Syrian rebels seize oil field, storm base
Syrian rebels captured most of an eastern oil field and stormed a military base in the south, anti-regime activists said Thursday, further chipping away at President Bashar Assad's hold on the country's hinterlands. Though Assad's regime does not appear on the brink of collapse, rebels have scored a string of strategic victories in the past week, also seizing a large dam and the defenses around a major airport. These and other blows have shrunk the part of the country that Assad effectively governs and could deprive his regime of resources necessary for its survival.
Ill. Senate passes gay marriage bill
Illinois moved closer Thursday to becoming the 10th state where same-sex couples can legally wed as the Senate voted to lift a ban on gay marriage. Senators voted 34-21 to approve the measure, sending it to the state House where Democrats also hold a majority. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said he will sign the bill if the House approves it.
Sen. Lautenberg won't run again
Facing a fight for his seat from within his own party, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said Thursday he will retire rather than seek a sixth term next year. Lautenberg, at 89 the oldest member of the Senate and its only remaining veteran of World War II, told his staff of his decision and was to announce it formally today in Paterson, where he grew up the son of poor immigrant parents. His decision to retire has been complicated by an open challenge by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, 43, a popular Democrat.
Seoul, South Korea
South Korea shows its military might
South Korea flexed its military muscle Thursday by staging large military drills and disclosing a new cruise missile capable of hitting any target in North Korea, as the North became candid about its intentions to build intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. "If the imperialists have nuclear weapons, we must have them, and if they have intercontinental ballistic missiles, we must have them, too," the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary Thursday. "Anger seeks weapons." North Korea uses "imperialists" to refer to the United States.
Social Security said hurt by neglect
Outgoing Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue says Congress, the White House and advocates for seniors have all "really walked away from Social Security," leaving the program "fraying." Instead of making hard choices to fix its financial problems, policymakers "use it as a tool of political rhetoric," Astrue said. Astrue, 56, has headed the program since 2007.
Crackdown coming on tour buses
Responding to recent deadly tour bus accidents, teams of federal inspectors will target companies with a history of problems as part of a crackdown aimed at weeding out unsafe operators, the government said Thursday. In the next two months, inspectors will examine troubled companies and physically inspect buses when they visit, officials of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said.