Obama, top advisers work to persuade public and Congress to back action on Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is hitting the airwaves to try to convince war-weary Americans that limited strikes against Syria are needed for the United States' long-term safety, while his national security team is attempting to reassure skeptical lawmakers that the United States is not heading toward another Iraq or Afghanistan.
Obama on Monday planned to make his case for punishing Syrian President Bashar Assad for what the United States says was his decision to turn chemical weapons against his own people — a charge Assad denies in a new interview. Top administration officials are heading to Capitol Hill for more classified briefings. And White House national security adviser Susan Rice is scheduled for a speech at a Washington think tank timed to the public relations blitz.
In an interview Sunday in Damascus, Assad told American journalist Charlie Rose there is no conclusive evidence about who is to blame for the chemical weapons attacks and again suggested the rebels were responsible. Rose said Assad also warned him previous U.S. military efforts in the region have proved disastrous.
Kerry, appearing at a news conference Monday with his British counterpart, William Hague, vehemently denied Assad's assertions.
"We know that his regime gave orders to prepare for a chemical attack. We know they deployed forces," Kerry said. He added that the United States knows "where the rockets came from and where they landed ... and it was no accident that they all came from regime -controlled territory and all landed" in opposition-held territory.
Sec'y of State Kerry says US has powerful evidence Assad ordered chemical weapons attack
LONDON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday renewed U.S. allegations that Syria's President Bashar Assad launched a chemical weapons attack against his own people and said that Assad could resolve the crisis by turning over "every single bit" of his weapons arsenal to the international community within a week.
Appearing at a news conference with William Hague, his British counterpart, Kerry quickly added that Assad "isn't about to do that."
Kerry was asked about comments that Assad made to CBS anchorman Charlie Rose in which the beleaguered Syrian leader argued there was no conclusive evidence about who is to blame for the chemical weapons attack.
Asked pointblank about that, Kerry said, "I just gave you real evidence."
"Evidence that as a former prosecutor in the United States I could take into a courtroom and get admitted," the secretary added. Kerry said he had personally tried people who had been sent to prison for life for less than what Assad is accused of doing.
Pro-Israel groups face rare resistance in lobbying for Syrian force authorization
WASHINGTON (AP) — Of all the interests backing President Barack Obama's call for Congress to authorize military strikes on Syria, perhaps none is more concerned about the prospect of a "no" vote than America's pro-Israel lobby, which is finding it difficult to overcome widespread opposition to the use of force.
Considered to be some of the most influential lobbyists on Capitol Hill, officials with several pro-Israel groups say they are running into rare resistance from lawmakers, even among staunch Israel advocates on whose support they could almost unquestionably count in the past.
The administration has sought and won support for the vote from most of the major pro-Israel groups that traditionally have been most effective in promoting legislation to enhance Israel's security.
Among those that have released public statements and made private calls to lawmakers to urge them to vote "yes" are The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
"There is no question that it is very challenging," said an official from one, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the organization. "It is an extremely challenging environment right now."
Still unsure how to meet budget and debt-limit deadlines, Congress now confronts Syria choice
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress' September agenda, already destined to be tense and dramatic, got worse while lawmakers were away this summer. Now they end their five-week recess by plunging into an emotional debate over whether to launch missile strikes against Syria.
That will leave them even less time to meet looming deadlines on budget problems, the big issue that's been building for months. And then, just maybe, they will turn to immigration, the once fiercely debated topic that somehow moved to Washington's back burner.
No member of Congress is in a tighter spot than House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. He risks seeing most of his Republican colleagues vote against him on three major issues, just as they did earlier on a hurricane relief bill and the "fiscal cliff" budget showdown.
Boehner supports President Barack Obama's proposal to fire missiles into Syria as punishment for the gassing of hundreds of civilians. GOP rank-and-file opposition, however, is running strong, especially in the House.
On the budget front, Boehner says he wants no government shutdown or default on the debt. Those scenarios conceivably could result in a few weeks from partisan impasses over spending and the need to raise the ceiling on how much the government can borrow.
Tokyo's triumphant bid for 2020 games a chance for Japan to revive sagging economy, spirits
TOKYO (AP) — A half-century after the 1964 Tokyo games heralded Japan's reemergence from destruction and defeat in World War II, the city's triumphant bid to host the 2020 games is giving this aging nation a chance to revive both its sagging spirits and its stagnating economy.
"In most competitions, if you don't win a gold medal, you can also win maybe a bronze one," Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose told reporters in Buenos Aires after the International Olympic Committee chose his city to host the 2020 summer games. "In this battle, there was only the gold."
Japan is counting on the games to boost both the economy and morale.
Already, Olympics hopes have lifted share prices in construction, real estate and tourism-related companies. The news from over the weekend helped boost Tokyo's Nikkei 225 share benchmark by 2.2 percent by midmorning Monday.
Hundreds of Japanese athletes and officials gathered downtown for the early morning announcement shouted "Banzai!" jumping up and down and hugging in unusually demonstrative reactions to the announcement the International Olympic Committee had opted for Tokyo's guarantees of safety and stability, despite the festering nuclear crisis in its northeast.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous credited with boosting finances at civil rights organization
WASHINGTON (AP) — Months before Benjamin Jealous took the helm of the NAACP, his predecessor quit following clashes with the board and the organization cut a third of its national staff amid declining revenues.
As Jealous prepares to step down five years later, he's credited with boosting the organization's fundraising and helping to stabilize it.
Jealous plans to further discuss his decision to step down as president and CEO of the nation's largest civil rights organization Monday, a day after it was first announced. His departure is effective Dec. 31.
In a written statement, the 40-year-old Jealous said he plans to teach at a university and wants to spend time with his young family.
"The NAACP has always been the largest civil rights organization in the streets, and today it is also the largest civil rights organization online, on mobile and at the ballot box too," Jealous said. "I am proud to leave the association financially sound, sustainable, focused, and more powerful than ever."
North Korea's Kim Jong Un stays silent at military parade marking country's 65th anniversary
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waved to troops marching through central Pyongyang on Monday to mark the nation's 65th birthday, but made no public comments before leaving the lavish event.
Flanked by generals and senior government officials, Kim stood in a high viewing area well above and away from the sea of onlookers who cheered and held up colorful placards in unison as the troops filed passed. North Korea watchers had hoped the young leader might address the crowd to shed some light on the isolated and secretive nation's politics or diplomatic goals.
The military parade in Kim Il Sung Square featured mostly reserve troops and did not include displays of the kind of heavy artillery, tanks and missiles that the North rolled out in July to commemorate the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula in 1953.
Kim made no remarks at the July parade, either.
The North has recently shown an increasing willingness to engage in talks with South Korea, including efforts to reopen a joint industrial complex and allow reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, but it has also taken something of a hard-line with the United States.
Museum identifies long-lost Van Gogh painting that lingered in Norwegian attic for years
AMSTERDAM (AP) — The Van Gogh Museum says it has identified a long-lost Vincent Van Gogh painting that spent years in a Norwegian attic believed to be by another painter. It is the first full-size canvas by the Dutch master discovered since 1928.
"Sunset at Montmajour" depicts trees, bushes and sky, painted with Van Gogh's familiar thick brush strokes. It can be dated to the exact day it was painted because Vincent described it in a letter to his brother, Theo, and said he painted it the previous day — July 4, 1888.
He said the painting was done "on a stony heath where small twisted oaks grow."
Museum experts said the painting was authenticated by letters, style and the physical materials used, and they had traced its history.
Museum director Axel Rueger described the discovery as a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" at an unveiling ceremony.
12 children hurt when amusement ride loses power at Conn. fair, no life-threatening injuries
NORWALK, Conn. (AP) — A dozen children were injured when an amusement ride at a Connecticut fair broke down on Sunday, sending the swinging riders careening into each when the ride came to a sudden halt, authorities said.
One adult was also among the 13 people transported to hospitals after the mishap at Norwalk's Oyster Festival.
Norwalk police Lt. Paul Resnick said an 8-year-old boy was admitted to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The rest were treated and released.
Five other people refused treatment at the scene, police said.
The rotating, swing-type "Zumur" ride lifts riders up and away as it spins, authorities said. State police said a mechanical failure caused the ride to suddenly stop and those on board collided with each other.
Fan falls on Candlestick Park walkway, dies outside San Francisco 49ers-Green Bay Packers game
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A football fan fell to his death from an elevated pedestrian walkway Sunday at Candlestick Park during the 49ers' final season opener at the San Francisco stadium, police said.
The death came just after kickoff at about 1:30 p.m. in the 49ers' 34-28 win over Green Bay, police said, and multiple witnesses reported the man appeared to be intoxicated before he fell to a sidewalk.
The death also happened the same day a railing collapsed at the Colts' game against the Raiders in Indianapolis injuring two fans who were leaning against the barrier above the tunnel leading to Oakland's locker room. It appeared both fans in Indiana escaped serious injury, stadium officials said.
In San Francisco, police spokesman Gordon Shyy (SHY) said off-duty medics and police officers gave the man first aid until an ambulance arrived, but he was declared dead from his injuries. Authorities said he appeared to be in his 30s, and his name has not been released.
In a statement, 49ers spokesman Bob Lange confirmed the team had learned of the accident outside the stadium.