In approximately six minutes, the federal government
will be shut down after Congress failed to pass the spending bill. The
Office of Management and Budget directed executive agencies to shut down
just before midnight on Monday. The memo
read: "We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution
to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a
budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the
operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted
by a lapse in appropriations." Still, Obama reassured that Obamacare is
still in effect. From the president's Twitter account: "'The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. You can't shut it down.' —President Obama #Obamacare"
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Many Iranians were decidedly unhappy with this week's historic phone call between Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. When Rouhani
returned to Tehran after the diplomatic conversation after the U.N.
General Assembly in New York, however, his car was beset by crowds—not all of
them friendly. About 100 protestors met him at the airport, shouting,
"Death to America." One protestor threw a shoe at the presidential car,
which in Islamic countries is considered a much graver insult than you'd
think. It's not the only complication Rouhani ran into after the phone
call: several tweets were taken down on Friday after details of the conversation appeared to be divulged from an account in Rouhani's name.
The Obama administration
has announced that insurance rates under the Affordable Care Act will be
lower than expected. Rates vary state by state, but unsubsidized
monthly premiums could be as low as $70 per month for an individual and
as high as $1,200 for a family of four. The average premium for an
individual will be $328 in 2014, before tax credits that most people who
use the exchanges will qualify for. However, the rate announcement will
give some fuel to Obamacare critics: part of the reason the rates came
in lower than expected is because insurance companies created special
plans with fewer in-network doctors and hospitals.
The United States was largely introduced to the world of pre-teen beauty pageants by the 2009 TLC reality show "Toddlers & Tiaras." As soon as the series began to air, many members of society had pointed questions and criticism about the appropriateness of these contests. Recently, French legislators moved to ban child beauty pageants on the grounds
that they promote the "hyper-sexualization" of minors. A measure even
proposes jail time and a fine for violators (parents and legislators) who sponsor or encourage "access to these competitions" for
anyone under age 16. While the measure has not become law, it does open the door to such a policy being considered within the United States.
Tragedy struck a Nairobi shopping mall on Saturday when several gunmen
attacked shoppers with AK-47s and grenades. Kenya's president announced
there were at least 39 dead and 150 wounded. As many as 36 hostages
remain inside. Witnesses say the gunmen told Muslims in the mall to
stand up and leave, as only non-Muslims would be targeted. Authorities surrounded the mall
to contain the situation, which the Kenyan Secretary of the Interior
deemed "under control" six hours after it started. The Al-Qaida-linked
militant group al-Shabab from Somalia claimed responsibility for the
attack: "For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now
it's time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land
#Westgate," the group tweeted. Samantha Lewthwaite--the White Widow--is also alleged to be involved in the attack.
Tomorrow, porn shooting will resume in Los Angeles after a two week absence as a direct result of the emergence of three new HIV cases in the community. As a result of the new cases, the porn industry has opted to revise its rules on testing for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Now actors will be required to test every 14 days (instead of 28) and performers will have to be treated by the end of business today in order to be cleared to resume filming. Just last week a state bill in California that would have required porn actors to wear condoms died before gaining approval.
Facebook and Twitter have this week become directly
accessible in Iran for the first time since 2009, when the sites were
blocked because activists used them to organize rallies during election
protests. Iranians previously had to reroute service
outside the country to access the social media. It is unclear whether
the government lifted the bans or a technical glitch removed the
filters. Either way, it provides a small opening for a country in which citizens appear to be clamoring for more individual freedoms.
UPDATE: It was all a glitch and Facebook and Twitter are no longer accessible in Iran.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is calling for small-scale attacks
inside the U.S. A few attacks “here and there” would “bleed America
economically by provoking it to continue in its massive expenditure on
its security,” he said in a speech released online a day after the
September 11 anniversary. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan
forces defended the American Consulate against an attack by Taliban
insurgents in the usually peaceful city of Herat. The speech by al-Zawahiri renews concerns globally for American targets after the closing of embassies in recent months due to eminent threat. Further, the smaller-scale of attack called for in the video represents a shift in strategy from earlier visions of grandiose attacks aimed at shaking our nation's psyche in a different way.
In an editorial for The New York Times, titled
“A Plea for Caution From Russia,” Russian President Vladimir Putin writes that a U.S.-led strike
against Syria “will result in more innocent victims and escalation,
potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders.” If the
United Nations Security Council does not approve of such force, he says,
it would be classified as “an act of aggression.” Putin also claims
it's possible the chemical warfare was used by opposition forces to
incite international intervention and bashes the United States’ reliance
on “brute force.” Perhaps most importantly from a domestic standpoint, Putin states in his concluding paragraph: "My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by
growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the
nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on
American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what
makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is
extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as
exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small
countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and
those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.
We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must
not forget that God created us equal." Reaction to the editorial has been unsurprisingly mixed.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted at the
beginning of September, shows that 63 percent of the American public opposes intervening in the
civil war in Syria. That's up from 53 percent who thought it was a bad idea at
the end of August. Support for intervention has declined to 16 percent,
which is four points lower than at the end of August. The public seems reluctant to get
involved in another conflict. Russia has offered to put Syria's chemical
weapons under international control, a prospect that could lead to a
compromise in the region.
In a four-minute
video posted on YouTube, 22-year-old Matthew Cordle of Columbus, Ohio says he got “blackout” drunk
and drove the wrong way on the interstate, causing an accident that
killed another driver. Cordle at one point in the video pointedly says: "“My name is Matthew Cordle, and on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed
Vincent Canzani. This video will act as my confession...When I get charged, I will plead guilty and take
full responsibility for everything I’ve done to Vincent and his
family.” As of yet, Cordle has not been charged. The country
prosecutor, who called the video compelling and Cordle “remorseful and
sincere,” plans to ask jurors to indict him on aggravated vehicular
UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 11): Cordle has pled not guilty to the charges but is expected to enter a guilty plea on September 18.
Russian President Vladimir
Putin recently told reporters that he gets where President Obama is coming from.
"President Obama hasn't been elected by the American people in order to
be pleasant to Russia," Putin said. "And your humble servant hasn't been
elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either."
Putin said any differences he and Obama have aren't personal. "We are
human," Putin added. "But I would like to repeat once again that global
mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our
problems." The conversation stems from a series of recent events. First, Russia's decision to not extradite Edward Snowden back to the United States. Second, the news coverage of Russia's ban on homosexuality and its potential effects of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. And third, Putin's warning that Russia will not support any attacks against Syria without proof chemical weapons were in fact used against citizens.
Arizona Senator--and former Obama presidential opponent--John McCain said Monday that he fully supports the president's plan to
strike against Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime. He insisted that if
Congress were to vote against the resolution, it would be "catastrophic
because it would undermine the credibility of the United States and the
president of the United States." Because President Obama commited to
military action, McCain stated that U.S. credibility would be "shredded"
internationally without the support of Congress. Speaker of the House John Boehner also plans to support Obama's efforts.
A spokesman for Dunkin' Brands is apologizing for an ad featuring a
woman in blackface and bright pink lipstick holding a “charcoal donut”
with the tag line, “Break every rule of deliciousness." While the global
spokesman said they’ll be pulling the campaign, the CEO for Dunkin'
Donuts in Thailand doesn’t see anything wrong with the ads and called
the brouhaha just a result of "paranoid American thinking.” "It's
absolutely ridiculous," said Nadim Salhani. "We're not allowed to use
black to promote our doughnuts? I don't get it. What's the big fuss?” Dunkin' Donuts corporate, however, has apologized for the racist tone of the ad.