A chemical weapons resolution? Obama calls Russia-Syria disposal plan 'potentially positive'
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a rapid and remarkable chain of events, Syria welcomed the idea of turning over all of its chemical weapons for destruction on Monday, and President Barack Obama, though expressing deep skepticism, declared it a "potentially a significant breakthrough" that could head off the threats of U.S. air strikes that have set the world on edge.
The administration pressed ahead in its efforts to persuade Congress to authorize a military strike, and Obama said the day's developments were doubtless due in part to the "credible possibility" of that action. He stuck to his plan to address the nation Tuesday night, while the Senate Democratic leader postponed a vote on authorization.
The sudden developments broke into the open when Russia's foreign minister, seizing on what appeared at the time to be an off-the-cuff remark by Secretary of State John Kerry, appeared in Moscow alongside his Syrian counterpart and proposed the chemical weapons turnover and destruction. The Syrian quickly embraced the idea, and before long U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did, too.
Obama, who appeared Monday evening in interviews on six TV networks, said the idea actually had been broached in his 20-minute meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week on the sidelines of an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Obama said he directed Kerry to have more conversations with the Russians and "run this to ground."
The president said he would "absolutely" halt a U.S. military strike if Syria's stockpiles were successfully secured, though he remained skeptical about Assad's willingness to carry out the steps needed.
Obama lobbies dubious lawmakers and a war-weary public on Syria, readying Tuesday night speech
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Battling stiff resistance in Congress, President Barack Obama conceded Monday night he might lose his fight for congressional support of a military strike against Syria, and declined to say what he would do if lawmakers reject his call to back retaliation for a chemical weapons attack last month.
The president made his comments as a glimmer of a possible diplomatic solution appeared after months of defiance from the Russian-backed government of President Bashar Assad in Syria. In a rapid response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cited "international discussions" in unexpectedly postponing a test vote originally set for Wednesday on Obama's call for legislation backing a military strike.
In a series of six network interviews planned as part of a furious lobbying campaign in Congress, Obama said statements suggesting that Syria might agree to surrender control of its chemical weapons stockpile were a potentially positive development.
At the same time, he said they were yet another reason for lawmakers to give him the backing he is seeking.
"If we don't maintain and move forward with a credible threat of military pressure, I do not think we will actually get the kind of agreement I would like to see," he said on CNN.
10 Things to Know for Tuesday
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1. OBAMA PESSIMISTIC ON SYRIA VOTE
One night before his address to the nation, the president also declined to say what he would do if Congress rejected his call for military strikes on the Assad regime.
Police chief: Zimmerman's wife won't press charges even though she said he threatened with gun
LAKE MARY, Fla. (AP) -- The sobbing wife of George Zimmerman called 911 on Monday to report that her estranged husband was threatening her with a gun and had punched her father in the nose, but hours later she decided not to press charges against the man acquitted of all charges for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.
Police officers in Lake Mary, Fla., were still investigating the encounter as a domestic dispute, but no charges had been filed as of Monday night. Shellie Zimmerman left the house after being questioned by police. George Zimmerman remained there into the early evening and his attorney denied any wrongdoing by his client. George Zimmerman was not arrested.
Shellie Zimmerman, 26, who has filed for divorce, initially told a 911 dispatcher that her husband had his hand on his gun as he sat in his car outside the home she was at with her father. She said she was scared because she wasn't sure what the 29-year-old Zimmerman was capable of doing. Hours later she changed her story and said she never saw a firearm, said Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell.
For the time being, "domestic violence can't be invoked because she has changed her story and says she didn't see a firearm," Bracknell said.
"We didn't find a gun," Lake Mary police spokesman Zach Hudson said late Monday night. "We didn't find anything that indicated he had a gun on his person."
Cancer patient stuck with higher bills as Obama pre-existing condition plan runs low on cash
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Coping with advanced cancer, Bev Veals was in the hospital for chemo this summer when she got a call that her health plan was shutting down. Then, the substitute insurance she was offered wanted her to pay up to $3,125, on top of premiums.
It sounds like one of those insurance horror stories President Barack Obama told to sell his health overhaul to Congress, but Veals wasn't in the clutches of a profit-driven company. Instead, she's covered by Obama's law -- one of about 100,000 people with serious medical issues in a financially troubled government program.
Raw political divisions over health care have clouded chances of a fix for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, leaving families like Veals and her husband Scott to juggle the consequences. That's not a good omen for solving other problems that could surface with "Obamacare."
"You don't advertise one thing and then give the customer another thing," said Veals, 49, who lives near Wilmington, N.C. "I finally felt for the first time going through this cancer that I had something dependable, and somebody pulled the plug."
In a statement, the federal Health and Human Services department said the program "continues to provide excellent coverage." But the department said it was unable to provide current enrollment numbers, which might reflect the impact of belt-tightening this summer that led North Carolina and 16 other states to turn their programs over to federal officials.
Questions persist after Ark. SWAT team fatally shoots 107-year-old man during weekend standoff
PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) -- When the time came to move 107-year-old Monroe Isadore to a new home, police say he resisted and barricaded himself inside. Authorities tried using a camera to monitor him, along with negotiating tactics, and finally gas to get him to come out.
None of it worked.
So, a SWAT team went inside and was greeted by gunfire, authorities say. The team fired back, and Isadore died.
The weekend confrontation raised a flurry of questions Monday as residents struggled to make sense of how someone known as a pleasant, churchgoing man who was hard of hearing and sometimes carried a cane had died in an explosive confrontation. Did authorities know how old he was? Did they follow proper procedure? Could they have done anything differently?
"It's just a big puzzle," said Ivory Perry, who has known Isadore for decades.
NAACP preparing search committee to find new president and CEO after Jealous departs
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Leaders of the nation's largest civil rights group pledged to continue fighting for voting rights, health care, a higher minimum wage and immigration reform, even as the NAACP begins searching for a new president and CEO.
After suffering turbulent leadership changes and scandals in the past, NAACP board members said the 104-year-old group is poised for a smooth transition this time as it seeks to replace outgoing President Benjamin Jealous. He announced on Sunday that he would step down at the end of the year.
Chairwoman Roslyn Brock said the board is disappointed Jealous is leaving after five years but that the group remains energized on issues nationwide.
"The NAACP is alive, and it's well," Brock said. "We have a strategic plan in place that will help guide our work for the next 50 years."
Brock said the NAACP's board is forming a search committee to find someone to succeed Jealous.
Apple poised to challenge Android-powered phones with cheaper iPhone
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Apple is expected to unveil its latest take on the iPhone Tuesday during an annual ritual that will probably cast a spotlight on the gadget maker's drive to regain market share and its sluggish pace of innovation.
In keeping with its tight-lipped ways, Apple Inc. hasn't disclosed what's on the agenda for the coming-out party scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. PDT at its Cupertino, Calif. headquarters.
But this is the time of year that Apple typically shows off the latest generation of its iPhone, a device that has reshaped the way people use computers since its debut in 2007. Apple took the wraps off the iPhone 5, the current model, last September. The company has never waited longer than a year to update the iPhone, which has generated $88 billion in revenue during the past year.
Apple's timetable for rolling out products has vexed many investors who have watched the company's growth slow and profit margins decrease. Meanwhile, a bevy of smartphone makers, most of whom rely on Google Inc.'s free Android software, release wave after wave of devices that cost less than the iPhone. Those concerns are reflected in Apple's stock price, which has declined nearly 30 percent since peaking at $705.07 at about the same time the iPhone 5 went on sale last year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index has risen about 14 percent during the same stretch.
Even though Apple's market value of roughly $460 billion is more than any other company in the world, the deterioration in its stock price is escalating the pressure on CEO Tim Cook to prove he's the right leader to carry on the legacy of co-founder Steve Jobs. Since Cook became CEO two years ago, Apple has only pushed out new versions of products developed under Jobs, raising questions about whether the company's technological vision has become blurred under the new regime.
At NY Fashion Week, celebrities go from tabloid fodder to behind-the-scenes players
NEW YORK (AP) -- Fashion insiders love to dress celebrities for big splashy Hollywood events, but they don't necessarily want them at their own big splashy event: New York Fashion Week.
As spring previews slid into their fifth day, there has been some departure from the approach of putting boldface names in the coveted front row seats -- and letting them steal some of the thunder from designers.
Oscar de la Renta limited his guest list, telling Women's Wear Daily he was focusing on the people who had a real reason to be there, not "20 million people with zero connection to the clothes." Tommy Hilfiger, once a celebrity magnet, said Monday that he wanted to return the focus to fashion.
"I don't like the drama in the fashion world. I like to do our thing without the drama," he said backstage before his show.
There were still plenty of tabloid favorites -- Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan have all made appearances -- but they are more of a rarity than in years past, when they were invited en masse and thrown in front of paparazzi. How many people were really focused on the Herve Leger dresses on the runway Saturday when Nicki Minaj was right in front of them? (At least designer Max Azria was smart enough to put her in a new look from the spring collection.)
Lucky No. 13: Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic in 4 sets at US Open for 13th Grand Slam title
NEW YORK (AP) -- Hard to believe this is the same Rafael Nadal who was home during the U.S. Open a year ago, nursing a bad left knee.
Hard to believe this is the guy sent packing in the first round of Wimbledon in June, losing against someone ranked 135th.
Looking fit as can be and maybe even better than ever, the No. 2-ranked Nadal pulled away from No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Monday in a taut, tense U.S. Open final for his 13th Grand Slam title.
"This is probably the most emotional one in my career," Nadal said. "I know I had to be almost perfect to win."
They started in sunlight and finished at night, a 3-hour, 21-minute miniseries of cliffhangers and plot twists and a pair of protagonists who inspired standing ovations in the middle of games.