The Obama administration is gaining ground in its bid to win congressional approval before launching a military strike on Syria. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain met with Obama on Monday, along with fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. After the meeting, McCain told reporters he believes a vote against the strikes would have “catastrophic” consequences. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold its first hearing on Obama’s proposal today. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said in television interviews that hair and blood samples from Syria have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin. His claims came a day after Obama made the announcement that he would seek congressional backing for military action following reports of a chemical weapons attack last month that the administration says killed more than 1,400 people outside the capital Damascus.
President Obama: “I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable. Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”
A report presented to the French Parliament Monday concluded the chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian government. The United Nations, meanwhile, says the number of civilians who have fled Syria has topped two million, with fear of Western air strikes helping to fuel the flow of Syrians into neighboring countries. Protests by antiwar groups against the proposed strike are continuing across the country and around the world.
The Israeli military has claimed responsibility for a missile launch in the central Mediterranean Sea that sparked a flurry of speculation amid talk of U.S. military action in Syria. Russia’s Defense Ministry said its warning system had detected missiles in the area this morning. Israel initially denied responsibility, but later said it was carrying out a joint test with the United States.
The New York Times has revealed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has access to the records of every phone call that passes through AT&T’s infrastructure through a vast and secretive operation called the Hemisphere Project. Under the program, the U.S. government pays for AT&T employees to station themselves inside DEA units, where they can quickly hand over records dating back to 1987 — a longer period than records collected by the National Security Agency.
Revelations about spying by the National Security Agency based on leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden are continuing to emerge. On Sunday, the Brazilian news show Fantastico reported that the NSA targeted the emails, text messages and phone calls of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico. The news show used documents provided by journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil and obtained them from Snowden. They included an NSA slide dated June 2012, before Enrique Peña Nieto became president of Mexico, which included messages about his potential picks for Cabinet posts. Both Brazil and Mexico summoned their U.S. ambassadors following the revelations. Mexico called for the United States to investigate, while Brazil’s foreign minister demanded a written explanation and suggested Brazil might cancel an upcoming U.S. visit by President Dilma Rousseff.
Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, Brazilian ambassador: “Today at nine this morning, we summoned the ambassador of the United States, Thomas Shannon, to my Cabinet and explained the indignation of the Brazilian government in light of these facts contained in these documents which were revealed. The violations of the communications of our lady president of the republic, from our point of view, this represents an impermissible and unacceptable violation of Brazilian sovereignty.”
The German magazine Der Spiegel says National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden show the spy agency hacked into the internal communications of the news broadcaster Al Jazeera.
The Washington Post, citing top-secret budget documents provided by Edward Snowden, has revealed that the United States is conducting cyber-attacks against other countries on a scale far wider than previously known. The report says that in the year 2011, U.S. intelligence services conducted 231 offensive cyber-operations. The documents also reveal a sweeping effort dubbed ”GENIE” whereby the United States hacks into foreign networks in order to place them under covert control.
Japan is pledging to spend roughly $470 million to address a radioactive water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was battered by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The announcement today comes after the plant’s operator said it had detected radiation levels near a water storage tank that were 18 times higher than previously believed. A large portion of the funds would go toward building an underground wall of frozen earth to contain the leaks. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday drastic action is needed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “We cannot let the issue of water contamination at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant be dealt with by only Tokyo Electric Power Company. From now on, the government will lead to provide a comprehensive solution.”
In Egypt, a panel of judges has called for the Muslim Brotherhood to be legally dissolved. The recommendation Monday came a day after Egypt’s top prosecutor ordered ousted President Mohamed Morsi and a number of other Brotherhood leaders to face trial for charges that include inciting the murder of protesters. Protests against the military-backed government have continued despite a deadly crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood that has killed more than 1,000 people.
Egypt’s crackdown has also extended to the media. A court today ordered Al Jazeera’s affiliate in Egypt to stop broadcasting. The ban also extends to three other stations that have covered the protests, including one run by the Muslim Brotherhood. On Sunday, Egypt deported three Al Jazeera journalists after detaining them for five days.
Taliban militants attacked a U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan Monday, setting vehicles on fire and prompting the shutdown of a NATO supply route. Three attackers were killed. The violence marked the latest in a series of attacks that have killed dozens of Afghans in recent days. New figures from the Afghan government show the number of police deaths in Afghanistan has doubled this year.
On Friday, U.S. drone strikes killed at least six people in Yemen. Local security sources said the dead included two top leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Meanwhile in Pakistan, a U.S. drone attack killed at least four people in North Waziristan on Saturday. Officials there also claimed the victims were militants.
A juvenile court in India has delivered the first conviction in a gang-rape case that ignited mass protests in December. The rape victim, Jyoti Singh Pandey, died two weeks after she and a male companion were beaten on a bus in New Delhi. On Saturday, an unnamed 18-year-old, who was 17 at the time of the attack, was sentenced to three years in juvenile detention following his conviction for rape and murder. The sentence is the maximum allowed for youth offenders, but the victim’s family and women’s rights activists decried it as too lenient. Four adult men remain on trial and could face the death penalty.
Former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela has spent a second night at home after being discharged from the hospital. Mandela, who is 95, had been hospitalized for 12 weeks with a recurrent lung infection. A spokesperson for South African President Jacob Zuma said Mandela’s recovery is ongoing.
Mac Maharaj: “Former President Nelson Mandela has this morning, Sunday the 1st of September, 2013, been discharged from Pretoria Hospital, where he has been receiving treatment. We would like to wish him all the best as he continues his recovery at his Johannesburg home. Madiba’s condition remains critical and is at times unstable. Nevertheless, his team of doctors is convinced that he will receive the same level of intensive care at his Houghton home as he received in Pretoria.”
Verizon has reached an agreement with Vodafone to obtain sole control of Verizon Wireless, the world’s largest wireless provider. The telecommunications company will pay $130 billion to acquire Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. According to Reuters, it is the third largest corporate deal ever announced.
U.S. long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad has become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without using a shark cage. Nyad had attempted the crossing four previous times, starting in 1978. The 64-year-old spoke to supporters after emerging from the water.
Diana Nyad: “I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up.”