Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

Aug 30, 2013

  • President Obama Announces Gun Control Actions

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    Stymied by Congress, President Obama used his executive powers on Thursday to advance his gun control agenda by closing a loophole in the current background check system and barring the reimportation of surplus American military weapons.

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  • Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No

    By Mark Landler, David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, The New York Times

    President Obama is prepared to move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria, administration officials said Thursday, despite a stinging rejection of such action by America’s stalwart ally Britain and mounting questions from Congress.

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  • Administration Tells Lawmakers of Evidence Linking Assad to Attack

    By Corey Boles and Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    The Obama administration presented its case for possible military action against Syria to congressional leaders, including evidence from an intercepted phone call involving a high-level Syrian official, which a lawmaker said officials offered as proof of a government chemical-weapons attack.

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  • Leaked Documents Reveal Budget Breakdown Between CIA, NSA

    With Tom Gjelten, NPR

    Details of the top secret budget of U.S. intelligence agencies have been made public — revealing not only that the nation spends more than $50 billion a year on intelligence but also some detail about how that money is spent. The Washington Post published excerpts of a 2013 budget justification obtained from the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In the past, the total amount spent on intelligence has been declassified by the U.S. government. The document reveals not only which agency spends the money but also what missions are top priority.

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  • Obama’s War of Words

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    When Barack Obama took office, the era of "dead or alive" foreign policy rhetoric was over. Even George W. Bush agreed this was a good idea. Obama's predecessor said that phrase—along with his "bring 'em on" taunt to Iraqi insurgents—were among his greatest mistakes as president. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner," said Bush. " ‘Wanted, dead or alive’—that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted." The Die Hard–style talk made Bush sound like a cowboy who shot first and asked questions never.

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Aug 29, 2013

  • U.S. Facing Test on Data to Back Action on Syria

    By Mark Mazzetti and Mark Landler, The New York Times

    The evidence of a massacre is undeniable: the bodies of the dead lined up on hospital floors, those of the living convulsing and writhing in pain and a declaration from a respected international aid group that thousands of Syrians were gassed with chemical weapons last week.

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  • Proposed Strikes Against Syria May Have Too Narrow A Purpose

    With Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The Obama administration says any military action in Syria would not be intended to bring the war to an end, to overthrow Bashar Assad or even help the opposition. Officials say the goal would be to show the Assad regime that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.

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  • Boehner Seeks Answers from Obama on Syria

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to President Obama seeking answers to 14 questions regarding U.S. military intervention in Syria, but the speaker stopped short of seeking a formal authorization vote before the president can engage.

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  • Lawmakers Seek Authorization Vote on Syria

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    A growing, bipartisan number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are asking President Obama to seek their vote of approval before any U.S. military intervention in Syria in response to evidence that the nation used chemical weapons in an ongoing civil war.

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  • Saluting a Dream, and Adapting It for a New Era

    By Peter Baker and Sheryl Gay Stolberg

    President Obama stepped into the space on Wednesday where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stood, summoning his iconic dream of a colorblind society in a celebration of a half-century of progress and a call to arms for the next generation.

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  • Republicans Absent From March on Washington

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    Not a single Republican elected official stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday with activists, actors, lawmakers and former presidents invited to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — a notable absence for a party seeking to attract the support of minority voters.

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Aug 28, 2013

  • UN Seeks More Time for Syria Chemical Probe Before U.S. Strike

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

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  • U.S. Said to Weigh Legal Justification for Syria Attack

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    The Obama administration is constructing the legal and political justification for a limited military strike on Syria that would demonstrate international censure against chemical weapons, according to a U.S. official.

    Any action taken by the U.S. would have a narrow scope and not be aimed at taking out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the official said, contrasting it to the allied offensive in Libya that targeted Muammar Qaddafi. A strike would concentrate on Syria’s weapons capabilities.

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  • Imminent U.S. Strike on Syria Could Draw Nation into Civil War

    By Ernesto Londoño and Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    An imminent U.S. strike on Syrian government targets in response to the alleged gassing of civilians last week has the potential to draw the United States into the country’s civil war, former U.S. officials said Tuesday, warning that history doesn’t bode well for such limited retaliatory interventions.

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  • Syrian Hackers Take Credit for NY Times Web Breach

    With Pierre Thomas, ABC News

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  • President, Not Preacher, but Speaking More on Race

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    Sitting in the Roosevelt Room with prominent African-American religious leaders, President Obama on Monday mused about how far the nation had come in the 50 years since the March on Washington led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and how far it still had to go.

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  • Fifty Years After March on Washington, Economic Gap Between Blacks, Whites Persists

    By Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post

    Even as racial barriers have tumbled and the nation has grown wealthier and better educated, the economic disparities separating blacks and whites remain as wide as they were when marchers assembled on the Mall in 1963.

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Aug 27, 2013

  • US Military Commanders Await Green Light for Syria Attacks

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

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  • Obama Mulling Response to WMD Use in Syria

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    President Obama worked Monday to muster a coordinated international response to retaliate against Syria’s apparent deadly use of chemical weapons near Damascus on Aug. 21.

    Faced with video evidence and some first-person accounts of lethal gassing, and under renewed pressure to react, the president weighed options as Syria’s more than two-year-old civil war crossed the “red line” Obama laid out a year ago.

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  • Blasts in the Night, a Smell, and a Flood of Syrian Victims

    By Ben Hubbard, Mark Mazzetti and Mark Landler, The New York Times

    Thousands of sick and dying Syrians had flooded the hospitals in the Damascus suburbs before dawn, hours after the first rockets landed, their bodies convulsing and mouths foaming. Their vision was blurry and many could not breathe.

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