US runs into resistance as it tries to rally support for punishing Syria with military strike
PARIS (AP) — The U.S. tried to rally support on Saturday for a military strike against Syria, running into resistance from the American public and skeptics in Congress and from European allies bent on awaiting a U.N. report about a chemical attack they acknowledge strongly points to the Assad government.
President Barack Obama prepared for a national address Tuesday night as a growing number of lawmakers, including fellow Democrats, opposed the use of force. The American public didn't yet appear persuaded by Obama's argument that action is needed to deter the future use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, a U.S. official released a DVD compilation of videos showing victims of the Aug. 21 attack near Damascus.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with more than two dozen European foreign ministers on Saturday, insisted that international backing to take strong action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime was growing, not receding.
Kerry noted that the ministers, who held an informal meeting of the European Union in Vilnius, Lithuania, made powerful statements condemning the attack, and that increasingly there was a sense of conviction that Assad was to blame. Kerry said the U.S. had agreed to provide additional information to those ministers who were not yet convinced that Assad orchestrated the attack.
The EU endorsed a "clear and strong response" to a chemical weapons attack but didn't indicate what type of response they were backing. It also said that evidence strongly points to the Syrian government. Still, the EU urged the U.S. to delay possible military action until U.N. inspectors report their findings.
Tokyo wins bid to host 2020 Olympics over Istanbul and Madrid as IOC plays it safe
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The International Olympic Committee went for a familiar, trusted host, selecting Tokyo for the 2020 Games and signaling that playing it safe was preferable to more risky picks like Sochi and Rio.
With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reassuring IOC members on the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Tokyo defeated Istanbul 60-36 Saturday in the final round of secret voting. Madrid was eliminated earlier after an initial tie with Istanbul.
Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, billed itself as the "safe pair of hands" at a time of global political and economic turmoil — a message that clearly resonated with the IOC.
With Madrid's bid dogged by questions over Spain's economic crisis and Istanbul handicapped by political unrest and the civil war in neighboring Syria, Tokyo offered the fewest risks.
"The certainty was a crucial factor — the certainty that they could deliver," IOC vice president Craig Reedie of Britain said.
Vatican: 100,000 answer pope's call, fill St. Peter's Square for Syria peace vigil
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Tens of thousands of people filled St. Peter's Square for a four-hour Syria peace vigil late Saturday, answering Pope Francis' call for a grassroots cry for peace that was echoed by Christians and non-Christians alike in Syria and in vigils around the world.
The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he issued a heartfelt plea for peace, denouncing those who are "captivated by the idols of dominion and power" and destroy God's creation through war.
"This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!" he said.
"May the noise of weapons cease!" he said. "War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity."
In Pakistan's Punjab area, militants plan for next Afghanistan war after foreign troops leave
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Militants in Pakistan's most populous province are said to be training for what they expect will be an ethnic-based civil war in neighboring Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw in 16 months, according to analysts and a senior militant.
In the past two years the number of Punjab-based militants deploying to regions bordering on Afghanistan has tripled and is now in the thousands, says analyst Mansur Mehsud. He runs the FATA Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank studying the mix of militant groups that operate in Pakistan's tribal belt running along much of the 2,600-kilometer (1,600-mile) Afghan-Pakistan border.
Mehsud, himself from South Waziristan where militants also hide out, says more than 150 militant groups operate in the tribal regions, mostly in mountainous, heavily forested North Waziristan. Dotted with hideouts, it is there that Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri is thought by the U.S. to be hiding, and where Afghanistan says many of its enemies have found sanctuary.
While militants from Punjab province have long sought refuge and training in the tribal regions, they were fewer in number and confined their hostility to Pakistan's neighbor and foe, India.
All that is changing, say analysts.
Job market's vital signs: Unemployment is down, but many US employers remain reluctant to hire
WASHINGTON (AP) — Just how sturdy is the U.S. job market?
That's the key question the Federal Reserve will face when it decides later this month whether to reduce its economic stimulus.
The answer depends on where you look.
The economy has added jobs for 35 straight months. Unemployment has reached a 4½-year low of 7.3 percent. Layoffs are dwindling.
Yet other barometers of the job market point to chronic weakness:
Congress tackles contentious agenda topped by Syria crisis, budget fight, debt limit dilemma
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress returns to work facing a momentous vote on whether the United States should attack Syria, a question that overshadows a crowded and contentious agenda of budget fights, health care, farm policy and possible limits on the government's surveillance of millions of Americans.
Back Monday after a five-week break, many lawmakers stand as a major obstacle to President Barack Obama's promised strikes against Syria amid fears of U.S. involvement in an extended Mideast war and public fatigue after more than a decade of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama insists the world must act. He blames Syrian President Bashar Assad for gassing his own people, killing 1,429 civilians, including 426 children. The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, and blames rebels.
On Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the first showdown Senate vote is likely over a resolution authorizing the "limited and specified use" of U.S. armed forces against Syria for no more than 90 days and barring American ground troops from combat. A final vote in the 100-member chamber is expected at week's end.
"I think we're going to get 60 votes. It's a work in progress," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday.
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg accuses leading mayoral candidate of running a 'racist' campaign
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in an interview that one leading Democrat vying to replace him is running a "racist" campaign based on "class warfare."
Bloomberg made the comment about candidate Bill de Blasio in an interview with New York magazine due on newsstands Monday. It appeared on the magazine's website Saturday.
De Blasio is white, but he has been polling well among blacks since he began airing television ads featuring his interracial family. His wife is black and the couple has a son and a daughter. De Blasio has also criticized Bloomberg as not doing enough for the poor, saying New York has become "two cities," one for the rich and one for everyone else.
In asking Bloomberg about the mayor's race, the interviewer calls de Blasio's bid "in some ways ... a class-warfare campaign." Bloomberg interjects, "class-warfare and racist," according to the magazine.
Asked to explain what makes de Blasio's campaign racist, Bloomberg responded, "Well, no, no, I mean he's making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it's pretty obvious to anyone watching what he's been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It's comparable to me pointing out I'm Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote."
Recent dive at site of 1717 pirate ship wreck off Cape Cod points to more sunken treasure
BOSTON (AP) — Fog was swallowing his ship's bow, the winds were picking up and undersea explorer Barry Clifford figured he needed to leave within an hour to beat the weather back to port.
It was time enough, he decided, for a final dive of the season over the wreck of the treasure-laden pirate ship, Whydah, off Cape Cod.
That Sept. 1 dive at a spot Clifford had never explored before uncovered proof that a staggering amount of undiscovered riches — as many as 400,000 coins — might be found there.
Instead of packing up for the year, Clifford is planning another trip to the Whydah, the only authenticated pirate ship wreck in U.S. waters.
"I can hardly wait," he said.
At NY Fashion Week, basics like the white shirt or black dress get a new look
NEW YORK (AP) — The simple things can be the hardest to do in fashion, because you have to do them well.
Take the white shirt. Designers Peter Som and Max Azria both said a plain white button-down shirt is their favorite thing to see on a woman, and versions of it have been on nearly every catwalk during the previews of Spring 2014 at New York Fashion Week that entered their third day Saturday.
But these basics are far from simple for designers. Prabal Gurung said that with such crisp pieces, you can't hide behind embellishment or interesting fabric. When it's simple, it has to be perfect.
"Ease isn't easy," echoed Jason Wu, who showed feather-light and sometimes sheer slip dresses that were carefully constructed. "The things you think are going to be simple can sometimes be really hard."
Lucky magazine Editor in Chief Eva Chen wore a white button-down to previews on Friday and said the versions popping up on runways — whether as detail peeking out from a dress or reflecting spare 90s minimalism — are "nothing if not wearable — with jeans and ballet slippers, with a ballgown, and everything in between."
Conservative government prepares to take control in Australia, vows to limit foreign aid
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A new government prepared to take control of Australia on Sunday, with policies to cut pledges in foreign aid and to wind back greenhouse gas reduction measures in an effort to balance the nation's books.
Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott also plans to visit Indonesia soon in part to discuss controversial plans to curb the number of asylum seekers reaching Australian shores in Indonesian fishing boats.
Abbott's conservative Liberal party-led coalition won a crushing victory at elections Saturday against the center-left Labor Party, which had ruled for six years, including during the turbulent global financial crisis.
The Australian Electoral Commission's latest counting early Sunday had the coalition likely to win a clear majority of 88 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives. Labor appeared likely to secure 57.
Abbott, a supremely fit 55-year-old, began his first day as prime minister-elect with an early morning bicycle ride from his Sydney home with friends.