UN Inspectors leave Syria early

Shorter Question Everything

United Nations weapons inspectors left Syria ahead of schedule early Saturday, leave the path open for U.S. military strikes that could come within hours. The team reached Beirut airport after a predawn drive across the border into Lebanon, carrying unknown evidence of what the U.S. says was a chemical weapons attack on its own citizens by the Syrian government.

• Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged the US to present to the UN evidence that Syria attacked rebels with chemical weapons near Damascus. Mr Putin said it would be “utter nonsense” for Syria’s government to provoke opponents with such attacks.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) criticized President Barack Obama’s plans for limited air strikes on Syria as “cosmetic” Friday, saying the failure of the United States to intervene in the country’s civil war was “shameful.” In an interview with The Tonight Show host Jay Leno, the veteran and former presidential hopeful repeated his call for Washington to arm Syria’s rebel Free Syrian Army in its fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. He acknowledged that there was little public appetite for U.S. military involvement, but said “the option of doing nothing, in my view, is even worse.”

• President Barack Obama said Friday that the use of chemical weapons are “a challenge to the world” and that he is considering a “limited, narrow act” to respond to Syria’s alleged attacks on civilians. Speaking briefly before a meeting with leaders of the Baltic states, the president said that he has not made a final decision on how to respond to the reported use of chemical weapons by Syrian president Bashar Assad, but he reiterated that the “wide range of options” being considered by the administration does not include troops in the region. “In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria but others around the world understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm,” he said.

In other news

Vigilant Eagle – Russian, NORAD air forces cooperate in exercise tracking hijacked plane over Alaska, Russia: Russian observers were at NORAD facilities in both Anchorage, Alaska, and Colorado Springs, Colo., while NORAD personnel were sent to Khabarovsk, Russia, to observe the exercise. The drama played out twice this week over western Alaska and eastern Russia, involving the Russian Federation Air Force and for the first time ever, Canadian Air Force planes representing NORAD, a bi-national command of Canada and the U.S. It involved a small plane, representative of a 757 passenger jet, being hijacked shortly after taking off from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Two Canadian CF-18 Hornets intercepted the hijacked plane, flying at about 500 knots (575 mph), a little bit west of Mount McKinley, the highest peak on North America. The two Canadian fighters escorted the plane over Alaska’s western coast, where it was handed off to three Russian Sukhoi (SU-27) fighter jets at the border.

• British authorities revealed Friday that NSA leaker Edward Snowden took at least three times as many highly sensitive documents as previously reported, and possibly far more. At a court hearing in London the government told a judge that David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was carrying 58,000 documents related to British intelligence on electronic devices when he was stopped and searched at Heathrow airport on August 18. The government also said it believed the documents had been “stolen” from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart of the NSA.

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