Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Friday, August 29, 2014, 1:36 PM

If there were any doubt as to who Russian President Putin is supporting in Ukraine, there sure isn’t now: today, Putin directly applauded pro-Russian separatist rebels there. Putin attributed the offensive to the rebels---and made no mention of Russian involvement---but did address his remarks to something he called  “New Russia.” The New York Times explains that the recent militant offensive caught the Ukrainian military off-guard, and that key strategic areas, including a port-city, are under threat.

In his address, Putin called on the separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers that are currently trapped in key areas of the country. The Washington Post covers that crucial element of Putin’s remarks, which are believed to have been made in earnest.

President Obama addressed the nation yesterday, covering the situation in Ukraine and the threat posed by the Islamic State ("IS"). He said the U.S. “doesn’t have a strategy yet” for combating the terror group. President Obama explained that the Pentagon is preparing multiple options. Politico also covers the President’s comments.

Perhaps Obama need not be so reluctant to intervene in Syria. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, Americans would like to see the government take a “tougher” approach to foreign policy. In a stark departure from polling taken in recent years, Americans are now more amenable to foreign intervention to address what they see as increasing threats from abroad. The Los Angeles Times covers the report.

The Globe and Mail reports that Syrian militants have captured 43 UN peacekeepers. The UN workers were seized in the Golan Heights, the northern part of Israel that borders Syria. An additional 81 peacekeepers are trapped in the region and surrounded by militants.

The United States has identified “nearly a dozen” American citizens who have traveled to Syria to fight for IS. The Times explains that American intelligence officials believe that nearly 100 Americans have gone to Syria to fight alongside rebels there---not necessarily IS---since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 Europeans have done the same.

The Post reports on torture tactics that IS members employ against their captives, including waterboarding. The latter may be a direct jab at the United States, given the awful technique's widely-criticized use by the CIA after 9/11. There have been other allusions to American military and interrogation tactics, too; IS has released videos in which captives wear orange jumpsuits like those worn by Guantanamo detainees. That story is also in the Post.

From the Times: Next week jury deliberations will commence in the long-running trial of four ex-Blackwater contractors. The Times updates us on the murder and manslaughter charges, which arise from the notorious Nisour Square shooting of 2007.

Reuters reports that the United States may intervene in a private lawsuit involving the non-profit group United Against A Nuclear Iran ("UANI"), on the basis that the suit might jeopardize national security. In short, UANI claims that businessman Victor Restis is engaged in illegal economic activity with Iran. The United States' involvement with the case remains unconfirmed; the government has until September 12th to decide whether it wishes to invoke the state secrets privilege---and thus potentially prevent some or even all of the case from going forward.

CNN tells us that China is demanding that the U.S. cease its practice of sending military surveillance flights near Chinese territory. A spokesperson for the Chinese Defense Ministry insisted that the move would help repair the otherwise tense relations between the two countries. This news comes after yesterday’s Reuters story that a Chinese fighter plane had engaged in dangerous maneuvers near a U.S. aircraft---a charge the Chinese denied.

Amidst all this news, the Post reports that the “Twitter Nation” was so distracted by President Obama’s choice of apparel during his news conference yesterday, that it could not pay much attention to the leader's words.

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