Kerry acts on Syria
John Kerry used the first stop on his first foreign tour as secretary of state to urge Syrian opposition parties to join a proposed meeting this week in Rome that will seek solutions to that country’s protracted civil war.
Joined by his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague, Kerry stressed the urgency of working with Britain and the U.N. toward peace in Syria and the broader Middle East.
Referring to the meeting later this week of the Friends of Syria, a group of countries seeking a resolution to the Syrian crisis, Kerry said: “I want our friends in the Syrian opposition council to know we are not coming to Rome simply to talk. We’re coming to make a decision about next steps and perhaps even other options that may or may not be discussed.”
The Syrian opposition parties have threatened to boycott the meeting, complaining that conferences have so far proved ineffective in resolving the crisis.
Census dropping ‘negro’
After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping its use of the word “Negro” to describe black Americans in surveys.
Instead of the term that came into use during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use the more modern labels “black” or “African-American”.
The change will take effect next year when the Census Bureau distributes its annual American Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households, Nicholas Jones, chief of the bureau’s racial statistics branch, said in an interview.
Pistorius wants to train
Oscar Pistorius on Monday informed South African authorities that he wants to resume athletic training while on bail for the murder case against him, a government official said.
A spokeswoman for the Olympic runner, however, denied that he was making immediate plans to return to the track while awaiting trial for the Feb. 14 shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
“Absolutely not,” said spokeswoman Janine Hills. “He is currently in mourning and his focus is not on his sports.”
The double-amputee Paralympian discussed bail terms with his probation officer and a correctional official at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court in the capital, Hills said. The guidelines will determine his daily routine until his next court appearance on June 4.
Powers offer Iran relief
World powers, fearful of scuttling negotiations beginning this week with Iran, are offering the Islamic republic some small new sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear program. But officials warned Monday that it’s unlikely that any compromise will be reached soon.
Negotiators set low expectations for the latest round of high-level diplomatic talks to begin Tuesday in Kazakhstan’s largest city — the first since last June’s meeting in Moscow that threatened to derail delicate efforts to convince Iran to stop enriching uranium to a level close to that used for nuclear warheads.
The stakes couldn’t be higher: the Obama administration is pushing for diplomacy to solve the impasse but has not ruled out the possibility of military intervention in Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And Israel has threatened it will use all means to stop Iran from being able to building a bomb, potentially as soon as this summer, raising the specter of a possible Mideast war.
Tehran maintains it is enriching uranium only to make reactor fuel and medical isotopes, and insists it has a right to do so under international law.