HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street scored a second day of gains today. Stocks advanced on upbeat economic data out of China and a strong government bond sale in Italy. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 181 points to close at 12,986. The Nasdaq rose 39 points to close at 3,055.
The Obama campaign opened a new line of attack today on Republican Mitt Romney over tax fairness. Vice President Biden criticized Romney's opposition to the so-called Buffett rule to impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
In Exeter, N.H., Biden said Romney has his own rule: to give the rich more money in tax cuts than middle-class families make in a year.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: The Romney rule says let's double down on the tax cuts for the wealthy. Look, folks. It's not -- this is not about class warfare. This is about math. This is about math and people's lives.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Romney had no public events today and didn't respond to Biden's charge. But his wife, Ann, challenged a Democratic consultant's criticism of her status as a stay-at-home mother.
On Wednesday, Hilary Rosen had said Mrs. Romney shouldn't be talking about women and the economy because -- quote -- "She hasn't worked a day in her life."
Ann Romney responded today on FOX News.
ANN ROMNEY, wife of Mitt Romney: My career choice was to be a mother and I think all of us need to know that we need to respect choices that women make. Other women make other choices to have a career and raise family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Obama campaign and Democratic leaders disavowed the criticism of Mrs. Romney. And first lady Michelle Obama tweeted that "Every mother works hard and every woman deserves to be respected." Later, Rosen issued an apology, saying her words were poorly chosen.
The presidential battle in Egypt has taken a new turn. Islamists in parliament pushed through a bill today to ban officials who served under ousted President Hosni Mubarak from seeking the office. It was aimed mainly at former Vice President Omar Suleiman. He announced he's running in the May election after the Muslim Brotherhood fielded a candidate. Egypt's ruling Military Council would still have to approve the ban.
The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, said today he's considering holding presidential elections a year early. The vote is currently set for 2014, when most NATO combat forces are scheduled to hand over security to the Afghans and withdraw. Karzai said it might be better to schedule one or the other for 2013 instead.
He discussed the situation with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during a meeting in Kabul.
HAMID KARZAI, president of Afghanistan: This is something that I have been thinking about. I have had some consultations. There are favorables to both the ideas. I have not had a final decision yet. And it will not be soon, so -- but I am thinking about this, and I will do what is good for this country in either case.
HARI SREENIVASAN: For his part, Rasmussen said NATO is still on track to hand over security in Afghanistan in 2014.
Pakistan's parliament moved today to put relations with the U.S. back on track. Lawmakers approved guidelines for reopening supply lines to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, but with increased fees. Pakistan closed those lines in November after U.S. airstrikes that killed two dozen soldiers along the Afghan border. The new guidelines also call for an end to attacks by U.S. drone aircraft.
Death penalty opponents marked a victory today in Connecticut. The statehouse voted last night to abolish capital punishment in all future cases. The state senate had already approved the repeal. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Dan Malloy, who says he will sign it into law. Connecticut would become the 17th U.S. state to end the punishment.
Those are some of the day's major stories.