The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world. Click on the headlines for more.
CNN: Susan Rice withdraws from consideration as secretary of state
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who drew heavy criticism from Republicans over her statements after the September attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission, withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state on Thursday.
CNN: Sources: Hagel frontrunner for defense secretary
Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel has met with both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as the president considers tapping him to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary, according to several knowledgeable sources.
CNN: For Sen. John Kerry, life seems like audition for secretary of state
Now that embattled U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from secretary of state consideration, attention is turning toward Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, the other top candidate to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It's ironic that several prominent Republicans are rallying behind Kerry, just eight years after their party demonized him during his failed 2004 presidential campaign against President George W. Bush.
CNN: Attorney General Eric Holder blasted for HSBC settlement
The top Republican on the Senate committee that oversees the Justice Department issued a blistering criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder and his department for failing to pursue criminal charges against a giant global bank that admits violating federal laws by laundering money on behalf of Iran, Libya, Sudan and Myanmar.
CNN: VA under scrutiny after Legionnaires' cases in Pittsburgh
Twenty-nine patients at the Veterans Administration hospital in Pittsburgh have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia, since January 2011, raising questions about the institution's safety practices. Five of the cases "are known to have acquired the disease from the hospital," the VA said. Another eight were infected elsewhere, and the source of the infection in 16 cases has not been determined.
CNN: FBI seeks help in catching 'Ray-Bandit' bank robber
The FBI has released photos of a serial bank robber who has successfully robbed 13 banks across the country in hopes that the photos will lead to a tip from the public about his identity and whereabouts. The string of robberies began in July in Wisconsin and included banks in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska through early October. Only one robbery attempt, in Indiana, was unsuccessful, the FBI said.
CNN: GOP budget concerns could stall Sandy emergency aid
Northeastern lawmakers scrambled Thursday to address Republican concerns that could stall swift passage of a massive emergency spending bill to aid the victims of Superstorm Sandy.
CNN: 'I shed some innocent blood,' man says after carving pentagram on son's back
While many people saw Wednesday's memorable date of 12/12/12 as an auspicious moment to tie the knot or start a business, a Texas man appears to have interpreted the day as a reason to carry out a grotesque and sinister act. "I shed some innocent blood," Brent Troy Bartel told a police dispatcher just after midnight. When the dispatcher asked him to clarify, Bartel responded, "I inscribed a pentagram on my son." "OK, why did you do that?" the 911 operator wanted to know. Bartel responded, "'Cause it's a holy day."
CNN: US slaps Iran with new sanctions over nuclear program
The United States slapped new sanctions on Iran on Thursday, targeting a handful of companies and individuals it says are providing materials and technology to Tehran's nuclear program.
CNN Security Clearance: U.S. officials: Al-Assad staying put despite slide in power
The Syrian president's control is crumbling at an accelerating pace but the latest assessment by U.S. intelligence finds few indications Bashar al-Assad is willing to step down, according to U.S. officials. The descriptions provided to CNN by U.S. officials familiar with the latest intelligence suggest the Syrian leader's problems have accelerated internally as the opposition continues to capture more territory. The description comes as a key Russian official suggested candidly that al-Assad could very well be defeated by the rising opposition fighters.
CNN: Canadian child-killer's release draws outrage
Canadians expressed outrage Thursday after the release of Guy Turcotte, a cardiologist who in 2009 confessed to killing his children as they slept in their beds. What many wanted to know was how a father who stabbed his children dozens of times could be free after 46 months of confinement.
CNN: Global report: Obesity bigger health crisis than hunger
Obesity is a bigger health crisis globally than hunger, and the leading cause of disabilities around the world, according to a new report published Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet. Nearly 500 researchers from 50 countries compared health data from 1990 through 2010 for the Global Burden of Disease report, revealing what they call a massive shift in global health trends.
CNNMoney: Stocks fall on fiscal finger pointing
U.S. stocks tumbled Thursday as uncertainty over the nation's fiscal policy trumped upbeat economic data and moves by global central banks. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5%, the S&P 500 shed 0.6% and the Nasdaq lost 0.7%.
CNNMoney: Safety net for business bank accounts at risk
In just over two weeks, money that businesses keep in bank accounts might lose a major safety net. The U.S. Senate on Thursday blocked a bill to extend a deposit insurance program, one that provides unlimited coverage for $1.4 trillion in noninterest-bearing checking accounts. Those bank accounts are the kind typically used by companies and local governments to do things like payroll.
CNNMoney: Manufacturing expansion quickens in China
China's manufacturing sector continued to improve in December, according to a key early indicator. HSBC said its initial Chinese purchasing managers' index, or PMI, rose to a 14-month high of 50.9 in December from 50.5 last month. The reading was above 50, meaning that manufacturing is now in a state of accelerated expansion. The bank's final reading for the month will be released in January.
In case you missed it…
President Barack Obama talks about Susan Rice and the fiscal cliff with CNN affiliate KCRA.