Obama’s chief of staff — President Barack Obama is likely to name Denis McDonough, one of his closest national security advisers, as his next chief of staff, according to people familiar with the White House thinking. However, White House officials say a final decision has not been made. McDonough, 43, currently serves as deputy national security adviser and is highly regarded by Obama and White House staffers. He would replace current White House chief of staff Jack Lew, the president’s nominee for treasury secretary.
Retirement age — An influential group of business CEOs is pushing a plan to gradually increase the full retirement age to 70 for both Social Security and Medicare and to partially privatize the health insurance program for older Americans. The Business Roundtable’s plan would protect those 55 and older from cuts but younger workers would face significant changes. The plan unveiled Wednesday would result in smaller annual benefit increases for all Social Security recipients. Initial benefits for wealthy retirees would also be smaller.
Morsi’s comments — A spokesman for President Mohammed Morsi said Wednesday that inflammatory comments that he made about Jews before taking office had been intended as criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians but had been taken out of context. The spokesman said that Morsi respected all monotheistic religions and religious freedom. It was Morsi’s first public response to news reports that as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood he had made anti-Semitic statements about Jews and Zionists.
London copter crash — A helicopter crashed into a crane atop a residential tower in central London on Wednesday, exploding into flames and hurtling to the ground during the morning rush hour, police said. The pilot and a person on the ground were killed, British officials said, and at least 12 people were injured. Burning aviation fuel spilled along a street in the Vauxhall district on the south bank of the Thames, and British news reports spoke of cars on fire and people screaming.
Salazar resigns — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that he will leave his post at the end of March, ending a contentious four-year tenure during which the agency drew criticism from environmentalists and industry for its middle-of-the road energy and environmental policies. A former Colorado attorney general and senator, Salazar used the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 to undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the Minerals and Management Service, the oft-criticized agency tasked with developing offshore energy resources. He also imposed a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf during the cleanup.
Iraq bombing — At least two car bombs shattered a building housing the local headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the restive city of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Wednesday, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than 200, according to police. A third bomb at a nearby facility used by Kurdish security forces killed at least four more people, news agencies reported.
Terrorism sentencing — A Chicago businessman prosecutors say is a terrorist — who supported the group that staged an attack often called India’s 9/11 — faces decades in prison today if a federal judge rejects defense arguments that he is a compassionate man who was duped by a friend. Tahawwur Rana, 52, is being sentenced for his 2011 convictions of providing support to a Pakistani group that carried out a 2008 attack in Mumbai that killed 160 people, as well as for his role in backing a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
— From wire reports