It’s been 14 long years. The first of five scheduled moments of silence fell at the former site of the World Trade Center towers at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first plane struck the North Tower during the September 11 terrorist attacks. Then began the yearly tradition of reading out the victims’ names, one by one. Meanwhile, in D.C., President Obama bowed his head in remembrance before a day of visiting military facilities at Maryland’s Fort Meade. Thousands are expected to visit Ground Zero over the course of the day to honor the nearly 3,000 dead.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The Mecca temple was packed with people who were sheltering from a violent rainstorm — and preparing for the regular 6:30 p.m. prayer — when a construction crane, possibly destabilized by the weather, crashed into the building, killing 87 people and injuring more than 180. Mecca is currently preparing for an influx of worshippers for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which will see hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world converging on the Saudi city — and on the mosque, which is considered one of Islam’s most sacred sites.
Have they added to their arsenal of rapes and beheadings? American government officials fear that the militants are now making — and using — chemical weapons. An unnamed official reportedly said the U.S. has pinpointed four instances of ISIS using mustard agents along the Syrian border, and that the jihadists are believed to have a cell dedicated solely to manufacturing these weapons. The U.S. will continue investigating possible chemical use in Syria and Iraq, but the suspicions raise grim prospects for the war-torn region and its fleeing refugees.
Roll out the welcome mat! That’s the message from Germany and Luxembourg as they sit down today with representatives from four eastern EU states to discuss the Continent’s migrant crisis. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary are rejecting proposals to house 160,000 migrants throughout the bloc’s 28 members, and for the plan to work, all must agree. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, is refusing to cap the number of refugees she’ll accept, and President Obama is seeking funds to admit 10,000 more Syrian refugees in 2016.
They can thank the pontiff. Pope Francis is making his first visit to Cuba next week, and the island’s government has announced that it’ll free 3,522 people from its jails as a gesture of goodwill ahead of his appearance. They didn’t release names, but priority has been given to women, the chronically ill, the very young and the very old — and apart from a few cases, no violent criminals or those charged with threatening the state’s security are being released. The thousands of prisoners are expected to be back on the street within 72 hours.
It’s a done deal. The hard-won accord over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program could have come to a veto showdown if Republicans in the U.S. Senate had passed a resolution to block it. But colleagues on the other side of the aisle banded together yesterday to stymie the effort. Hours of debate ended with many skeptical Democrats siding with Obama, who called it “a victory for diplomacy.” But others fear the partisan divide will loom large in future battles over the budget and into next year’s presidential election.
Its bubble may have burst again. The tech industry has hit a seven-year low, constituting only 11 percent of American initial public offerings this year — the lowest level since the heat of the financial crisis in 2008. With at least 117 private firms valued at $1 billion or more, nearly twice as many as last year, stakes are high for those who invested early. The downturn may signal investors’ unwillingness to double down on dreams of startup payoffs, further damaging this erstwhile pillar of the U.S. investment scene.
U.K. parliament rejects right to die law. (BBC)
Biden expresses doubt on ‘Colbert’ over 2016 bid. (NYT)
Court finds 12 guilty in 2006 Mumbai train bombings. (BBC)
Venezuelan opposition leader sentenced to nearly 14 years. (AFP)
Japanese government deploys troops to aid rescue efforts amid floods. (DW)
The glasses didn’t do it. Despite a strong economic record as the longest serving governor in Texas history, his campaign never caught traction. Perry struggled not just with voters but with potential financial backers. But the final straw appeared to be when CNN decided to not include the 65-year-old Air Force veteran on the stage for next week’s Republican presidential debate. In announcing that he was suspending campaign activities, Perry called the current crop of candidates the strongest in a generation and promised supporters the party remains in good hands.
She won’t be going for the record. Serena Williams seemed to be heading for her 22nd Grand Slam title — which would have tied her with all-time champ Steffi Graff — but was knocked out by Italian player Roberta Vinci, who was a 300-to-1 underdog going into the match. Though Williams fought back Vinci in the first set, she lost the second and third, both 6-4. Now Vinci, 32, who was unseeded, will go up against No. 26 seed Flavia Pennetta in Saturday afternoon’s finals.
So much for membership privileges. The United Nations has passed a measure allowing non-member observer states the right to raise national banners at its NYC headquarters. Of 193 members, 119 voted in favor and only eight against — including the U.S. and Israel, who cited fears for diplomatic relations. The Vatican, the only other non-member state affected, did not express support. So the Palestinian flag will likely be the only one raised, and is expected to go up ahead of President Mahmoud Abbas’ visit on September 30.
The Internet offers one helluva connection. A new body of research has found that technology can actually create strong emotional bonds. A study by researchers at the University of Indiana found that email correspondence to loved ones elicited stronger heart-warming responses than voicemails, debunking conventional wisdom about technology leaving us lonely. Today couples are using webcams and online chats to share feelings and daily activities, sometimes so much so — with demands for constant, reassuring messages — that a new possibility emerges: Perhaps we’re over-connected.
He wants to make it a really red planet. The pioneering billionaire told Stephen Colbert that we should prep Mars for colonization by dropping thermonuclear bombs on it. If humans are ever to vacation there, we’ll need to warm it up — temps are currently around 67 degrees below zero — and the bold entrepreneur suggested that bombs are the quickest way. Colbert jokingly responded by calling Musk a “supervillain,” which may have gotten a few nods in the scientific community, where there’s doubt that nukes can help.
It’s not the same old story. Females now make up 53 percent of comic readership — compared to 40 percent three years ago — and that dominance is slowly starting to be felt when it comes to content. After decades of quiet hostility toward women, comic culture is opening up, partly due to millennial demand for inclusion and progressive storylines. Sure, discrimination persists: Less than 30 percent of comic creators and characters are female. But with pressure mounting in favor of women, the industry could soon turn the page.
That clears the air. The reigning Super Bowl MVP was greeted with cheers as he took the field last night. Fans held up signs mocking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose four-game suspension of Brady over Deflategate was recently tossed out by a federal judge. The 38-year-old quarterback quickly got down to business, throwing four touchdowns and going 25-of-32 for 288 yards to dismiss the lackluster Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21. Calling it a “pretty special night,” Brady launched what looks like a strong championship defense for the Patriots.