive bill. The House approved the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Jobs Act by a vote of 245-139, sending a signal that it was softening its hard-line policies on immigration. But the Obama White House and many Democrats oppose the bill because it eliminates a diversity lottery that grants green cards to people from places like Africa with low rates of immigration. A White House statement opposing the bill said the administration does not support "narrowly tailored proposals" that don't contribute to comprehensive immigration reform. The Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to take up the bill. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a member of the Hispanic Caucus, said, "If you support this bill, then you are saying that one type of immigrant is better than the other."
Remember those $1 coins you almost never see because everybody hates them and they look too much like quarters? Congressional auditors say we could save $4.4 billion in the next 30 years by embracing these coins and dumping dollar bills. That's because a $1 coin could stay in circulation for 30 years, while paper bills have to be replaced every four or five years, according to the Government Accounting Office. The Mint is preparing a report for Congress on cheaper ways of making coins, including moving to less expensive combinations of steel, aluminum and zinc. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., was skeptical, saying, "If the people don't want it and they don't want to use it, why in the world are we even talking about changing it?" The Mint's former director, Philip Diehl, said, "We've never bitten the bullet to remove the $1 bill as every other Western economy has done. If you did, it would have the same success the Canadians have had." Beverly Lepine of the Royal Canadian Mint said her country loves the "Loonie," the $1 coin with an image of a loon on the back. It was so popular that Canada even introduced a $2 coin called the "Toonie."
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.