Slatest PM: Syria's "Moral Obscenity"

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 26 2013 4:58 PM

Slatest PM: Syria's "Moral Obscenity"

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Syrian army tanks are seen deployed in the Jobar neighbourhood of Damascus on August 24, 2013

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

A "Moral Obscenity": New York Times: "Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the use of chemical weapons in attacks on civilians in Syria last week was undeniable and that the Obama administration would hold the Syrian government accountable for what he called a 'moral obscenity' that had shocked the world’s conscience." ... Kerry’s remarks... reinforced the administration’s toughening stance on the Syria conflict, which is now well into its third year, and he suggested that the White House was moving closer to a military response in consultation with America’s allies. 'The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity,' Mr. Kerry said."

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UN Inspectors Face Sniper Fire: Washington Post: "U.N. chemical weapons inspectors on Monday successfully entered a Damascus suburb that was allegedly hit last week with poison gas, part of an assault on three rebel strongholds that left hundreds of people dead. The convoy carrying the inspectors came under sniper fire in its first attempt to access the affected areas, and one vehicle was hit, U.N. officials said. But the team was able to retreat and then travel to the to the town of Moadamiya, southwest of Damascus. ... After initially balking, Syria agreed on Sunday to allow the inspectors to visit the area, where the alleged attack occurred. The team left the Four Seasons Hotel in central Damascus mid-morning in a convoy of seven vehicles.... The team’s first vehicle was in a buffer zone between government and rebel positions when it was 'deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers,' a U.N. statement said. No one was hurt. Because the car was no longer serviceable, the team returned to government-held territory before arriving in Moadamiya."

Syria's Response: CBS/AP: "A senior Syrian official said Monday that his country will defend itself against any international attack and will not be an easy target as the U.S. and other countries ramp up rhetoric in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack last week on a rebel-held neighborhood of the Syrian capital. In an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad said airstrikes or other action against Syria would also trigger 'chaos' and threaten worldwide peace and security."

It's Monday, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at@JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @Slatest.

It's That Time Again: Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. Treasury Department will hit its borrowing limit in mid-October and likely will no longer be able to pay all its bills soon after that time, people familiar with the matter said Monday. The timeline could step up pressure on Congress to decide whether to raise the debt ceiling in the coming weeks. Lawmakers remain split over whether to raise it or insist that increase be combined with a large deficit-reduction package. The White House has said that it will not negotiate with Congress over whether to raise the government's borrowing limit and has called on lawmakers to move before financial markets react as they did in 2011, when haggling over lifting the debt ceiling triggered market turbulence. ... The government hit the borrowing limit several months ago, but Treasury has used emergency measures—such as suspending certain pension contributions—to buy more time for Congress to act. Some believed that the government's improving fiscal condition ... could give Treasury even more time, potentially until sometime in December."

Courage On the Battlefield and Off: Washington Post: "President Obama awarded [Army Staff Sgt. Ty M.] Carter the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony Monday, making the 33-year-old from Washington state the fifth living recipient of the decoration for heroic actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. In bestowing the medal, Obama hailed not only Carter’s gallantry in combat but 'his courage in the other battle he has fought' — referring to his ordeal with post-traumatic stress. 'No one should ever die waiting for the mental health care they need,' [Obama] said. Carter, then a specialist, distinguished himself when more than 300 Afghan insurgents launched a coordinated attack at dawn on Oct. 3, 2009, in an effort to overrun Combat Outpost Keating, a vulnerable position surrounded by peaks of the Hindu Kush mountains in the remote Kamdesh district of Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Of his 53 fellow 4th Infantry Division soldiers who defended the outpost that day, eight were killed and more than were 25 injured, according to the Army."

Keeping Pressure on DOJ: Associated Press: "NAACP President Ben Jealous says he plans to turn over petitions with more than 1.7 million signatures calling on the Department of Justice to pursue charges against George Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights. ... Jealous says about a million of the signatures collected were sent by cell phone, and many were from young people."

The Beating of a WWII Vet: NBC News: "A second teenager was arrested Monday in the beating death of an 88-year-old World War II veteran in Spokane, Wash., where the chief of police said the community must take action to keep more kids out of trouble. After four days on the run, Kenan Adams-Kinard, 16, was charged with first-degree murder for the slaying of 88-year-old Delbert 'Shorty' Belton, a crime that horrified people across the country. Another 16-year-old, Demetruis Glenn, was arrested last week. ... Belton, who survived being shot in Okinawa during the war, was in his car in the parking lot outside his Eagles Lodge when he was attacked on Wednesday night."

Wildfire Threatens Yosemite: USA Today: "The nation's largest active forest fire continued to burn at the edge of Yosemite National Park Monday, reaching 234 square miles and prompting multiple mandatory and advisory evacuations in the area to the northwest of the park. At least 4,500 structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. ... Overall, the fire was 15% contained as of Monday at 11:30 a.m. local time, a recorded message at the incident command center said. The blaze was moving to the east and northeast. Fire crews have been able to create a fire line at the Tuolumne River to keep the fire from spreading to the west." Perspective: The fire's now about the size of Chicago.

Knox Staying Put: CNN: "American Amanda Knox will not return to Italy for a retrial in the 2007 death of her British roommate, a spokesman for the Knox family said. David Marriott said Knox had never agreed to attend, and there's 'no requirement she be there.' Still, there remains the possibility that Italy could request her extradition from the United States."

That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds