Ka-boom? President Barack Obama said today he is confident he will win congressional support for a military strike against Syria. Two prominent Republicans—Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio—support a strike, but the vote likely will be close. Meanwhile, French President François Hollande, who has emerged as Obama’s staunchest ally in the case against Syria, said he would wait to see what Congress does before making any decisions of his own. Hollande has said French intelligence agrees with the U.S. assessment that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for a massive chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held area just outside the nation’s capital, Damascus. UN estimates now put the death toll close to 1,500. As he continues to deny responsibility for the attack, Assad warned today that any international action would set off an explosion in the region: “The Middle East is barrel of powder and today the flames are creeping closer. It is not just a question of the Syrian response but what else might happen after the first [Western] air strike. … Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder barrel explodes. Chaos and extremism will proliferate. The rise of a region-wide war is real.”
Lawlessness in New Mexico. A conservative lawmaker in New Mexico filed a lawsuit on Friday to stop several county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. State Sen. William E. Sharer called the clerks’ decision to start issuing the licenses as “pure lawlessness.” But earlier in the week, a state court ruled that denying marriage licenses to homosexual couples violated their right to equal protection under the state constitution. New Mexico is the only state in the country that does not expressly forbid or allow same-sex marriage. State lawmakers on both sides of the issue have been unable to pass legislation supporting their views, so late last month, Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins decided to take matters into his own hands. Neither Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, nor Attorney General Gary King, a Democrat, have shown interest in stepping into the debate.
Another solid? North Korean officials said over the weekend the United States sabotaged a planned diplomatic mission to free jailed American Christian Kenneth Bae when it mobilized nuclear-capable bombers during recent military drills with South Korea. Special Envoy Bob King, who has successfully negotiated the release of detained Americans before, was scheduled to fly to Pyongyang on Friday and had hoped to return with Bae. North Korea’s highest court sentenced the 45-year-old tour operator and missionary to 15 years of hard labor for plotting to overthrow the government. Analysts say the latest catch in negotiations could be a response to the U.S. government’s refusal to meet some of North Korea’s demands in exchange for Bae’s freedom. Meanwhile, former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman is headed back to the communist country to “hang out” with his good friend Kim Jong Un. He claims he won’t plead for Bae, although he did ask Kim to “do him a solid” and release the American during his last visit in February.
Never too old. Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, achieved a decades-long dream this weekend when she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla., without a shark cage. When she emerged from the water on Sunday, Nyad told a crowd of supporters she had three messages for them: “One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you are never too old to chase your dream. And three is, it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.” It took Nyad five tries to achieve her goal. She first attempted it in 1978 but didn’t try again until 2011.