09 September, 2014
The president met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials on Tuesday. They discussed possible military actions including whether to expand U.S. airstrikes on militant bases in Iraq and Syria. However, the president has stated that American ground troops will not be used.
Public opinion studies in the U.S. show increasing support for air attacks on the Islamic State group. Public concern grew after Islamic State videos showing the beheading of two reporters were widely broadcast.
However, some lawmakers have expressed concern of increased U.S. involvement in the Middle East. The president met Tuesday with the top four congressional leaders. He met with Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell from the Senate. He also spoke with the House Republican leader, Speaker John Boehner, and the top House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi.
Senator McConnell is calling for a congressional vote on President Obama's plan for attacking the militants.
Government officials are to discuss the Islamic State threat and the U.S. answer with all 535 members of Congress in the next few days.
At Least 400 dead from Flooding in India and Pakistan
Rescue workers from Pakistan and India are rushing to reach thousands of people trapped by heavy rains and flooding. Over 400 people have died in the two countries as a result of the heavy monsoon rains.
Indian and Pakistani troops have used boats and helicopters to rescue people in danger and leave food supplies for victims. The floods have affected both sides of the divided Kashmir area leaving villages and military bases under water. Floods have also heavily damaged areas of Punjab province in Pakistan.
In India, politicians have called for the government to act quickly. The flooding is the first major humanitarian emergency for new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has called the floods a "national disaster." In Pakistan, where over 200 people have died, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has faced street protests and increasing calls for his resignation.
Cease-fire in Ukraine Holds
A cease-fire between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine has largely held. But there are reports of light weapons fire and shelling in the city of Donetsk.
Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council spokesman said five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the cease-fire began last Friday. He said pro-Russian separatists have released 648 Ukrainian prisoners under terms of the ceasefire agreement.
On Tuesday, Russia said it hoped that talks between Ukraine and the rebels would start soon. These talks would deal with areas already held by the separatists. Ukraine and separatist representatives signed an agreement in Minsk, Belarus on Friday setting out ways to ease the five-month conflict.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel directly blamed Russian involvement for the crisis in Ukraine. However, Chancellor Merkel said restrictions were the only likely form of intervention.
British Leaders Urge Scotland to Reject Independence
Britain's prime minister and main opposition leader have joined in an effort to persuade the people of Scotland not to vote for independence. Prime Minister David Cameron asked Scots to vote no in a special referendum. Labor leader Ed Miliband will also travel to Scotland. The leaders said their message to the people of Scotland is simply this: "We want you to stay."
Britain's three main political parties also came together Tuesday to promise Scotland greater powers if it rejects independence. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is a Scottish labor politician, has called for a time limit on proposing the new powers for Scotland's parliament. Scotland would receive greater influence over income tax and social spending in return for rejecting independence.
Two recent opinion studies suggest an increase in public support in Scotland for leaving the United Kingdom. A study released Tuesday noted that 38 percent would vote "yes" to independence, an increase of four percentage points. This has worried Britain's political leaders. The vote is set for September 18.
WHO Sets Out Plans to Prevent Ebola Spread
The World Health Organization is releasing a new two-step plan to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The WHO said the same virus is affecting five West African countries. But the organization says the disease is spreading at different speeds depending on the country. The WHO said it is centering its efforts on preventing the spread of the disease in Nigeria and Senegal.
In these countries, there have been few cases and transmission is low. In these countries, it is easier to hospitalize patients. The WHO said a plan for fighting the disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will be more complex because there are too few health care workers and hospital beds in those countries.
The organization announced on Tuesday that the number of those killed in the Ebola outbreak this year has reached 2296.
Words in the News
opinion - n. a belief based on one's own ideas and thinking
humanitarian – n. a person who works to make other people's lives better
cease-fire – n. a halt in fighting, usually by agreement
referendum – n. a popular vote on a special issue
complex – adj. of or having many parts that are difficult to understand; not simple