Divided vote on Syria underscores Obama's challenge in persuading lawmakers on military action
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel's deep divide over giving President Barack Obama the authority to use U.S. military force against Syria underscores the commander in chief's challenge in persuading skeptical lawmakers and wary allies to back greater intervention in an intractable civil war.
The administration was pressing ahead Thursday with its full-scale sales job, holding another round of closed-door meetings for members of Congress about its intelligence on Syria. On another continent, Obama was certain to face questions from world leaders when he arrives in St. Petersburg, Russia, for an economic summit.
The event's host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, stands as a reminder of resistance to U.S. pleas for Moscow to intervene with its ally Syria and President Bashar Assad.
Obama has called for military action after the administration blamed Assad for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that it says killed more than 1,400 civilians, including at least 400 children. Other casualty estimates are lower, and the Syrian government denies responsibility, contending rebels fighting to topple the government were to blame.
Responding to Obama's request, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 Wednesday to authorize the "limited and specified use" of the U.S. armed forces against Syria, backing a resolution that restricts military action to 90 days and bars American ground troops from combat.
Al-Qaida-linked rebels battle Syrian army troops near regime-held Christian village
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian anti-regime activists say government troops and al-Qaida-linked rebels are fighting over a regime-held Christian village for a second day.
The director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman, says the fighters of al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra group entered the Christian village of Maaloula overnight.
Despite heavy army presence in the village in Western Syria, Abdul-Rahman says the rebels patrolled its streets on foot and in vehicles, briefly surrounding a church and a mosque.
He says the rebels left Maaloula early Thursday morning and heavy clashes between President Bashar Assad's troops and Nusra Front fighters have raged since then in surrounding mountains.
The Observatory has been documenting conflict since it started in March 2011 and has relied on a network of activists on the ground.
Officials: Egypt's interior minister survives bombing targeting his convoy
CAIRO (AP) — An explosion on Thursday targeted the convoy of Egypt's interior minister in Cairo's eastern Nasr City district, security officials and state television said. The minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, survived the attack.
The officials said it was not clear whether the late morning explosion was caused by a suicide car bombing or an explosives-laden car detonated by remote control.
Egyptian state television gave a different account of the incident. It said an explosive device was tossed from the rooftop of a high-rise apartment building near the Nasr City residence of Ibrahim, who is in charge of the country's police force. The device detonated near the convoy of the minister shortly after it left the residence.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the two reports. Discrepancies are common in the immediate aftermath of attacks.
State television said several people near the explosion were injured but that there were no fatalities. Police were searching for suspects in the area but no arrests have yet been made, it said.
SPIN METER: As Obama woos Congress and allies, a look at his views on using US military might
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — As a candidate focused on his own election, Barack Obama championed restraint and global cooperation when faced with security threats.
Now, as commander in chief of a world superpower, his rhetoric of the past is being tested by the reality of today as he presses Congress to allow the United States to launch a military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad over the objections of most major U.S. allies.
It's a posture that conflicts with positions he took as a young senator, a 2008 presidential candidate and even a first-term president as he cast himself as a counterweight to the more aggressive approach to national security embodied by his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush.
The Democratic president long has advocated a U.S. foreign policy that prioritizes negotiation over confrontation, humility over diplomatic bravado and communal action over unilateralism.
Those positions are under question as Obama seeks the approval of Congress back home and as he meets with skeptical world leaders abroad while at the G-20 summit in Russia this week.
Syria's war overshadows economic battles as Obama, world leaders meet for G20 summit
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week — and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the Group of 20 leading world economies convenes.
Men at the forefront of the geopolitical standoff over Syria's civil war will be in the same room for meetings Thursday and Friday in St. Petersburg, Russia: President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Saudi Prince Saun Al Faisal al Saud, among others.
The world's unemployed and impoverished may get short shrift at this summit, though activist groups are pleading with leaders to join forces to tackle corruption and tax-avoiding corporations, in hopes that stabilizes and better distributes economic growth.
Here's a look at what to expect at this year's summit of the G-20, nations that represent two-thirds of the world's population, 85 percent of its GDP and its leading armies:
Independent studies break down health law's premiums: wide range of options and costs
WASHINGTON (AP) — Coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law won't be cheap, but cost-conscious consumers hunting for lower premiums will have plenty of options, according to two independent private studies.
A study released Thursday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that government tax credits would lower the sticker price on a benchmark "silver" policy to a little over $190 a month for single people making about $29,000, regardless of their age.
By pairing their tax credit with a stripped-down "bronze" policy, some younger consumers can bring their premiums down to the range of $100 to $140 a month, while older people can drive their monthly cost even lower — well below $100 — if they are willing to take a chance with higher deductibles and copays.
A separate study released Wednesday from Avalere Health, a private data analysis firm, took a wide-angle view, averaging the sticker prices of policies at different coverage levels.
Before tax credits that act like a discount, premiums for a 21-year-old buying a mid-range "silver" policy would be about $270 a month, the Avalere study found. List-price premiums for a 40-year-old buying a mid-range plan will average close to $330. For a 60-year-old, they were nearly double that at $615 a month.
Study finds online privacy concerns on the rise, 86 percent of people have tried to hide data
WASHINGTON (AP) — Lynn Boyden, a college professor in Los Angeles who teaches website design, says she has developed two identities online: a public one for her professional life and a private one that only a few close friends can access. She tries to block advertising trackers when she can and limits what personal data might wind up on public sites.
It's an approach that she says works, although it takes time and attention.
"It's a sliding scale," said Boyden of what information she chooses to share. "Some things are and should be private."
Americans might be sharing more personal information online than ever through social networking sites and email. But they also want to better control who can see it, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.
The study reported that privacy concerns among Americans are on the rise, with 50 percent of Internet users saying they are worried about the information available about them online, up from 33 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 86 percent of people surveyed have tried at least one technique to hide their activity online or avoid being tracked, such as clearing cookies or their browser history or using encryption.
Superstorm Sandy took some things that can't be replaced — mementos of those killed on 9/11
NEW YORK (AP) — The letters and photos were beyond value — some of the mementos Joe Quinn still had to remember his older brother Jimmy, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Now they are gone, sullied by floodwaters and charred by fires that tore through the Queens community of Breezy Point last October during Superstorm Sandy.
From photos and letters to coffin liners and actual memorials, scores of families from Breezy Point and Rockaway — two Queens beachside neighborhoods hit particularly hard by both events — lost cherished reminders of loved ones taken by one tragedy that were then swept away by another.
"Stuff is just stuff, but the mementos, they hurt you a bit more," said Quinn, a 33-year-old Army veteran who remembers one photo in particular that is now gone, taken of the two brothers arm in arm in a bar, smiling, just two weeks before the 2001 attacks.
"Six months later, it sort of sunk in," Quinn said. "Once a week my wife and I would say, 'Hey, this picture or that letter is gone.'"
Home to firefighters, police officers and other first responders, everyone in Breezy and Rockaway, it seemed, knew someone killed on 9/11. Of the more than 2,700 who died that day in New York, about 80 were residents of the two neighborhoods, including almost 30 firefighters.
Scarlett Johansson engaged to French journalist; no date set
PARIS (AP) — Apparently love didn't get lost in translation for Scarlett Johansson, who is engaged to a Frenchman and onetime journalist.
Johansson's rep, Marcel Pariseau, confirmed her engagement to Romain Dauriac on Thursday. Pariseau said no date was set for their wedding.
Johansson, 28, whose marriage to actor Ryan Reynolds ended in 2010, is generally reluctant to talk about her private life, but has explained what she does and doesn't want in a relationship.
"I don't like jealous behavior," she told Marie Claire magazine in an interview earlier this year. "It's really unattractive because it shows a sort of insecurity."
Johansson starred in "Lost in Translation" and was in Italy this week promoting "Under the Skin" when the large diamond ring on her left hand started getting attention.
Concussions, lawsuits in forefront as NFL opens season with champion Ravens playing in Denver
The NFL is accused of hiding what it knew about players' head injuries. The players' union is getting second-guessed for not taking safety more seriously. And another judge is getting familiar with all the legal arguments.
Not the way the league wanted to kick off a season.
The debate over concussions and a $765 million settlement with former players is still front-and-center as the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens get ready to open the season in Denver on Thursday night.
Sure, the settlement gives former players immediate help with their medical bills. A drawn-out court fight was avoided. And safety is a bigger concern than ever in the league.
Yet, the back-and-forth goes unabated with so many questions unanswered.