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News Wrap: Iran Soon Able to Double Production of Weapons-Grade Enriched Uranium

November 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: Within days, Iran will be ready to double its production of weapons-grade enriched uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported the finding today. It means Tehran could be within three months of obtaining enough uranium for a nuclear warhead. Iran has insisted it has no plans to make nuclear weapons, but it refuses to stop its enrichment program.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers today it was clear early on that terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Petraeus answered questions behind closed doors one week after he admitted having an affair and resigned.

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York said the general’s account differed from what he said right after the attack, when the administration was blaming a Muslim protest.

REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: His testimony today was that from the start he had told us that this was a terrorist attack, or that there were terrorists involved from the start.

I told him my questions. I had a very different recollection of that. The clear impression we were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it was a — it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and was not a terrorist attack.

KWAME HOLMAN: Petraeus said today the CIA blamed terrorists in its initial talking points, but that reference later was dropped to avoid tipping off suspects. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used the edited version in remarks five days after the attack. Some Republicans have accused her of downplaying the terror link to avoid hurting the president’s reelection bid.

But Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein defended Rice today.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-Calif.: We have seen wrong intelligence before. And it all surrounded our going into Iraq. And a lot of people were killed based on bad intelligence. So, and — I don’t think that’s fair game. I think mistakes get made. You don’t pillory the person.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Benghazi attack killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

In Afghanistan, 17 civilians were killed today when their bus set off a roadside bomb. The victims were on their way to a wedding. Separately, two NATO service members were killed in a roadside bomb attack in the eastern part of the country.

There was hopeful talk today about avoiding the fiscal cliff after President Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House. A series of tax increases and spending cuts will kick in on January 1, unless the two sides can come to agreement.

Today, the president said action is of the essence.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our challenge is to make sure that, you know, we are able to cooperate together, work together, find some common ground, make some tough compromises, build some consensus to do the people’s business. And what the folks are looking for, and I think all of us agree on this, is action.

KWAME HOLMAN: Afterward, House and Senate leaders expressed confidence they can get a deal. The president is pushing for high-income earners to pay more in taxes.

And House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans are willing to offer higher tax revenue as part of a deal.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: To show our seriousness, we have put revenue on the table, as long as it’s accompanied by significant spending cuts.

And while we’re going to continue to have revenue on the table, it’s going to be incumbent for my colleagues to show the American people that we’re serious about cutting spending and solving our fiscal dilemma.

KWAME HOLMAN: On the Democratic side, Senate Majority Leader Reid promised work will continue on a deal over the Thanksgiving recess. He said, “We all know something has to be done.”

Wall Street took some hope from that White House meeting. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 46 points to close at 12,588. The Nasdaq rose 16 points to close at 2,853. But for the week, the Dow and the Nasdaq fell nearly 2 percent.

Also today, J.P. Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse agreed to pay $417 million in a federal civil settlement. They allegedly sold mortgage bonds they knew could fail before the 2008 financial crisis.

It looks like twilight for Twinkies. Hostess Brands announced today it’s going out of business, eliminating 18,000 jobs. The company makes such iconic products as Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Wonder Bread. Hostess said the final blow came when thousands of workers rejected cuts in wages and benefits and went on strike.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.