ICYMI: Top 10 stories, easily explained

Sep 20, 2013 19:51 UTC

1. Navy Yard shooting leaves 13 dead, plenty of questions
A gunman identified as Aaron Alexis, a U.S. Navy Reserves veteran with a history of mental illness, opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, killing 12 people and injuring another dozen before being killed in one of several gun battles with police. The incident—the worst attack at a U.S. military installation since U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people at Ford Hood, Texas, in 2009—prompted a review of security measures at the Navy Yard and renewed the national debate over gun control just five months after the Senate defeated a gun-buyer background check bill.

2. To taper or….oh, not to? OK
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shocked, well, everyone by announcing that the central bank is not yet ready to scale back a quantitative easing program put in place back in 2008. The decision came just four months after Bernanke outlined a QE-reduction plan—known as “tapering”—that included trimming the bank’s $85-billion-a-month bond-buying by the end of the year and ending it by mid-2014 (by which time the bank anticipated unemployment falling to 7 percent). Bernanke’s announcement prompted criticism of the Fed’s communication strategy, and suggested the bank may have shot itself in the foot by outlining tapering in the spring, opening the door to reactionary economic conditions that made said tapering nonviable. The move also leaves Bernanke’s successor—increasingly likely to be Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen—without a useful QE roadmap.

3.  A Whale of a fail 
Onetime Wall Street darling JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay $920 million to four regulators in two countries to settle liabilities from its $6.2 billion “London Whale” trading loss. The settlement(s) are notable for JPM’s rare admission of wrongdoing—though whose wrongdoing was left unanswered—but don’t mean the end of the bank’s Whale woes. JPMorgan still faces criminal probes into the scandal (plus probes related to energy trading, mortgage securities and bribery in China). Nor has the bank yet squared its Whale liabilities with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. But JPM swears it’s learned its lesson: CEO Jamie Dimon sent a morale-boosting memo to the bank’s employees on Tuesday, touting measures to prevent future Whales that include increased transparency, better reporting and a bunch of new compliance officers.

4. Weapons of mass discussion
A week after the U.S. and Russia brokered a deal to put Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical arms stockpiles under international control, the fate of said compromise is still TBD. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China—have spent the week discussing a draft resolution, and Secretary of State John Kerry called on the U.N. to act when its General Assembly meets in New York next week. But there are still many details to be hashed out, including how much the plan would cost (Assad says $1 billion) and whether it could realistically be accomplished by the middle of next year. Nor is there consensus on culpability: A U.N. report issued Monday confirmed the use of chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack in Syria, but stopped short of blaming the Assad regime. Russia called the report preconceived and Assad maintains that any use of sarin gas came from the rebels.

 5. Déjà vu all over again
The White House and Congress are staring down an exceedingly familiar deadlock over funding necessary to keep the government running. The House of Representatives passed a bill Friday to fund federal agencies from October 1 to December 15, while also defunding Obamacare, despite admonitions from Democrats that they would kill the GOP-led initiative. (The vote marks the 42nd time House Republicans have tried to kill or significantly derail the health care initiative.) The Senate is expected to debate the bill next week but in the meantime, neither side is being particularly communicative. And time is running out: A budget deal is necessary by September 30 to avoid a federal government shutdown, and a separate agreement must be reached by mid-October to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its national debt.

Amid Syrian refugee flood, aid workers grapple with a new set of problems

Feb 7, 2013 18:57 UTC

A recent report on Syria’s growing refugee crisis showed the extent to which fears of sexual violence are driving women out of the warn-torn country.

But the trail of gender-based violence and abuse also follows women out of Syria to camps, where they are also vulnerable, even under the watch of aid organizations.

As the crisis continues, more women are taking refuge in towns and villages, where they are difficult to account for, aid workers say, making it particularly challenging to provide care and protection.