Slatest PM: The World's Most Awkward Handshake

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 5 2013 4:45 PM

Slatest PM: The World's Most Awkward Handshake

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Russias President Vladimir Putin welcomes US President Barack Obama at the start of the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg

Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

15-Second Diplomacy: Associated Press: "President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shook hands, smiled and made small talk about the scenery on Thursday — a public exchange of pleasantries belying a tense relationship that only seems to be getting worse. ... Parsing the body language between Obama and Putin has become something of a geopolitical parlor game every time the two leaders meet. But there wasn't much to work with this time: Their exchange lasted 15 seconds. ... The two leaders, both smiling, greeted each other with a handshake. Obama gestured toward the palace and the bright blue sky, declaring the location 'beautiful.' Obama and Putin may talk again on the sidelines of the summit, including Thursday night at a leaders' dinner where Syria was expected to be discussed. But any discussion would be private."

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Working the Phones: Washington Post: "Even as he makes his case on Syria to world leaders ... President Obama plans to call lawmakers back in Washington to urge them to authorize a U.S. military strike aimed at punishing the Syrian government for a devastating chemical weapons attack. Obama will be doing outreach to key lawmakers on Capitol Hill during his two-day visit to Russia for the Group of 20 summit .... On Wednesday, during his visit to Sweden, Obama made five calls to a bipartisan group of senators as part of the administration-wide effort to lobby lawmakers on Syria..."

It's Thursday, September 5th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at@JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @Slatest.

The NSA's War on Encryption: New York Times: "The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents. The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show."

Let's Not Forget About Egypt: Reuters: "Egypt's interior minister survived an assassination attempt unscathed on Thursday when a car bomb blew up next to his convoy and gunmen strafed his vehicle, prompting him to warn that a wave of terrorism by opponents of the military-installed government was just beginning. The minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, has been involved in overseeing a violent crackdown on supporters of Mohamed Mursi, the elected Islamist president who was overthrown on July 3 by the army following mass protests against his rule. No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the first attempt to kill an Egyptian minister since the 1990s, but it appeared to bear the hallmarks of an Islamist attack."

So Not the Pot Growers Then: Los Angeles Times: "The Rim fire, which has burned into Yosemite National Park and threatened a vital water supply to San Francisco, was started by a hunter who let an illegal fire 'escape,' the U.S. Forest Service said Thursday. The fire was not started by a marijuana growing operation, despite rumors to the contrary, the U.S. Forest Service’s investigation unit and the Tuolumne County district attorney’s office concluded. The hunter has been identified and his name is being withheld pending further investigation, officials said. The hunter has not been arrested. The Rim fire began Aug. 17 near Jawbone Ridge in the Stanislaus National Forest north of the Tuolumne River off California 120. It was 80% contained and wasn't expected to be fully under control for another two weeks."

The Rise of E-Smokes: CBS News: "E-cigarettes have been surging in popularity, and a new government study suggests this effect is trickling down to U.S. teens. New findings from a national survey on youth tobacco use showed that the percentage of middle and high school students using electronic cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, which polls about 20,000 adolescents in grades six through 12 on their tobacco-related beliefs and attitudes, use habits and exposure to pro- and anti-tobacco influences. They found e-cigarette use increased from 4.7 percent of surveyed high school students in 2011 to 10 percent by 2012, the last year data was collected."

Baldwin's New Gig: USA Today: "Alec Baldwin has a new baby and a new show! MSNBC has announced that the Emmy Award-winning actor joins the network as host of a new weekly current events and culture talk show. Up Late w/Alec Baldwin will air at 10 p.m. ET on Fridays beginning in October."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

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.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.