Tag Archives: Bashar al-Assad

10 things you need to know today: November 11, 2013

Residents of Tacloban City, Philippines walk near a large ship that washed up during the typhoon. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The Week

The president of the Philippines considers martial law, the U.S. honors its veterans, and more

1. President of the Philippines considers declaring martial law
Authorities in the Philippines declared a “state of calamity” on Monday in Tacloban, a port city devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan. President Benigno Aquino III said he was considering declaring martial law there. Red Cross workers said the scene was “absolute bedlam,” with no water, no power, entire neighborhoods gone, hundreds of thousands of people homeless, and 10,000 people dead in Tacloban and elsewhere. Road damage prevented rescuers from reaching some of the hardest hit areas. [Philippines StarBBC News]
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2. Politicians vow to ratchet up sanctions on Iran despite talks
American lawmakers said Sunday that they intended to tighten sanctions against Iran to keep Obama administration negotiators from making too many concessions in a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. Israel and many allies in Congress think Iran is just trying to buy time to acquire nuclear weapons. Secretary of State John F. Kerry is returning home from talks in Geneva to defend offering to ease sanctions if Iran freezes its nuclear work.
[ReutersWashington Post]
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3. The nation honors its veterans
Americans are gathering for parades and memorial ceremonies on Monday to honor the nation’s veterans. President Obama is scheduled to attend a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National cemetery. In a proclamation marking the national holiday, Obama encouraged Americans to honor everyone who has served in the armed forces, saying that the country’s obligations to veterans “endure long after the battle ends.” [Associated Press]
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4. Syrian opposition group tentatively agrees to attend peace talks
The Syrian National Coalition released a statement early Monday saying it would participate in international negotiations to end Syria’s two-and-a-half-year civil war. The Western-backed opposition group said, however, that it would only go to the Geneva talks if a transitional governing body has been formed to replace the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The group also insisted that relief agencies have access to besieged areas. [Reuters]
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5. A gunman assassinates an Iranian deputy minister in Tehran
Iran’s deputy industry minister, Safdar Rahmatabadi, was shot and killed in his car in Tehran late Sunday, state media reported. The attacker, whose identity was unknown, appeared to have fired from inside the vehicle. Rahmatabadi was considered a low-level official, whose work centered on mining and trade. In recent years several Iranian officials have been murdered, most of them scientists involved in Iran’s controversial nuclear program. [BBC News]
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6. Wildlife sanctuary employee killed by wildcat
An Oregon wildlife sanctuary worker was attacked and killed by a wildcat over the weekend. Colleagues said the woman, 36-year-old Renee Radziwon, was an experienced handler of the big cats at the WildCat Haven Sanctuary. “She knew exactly what she was doing,” said Jim Caliva, a Wildcat Haven Sanctuary board member, “but apparently there was a mistake.” Authorities are investigating whether she failed to follow safety protocols. [CBS NewsOregonian]
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7. Students face possible expulsion after pulling a pistol on an intruder
Two students at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., are facing disciplinary action, including possible expulsion, after one of them brandished a pistol to scare away a man who demanded money and tried to force his way into their university-owned apartment. The student with the pistol — Dan McIntosh — has a concealed weapons permit, but Gonzaga’s student handbook says students can’t have handguns on university property. [CNN]
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8. Malala’s book is banned from Pakistani private schools
Malala Yousafzai’s memoir is a best seller internationally, but it has been banned by private schools in her home country, Pakistan. The book, I Am Malala, tells about her activism in support of girls’ education, and the attack by Taliban gunmen that nearly killed her. School administrators have complained that the book degrades Islam and that its teenage author has acted like a “propaganda tool of the West.” [Voice of America]
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9. The Postal Service goes to work for Amazon
The U.S. Postal Service has struck a deal to deliver some of online retailer Amazon.com’s packages on Sundays. The Postal Service has been trying to end Saturday mail deliveries, which contribute to its $16 billion in annual losses. This deal, however, will allow it to grab some of the lucrative package delivery business of the $186-billion-a-year e-commerce market now dominated by UPS and FedEx, which don’t deliver on Sundays. [New York Times]
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10. Dolphins’ Richie Incognito defends himself
Suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito defended himself in his first extended interview since being accused of bullying former teammate Jonathan Martin, who quit mid-season. In the interview, which aired Sunday, Incognito said voice messages in which he used racial slurs and threatened Martin were just part of the vulgar locker room culture. Martin also sent eyebrow-raising texts, he said, because that’s “how Jon and I communicate.” [Fox Sports]

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10 things you need to know today: November 1, 2013

A Hillary nod wouldn’t have provided enough of a poll boost to warrant ditching Joe, campaign advisors concluded. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Week

Only six people were reportedly able to enroll on HealthCare.gov during its first 24 hours, a new book says Obama considered replacing Biden, and more

1. Just six people reportedly enrolled on HealthCare.gov on first day
Documents released by the GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee say that just six people managed to enroll for insurance on HealthCare.gov in its first 24 hours online, and just 248 people had managed to by the second day. The revelation, included in notes prepared for the “war room” of an agency managing the botched rollout of the ObamaCare website, came a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress she could not provide reliable data on enrollment yet. [USA Today]
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2. Obama advisers said to have considered replacing Biden with Clinton
President Obama’s top aides secretly conducted polls and focus groups to determine whether it would be a good idea to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton on the 2012 ticket, journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann say in their new book, Double Down, which is a sequel to Game Change. Then–chief of staff William Daley pushed the radical option, they say, but it was dropped because it didn’t offer Obama a big-enough boost. [The New York Times]
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3. Court revives Texas abortion restriction, for now
A federal appeals court on Thursday lifted an injunction blocking a key part of Texas’s new abortion restrictions requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The decision means that the rule can take effect immediately, leaving at least 12 of the state’s 32 clinics unable to perform abortions as soon as Friday. A lower court had blocked the restriction on Monday, calling it unconstitutional. [Associated Press]
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4. FAA eases electronics restrictions in flight
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday that it will lift restrictions on the use of electronic devices to listen to music, read, and play games, because it has determined that they are safe during all phases of flight. An advisory committee recommended the change a month ago. It probably will take effect by the end of the year, but the ban on making cellphone calls and sending texts will remain in effect. [The New York Times]
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5. Food stamp cuts take effect
On Friday, $5 billion in cuts to food stamp benefits are taking effect as a federal economic stimulus program expires. The average household benefit of about $275 will drop by $36, which amounts to 21 fewer meals a month for a family of four. A near-record 47.6 million Americans are receiving benefits, and budget hawks are trying to impose further cuts. “Our members are panicking,” says Margaret Purvis, president of Food Bank for New York City. [Time]
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6. Booker takes his seat in the Senate
Former Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker was sworn into the Senate on Thursday, continuing his rise to stardom in the Democratic Party. Booker is the first black senator from his state, and the first elected anywhere in the country since Barack Obama’s 2004 election in Illinois. Booker immediately cast his first vote — for a procedural move allowing a vote on Obama’s Federal Housing Finance Agency nominee Mel Watt. [USA Today]
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7. Israeli airstrikes target missiles on Syrian bases
Israel this week launched airstrikes on Syrian military bases — one near Damascus and another near the port city of Latakia — Obama administration officials told CNN and CBS News on Thursday. The presumed targets were missiles Israel believed could be sent to the Lebanon-based Islamist group Hezbollah, which is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battle rebels. Israel hit missile shipments twice earlier this year. [CNNCBS News]
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8. Appeals court blocks reforms for New York’s stop-and-frisk policy
In a surprise twist to a long battle over police tactics in New York City, a federal appeals court on Thursday halted changes to the New York Police Department’s practice of stopping and frisking people on the street. Trial Judge Shira A. Scheindlin said stop and frisk violated the rights of minorities, but the appeals court said she had failed to maintain the appearance of impartiality and removed her from the case. [The New York Times]
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9. Six tech giants call for restraints on the NSA
Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL sent a letter to Senate leaders Thursday supporting a proposal to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of the phone records of millions of Americans. The bill also would create a privacy advocate within the secretive surveillance court that oversees the NSA. Long wary of Washington politics, the tech industry is getting more active as revelations on NSA snooping pile up. [The Washington Post]
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10. Toronto police dig up video of mayor allegedly smoking crack
Toronto police say they have found a video, taken in a surveillance operation targeting an alleged drug dealer, showing the city’s mayor, Rob Ford, appearing to smoke from a crack pipe. The tape’s existence was first reported in May, but police say it was deleted from a hard drive and they only recently recovered it. The news intensified calls on Ford, who has denied the tape existed, to resign, but he said Thursday he has no reason to quit. [Associated Press]

 

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Obama To Address Iran, Syria In UN Speech

obama un

Obama will speak to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) | AP

The Huffington Post

Seeking to build on diplomatic opportunities, President Barack Obama is expected to signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the U.S. and Western allies.

Obama, in a planned address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, also will call on U.N. Security Council members to approve a resolution that would mandate consequences for Syria if it fails to cooperate with a plan to turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to the international community.

The president’s address will be closely watched for signs that he may meet later in the day with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has been making friendly gestures toward the U.S. in recent weeks. Even a brief encounter would be significant given that the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven’t had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.

U.S. officials say no meeting was planned, though they hadn’t ruled out the possibility that one might be added. The most likely opportunity appeared to be at a U.N. leaders’ lunch Tuesday.

Rouhani was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly late Tuesday afternoon.

The possibility of a thaw in relations with Iran was expected to factor heavily in Obama’s address to the U.N. In a preview of the president’s speech, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama would discuss “our openness to diplomacy and the prospect for a peaceful resolution of this issue that allows Iran to rejoin the community of nations should they come in line with their international obligations and demonstrate that their nuclear program is peaceful.”

The U.S. and its allies long have suspected that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon, though Tehran insists its nuclear activities are only for producing energy and for medical research.

American officials say Rouhani’s change in tone is driven by the Iranian public’s frustration with crippling economic sanctions levied by the U.S. But it is still unclear whether Iran is willing to take the steps the U.S. is seeking in order to ease the sanctions, including curbing uranium enrichment and shutting down the Fordo underground nuclear facility.

State Department officials said Secretary of State John Kerry would seek to answer that question Thursday when new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joins nuclear talks between the U.S. and five other world powers. Zarif’s participation, which was announced Monday, sets up the first meeting in six years between an American secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister, though it was unclear whether the two men would break off from the group and hold separate one-on-one talks.

Also high on Obama’s agenda at the U.N. was rallying Security Council support for a resolution that would establish consequences for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime if it failed to adhere to a U.S-Russian plan to turn over its chemical weapons.

Under the agreement, inspectors are to be in Syria by November and all components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by the middle of next year. The U.S. wants the Security Council to approve a resolution making the U.S.-Russian agreement legally binding in a way that is verifiable and enforceable.

But a key obstacle remains, given U.S. and Russian disagreement over whether to put the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Chapter 7 deals with threats to international peace and security and has provisions for enforcement by military or nonmilitary means, such as sanctions. Russia is sure to veto any resolution that includes a mandate for military action.

Rhodes said Obama also would address tenuous progress on a new round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. And he was to address other developments in the Arab world, including in Egypt, where the nation’s first democratically elected president was ousted this summer in a military coup.

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10 things you need to know today: September 19, 2013

McCain slammed Putin for coddling dictators and rigging elections in Pravda

The Week

A Fed surprise boosts stocks, McCain slams Putin in Pravda, and more

1. The Fed unexpectedly decides not to slow its stimulus
Stocks indexes surged to record highs late Wednesday after the Federal Reserve, in a surprise move, said it would continue buying $85 billion in bonds and other assets every month to stimulate the economy. Investors had expected the Fed to taper off, but Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the job market hadn’t improved enough yet. With mortgage rates rising and Congress cutting spending, he said, the recovery could falter if the Fed cuts back now. [ForbesLos Angeles Times]
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2. McCain responds to Putin’s op-ed by slamming the Russian president… in Pravda
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of corruption and repression in an opinion article published Thursday on Pravda‘s English-language website. Responding to Putin’s recent New York Times op-ed mocking American exceptionalism, McCain said Putin coddles tyrants (including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad), jails dissidents, and rigs elections. “Russians deserve better than Putin,” he wrote. [Reuters]
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3. House Republicans push defunding ObamaCare despite the risk of a shutdown
Bending to pressure from Tea Party conservatives, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday unveiled a plan tying the money needed to keep the government open on Oct. 1 to stripping funding for ObamaCare. A vote is scheduled for Friday, although Democrats controlling the Senate flatly reject the proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said GOP “anarchists” would rather force a disastrous shutdown than compromise. [New York Times]
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4. Navy Yard reopens three days after deadly rampage
The Washington Navy Yard reopened Thursday morning for the first time since a gunman, identified as Aaron Alexis, killed 12 people on Monday before he was shot dead by police. Investigators are still searching for a motive, although they know the former Navy reservist was paranoid and hearing voices. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of how Alexis, who worked for a defense contractor, got security clearance despite the red flags. [ABC NewsAssociated Press]
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5. Assad denies his forces used sarin gas despite U.N. evidence
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a defiant interview aired by Fox News Wednesday night, repeated his denial that his forces used chemical weapons. Assad blamed the Aug. 21 attack that the White House says killed 1,400 people on terrorist rebels. Buried inside a report by United Nations inspectors, however, is evidence indicating that rockets containing sarin were fired from areas controlled by elite military units loyal to Assad. [Fox NewsNew York Times]
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6. Second private company sends a spacecraft to the space station
Orbital Sciences Corp. on Wednesday successfully launched a two-stage Antares rocket carrying an unmanned Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station. The craft’s maiden flight would mark a significant milestone for NASA, giving it a second private company capable of resupplying orbiting astronauts. Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has already proved it can make the trip. [Orlando Sentinel]
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7. Facebook apologizes for ad with a photo of girl who committed suicide
Facebook on Wednesday banned a dating website that posted an ad with a picture of Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old who killed herself after images of her rape were posted online and went viral. The ad, purchased by Ionechat, included a photo of Parsons that had been featured in many stories about her suicide. “Find Love in Canada!” the ad said. Facebook apologized and quickly removed the ad, calling it a “gross violation of our ad policies.”[Think Progress]
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8. Iran releases prisoners as Rouhani heads to the U.S.
Iran unexpectedly freed 11 prominent political prisoners on Wednesday in a gesture of goodwill on the eve of a trip to the U.S. by the country’s new president, reformist cleric Hassan Rouhani. Analysts called the move a potentially significant step toward Rouhani’s pledge to repair the Islamist republic’s relationship with the U.S. Rouhani also said his administration “will never develop nuclear weapons.” [New York TimesMSNBC]
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9. Egyptian soldiers raid a pro-Morsi stronghold
Egyptian security forces clashed with Islamist gunmen on Thursday in a raid aimed at regaining control of a town, Kerdasa, near Cairo that is controlled by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. An Egyptian general was killed in the fighting. The army-backed interim government essentially pulled out of the area after an Aug. 14 attack on the town’s main police station left 11 officers dead. [Reuters]
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10. ’70s boxing great Ken Norton dies
Former heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton died Wednesday at a Nevada medical facility, where he was recovering from a stroke. He was 70. Norton, the father of former NFL linebacker Ken Norton Jr., was known for a series of great bouts in the 1970s against Muhammad Ali. In 1973, Norton broke Ali’s jaw in their first fight, winning in a split decision, then lost a rematch six months later. Ali won their final contest in 1976. [CNN]

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10 things you need to know today: September 17, 2013

Hundreds of emergency personnel descended on the Navy Yards after a gunman went on a shooting spree, killing 12.

The Week

Navy Yard shooting leaves 12 victims dead, the U.N. confirms that Syrians were gassed, and more

1. Washington Navy Yard shooting rampage leaves 12 victims and the suspect dead
A gunman killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday in a rampage that threw the nation’s capital into turmoil. The FBI identified the suspect, who was killed in a shootout with police, as Aaron Alexis, 34, a troubled former Navy reservist. Alexis had been arrested twice for firing guns, but had access to the heavily guarded base as a defense contractor. The motive for the attack remains a mystery. [Washington Post]
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2. U.N. inspectors confirm Syrians were gassed
The United Nations on Monday released a report by arms inspectors confirming that hundreds of Syrians who died in an Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus were killed with sarin nerve gas. The inspectors didn’t say who was responsible, but the Obama administration and military experts said the evidence undercut the Syrian government’s claim that rebels were to blame. Only government forces have the kind of rockets that were used. [New York Times]
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3. A break in Colorado rain helps the rescue effort
Rescuers took advantage of sunny weather on Monday to evacuate hundreds of people stranded in remote,flooded communities in north-central Colorado. Most were ferried to safety by National Guard helicopters. Eight days of downpours covered 17 counties in a year’s worth of rain, destroying 1,600 homes. The death toll from the flash floods has climbed to eight. [Reuters]
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4. Daley ends his run for Illinois governor
Bill Daley, President Obama’s former chief of staff, abruptly ended his bid for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor on Monday. Daley, the son and brother of former Chicago mayors, worked in two White House administrations and served as a presidential campaign manager, but he told the Chicago Tribune that a lifetime in politics had not prepared him for the “enormity” of his first run for office. [Chicago Tribune]
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5. Obama says a government shutdown would create chaos
President Obama on Monday warned congressional Republicans that they would trigger “economic chaos” if they blocked funding needed to keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1. House Republican leaders are meeting Tuesday to find a way to avoid a shutdown without alienating conservatives determined to stop ObamaCare. Congress faces another showdown in late October over raising the debt limit. [Associated Press]
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6. A man is arrested for throwing firecrackers at the White House
The Secret Service arrested a man on Monday for allegedly lighting firecrackers and tossing them over a fence onto the White House lawn. With tensions still high after the deadly shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard just a few miles away, the incident prompted authorities to lock down the White House for about 30 minutes. The suspect, Alexander Sahaghan, is expected to be charged with “throwing a projectile.” [ABC News]
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7. Turkey downs a Syrian helicopter that violated its airspace
Turkey said Monday that one of its fighter jets shot down a Syrian military helicopter that had flown into Turkish airspace. Turkey, which has been a strong advocate of a foreign intervention to stop Syria’s civil war and topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the incident would discourage Syria from violating its borders again. Syria accused Turkey of intentionally escalating its military presence along the border separating the two former allies. [BBC News]
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8. Study finds extreme binge drinking among high schoolers
Ten percent of high-school seniors are extreme binge drinkers, meaning they sometimes down 10 or more drinks in a session, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Nearly six percent of the respondents said they sometimes consumed 15 or more drinks. The authors said their study was the first to document such excess in teens, although previous studies have found that one senior in 5 reports sporadic heavy drinking. [USA Today]
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9. Salvage workers raise the wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia
Engineers in Italy succeeded in righting the capsized ocean liner Costa Concordia early Tuesday, 20 months after it ran aground, killing 32 people. The 19-hour operation was risky — salvage crews were concerned that the massive, 952-foot ship could break apart or spill contaminated water into the surrounding marine sanctuary. The job isn’t over, though. It will take months to inspect, repair, and refloat the vessel so it can be towed away. [BBC News]
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10. Cyrus and Hemsworth split
Miley Cyrus and Hunger Games actor Liam Hemsworth have broken off their engagement, their representatives said Monday. Cyrus, 20, and Hemsworth, 23, met while making the movie The Last Song in 2010. They got engaged in May 2012, but their romance has been rocky. Gossip watchers knew the end was near when Cyrus, a former Disney star now known for raunchy twerking, unfollowed Hemsworth on Twitter several days ago. [Los Angeles Times]

 

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Kos’ Sunday Talk: From Russia with love

Daily Kos

[...]

Morning lineup:

Meet the Press: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO); Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen; Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA); Maria Bartiromo (CNBC);Presidential Leadership RoundtableBob Woodward (Washington Post), Author Richard WolffeKathleen Parker (Washington Post) and Republican Strategist Ana Navarro;Foreign Policy RoundtableTom Friedman (New York Times), Robin Wright (Wilson Center), Jeffrey Goldberg (Bloomberg News) and Andrea Mitchell (NBC News).

 

Face the Nation: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI); Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN); Former Secretary of State Madeleine AlbrightJohn Miller (CBS News); Roundtable: Harvard University Prof. David GergenMichael Gerson (Washington Post), Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal) and Susan Page (USA Today).

 

This Week: President Barack ObamaRoundtableCokie Roberts (ABC News), Republican Strategist Matthew DowdPaul Gigot (Wall Street Journal), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD).

 

Fox News Sunday: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD);RoundtableBrit Hume (Fox News), Former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Bill Kristol(Weekly Standard) and Charles Lane (Washington Post).

 

State of the Union: Rep.Mike Rogers (R-MI); Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); Rep.Adam Schiff (D-CA); Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT); S.E. Cupp (CNN); Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA); Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress); Cornell Belcher (CNN); Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA); Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI); Former Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay; Fmr. CENTCOM Commander in Chief Gen. Anthony Zinni; Former U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas BurnsDanielle Pletka(American Enterprise Institute); Former Chief of Staff to Leon Panetta Jeremy Bash: Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile; Republican Strategist Ana Navarro.

 

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: interviews with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and President Obama (preview); an interview with Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell (preview); and, a report on Colorado’s thriving medical marijuana industry (preview).

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John Kerry: U.S., Russia Reach Deal On Syrian Chemical Weapons

The Huffington Post

After days of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia reached agreement Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by the mid-2014 and impose U.N. penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.

The deal, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, includes what Kerry called “a shared assessment” of the weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Syrian President Bashar Assad to comply.

It was not immediately clear whether Syria had signed onto the agreement, which requires Damascus to submit a full inventory of its stocks within the next week.

“The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments,” Kerry told a packed news conference at the hotel where negotiations were conducted since Thursday night. “There can be no games, no room for avoidance or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime.”

Lavrov added, cautiously, “We understand that the decisions we have reached today are only the beginning of the road.”

The negotiations are considered critical to breaking the international stalemate blocking a resumption of peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.

Under the framework agreement, international inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed.

The deal calls for all components of the chemical weapons program to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

“Ensuring that a dictator’s wanton use of chemical weapons never again comes to pass, we believe is worth pursuing and achieving,” Kerry said.

Noncompliance by the Assad government or any other party would be referred to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. That group oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria this week agreed to join.

The U.S. and Russia will press for a Security Council resolution enshrining the chemical weapons agreement under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and nonmilitary measures.

But Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto military action, and U.S. officials said they did not contemplate seeking such an authorization.

The U.S. and Russia are two of the five permanent Security Council members with a veto. The others are Britain, China, and France.

Still, U.S. officials stressed that President Barack Obama retains the right to launch military strikes without U.N. approval to protect American national security interests.

Lavrov indicated there would be limits to using such a resolution.

Continue reading here…

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10 things you need to know today: September 14, 2013

Residents look over a road washed out by a torrent of water near Left Hand Canyon, south of Lyons, Colo.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

 

The Week

The U.S. and Russia reach a deal on Syria’s chemical weapons, Colorado floods rage on, and more

1. U.S., Russia reach deal on Syria’s chemical weapons
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov announced Saturday that they had reached an agreement on Syria turning its chemical weapons over to international control. The deal reportedly calls for Bashar al-Assad to turn over all details of his chemical weapons arsenal within a week. Meanwhile, U.N. inspectors are expected to file their report on the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus sometime this weekend. [CBS News]
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2. Floods continue to wreak havoc in Colorado
The worst flooding Colorado has seen in three decades continued as the National Guard rescued an entire town of 1,600 people. Emergency vehicles drove through floodwaters that reached three feet high as storms continued to rage across the state. At least four people are dead and 172 unaccounted for. [Chicago Tribune,Reuters]
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3. Bomb rocks area near U.S. consulate in Afghanistan
Taliban forces claimed responsibility for a car bomb that went off near the U.S. consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, on Friday. The bomb exploded as militants exchanged gunfire with Afghan security forces, damaging the front gate of the consulate but resulting in no U.S. casualties. [CNN]
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4. Friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber plead not guilty
Dias Kadyrbayev, Robel Phillipos, and Azamat Tazhayakov, who are all accused of concealing and destroying evidence belonging to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, all pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday. Kadyrbayev faces the most serious charges — two counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy — which could result in 25 years in prison. [Boston Herald]
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5. UNICEF reports that millions of children are still dying of preventable diseases
In a report released Friday, UNICEF said that 35 million children will die between 2015 and 2028 of preventable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. The mortality rate has actually improved over the last few decades, from 90 deaths per 1,000 children in 1990 to 48 deaths per 1,000 in 2012. [CBS News]
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6. Teenagers plead not guilty to the murder of 88-year-old WWII vet
Demetruis Glenn and Kenan Adams-Kinard, both 16, pleaded not guilty in Spokane, Wash., to charges of first-degree murder and robbery in connection with the death of 88-year-old Delbert Belton. The World War II veteran was allegedly beaten to death while waiting for a friend in front of an Eagles Lodge. [The Spokesman-Review]
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7. Fire in Russian psychiatric hospital kills 37 people
A fire broke out early Friday morning in a psychiatric hospital in northwestern Russia, killing 37 people, including patients and at least one nurse. A similar incident killed 38 people in April, raising concerns about the poor maintenance of some of Russia’s state-run institutions. [New York Times]
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8. Tropical storm heads towards Texas
Tropical Storm Ingrid formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, creating fears that eastern Mexico might experience floods and mudslides in the next few days. The storm, which had winds of 45 m.p.h., could hit south Texas sometime early next week. [USA Today]
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9. Man fails to cross the Atlantic Ocean with helium balloons
Balloonist Jonathan Trappe was forced to land in a remote part of Newfoundland on Friday after attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat lifted by 300 helium balloons. He was rescued by the crew of a helicopter commissioned by the CBC after taking off from Maine on Thursday. [CBC]
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10. Oklahoma State possibly used sex to woo football recruits
More than a dozen former football players at Oklahoma State told Sports Illustrated that female hostesses had sex with them when they visited the campus as recruits. The 10-month investigation also found evidence of players being paid in violation of NCAA rules, academic misconduct, and even drug dealing. [Sports Illustrated]

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Republicans Unite Behind Putin the Dictator In Order to Diss Obama

So much for American “patriotism”…

PoliticusUSA

With Republicans falling over themselves to hug Putin while aiding Assad in his messaging, and Putin following Republicans lead to take digs at “American exceptionalism” when Obama says it, it’s hard to know who the “bad guys” are these days.

So we get this from the New York Times: “Obama: Weak or the anti-Bush?”

So because Putin had an op-ed on the NYT in which he swaggered a lot (remarkably like another “dictator”, Bush — an accusation made by constitutional lawyers), Obama is loser. This is the conclusion of his usual detractors, and since many Republicans are saying it, it’s also become the takeaway and the trickle down among beltway auto-looping of the narrative of the day.

It’s as if there is no more time. It’s all done now. The weapons are turned over and Putin delivered on his promise and we have proof that even though Obama was talking to him, this was really all Putin’s idea (even though Putin hasn’t exactly proven to be such a long term thinker).

Or, reality: This is the BEGINNING of very tense negotiations that may or may not even work, and Putin did what he had because it turns out that President Obama is not someone to cross when it really matters. See, Obama is not the fantasy liberal pacifist the right thinks he is, nor is he the war-monger the far left thinks he is. People can’t see that Obama’s opponents are often very loud, but rarely victorious. This is not a “weak” person. That is one of the more ignorant arguments I’ve ever heard lobbed at Obama.

And of course, presidents, no matter how well intentioned, can’t control events. They can only control their reaction to events.

So Obama said Syria’s use of chemical weapons merited a military strike and he pushed for it. He also delayed the push by “bringing it to Congress” when he didn’t have to, making it clear that he was serious about the military strikes and wanted everyone to start discussing it. Eventually we got around to the atrocities – the very reason for his proposal – and that led to condemning them once they were backed up with evidence. This put more pressure on Putin and Assad both.

In the meantime, Obama has been talking to Putin for the last year and specifically at the G20 about this issue.

Suddenly Putin is on board, and Putin credits himself as do the Republicans. The media isn’t far behind. All hail the mighty Putin, President of Democracy! Oh, wait. The Navalny verdict.Oh well, this is the kind of guy Republicans, the media and even the far left can get behind. He’s a decider! He saved us all. He’s the good guy, not our own President.

Pssst: You might be wrong if you are so invested in hating Obama that you can’t bring yourself to even question your growing allegiance to a known dictator.

In Republican world, unless you kick the other person in the shin out of the blue, you’re weak. Republicans go for the most obvious and least effective display of power – the bully, the cowboy, the gun, the smirk, the Mission Accomplished banner.

So it’s not their fault that Republicans don’t recognize real power, especially when it’s used against them. It’s just a shame that our media doesn’t bother to see the big picture and can’t keep up with this President. Then again, who would want a president so average that the media left him or her in the dark.

We had a president who played for the media really well, but he was exceptionally bad at his real job. Maybe this is just like real life – the people who are always marketing themselves are often not the best at what they are marketing. And maybe the smarter leader doesn’t take a victory lap before anything has been accomplished. And maybe smarter people don’t get behind the preening id in the room, the “decider”, just because it’s comforting to pretend that things are that simple.

I’m not going to pretend Obama isn’t smarter than most people just so I can appear to be “fair”. He is, and it should be acknowledged; it doesn’t mean he’s infallible. A person of reason factors this into analysis of Obama’s decision making skills. Especially since Obama has proven in the past that he had a reason and a plan, and indeed, in his own autobiography admitted that he has a (sometimes rather cruel) penchant for being able to set others up from behind the scenes.

And now we have a dictator who was refusing to come to the U.N. table suddenly publicly pushing for Assad to turn over the chemical weapons, to much applause from the Republicans, who also can’t stop parroting Assad’s propaganda due to their Obama Opposition Disorder.

Thus, we are presented with a doofus decider preening for public acclaim and in the background, and a President who just silently got what he wanted. Who’s the smarter person?

Sorry, Obama isn’t going to play Kim Kardashian for the media and make splashy “news” for them with Mission Accomplished banners. This leaves them chasing after showboater Putin for the hits, which conveniently aligns them with the GOP once again and allows them to pretend that they are brave truth tellers who stand up to presidential power, when they aren’t selling you WMD for a decider.

 

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Obama Takes a Big Shot at Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in Syria Speech

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PoliticusUSA

President Obama responded to his Bush administration critics like Liz Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld with a not so thinly veiled shot at their failed foreign policy during his Syria speech.

Obama said:

And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. That’s my judgment as commander in chief.
But I’m also the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possessed the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress, and I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them.

Here’s a hint about who the president was speaking to. Recently, Liz Cheney who served in Daddy and W’s administration said that Obama had taken, “an amateurish approach to national security and foreign policy.” Donald Rumsfeld, one of the major architects of Bush’s disastrous wars has been all over cable television bashing Obama, “This president has tried to blame everybody or anybody, for everything and leadership requires that you stand up, take a position, provide clarity and take responsibility. And I can’t imagine him saying that he didn’t draw the red line. But he did draw a red line…. We have ears!”

President Obama was talking directly to Cheney and Rumsfeld when he mentioned the decade that put more war making power in the hands of the president. Rumsfeld and the Cheneys are some of the biggest advocates for the belief in unlimited Commander in Chief powers. Obama has rejected this argument from day one, and it is why the neo-cons despise him. They think that listening to the American people on questions of war is a sign of weakness. To them a real president shoots first and asks questions later.

One of the key nuances of the president’s Syria speech was that Obama was trying to build a consensus while directly confronting the failed policies of the past that created America’s distrust and war weariness.

Obama took a big shot at the grumbling war mongers of the Bush administration, and the message was sent that this president won’t be doing things their way.

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