U.S. faces pushback on action against Syria but its hand might not be stayed much longer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama faced resistance Thursday to plans for a possible military strike against Syria, with wary lawmakers in both the United States and Britain demanding more proof that Bashar Assad’s government perpetrated a deadly chemical weapons attack against civilians. Even so, military action could come within days.
Assad vowed his country "will defend itself against any aggression."
The White House sought to ease growing concerns on Capitol Hill, deploying a bevy of top administration officials to brief lawmakers Thursday evening on U.S. intelligence assessments. Obama also discussed the situation in Syria with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who wrote to the president earlier this week seeking a legal justification for a military strike and the objectives of any potential action.
Yet it appeared likely that an American military operation could happen without formal authorization from Capitol Hill or the United Nations, where Russia has blocked efforts to seek a resolution authorizing the use of force. It remained unclear whether the U.S. would launch strikes on its own or in concert with allies like Britain and France.
Waiting for British participation would mean holding off on a strike at least until the weekend. Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would not join in military efforts until a U.N. chemical weapons inspection team on the ground in Syria releases its findings.
Assad vows to defend Syria against possible Western strikes
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- President Bashar Assad vowed Thursday that "Syria will defend itself" against Western military strikes over a suspected chemical weapons attack, and the U.N. said inspectors will leave within 48 hours carrying information that could be crucial to what happens next.
British Prime Minister David Cameron argued strongly for military intervention in Syria but was rejected in a preliminary vote in Parliament, while French defense officials said openly for the first time that their military is preparing for a possible operation. The Obama administration was briefing congressional leaders about its case for attacking Syria.
The U.S., Britain and France blame Assad’s regime for the alleged chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus. The Syrian government denies the allegations, saying rebels staged the attack to frame the regime.
At the United Nations, a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council on the Syrian crisis ended after less than an hour after being convened by Russia, a staunch ally of the Assad regime.
As Western leaders made their case at home for intervening in Syria’s 3-year-old civil war, Assad remained defiant.
Federal government won’t sue to stop marijuana use in Colorado, Washington
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it -- as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.
In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.
The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska is scheduled to vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.
The policy change embraces what Justice Department officials called a "trust but verify" approach between the federal government and states that enact recreational drug use.
In a memo to all 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the federal government expects that states and local governments authorizing "marijuana-related conduct" will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that address the threat those state laws could pose to public health and safety.
Facing govt scrutiny and lawsuits, J&J puts warnings on Tylenol
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bottles of Tylenol sold in the U.S. will soon bear red warnings alerting users to the potentially fatal risks of taking too much of the popular pain reliever. The unusual step, disclosed by the company that makes Tylenol, comes amid a growing number of lawsuits and pressure from the federal government that could have widespread ramifications for a medicine taken by millions of people every day.
Johnson & Johnson says the warning will appear on the cap of new bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol sold in the U.S. starting in October and on most other Tylenol bottles in coming months. The warning will make it explicitly clear that the over-the-counter drug contains acetaminophen, a pain-relieving ingredient that’s the nation’s leading cause of sudden liver failure.
"We’re always looking for ways to better communicate information to patients and consumers," says Dr. Edwin Kuffner, vice president of McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the Johnson & Johnson unit that makes Tylenol.
Overdoses from acetaminophen send 55,000 to 80,000 people to the emergency room in the U.S. each year and kill at least 500, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Acetaminophen can be found in more than 600 common over-the-counter and prescription products used by nearly one in four American adults every week, including household brands like Nyquil cold formula, Excedrin pain tablets and Sudafed sinus pills.
Tylenol is the first of these products to include such a warning label on the bottle cap. McNeil says the warning is a result of research into the misuse of Tylenol by consumers. The new cap message will read: "CONTAINS ACETAMINOPHEN" and "ALWAYS READ THE LABEL."
In largest protests yet, fast-food workers seeking higher wages walk off job across U.S.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Fast-food workers and their supporters beat drums, blew whistles and chanted slogans Thursday on picket lines in dozens of U.S. cities, marking the largest protests yet in their quest for higher wages.
The nationwide day of demonstrations came after similar actions organized by unions and community groups over the past several months. Workers are calling for the right to unionize without interference from employers and for pay of $15 an hour. That’s more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year for full-time employees.
Thursday’s walkouts and protests reached about 60 cities, including New York, Chicago and Detroit, organizers said. But the turnout varied significantly. Some targeted restaurants were temporarily unable to do business because they had too few employees, and others seemingly operated normally.
Ryan Carter, a 29-year-old who bought a $1 cup of coffee at a New York McDonald’s where protesters gathered, said he "absolutely" supported the demand for higher wages.
"They work harder than the billionaires in this city," he said. But Carter said he didn’t plan to stop his regular trips to McDonald’s.
Chemical weapons claims against Syria touch painful past for ally Iran
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- For more than a generation, Iranian papers have regularly posted the announcements: Another veteran from the 1980s war with Iraq has died of complications blamed on exposure to chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein’s arsenal. Each one is buried with a hero’s honors.
The claims now that Iran’s Syrian allies used similar tactics, including possibly unleashing sarin gas, has forced Tehran’s leaders into perhaps their most difficult juncture of the nearly 30-month civil war. Iran’s rulers could face an uncomfortable backlash at home -- and possibly stir upheavals inside its powerful Revolutionary Guard -- if they’re seen as ignoring allegations and U.N. investigations into possible chemical attacks by Bashar Assad’s regime.
Yet Iran remains, for the moment at least, solidly behind Assad and seeks to shift attention to efforts at blocking possible Western military action against Syria. Damascus is a critical ally for Tehran as a major foothold in the Arab world and its pathway to funnel aid to its main proxy militant, Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Iran’s strategy includes a series of warnings that Israel could be drawn into a wider conflict -- most likely by Hezbollah offensives -- if the U.S. and others launch attacks on Syrian government sites. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier this week described possible Western attacks as "a spark in a gunpowder store."
Tehran also is using its diplomatic leverage with Russia and China to try to slow the momentum toward possible military action.
Husband agonizes over sick wife’s death during 911 call, says he did it to end cancer pain
LONDON, Ky. (AP) -- A Kentucky man called 911 just minutes after killing his wife, sobbing and confessing to a dispatcher that he fatally shot the cancer-stricken woman, and asking to take a last look at her before his arrest, according to recordings released Thursday.
Ernest Chris Chumbley, 48, cries throughout the 16-minute call placed around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and says he shot the woman twice in the face with a .32-caliber handgun in their southeastern Kentucky home. He said in a jailhouse interview after the shooting that he shot his wife to end her pain from terminal breast cancer.
"Give me police, I’m under arrest," Chumbley says on the call.
Chumbley has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge and is being held in jail on a $200,000 bond. He is being kept in a single isolation cell, which is monitored continuously by video, Laurel County Jailer Jamie Mosley said Thursday afternoon.
Police found 44-year-old Virginia Chumbley’s body in the bedroom when they arrived.
Its power to act limited by Congress, White House pursues modest steps on gun control
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Months after gun control efforts crumbled in Congress, Vice President Joe Biden stood shoulder to shoulder Thursday with the attorney general and the top U.S. firearms official and declared the Obama administration would take two new steps to curb American gun violence.
But the narrow, modest scope of those steps served as pointed reminders that without congressional backing, President Barack Obama’s capacity to make a difference is severely inhibited.
Still, Biden renewed a pledge from him and the president to seek legislative fixes to keep guns from those who shouldn’t have them -- a pledge with grim prospects for fulfillment amid the current climate on Capitol Hill.
"If Congress won’t act, we’ll fight for a new Congress," Biden said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. "It’s that simple. But we’re going to get this done."
One new policy will bar military-grade weapons that the U.S. sells or donates to allies from being imported back into the U.S. by private entities. In the last eight years, the U.S. has approved 250,000 of those guns to come back to the U.S., the White House said, arguing that some end up on the streets. From now on, only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport military-grade firearms.