EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 13, 2013

Kerry rejects initial Syrian offer


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — GENEVA (AP) — Striking a tough tone, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened swiftly convened talks with Russia on Syria’s chemical weapons Thursday by bluntly rejecting a Syrian pledge to begin a “standard process” by turning over information rather than weapons — and nothing immediately.

That won’t do, Kerry declared at an opening news conference, a stone-faced Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at his side. “The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough.”

“This is not a game,” Kerry said of the latest developments in a series that has rapidly gone from deadly chemical attacks to threats of retaliatory U.S. air strikes to Syrian agreement with a Russian plan to turn over the weapons and, finally, to the crucial matter of working out the difficult details.

“We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment because of the way the regime has behaved,” Kerry declared. And he kept alive the threat of U.S. military action, saying the turnover of weapons must be complete, verifiable and timely — “and finally, there ought to consequences if it doesn’t take place.”

Adding to the drama, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in from afar, raising eyebrows with an opinion piece in The New York Times that chided Americans for seeing themselves as “exceptional.” That was an apparent reference to a comment President Barack Obama made in his Syria speech Tuesday night, explaining why he felt the U.S. needed to take action. Congress has shown little inclination to authorize military action, and a vote on that has been put off.

Assad: Syria to submit data on chemical weapons a month after signing convention

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad publicly agreed Thursday to a Russian plan to secure and destroy his chemical weapons, but said the proposal would work only if the U.S. halts threats of military action.

Assad also said his government will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention banning such weapons, while the U.N. said Thursday that it received a letter from Syria stating its intention to join. The treaty states that a nation becomes a party 30 days after such a letter is submitted.

But American officials, meeting with their Russian counterparts in Geneva, insisted on a speedier Syrian accounting of their stockpiles.

Assad’s remarks to Russia’s state Rossiya 24 news channel were his first since the Russian plan was announced Monday as a way to avert a potential U.S. military strike in response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.

He said that Syria is relinquishing control over its chemical weapons because of Russia.

Most Wanted Americanjihadi killed in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — An American who became one of Somalia’s most visible Islamic rebels and was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list with a $5 million bounty on his head was killed Thursday by rivals in the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab, militants said.

The killing of Omar Hammami, an Alabama native known for his rap-filled propaganda videos, may discourage other would-be jihadis from the U.S. and elsewhere from traveling to Somalia, terrorism experts said.

Hammami, whose nom de guerre was Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or “the American,” was killed in an ambush in southern Somalia following months on the run after falling out with al-Shabab’s top leader, the militants said.

Reports of Hammami’s death have cropped up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface. But J.M. Berger, a U.S. terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabab, said he thinks the current reports are accurate.

The rebels did not immediately present proof of Hammami’s death.

US women regain all jobslost in recession; men still2.1 million short

WASHINGTON (AP) — The slowly recovering U.S. job market has helped women rebound faster than men: They’ve now regained all the jobs they lost to the Great Recession. Men are still 2.1 million jobs short.

And the gender gap is expected to persist until the job market is much healthier.

To understand why, consider the kinds of jobs that are, and aren’t, being added.

Lower-wage industries, like retail, education, restaurants and hotels, have been hiring the fastest. Women are predominant in those areas. Men, by contrast, dominate sectors like construction and manufacturing, which have yet to recover millions of jobs lost in the recession.

“It’s a segregated labor market, and men and women do work in different industries, and even in different areas within industries,” says Heidi Hartmann, an economist and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

GOP leaders confoundedon stopgap spending bill over assault on ‘Obamacare’

WASHINGTON (AP) — GOP leaders eager to avoid blame for a possible government shutdown next month appear confounded by conservatives’ passion for using fast-approaching deadlines to derail the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, conceded Thursday his plan was all but dead for quickly passing a temporary spending bill that also defunds Obamacare, make the Senate vote on each idea separately and then send only the portion for keeping the government open to the White House for the president’s signature.

Meanwhile, new freelance effort by rank-and-file Republicans to condition keeping the government open or preventing a debt ceiling default on delaying Obamacare for a year hit a brick wall of opposition from Democrats vowing to never let the health care law be delayed or unraveled.

Nonetheless, some Republicans floated the idea of postponing all of the unimplemented portions of the new law for a year — including a requirement that virtually everyone buys health insurance and with new tax subsidies to help many people pay for it — in exchange for raising the government’s borrowing cap and easing tens of billions of dollars in broad, automatic spending cuts.

Scathing obituary about abusive NV mother goes viral after appearing in Reno newspaper

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The children of an abusive woman whose horror stories prompted Nevada to become one of the first states to allow children to sever parental ties wrote a scathing obituary that was published in the local newspaper — and has since become an Internet sensation.

The obituary opened with a harsh statement about the legacy of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick: “On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children.”

Katherine Reddick said she wrote it about her mother, who died at a Reno nursing home Aug. 30 at the age of 78.

Now a psychology consultant for a school district outside Austin, Texas, she said she decided to share the story of their painful physical and mental abuse after consulting with her brother, Patrick Reddick. They said they grew up with four siblings in a Carson City orphanage after they were removed from their mother’s home and had been estranged from her for more than 30 years.

“Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit,” the obit said. “Our greatest wish now is to stimulate a national movement that mandates a purposeful and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America.”

Out there: NASA says its Voyager 1 probe has become first spacecraft to leave the solar system

LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA’s Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system, boldly going where no machine has gone before.

Thirty-six years after it rocketed away from Earth, the plutonium-powered spacecraft has escaped the sun’s influence and is now cruising 11 1/2 billion miles away in interstellar space, or the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, NASA said Thursday.

And just in case it encounters intelligent life out there, it is carrying a gold-plated, 1970s-era phonograph record with multicultural greetings from Earth, photos and songs, including Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” along with Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Louis Armstrong.

Never before has a man-made object left the solar system as it is commonly understood.

“We made it,” said an ecstatic Ed Stone, the mission’s chief scientist, who waited decades for this moment.