Middle East

Stephen Dunn / WNPR

The debate over who should be allowed into the U.S. continues to dominate headlines, most recently at last week's Republican presidential debate. All of the GOP candidates said they oppose the Obama administration's plans to permit 10,000 more Syrian refugees into the country. Syrians living in Connecticut are following the rhetoric closely. 

President Obama wrapped up 2015 by taking another round of questions from the press.

At the traditional end-of-year news conference Friday afternoon, Obama began with a list of achievements, including the legalization of same-sex marriage across America and progress made toward addressing global climate change.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years after he left his base in Afghanistan in 2009, could receive life in prison.

Overriding the recommended punishment by an Army officer, head of Army Forces Command Gen. Robert B. Abrams ordered that Bergdahl, now the subject of the Serial podcast, face a court-martial for desertion.

Bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S. has become an especially contentious issue. In Canada, however, they're being welcomed with open arms.

Roughly 600 Syrians from refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon will arrive by plane in Canada this evening. They're the first of 25,000 Syrians the new Canadian government wants to resettle by the end of February.

Pete Souza / White House

Dozens of reporters rushed the apartment of the San Bernardino shooters on Friday. They live-streamed their tour through the home for 15 minutes, holding up everyday items that included personal photographs and private documents.

They were roundly condemned on social media and by neighbors concerned by the frenzy. Where is the line between what people need to know and voyeurism? How does the drive for speed and ratings affect journalistic integrity?

The Islamic State is taking responsibility for an attack that killed the governor of Aden in Yemen on Sunday.

Reuters reports that Jaafar Mohammed Saad and six of his aides were killed by a car bomb as he was headed to work.

Reuters adds:

The British Parliament has begun a daylong debate over whether to grant the government authority to conduct airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

The U.K. is already conducting strikes against ISIS in Iraq.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The Pentagon has announced it will send additional Special Operations forces to Iraq and Syria to help defeat the so-called Islamic State. The news shouldn't be a surprise according to Connecticut's U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, but he said it is concerning.

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Opponents and supporters of plans to accept Syrian refugees into the United States held dueling but peaceful rallies in Hartford.

Saying his country will not apologize for downing a Russian warplane, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu struck a defiant note after meeting with his NATO allies.

The Associated Press reports that Davutoglu said his country was simply defending its airspace last week when two of its F-16s fired at a Russian Sukhoi SU-24.

One of two crew members survived the shooting down of a Russian warplane by Turkey on Tuesday, Russian officials say, and was rescued by a Syrian commando unit in an operation that ended early Wednesday.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It's still unclear how the U.S. Senate will respond to the House of Representatives' bill that would tighten the vetting process for refugees from Syria and Iraq. 

President Obama and French President François Hollande promised to increase cooperation and expand attacks against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

During a joint press conference with Hollande at the White House, Obama said that the United States and France "owe our freedom to each other."

After the Paris attacks, Obama said, "our hearts broke too."

"In that stadium, concert hall, restaurants and cafes we see our own," Obama said. "Today we stand with you."

Let's start with one thing that's clear and simple in Syria's messy war: Many foreign powers are engaged in the battle, and all share the goal of beating back the Islamic State.

This very loose grouping includes Turkey and Russia, who aren't best friends, but at least have this common interest in Syria that would seem to override any inclination to confront one another.

Dominic Chavez / World Bank

In a 289 to 137 vote last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would tighten the vetting process for refugees from Syria and Iraq. The measure passed despite a veto threat from President Barack Obama -- a threat Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan says "baffles" him.

Turkey says that after issuing 10 warnings in five minutes, two of its F-16s shot down a Russian warplane that Turkey claims violated its airspace.

State Senator Elaine Morgan (R-Hopkinton), who attracted national criticism for an email in which she condemned Muslims, released a statement Friday defending her concerns about admitting Syrian refugees into the US.

Some Americans have taken to Twitter and threatened to move to Canada if the U.S. welcomes Syrian refugees. Perhaps they haven't been paying attention to news north of the border.

Justin Trudeau's campaign pledge to resettle refugees in Canada helped sweep him into the prime minister's office last month. His new government is adamant it will go through with an ambitious plan to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees before the end of the year — just six weeks away.

shadyart87 / Creative Commons

Two members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation voted with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives Thursday to strengthen the vetting procedure for Syrian refugees entering the U.S.

The House of Representatives has easily passed a GOP-authored bill to restrict the admission of Iraqi and Syrian refugees to America by requiring extra security procedures.

The bill — called the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015, or the American SAFE Act of 2015 — would require the secretary of Homeland Security, the head of the FBI and the director of national intelligence to sign off on every individual refugee from Iraq and Syria, affirming he or she is not a threat.

Aliyya Swaby / New Haven Independent

A young Syrian family is now living in New Haven after Indiana officials objected to plans for the refugees to resettle in their state. Local officials scrambled to accommodate the family of three. 

At every turn, this year's presidential campaign has proved conventional wisdom wrong. The aftermath of the Paris attacks might be another example.

As soon as the attacks were over, a chorus of (establishment) Republican voices predicted that the new focus on national security and terrorism would change the dynamic of the Republican race. This was the tipping point, they declared, that would finally usher out the outsiders leading the polls — Donald Trump and Ben Carson — in favor of more serious, experienced candidates.

Aida Mansoor / Muslim Coalition of Connecticut

In his latest book, author and scholar Moustafa Bayoumi takes a critical look at what it means to be Muslim-American in post-9/11 society.

When the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle reaches its position near Syria's coast, it will find what until recently might have seemed an unlikely ally: a Russian guided missile cruiser. A U.S. official says Russia is newly receptive to cooperation in Syria.

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The civil war in Syria has claimed thousands of lives and led millions of Syrians to seek refuge in other countries, including the U.S. Federal officials said just 2,100 of them have been resettled in the U.S. so far.

In Connecticut, there's been a developing grassroots effort over the last several months to help Syrian refugees.

The Obama administration is working to stem the backlash against its plans to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States.

As of late Tuesday, 30 governors — 29 Republicans and 1 Democrat — had expressed opposition to bringing in refugees after European officials confirmed one of the terrorists who attacked Paris last week was a Syrian who had registered with E.U. officials while traveling through Greece seeking asylum.

Updated at 3:32 p.m. ET

Governors in 30 states across the country have now publicly asked for the resettlement of Syrian refugees to stop until security concerns can be addressed.

Those states include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Dominic Chavez / World Bank

More than two dozen U.S. governors are publicly opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the wake of attacks in Paris last week.

But in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy said the state will continue to welcome refugees who undergo a rigorous security screening. 

On the final day of national mourning, Paris is still trying to regain a sense of normalcy, after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks Friday left 129 people dead.

It's hard, NPR's David Greene reports. For example, he met 23-year-old Anne Sophie Pratta, who was making her way back to her apartment Monday night.

She said when she got on the train, everyone was looking at each other.

Following a meeting of the Group of 20 in Turkey, Russian president Vladimir Putin signaled that his country's isolation from the West may soon be a thing of the past.

Putin said Russia had proposed cooperating with the United States and others in the fight against terrorism, but that the U.S. rebuffed Russia's offer.

"Life indeed moves on, often very quickly, and teaches us lessons," Putin said. "It seems to me that everyone is coming around to the realization that we can wage an effective fight only together."

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