The Syrian government has accepted a proposal by Russia to surrender its chemical weapons to international control, potentially nullifying U.S. rationale for launching strikes on Syria in order to deter chemical weapons use. Russia floated the proposal Monday following apparently offhand remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry about how Syria could avert U.S. military intervention if it turned over all chemical weapons in the next week. Obama responded to the Russian plan on PBS NewsHour, one of six TV appearances Monday.
President Obama: “My intentions throughout this process has been to ensure that the blatant use of chemical weapons that we saw doesn’t happen again. If in fact there’s a way to accomplish that diplomatically, that is overwhelmingly my preference. And, you know, I have instructed John Kerry to talk directly to the Russians and run this to ground.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his own appearance on PBS Monday night in a pre-taped interview with Charlie Rose. He rejected Obama’s drawing of a “red line” on chemical weapons use and said the United States should “expect everything” if it attacks Syria.
President Bashar al-Assad: “Obama drew that line, and Obama can draw a line for himself and for his country, not for other countries. We have our 'red lines,' like our sovereignty and our independence. While if you want to talk the word 'red lines,' the United States used uranium, depleted uranium, in Iraq, Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza, and nobody said anything. What about the 'red lines'? We don’t see 'red lines.' It’s political.”
A court in India has convicted four men in the gang rape and murder that ignited the country last December. Jyoti Singh Pandey died after she was raped and beaten on a New Delhi bus. The four men are due to be sentenced on Wednesday. A teenager was sentenced late last month to three years in juvenile detention for his role in the attack.
Egypt has launched a major assault on alleged militants in the Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 29 people in a campaign that began Saturday. Islamist groups in the Sinai have killed dozens of police and military officials amid a nationwide uproar over the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. A Sinai-based group also claimed credit for last week’s assassination attempt on the interior minister.
A federal judge has ordered four Iraqis who were imprisoned at Abu Ghraib to pay nearly $14,000 in legal fees to the military contractor they unsuccessfully sued for their torture. In June, a federal judge dismissed a case brought by the former prisoners against CACI International which accused the company’s employees of directing their torture. One plaintiff said he was caged, beaten, threatened with dogs and given electric shocks. In dismissing the lawsuit, the judge did not directly address CACI’s role in the abuse, instead citing a recent Supreme Court decision restricting lawsuits against corporations for abuses on foreign soil. CACI then sued the former prisoners for legal fees, and a judge has ruled in the company’s favor. Lawyers for the Iraqis say they plan to appeal the lawsuit’s dismissal.
Police in Afghanistan have detained two suspected members of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network in connection with the murder of an Indian writer. Sushmita Banerjee was shot dead last week after being abducted from her home. Her memoir about escaping Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was made into a hit Bollywood film. Banerjee later returned to Afghanistan where she worked as a midwife. Her death is the latest in a string of attacks on women in Afghanistan.
Newly revealed documents show how the United States is stopping people at the border in order to search their electronics without a warrant or proof of wrongdoing. The documents, released as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, relate to the case of David House, a supporter of whistleblower Chelsea Manning — formerly known as Bradley Manning — who had his electronics seized at a Chicago airport when he returned from Mexico in 2010. It turns out U.S. agents had been waiting months for House to leave the country so they could conduct the search. House described what happened on Democracy Now! in 2011.
David House: “I was leaving the border search area. I was approached by two individuals who identified themselves initially as Department of Homeland Security agents. These two individuals told me I was compelled to surrender all my belongings, including my electronic belongings, so my computer, flash drive, cellphone, video camera.”
It took 45 days for the government to return House’s computer. They later admitted he was innocent of any crime and vowed to destroy their copies of his data.
Facebook and Yahoo filed lawsuits in the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Monday seeking permission to disclose information about requests for user data they receive from the government. Google and Microsoft meanwhile expanded on similar suits they filed in June. The lawsuits may be aimed at improving the companies’ public image following a series of reports about how Internet firms comply with government requests for user information. The United States bars the companies from even discussing the existence of such requests.
Officials at Johns Hopkins University have backed off from their demands for a well-known cryptography professor to remove a post critical of the National Security Agency from university servers. The university claimed the post linked to classified material, but it actually linked to government files already published by The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian. After Professor Matthew Green tweeted about the event and removed an NSA logo from the post, the university backed down. The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins works closely with the NSA, which is headquartered in nearby Fort Meade, Maryland.
A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., heard arguments Monday in a case that could shape the future of Internet access. Verizon is challenging rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission which protect so-called net neutrality by forcing Internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content, regardless of the company’s own business interests. Internet freedom groups say the rules defend against corporate abuses and help preserve an open Internet. On Monday, a majority of judges appeared skeptical of the FCC’s authority to impose the rules. A decision is likely months away.
George Zimmerman was taken into custody in Florida Monday following a panicked 911 call from his wife, Shellie, who told a dispatcher Zimmerman had assaulted her father and made threats with a gun.
Shellie Zimmerman: “He’s in his car, and he continually has his hand on his gun, and he keeps saying, 'Step closer.' He’s just threatening all of us with his firearm.”
Dispatcher: “Step closer and what?”
Shellie Zimmerman: “And he’s going to shoot us.”
Shellie Zimmerman: “He punched my dad in the nose. My dad has a mark on his face. I saw his glasses were on the floor. He accosted my father and then took my iPad out of my hand and smashed it and cut it with a pocketknife. I don’t know what he’s capable of. I’m really, really scared.”
Shellie Zimmerman filed for divorce last week. Police said she later denied seeing a firearm and opted not to press charges. The incident comes less than two months after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin last year.
The Des Moines Register reports Iowa has been granting permits to carry guns in public to people who are blind. According to the report, Iowa law prevents the denial of gun permits based on physical ability. Officials in several counties said they had issued gun permits to residents with severe visual impairments, including some who could not read the application form. The head of a local school for the visually impaired told the paper, “Although people who are blind can participate fully in nearly all life’s experiences, there are some things, like the operation of a weapon, that may very well be an exception.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a new law requiring law enforcement agencies from other states to inform New Jersey officials before spying on its residents. The measure was spurred by revelations the New York City Police Department conducted sweeping surveillance on Muslims in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
A county in Montana has shut down funding for a clinic that provides healthcare to mostly low-income women. Commissioners in Ravalli County voted Friday to refuse $50,000 in federal funds to operate the county family planning clinic, which provides birth control, annual exams and other services to roughly 400 women, who will now see those services cut off at the end of the month. Some commissioners said they objected to the fact that minors could receive healthcare under the program without their parents being notified first.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus has begun his post as a visiting professor at the City University of New York. Petraeus directed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan before leading the CIA until an extramarital affair forced him to resign last year. Protesters confronted Petraeus on his first day of class.
Protesters: “War criminal! Petraeus out of CUNY! Petraeus out of CUNY!”