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Thursday, September 5, 2013

White House targets gun loopholes, overseas purchases

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would close loopholes in the rules on acquiring machine guns and other dangerous weapons and ban U.S. military-style firearms sent overseas from returning to this country.
The announcement of the new executive actions came as Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to the new head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the first Senate-confirmed director in the agency’s history. Biden pledged that the White House would not give up its efforts to set up more gun controls despite congressional inaction after the shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school late last year.
“The president and I remain committed to getting these things done,” Biden said at the White House ceremony installing B. Todd Jones as the ATF’s first permanent director in seven years. “If Congress doesn’t act, we’ll fight for a new Congress. It’s that simple. But we’re going to get this done.”
In the past, some individuals seeking to avoid personal background checks when purchasing machine guns and short-barreled shotguns have claimed they were “trusts or corporations.” But a new ATF regulation will close this loophole and require them to pass background checks. Last year, the ATF said, it received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these firearms to trusts and corporations to skirt the checks.
The other executive action was aimed at keeping U.S. military weapons sold to foreign governments from being reimported to this country. Since 2005, the U.S. government has authorized requests to reimport more than 250,000 of these firearms. Under the new rule, only firearms reimported for museums and other exceptions would be allowed.
The executive actions drew quick criticism from gun rights organizations who said the requirements will not lower gun violence but instead only continue the president’s fight against legitimate gun enthusiasts. “Evidently he’s been elected king, and not president,” Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, said in an interview. “He’s made it fairly clear that he doesn’t like the 2nd Amendment.”
However, others welcomed the changes. Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said 90% of the American public demands stronger background checks, and that “today the Obama administration locked one back door used to get around” those checks.

Against what the American people want Syria will be fired upon by American war ships and aircraft

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday authorizing limited U.S. military intervention in Syria, setting the stage for a contentious debate in the full Senate next week on the use of force.

The committee voted 10-7 in favor of a compromise resolution that sets a 60-day limit on any engagement in Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, and bars the use of U.S. troops on the ground for combat operations.

The compromise is more limited than President Barack Obama's original proposal but would meet his administration's goal of punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government for what the United States says was the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, killing more than 1,400 people.

The relatively close committee vote reflected the broad divisions on the authorization in Congress, where many lawmakers fear it could lead to a prolonged U.S. military involvement in Syria's civil war and spark an escalation of regional violence.

Five Republicans and two of Obama's fellow Democrats - Chris Murphy and Tom Udall - voted against the resolution. Democrat Ed Markey voted "present," saying in a statement that he is still undecided.

The full Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to vote on the resolution next week. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives also must approve it. Both votes are expected to be close, as scores of lawmakers in both parties have yet to stake out a public position other than to say they are looking for more answers.

Obama and administration officials have urged Congress to act quickly, saying U.S. national security and international credibility is at stake in the decision on whether to use force in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons.

"If we don't take a stand here today, I guarantee you, we are more likely to face far greater risks to our security and a far greater likelihood of conflict that demands our action in the future," Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

"Assad will read our silence, our unwillingness to act, as a signal that he can use his weapons with impunity," Kerry said.

Protesters held hands splattered with blood-red paint in the air behind Kerry as he spoke at a House hearing that underscored the skepticism among lawmakers in both parties about the authorization.

House members peppered Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, with questions about the duration, targets, potential response and level of international support for military action in Syria.

"Whether we ultimately support a resolution on the use of force or not, it will depend on how these concerns are addressed in the coming days by the administration," Republican Steve Chabot told the officials.

'LIMITS OF AMERICAN POWER'

In the Senate committee, Murphy said he rejected the resolution because he was concerned a strike could make the situation worse in Syria and he feared the possibility of a prolonged U.S. commitment.

"I oppose it not because I don't gag every time that I look at those photos of young children who have been killed by Assad in his lethal attacks. It's simply because I have deep concerns about the limits of American power," Murphy said.

Senate leaders are unsure if Obama can win the 60 votes needed to overcome possible Republican procedural roadblocks. In the 435-member House, a senior Republican aide predicted most of the 50 or so Republicans backed by the conservative Tea Party movement and a number of Democratic liberals will join forces to vote no, leaving the outcome in doubt.

More closed-door briefings are planned for lawmakers in the House and Senate on Thursday as the administration continues to build the case for the use of military force.

The Senate committee vote came after the panel's leaders - Democratic Chairman Robert Menendez and senior Republican Bob Corker - crafted a compromise to meet concerns that Obama's proposed resolution was too open-ended.

Republican John McCain, a proponent of strong action in Syria, objected to the more narrow compromise. The committee adopted his amendments spelling out the policy goals of degrading Assad's ability to use chemical weapons and increasing the military capability of rebel forces.

Hispanic man stabbed in South Chicago Area

At about 7pm a 40 year old Hispanic male was stabbed in the 8900 block of S. Commercial.
The male lives in the neighborhood and was visiting friends when he was attacked. The male was taken to Cook County Hospital in stable condition. The incident is still under investigation and the offender is still at large.

Syria chemical weapons expected at G-20 summit in Russia

The meeting in Russia will pit two leaders with polar opposite views on Syria -- U.S. President Barack Obama, who wants to launch limited military strikes against the Syrian regime, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country stands by its longtime ally in the Middle East.
The views of the 18 other countries at the G-20 run the gamut -- but could be influenced by whatever happens in St. Petersburg.
 
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that Brahimi was on his way to St. Petersburg, where the G20 developed and developing economies were gathering on Thursday for two days of talks.

"While the world is focused on concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria we must push even harder for the International Conference on Syria to take place in Geneva," the statement said.

"A political solution is the only way to end the bloodshed in Syria," Ban was quoted as saying.

Russia and the United States announced in May they would try to bring Syrian government and opposition representatives together at an international conference, but no date has been set and there is no sign it could be held in the near future.

With host Russia opposing possible U.S.-led military strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad for an alleged chemical weapons attack, talks on the Syria conflict may overshadow the G20 summit talks on the global economy.

Boy, 16, killed and boy, 15, wounded as they sat on porch

A 16-year-old boy was killed and a 15-year-old boy was wounded as they sat on the porch of a home in the Washington Park neighborhood on the South Side, police said.

A gunman rode up on a bicycle in the 5100 block of South Calumet Avenue around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday and opened fire, according to police.

Geanni Boyd was hit several times and was pronounced dead shortly after midnight Thursday, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. He lived in the 0-100 block of East 99th Street.

The 15-year-old was shot in the wrist and was treated on the scene, police said.

In another shooting Wednesday, Jeffrey Montgomery, 24 was killed in the 7500 block of South Union Avenue in the Gresham neighborhood. He was pronounced dead at 12:01 p.m. at Advocate Christ Medical Center, about 30 minutes after he was shot.

Four other people were wounded in Chicago overnight:

• Around 9:45 p.m., a 36-year-old man standing on a sidewalk in the Jackson Park Highlands neighborhood was shot in the back by someone inside a silver four-door sedan, police said.

The shooting happened near 69th Street and Jeffery Boulevard. The man was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and was stable, according to Police News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro.

• A 29-year-old man was shot in the hip in Englewood. The man driving an SUV south on Halsted Street when he was shot at 67th Street, police said. He stopped at 69th Street and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center. No one was in custody.

• Earlier, in the West Chatham neighborhood, a man was shot and two other people struck with shards of glass around 10:55 a.m. in the 8300 block of South Lafayette Avenue, according to Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala.

One man was shot in the hip and shoulder and taken to Stroger Hospital, Zala said. The two people hit by flying glass were taken in good condition to Saint Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center, Zala said. No one was in custody for the Lafayette shooting, according to Zala.

• About 4:15 p.m., a 35-year-old man shot in the abdomen and bicep walked into Norwegian-American Hospital, said News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro. He told police he had been shot in the 3800 block of West Grand Avenue.