Is this a harbinger of things to come?


CNN

Bashar al-Assad بشار حافظ الأسد
Bashar al-Assad
بشار حافظ الأسد

A team of internationally renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts has found “direct evidence” of “systematic torture and killing” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the lawyers on the team say in a new report.

Their report, based on thousands of photographs of bodies of alleged detainees killed in Syrian government custody, would stand up in an international criminal tribunal, the group says.

CNN’s “Amanpour” was given the report in a joint exclusive with The Guardian newspaper.

“This is a smoking gun,” said David Crane, one of the report’s authors. “Any prosecutor would like this kind of evidence — the photos and the process. This is direct evidence of the regime’s killing machine.”

For complete coverage of breaking news, go to CNN TV, CNN.com and CNN Mobile.

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Syrian Peace Talks: The U.N. Extends, And Then Regrets, An Invitation To Iran


World

When U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday invited Iran to peace talks on Syria, which start in Switzerland on Jan. 22, it was with a nod to sheer practicality. After all, as Syria’s principal regional ally, financial backer and military adviser, Iran doesn’t just wield influence over President Bashar Assad — it is party to the conflict.

But pragmatism has a way of puncturing pride, and instead of bringing all the warring parties to the table, Ban’s gesture almost derailed the entire event. Syria’s main political opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, threatened, via Twitter, to withdraw from the talks, while France and Saudi Arabia said Iran was not welcome. U.S. officials issued a terse statement. “The invitation must be rescinded,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, unless Iran publicly accepts that the end goal of the conference is the creation of a transitional government in Syria, something…

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Russia Worries Terror Suspects Are Already in Sochi


World

Authorities in Russia are reportedly facing an early terror scare ahead of the Olympic Games that begin in Sochi next month.

Citing unnamed U.S. and Russian sources, NBC News and ABC News reported Monday that security forces are searching for up to four so-called “black widows”—including at least one woman in or near the city—who are suspected of being sent there to carry out terrorist attacks.

The term “black widows” refers to female terrorists who seek to avenge the deaths of their husbands.

Wanted posters have gone up in Sochi for 22-year-old Ruzan Ibragimova, the widow of Islamist militant killed by security forces last year, NBC News and ABC News report. Ibragimova is described in the posters as having a four-inch scar on her cheek, a limp in her right leg and a left arm that does not bend at the elbow, NBC reports.

Security is already high in Sochi…

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U.N. Withdraws Iran Invitation to Syria Talks


Sochi: Just in case.


CNN

The U.S. military will have up to two warships and several large transport aircraft on standby under a contingency plan to help evacuate American officials and athletes during the Sochi Olympics if ordered, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the plan told CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

The official said the State Department would take the lead in organizing and evacuating Americans. The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The official emphasized the Russian government would have to give its approval for U.S. assets to enter Russia.
The ships and planes are “just in case the Russians ask for help,” the official said. But the assets, he said, are clearly there “if something happens like a major terrorist attack and we need to get Americans out.”

The plan calls for the warships to enter the Black Sea in the next few days. In a crisis the ships’ helicopters could fly quickly to Sochi and begin evacuating American officials. C-17 aircraft being put on standby in Germany could be on the scene in about two hours for additional evacuations. Other aircraft contracted to the State Department would also play a role.

For complete coverage of breaking news, go to CNN TV, CNN.com and CNN Mobile.

“New Jersey State Song”


GAYWATCH: “Red Weddings”


THE DAILY SHOW

“Chris Christie: ‘I don’t know’ when scandal ends”


POLITICO

By ELIZABETH TITUSMAGGIE HABERMAN and KENNETH P. VOGEL

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was warmly received at a private event in Florida Sunday on his first major political outing since a traffic scandal hit his administration, attendees told POLITICO — but he said he didn’t know when the so-called “Bridgegate” controversy would end.

The Republican and prospective 2016 presidential candidate faced only one question about the scandal — and when it might subside — during the private event, said host and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone.

“He said, ‘I don’t know,’” Langone said. “‘But as far as I’m concerned, I did what I can do, with great apologies and embarrassment.”

“I did the one thing I had to do,” Christie said, according to Langone. “I fired them. What else can I do?”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/chris-christie-bridge-scandal-102372.html#ixzz2qvnbiq1P

CHRIS CHRISTIE/BRIDGEGATE SCANDAL


“Obama: Marijuana not ‘more dangerous’ than alcohol”


CBS

By Jake Miller

MJ 87698040-17104629

President Obama waded into the controversial politics of marijuana in an interview published Sunday, saying he’s not convinced pot is “more dangerous than alcohol” and arguing it’s “important” to allow recent legalization efforts in Colorado andWashington State to proceed.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” the president told the New Yorker’s David Remnick. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

The president even argued marijuana is less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”

Still, “It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” he added.

The president also said he’s troubled by racial disparities in the application of marijuana laws.

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he explained. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”

Mr. Obama ascribed some element of hypocrisy to lawmakers who’ve stiffened penalties against pot use despite some probable experimentation of their own.

“We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing,” the president said.

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