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Partisanship Versus Citizenship
President Obama's nationally televised speech may not have changed any minds in Congress about military action against Syria, especially considering its awkward collision with a far-fetched but potential diplomatic solution. Nevertheless, coming on the eve of the anniversaries of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and the killings in Benghazi in 2012, it challenged us to thoughtfully reconsider America's heritage and its future role on the world stage.
As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it when accepting an award from the National Constitution Center on Tuesday, "The world watches so carefully the decisions we make in Washington, sometimes they watch more closely than we even do, and in our finest moments of any era we achieve great things and provide a model for democracy that inspires people everywhere, but when we let partisanship override citizenship, when we fail to make progress on the challenges facing our people here at home, our standing in the world suffers."
OBAMA'S ADDRESS ON SYRIA ASKS FOR TIME TO PURSUE DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION. Responding to fast and furious developments over the previous 48 hours, President Obama's Tuesday night address to the nation about the Syrian conflict shifted from what was widely expected to be a call for a military strike to a tepid endorsement of a Russian proposal to hand over Syria's chemical-weapons arsenal to the international community, The New York Times reports. Lawmakers are mostly relieved to have been spared—at least temporarily—from voting on military action, though the most important element to Obama's speech could have been his omission of how long he is willing to wait on Syria to give up its chemical arsenal. Read more
- Despite the sudden bout of optimism, disarming chemical weapons is no easy task even during times of peace, according to weapons experts. One told TheTimes, "I'm very concerned about the fine print." Read more
U.N. STARTS PRIVATE TALKS CONCERNING SYRIA'S CHEMICAL ARSENAL. Prompted by an apparent delay of any U.S. military strike against Syria, the United Nations privately began "tense negotiations" today about a Russian-led proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control, the Associated Press reports. Already, the talks appear to be encountering a few roadblocks: a potential impasse could be developing because Russia is rejecting U.S. and French demands for a U.N. resolution to have "very severe consequences" for noncompliance. Syrian Cabinet Minister Ali Haidar told the AP that Syria's arsenal had long been a strategic necessity against Israel, but that the weapons could be ceded due to "a new kind of strategic balance." Read more
TWELVE YEARS AFTER 9/11, OBAMA, NATION HONOR THE FALLEN.Ceremonies across the country commemorated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people. President Obama attended a memorial service at the Pentagon a day after he told the nation about the need for military action in Syria. "Let us have the strength to face the threats that endure, different though they may be from 12 years ago, so that as long as there are those who would strike our citizens, we will stand vigilant and defend our nation," he said. "Let us have the wisdom to know that, while force is at times necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek." Read more
- Terrorist attacks like those wrought on this day are tragic and horrifying, but the threat of a government agency that is above the law -- like the National Security Agency -- is a far scarier threat to America, The Atlantic's Bruce Schneier writes. Read more
DOCUMENTS SHOW NSA REPRIMANDED BY COURT FOR RULE VIOLATIONS. Documents released by intelligence officials on Tuesday reveal the National Security Agency was scolded by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge in 2009 for violating procedures put in place by the agency to protect privacy and check against institutional overreach, The New York Times reports. The judge also charged the NSA with misleading the court. "It has finally come to light that the F.I.S.C.'s authorizations of this vast collection program have been premised on a flawed depiction of how the N.S.A. uses" its phone-call data, the judge wrote in the documents released in part because of lawsuits filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union. Read more
- Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., issued a statement late Tuesday warning that many of the NSA's privacy violations remain secret, The Hill reports. Read more
CAR BOMB EXPLODES AT LIBYAN FOREIGN MINISTRY BUILDING; NO CASUALTIES. On the one-year anniversary of an attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, an explosive blast from a car damaged a Libyan foreign ministry building in the same city, Reuters reports. There are no known casualties, but the government reported it had defused a large bomb found near the foreign ministry headquarters earlier in the day. The timing of the attack did not go unnoticed: "Libyans cannot ignore the timing of this explosion. It's a clear message by the forces of terror that they do not want the state or the army to stand on its feet," Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said. Read more
- President Obama, during a morning tribute honoring victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, also mentioned Benghazi briefly, saying the nation prays for "diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi," Reuters reports. Read more
DE BLASIO CLOSE TO 40 PERCENT THRESHOLD IN NYC MAYORAL PRIMARY. New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio will be the winner of Tuesday's Democratic mayoral primary, but it remains unclear whether he will earn the 40 percent share of the vote needed to avoid a runoff election against expected second-place finisher Bill Thompson, a former city comptroller, The Los Angeles Times reports. The "too close to call" count, which pegged de Blasio at 40.2 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting, will likely prompt a recount, especially given concerns that several of the city's old voting machines hindered the voting process in some areas. Read more
- Former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota easily won the Republican primary and is hoping to attract support from a variety of real estate and business leaders "turned off by the leftist tenor of the Democratic primary campaign," The New York Times reports. Read more
HOUSE GOP AT WAR WITH SELF OVER CONTINUING RESOLUTION. House Republicans up and down the conference are "struggling to fully coalesce around a plan to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month," Politico reports. GOP leadership's plan to fund the government through a continuing resolution that would feature a provision defunding the Affordable Care Act is not going over well with several conservative lawmakers who believe the move is merely a "show vote" because the Senate could easily remove the language from the bill. Because no Democrats are expected to support the proposal, only 17 Republicans would need to oppose it to kill its chances. House leadership of both parties are due to meet Thursday to discuss the debt ceiling and government funding. Read more
CHILDREN HIT HARD BY POST-RECESSION ECONOMIC INEQUALITY. A new report released today finds American families increasingly divided by many factors, including race, class, and education, because of growing economic inequality wrought by the Great Recession, The Washington Post reports. The study's authors contend the divergence of American families is felt particularly by children born into families that either set them on a path to great success or extreme disadvantage. "I was struck by how strong the divide has become in terms of education," said report author Zhenchao Qian, a sociologist at Ohio State University. "The gap between the haves and the have-nots, and the children who excel and who lag behind, grew larger than ever in the 2000s." Read more
INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY TO HOLD SUMMIT. The Intelligence and National Security Alliance will hold the inaugural Intelligence Community Summit on "national security issues affecting the community for the next 10 years at 8 a.m. at 2660 Woodley Road NW. Participants include House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn.
NATIONAL JOURNAL TO HOST FISCAL-POLICY SUMMIT. National Journal will hold a policy summit on "Fiscal Fallout: What is 'Responsible' in Today's Fiscal Reality?" at 8 a.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Participants include Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Bipartisan Policy Center's Steve Bell, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein, National Journal economic and fiscal-policy correspondent Nancy Cook, and National Journal news editor Kristin Roberts.
MURRAY TO TAKE PART IN 'WOMEN OF WASHINGTON' SERIES.The Atlantic will hold a "Women of Washington" discussion on the budget and "what needs to be done to build a healthy, and sustainable, American economy" at 9 a.m. at 800 16th Street NW. Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., is scheduled to participate.
FIRST LADY TO PARTICIPATE IN PHA EVENT. First lady Michelle Obama will travel to Watertown, Wis., where she "will join the Partnership for a Healthier America as they launch a new nationwide effort to encourage Americans to drink more water." PHA President and CEO Lawrence A. Soler, Watertown Mayor John David, actress Eva Longoria, and brand representatives will join the first lady in making the announcement at Watertown High School.
"I could have announced this campaign on the steps of City Hall or in front of a municipal building where it would have been a little cooler and less smelly, but it would not have articulated the heart and soul of America and what we were built on." -- Grundy County Board Member Chris Balkema, a Republican who announced his bid for Illinois' 11th Congressional District at an asphalt plant (Aurora Beacon News)
FRAUD 101: ALWAYS CONDUCT BUSINESS FACE-TO-FACE. A six-month investigation of assisted-living centers by U-T San Diego and the University of Southern California's CHCF Center for Health Reporting uncovered multiple problems, including allegations that state employees, responsible for approving licenses and inspecting facilities, accepted bribes from licensees, U-T San Diego's Jeff McDonald reports. A 2011 document detailed allegations of bribery of state inspectors. No charges have been filed, and the case is still under investigation. In one instance, Sravimeata Teer, who entered the assisted-living business after working for a video-rental company, left a voicemail for one inspector, saying, "You want a bribe, do your job. You don't do your job, you give me my money back." Two inspectors were fired, and another quit, but most of the nursing homes involved are still open. Read more
NOT YOUR AVERAGE AMERICAN FAMILY.The Washington Post's Brad Plumer examines an analogy proffered by the Heritage Foundation, in which federal government expenditures are extrapolated to the spending habits of an average American family. According to Heritage, a family with the national median income of $52,000 would spend $64,000 per year, despite carrying $312,000 in credit-card debt. Plumer argues that the comparison "seems incomplete," noting the percentages of household income that would be spent on defense, health care, and retirement for the elderly, and "operating a massive insurance conglomerate whose main beneficiaries are family members." Ultimately, he writes, "The U.S. federal government really does resemble your typical money-printing family that owns lots of tanks, operates a giant insurance conglomerate, can borrow money at extremely low rates, and is assumed to be immortal." Read more
THE FACEBOOK PANDEMIC. Add mass hysteria to the list of ills attributed to social media, PolicyMic publishing editor Laura Dimon writes in The Atlantic. New Zealand sociologist Robert Bartholomew has spent more than two decades studying instances of mass psychogenic illness dating to the 16th century, and says that the United States has experienced a "sudden upsurge" in such outbreaks in recent years. The outbreak "starts with conversion disorder, when psychological stressors, such as trauma or anxiety, manifest in physical symptoms," and spreads via MPI, as "exposure to cases of conversion disorder cause other people—who unconsciously believe they've been exposed to the same harmful toxin—to experience the same symptoms." Bartholomew calls social media-induced episodes of MPI "inevitable," and says there is "potential for a far greater or global episode, unless we quickly understand how social media is, for the first time, acting as the primary vector or agent of spread for conversion disorder." Read more