President Obama on Wednesday traveled to Sweden as he pushed other governments to back a potential armed offensive against the Syrian government for allegedly using nerve gas to kill more than 1,400 people last month, the New York Times reported.
Obama is scheduled on Thursday to travel to St. Petersburg to meet with other leaders from Group of 20 nations. Russia, the event’s sponsor and an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has opposed any use of armed force against the government in Damascus.
Obama last year said any use of Syria’s large chemical arsenal would breach a “red line” and could force a strong U.S. response. Speaking on Wednesday in Stockholm, he said the threshold “wasn’t something [he] made up.”
Responding inadequately would mean the global community merely gives “lip service to the notion that these international norms are important,” Obama said in comments quoted by the Associated Press. “The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of world population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent.”
Moscow would not rule out endorsing a U.N. measure on an attack if Assad’s government were conclusively established to have carried out a deadly chemical assault in the country’s civil war, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a Tuesday interview with AP.
He added, though, that the possibility of chemical strikes by the Syrian government was “absolutely absurd.” Assad’s forces have been gaining momentum in recent months, and Damascus knows “quite well” that outside powers could use chemcial strikes to justify intervening in the conflict, he said.
The head of the United Nations on Tuesday urged the U.N. Security Council to “develop an appropriate response, should the allegations of use prove to be true.” However, the world “should avoid further militarization of the conflict,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added in comments to reporters.
“I take note of the argument for action to prevent future uses of chemical weapons,” the U.N. chief said. “At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate a political resolution of the conflict.”
Analytical laboratories were set on Wednesday to finish receiving forsenic materials gathered in Syria last month by U.N. investigators, Ban said. Findings could be ready in two to three weeks, a high-level envoy told AP in comments quoted on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday said his nation is waiting to see whether U.S. lawmakers grant Obama’s request for approval to attack Syrian government targets, AP reported separately. France would not launch missiles at Syria without international backing, he said.
A potential military strike on Syria was expected to come up for debate on Wednesday in the French legislature, but Hollande does not require parliamentary authorization, according to AP. British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday said he would not re-issue a request for such an approval from his country’s lawmakers, who last week decided against involving the United Kingdom in a possible armed offensive, the London Telegraph reported.
Neither European government has counted nearly as many confirmed casualties as the United States from the alleged Aug. 21 chemical strikes near Damascus, the Los Angeles Times reported. Washington has asserted that 1,429 people died in the incident, whereas France and the United Kingdom said they had confidently established death counts of 281 and 350, respectively. French simulations, though, indicate that the attacks might have killed up to 1,500 people.
Western powers differ on what officials might have ordered last month’s alleged strikes, though they have squarely pinned blame on Assad’s regime, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Paris believes Assad and his inner circle had to have authorized the attacks, but the Obama administration has publicly expressed less certainty on the matter. Behind closed doors, U.S. officials have said the order for the strikes came from the head of “Unit 450,” the Syrian armed forces group in charge of Assad’s chemical arsenal.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”