Bloodless deaths continue to toll in Ghouta, near Damascus, where the Bashar al-Assad regime allegedly launched nerve gas attacks on Wednesday. The U.S. and its allies are pushing for answers, writes the Washington Post, as is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Today Russia has joined the chorus, urging President Assad to cooperate with UN investigators, reports the Guardian. As for whether the U.S. should do anything, here's the New York Times on the "sharply divided" deliberations at the White House on Thursday.
The "key test" in determining whether the recent allegations are true "is whether [the Syrian government] now facilitate[s] immediate access by the U.N. expert team currently in Damascus," says a Western diplomat in this New Yorker story. David Kenner of Foreign Policy writes that the team's movements are highly restricted under terms negotiated with the Syrian government prior to its arrival.
The fatalities extend across Syria's borders. The AP reports this morning on double explosions in Tripoli amid rising sectarian tensions in Lebanon between Assad supporters and opponents. And just yesterday, Israel launched a rocket attack on what its military officials describe as a "terrorist site" in southern Lebanon.
C.J. Chivers has this story in the New York Times describing the torture of American photographer Matthew Schrier, who was brutally beaten by one group of Syrian rebels in 2012---and rescued by another.
Hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters took to the streets for the first time since the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme guide Mohammed Badie and 80 Brotherhood members were taken into custody. The Brotherhood is calling for "Friday of martyrs" protests, writes Al Jazeera, following the release of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
A Taliban chief in the Khwaja Ghar district of Takhar province was among four militants killed in a predawn raid by Afghan Special Forces, says the Frontier Post.
The Indian Express writes that Asmatullah Muawiya, leader of the Punjabi Taliban, has issued a statement welcoming Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's offer to talk peace. About 70 days, 70 terrorist attacks in Pakistan, observes Ariq Rafiq of Foreign Policy, so why doesn't Prime Minister Sharif have a counterterrorism policy?
In court yesterday, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales "apologized" for massacring 16 civilians in Kandahar, calling his rampage an "act of cowardice" but offering no other explanation.
Outgoing FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III had just taken his post when the first plane hit the towers. In an interview Wednesday he reflected on how 9/11 dramatically shifted the focus from investigating domestic crime to preventing terrorism. Here is Billy Kenber of the Washington Post; here is Carrie Johnson of NPR.
Also on NPR: Larry Abromson examines the power of metadata, as revealed by your Gmail account.
President Obama sat down with CNN this morning and declared that oversight of the NSA surveillance programs is working, but that the administration should "continue to improve the safeguards." Here is the full transcript. The White House has yet to dispute yesterday's report that recent acting head of the CIA Michael Morell and three former White House advisors would sit on an independent surveillance review panel.
Bruce Schneier had this opinion piece in the Atlantic yesterday speculating that David Miranda was detained at Heathrow to make a point to the public: sit down and shush. David Rieff of Foreign Policy suggests nobody's standing---because nobody cares.
Who hit the mute button during January 28 preliminary hearings in the 9/11 case? The CIA, says Khalid Sheik Mohammed's defense attorney, David Nevin. Our correspondents are still holding down the fort at Fort Meade, where the latest pretrial sessions commence sans mute button; check out their almost-live coverage.
Mean Girls shenanigans at Guantánamo Bay? Officials may have started the rumor that Fifty Shades of Grey is the second-most requested book at the prison to discredit his client, says James Connell III, the defense attorney of one of the 9/11 defendants.
The common shoe continues its dangerous evolution. Thursday marked the first court appearance of a man busted in New York for trying to sell the uranium in his shoes to undercover federal agents posing as Iranian representatives. Here is the LA Times story.
The New York Times observes that the Pentagon is having many of Silicon Valley's babies: "In the ranks of technology incubator programs, there is AngelPad here in San Francisco and Y Combinator about 40 miles south in Mountain View. And then there is the Pentagon." Read more here.
And some marginalia to brighten your Friday: Can sex sell revolution? Ask a "ridiculously photogenic Syrian soldier." Kickstarter is offering to make your dreams of owning an autonomous, programmable, carbon-fiber-frame drone come true. Evan Ackerman has the details on the $600 Spiri.
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