Citing sarin use, US boosts case for military intervention; Congress split as Syria vote looms
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration geared up for the biggest foreign policy vote since the Iraq war by arguing Sunday that new physical evidence shows the Syrian government used sarin gas in a deadly August attack. With its credibility on the line, the United States must respond, the country's top diplomat said.
Members of Congress, deadlocked on just about everything these days and still on summer break, expressed sharply divergent opinions about whether to give President Barack Obama the go-ahead he requested to retaliate with military force against the Assad regime, and what turning down the commander in chief could mean for America's reputation.
Presenting Obama's case for military action, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a series of interviews on Sunday news shows outlining the latest information the administration has received about the Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs that the U.S. says killed 1,429 civilians, including more than 400 children. He said samples collected by first responders added to the growing body of proof that Syria's government launched a chemical weapons attack.
"Samples of hair and blood have been tested and they have reported positive for signatures of sarin," Kerry said. "Each day that goes by, this case is even stronger. We know that the regime ordered this attack. We know they prepared for it. We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards."
Sarin, which affects the nervous system and is toxic in liquid or gas form, can be delivered in missiles, bombs, rockets or artillery shells. The gas is outlawed under international rules of warfare. The reference to hair and blood samples were the first pieces of specific physiological evidence cited by any member of the administration, which previously spoke only about an unnamed nerve agent.
Syria dismisses US decision to hold off on strikes, moves troops and weapons to civilian areas
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Syria on Sunday derided President Barack Obama's decision to hold off on punitive military strikes, but also took precautions by reportedly moving some troops and military equipment to civilian areas.
The Obama administration countered that its case for military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is getting stronger, saying it now has evidence that the toxic gas allegedly used in strikes on rebel-held areas was the nerve agent sarin.
The administration predicted Sunday it will obtain congressional backing for limited strikes. After days of edging closer to military action against Syria, Obama suddenly announced Saturday he would first seek approval from Congress, which gets back from summer break Sept. 9.
Assad, in turn, tried to project confidence in his escalating showdown with the U.S., saying in comments carried by state media Sunday that Syria is "capable of confronting any external aggression."
From the sidelines, others exhorted the U.S. either to get involved or stay out of the brutal two-and-a-half-year-old conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions of people.
A look at Syria developments around the world amid threat of strike targeting Assad regime
The United States is considering launching a punitive strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, blamed by the U.S. and the Syrian opposition for an Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus. The U.S. said the attack killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children. Those numbers are significantly higher than the death toll of 355 provided by the aid group Doctors Without Borders.
President Barack Obama said he has decided that the United States should take military action against Syria but will seek congressional authorization for the use of force.
Here's a look at key Syria developments around the world Sunday amid heightened tensions over potential military action:
Secretary of State John Kerry asserted the United States has evidence of sarin gas use in Syria. A day after President Barack Obama stepped back from his threat to launch an attack, Kerry said in interviews that the administration learned of the sarin use through samples of hair and blood provided to Washington by first responders in Damascus.
Mandela discharged from hospital, still in critical condition, will get intensive care at home
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Nelson Mandela went home in an ambulance on Sunday after nearly three months in a hospital that became the focus of a global outpouring of concern, but authorities said the health of the former South African president remained critical and sometimes unstable.
The return of the 95-year-old leader of the anti-apartheid movement to his home in an affluent neighborhood of Johannesburg allows his family to share time with him in a more intimate setting.
The office of South African President Jacob Zuma said Mandela will receive the same level of intensive care that he did in the hospital, administered by the same doctors.
Zuma's office said the team of doctors treating Mandela, also known by his clan name Madiba, is "convinced that he will receive the same level of intensive care at his Houghton home that he received in Pretoria. His home has been reconfigured to allow him to receive intensive care there."
The statement also said: "If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done."
Veteran British broadcaster David Frost, who won fame for Nixon interview, dies on cruise ship
LONDON (AP) -- David Frost had sparred with Richard Nixon for hours, recording a series of interviews with the former president three years after he stepped down in disgrace over Watergate. But as the sessions drew to a close, Frost realized he still lacked something: an acknowledgement by Nixon that he had been wrong.
Nixon had admitted making mistakes, but Frost put down his clipboard and pressed his subject on whether that was enough. Americans, he said, wanted to hear him own up to his misdeeds and acknowledge abusing the power of the White House.
"Unless you say it, you're going to be haunted for the rest of your life," the British broadcaster told Nixon.
What came next were some of the most extraordinary comments ever made by a politician on television. For Frost, who died Saturday, it was the signature moment of an illustrious television career that spanned half a century and included interviews with a long list of the world's most powerful and famous, including virtually every British prime minister and U.S. president of his time.
A natural at TV hosting, he seemed to effortlessly inhabit the worlds of entertainment and politics. As a satirist, a game show host and a journalist, he disarmed others with unfailing affability and personal charm.
Highlights from broadcaster David Frost's more prominent interviews over the years
LONDON (AP) -- Veteran British broadcaster David Frost set a milestone in TV history when he drew extraordinary admissions from disgraced former President Richard Nixon in 1977. Armed with ambition, talent and a remarkable contacts book, Frost sat down with many other world leaders and the biggest names in show business over half a century. Here are some highlights from some of his most prominent interviews.
RICHARD NIXON, 1977
Over almost 30 hours of interviews with Nixon, who resigned three years earlier in disgrace over the Watergate scandal, Frost pressed the ex-president to acknowledge and apologize for his wrongdoing in office. Frost managed to get the following remarkable responses.
Frost: "I think people need to hear it, and I think unless you say it, you're going to be haunted for the rest of your life."
Wildfire becomes fourth-largest in California history as containment continues
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) -- The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has become the fourth-largest conflagration in modern California history, fire officials said Sunday as clouds and higher humidity helped crews further contain the biggest blaze in the United States this year.
The 2-week-old Rim Fire moved up a spot on the state's list of large wildfires dating back to 1932 when it grew to 348 square miles -- an area larger than the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose combined -- on Saturday, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
Although the fire still is growing, it was 40 percent contained as of Sunday, up from 35 percent a day earlier.
Moister air was expected to slow flames from advancing through brush and trees, giving firefighters room to set backfires, dig containment lines and to strengthen lines around threatened communities, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Pam Baltimore said.
Full containment is not expected until Sept. 20.
Egypt chief prosecutor refers ousted president Morsi to trial for inciting deadly violence
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's top prosecutor on Sunday referred ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to trial on charges of inciting the killing of opponents protesting outside his palace while he was in office, the state news agency said.
The military ousted Morsi on July 3 after millions took to the streets demanding that he step down. He's been held incommunicado since. Despite other accusations by prosecutors, the decision Sunday is Morsi's first referral to trial. No date was announced for the trial.
Morsi will be tried in a criminal court for allegedly inciting his supporters to kill at least 10 people, use violence and unlawfully detain and torture protesters. Fourteen other members of the Muslim Brotherhood will be tried with Morsi, including top aides and leading members of his political party.
The case dates back to one of the deadliest bouts of violence during Morsi's one year in office. At least 100,000 protesters gathered outside the presidential palace on Dec. 4, protesting a decree Morsi issued to protect his decisions from judicial oversight and a highly disputed draft constitution that was hurriedly adopted by the Islamist-dominated parliament.
Protesters demanded that Morsi call off a referendum scheduled days later. The next day, Islamist groups and supporters of Morsi attacked protesters who had camped outside the presidential palace, sparking deadly street battles that left at least 10 dead and sent chills among Morsi's opponents that he had relied on organized mobs to suppress the sit-in.
AP review finds 4 of 5 BCS schools make policy changes in wake of Penn State scandal
As they watched Penn State struggle to contain a child sex-abuse scandal that ruined its once-pristine name and took down the mightiest of college coaches, schools around the country realized they needed to examine what they were doing so they wouldn't see their reputations destroyed, as well.
At Mississippi, administrators passed a rule stating nobody 18 or over could have one-on-one contact with a minor.
At Kansas, they rewrote the language in their bylaws stating, in no uncertain terms, that any employee who didn't comply with rules about reporting sex crimes could be fired.
To keep better tabs on who comes and goes from its campus, Stanford started running all its kids camps in-house instead of letting coaches run them independently.
And Southern California brought in none other than Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who wrote the report on the failings at Penn State, to brief top brass on what good policies and rules should look like.
AP PHOTOS: Annual Dragon Con sci-fi and fantasy convention draws thousands to Atlanta
ATLANTA (AP) -- Wookies, Daleks and scantily-clad comic book characters called Atlanta home this weekend while attending the annual Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy convention. It's the rough equivalent of three consecutive days of Halloween held in high-rise Atlanta hotels.
The annual event features panel discussions on time-travel, round-table talks about the philosophical aspects of Star Trek and seminars on gory make-up techniques for horror film fans. Here is a look at some of the people who spent the weekend with like-minded fans of fantasy.