In Brief | Nation & World, February 14, 2014


Suspense in Senate: Debt vote shrouded in secrecy to limit fallout

WASHINGTON — Financial markets were watching, the retirement accounts of millions of Americans on the line.

Nervous senators were watching too, well aware that political fortunes could be on the line.

So on perhaps the most important vote of the year, the Senate did something extraordinary this week: It tried to keep the vote tally secret until the outcome was assured.

As lawmakers voted Wednesday on must-pass legislation to increase the government’s debt limit, they dropped the parliamentary equivalent of a curtain on the voting as it was in progress.

Typically, roll-call votes in the Senate play out in a very public manner. People watching from the galleries or tracking action from afar via C-SPAN can watch democracy unfold in all its messy wonder.

Airstrikes, shelling kill 400 so far this month in Aleppo’s rebel areas

GENEVA — The United States and Russia promised to try to break the stalemate in Syria peace talks, a U.N. mediator said Thursday, as Syrian activists said government shelling and airstrikes with makeshift barrel bombs killed about 400 people in the country’s largest city so far this month.

A second round of peace talks in Geneva has offered a rare opportunity for conversation, but yielded little more than acrimony. The violence has escalated on the ground and delegates in Geneva have failed to even agree on an agenda for the talks.

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said after meeting with senior U.S. and Russian officials that they pledged to try to help.

“They have kindly reaffirmed their support to what we are trying to do and promised that they will help both here and in their capitals and elsewhere to unblock the situation for us because until now we are not making much progress,” he told reporters.

He met with U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov to try to salvage the talks.

Doctor convicted of waterboarding companion’s daughter

GEORGETOWN, Del. — A Delaware jury convicted a pediatrician Thursday of waterboarding his companion’s daughter by holding the child’s head under a faucet.

The jury deliberated for about six hours before returning its verdict against Melvin Morse, 60.

Morse was charged with three felonies, two for alleged waterboarding and one for alleged suffocation by hand. He was convicted of one felony — waterboarding in the bathtub — and five misdemeanors.

Morse did not show any immediate reaction after the verdict. He could face several years in prison. Sentencing was set for April 11.

Defense attorneys argued that “waterboarding” was a term jokingly used to describe hair washing that the girl did not like.

Drake lashes out at Rolling Stone, press after being replaced on cover by Hoffman

NEW YORK — Drake says he won’t do interviews with magazines following a recent story in Rolling Stone magazine.

The rapper was supposed to be on the cover of the magazine’s new issue, but was replaced with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Drake tweeted Thursday that he’s “done doing interviews with magazines.”

“I just want to give my music to the people,” he wrote. “That’s the only way my message gets across accurately.”

Other Thursday tweets from the 27-year-old were deleted, including one about his discomfort with Hoffman gracing the cover of Rolling Stone.

“I’m disgusted with that. RIP to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. All respect due. But the press is evil,” he tweeted.

By wire sources