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The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a Hague-based group tasked with enforcing the Chemical Weapons Convention. The group recently sent inspectors to dismantle Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons as part of a deal aimed at averting U.S. military strikes.
The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to the Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro. Munro, who is 82, has written 14 story collections. She is the first Canadian woman — and the 13th woman from any country — to win the literature prize.
Human Rights Watch is accusing rebels in Syria of killing at least 190 civilians during a coordinated attack in a rural area this summer. In a new report, the group says the abuses by anti-government forces likely amount to war crimes. Syria researcher Lama Fakih unveiled the findings.
Lama Fakih: “In our latest report, 'You Can Still See Their Blood,' Human Rights Watch has documented that in an opposition offensive which began on August 4 in Latakia countryside, that armed opposition groups entered into a series of Alawite villages, and in the course of one day, we believe that they executed or killed civilians that were fleeing, in addition to holding 200, at least 200, civilians hostage.”
Human Rights Watch is calling on the U.N. Security Council to refer the conflict in Syria to the International Criminal Court and to impose an arms embargo on any groups on both sides of the conflict found to have engaged in widespread or systematic abuses.
President Obama and House Republicans failed to reach a deal Thursday to raise the nation’s borrowing limit or to reopen the federal government. During talks at the White House, Republicans touted a plan to extend the debt ceiling for six weeks while they continue to push for deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs as part of budget negotiations. The White House has not said definitively whether it will accept the plan. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are drafting their own proposal to reopen the government and temporarily raise the debt limit before the deadline on Thursday. After a separate meeting with Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dismissed the idea of negotiating over budget cuts while the government remains partially shut down. Reid responded to a question from a reporter.
Reporter: “Republicans were pretty clear earlier today they want to negotiate before you reopen the government. Is that…”
Sen. Harry Reid: “Not going to happen.”
A new Gallup poll confirms the Republicans are taking the bulk of public blame for the shutdown. Republicans are now viewed favorably by just 28 percent of Americans, the lowest such rating for either party since the question was first asked in 1992.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says three poultry plants in California owned by Foster Farms and linked to an outbreak of salmonella that sickened nearly 300 people across 17 states can remain open. The agency previously threatened to close the facilities, saying conditions there “could pose a serious ongoing threat to public health.” The salmonella scare has coincided with the crippling of federal health agencies under the government shutdown. At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks multi-state outbreaks, about 68 percent of workers were furloughed. Thirty were recalled to respond to the outbreak. At the Food and Drug Administration, which provides food inspections, about 45 percent of staff are furloughed. The USDA’s hotline for safety issues related to meat and poultry is closed.
In Japan, radiation in seawater around a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has hit its highest level in two years. The plant’s operator said contaminated soil was displaced by pressure as workers pumped chemicals into the ground in attempt to harden it and prevent water from leaking into the ocean. On Wednesday, the operator said six workers were doused with radioactive water after an employee mistakenly detached a pipe connected to a water treatment system.
In France, the constitutional court has upheld a ban on fracking, the national gas drilling technique, saying the measure legitimately protects the environment from the damaging effects of blasting water and chemicals deep into the earth. France first banned fracking in 2011, despite pressure from the gas industry.
In North Dakota, more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil have leaked into a wheat field from a pipeline owned by the company Tesoro. The leak covered about seven acres of land, the size of seven football fields. It was roughly four times the size of the ExxonMobil pipeline leak in Mayflower, Arkansas, in March. A farmer found the leak on September 29, but North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said he was only told about it Wednesday night because its size had been underestimated. He said the state is now reviewing its procedures for reporting spills.
In Egypt, a Canadian doctor and filmmaker have been cleared to leave the country after being imprisoned there for nearly two months. John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani were freed on Sunday, but barred from returning home under a travel ban which was lifted Thursday. The pair were arrested in August after rushing to the scene of a mass shooting by state forces of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
A group of U.S. whistleblower advocates has met with Edward Snowden in Russia to present him with an award for his revelations about spying by the National Security Agency. On Wednesday, Snowden met with attorney Jesselyn Radack and her client, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, as well as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley. They gave Snowden an award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, a group of former CIA officials. Jesselyn Radack described the impact of Snowden’s disclosures in an interview with RT.
Jesselyn Radack: “It’s a dangerous time for whistleblowers in the United States, but the effect, the Snowden effect, has been the opposite. We have more and more whistleblowers coming to the Government Accountability Project than we have had before. So I think if the U.S. is trying to clamp down and send a message by making an example, courage is contagious, and I really think he has had a wonderful effect for the U.S. and for the world.”
Edward Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, has also met with his son after arriving in Moscow on Thursday. Russian state TV said details about the meeting are being kept secret for security reasons. Lon addressed reporters at the same airport where his son was stranded for more than a month this summer before receiving temporary asylum.
Lon Snowden: “I’m here certainly to learn more about my son’s situation, and I am thankful, extremely thankful, again, to the Russian people, President Vladimir Putin.”
The New York Times reports Edward Snowden was hired as a contractor for the National Security Agency despite earlier suspicions among his supervisors at the CIA that he had tried to break into classified computers without proper authorization. Unnamed officials said the CIA sent Snowden home due to the suspicions. A supervisor enclosed a report in his personnel file that also described changes in Snowden’s behavior. That was in 2009, four years before Snowden began leaking classified documents he obtained as an NSA contractor.
The Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking official has announced he will step down in December. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was seen as a possible contender for defense secretary before Obama chose Chuck Hagel for the post.
A new survey shows most Americans who attempted to sign up for health insurance through new exchanges under the Affordable Care Act were unable to do so last week as the websites were beset with technical issues. The poll released by the Associated Press and research firm GfK found 73 percent of people who attempted to enroll in the exchanges experienced problems; 65 percent were unable to sign up.