Good morning!

The big story today is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation Susan Rice's withdrawal from consideration for U.S. Secretary of State. Rice talked to Brian Williams of NBC last night and said she didn't want to drag the country through a bitter nomination process, and felt she was becoming a distraction from the important issues facing the nation (including the fiscal cliff negotiations). President Obama said "While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character." President Obama scheduled to meet with Rice today, and signals she will stay in the cabinet.

There has been some criticism from the left already - suggestions the President left Susan Rice hanging in the wind as controversy swirled over a possible appointment.

The move likely clears the way for the President to nominate the new favorite.. Senator John Kerry.

Republicans who had been strongly opposed to Rice like Senators McCain, Ayotte and Graham have signaled they would support Kerry. But it's politics, so who really knows?

Meantime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is slated to testify on the Libya disaster next week. That's also when a big report - from the Accountability Review Board -- was expected to be released to Congress on what went wrong. That may or may not be ready by then.

Wendell Goler and Catherine Herridge reporting.

No word on the news' impact on the state of the negotiations over the fiscal cliff. An evening meeting called by the President with Speaker of the House John Boehner didn't result in any breakthroughs.. at least as far as we've heard. There's just over two weeks to try and resolve what could end up being a mess for the economy. It's not looking good.

The Pentagon says it will send Patriot air defense missiles and 400 troops to Turkey in an attempt to protect Turkey from Syrian missiles and any possible attack. Russia backing away slightly from widely reported comments that it saw Syrian dictator Bashir Assad's chances of holding on to power as declining.

Big protests expected in Egypt today ahead of a controversial vote on a draft constitution.

A large earthquake has hit Southern California and Northern Mexico off the coast of Baja. 6.4. No word on damage or injuries so far.