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Updated: Sun, 08 Sep 2013 01:16:00 EST

UNITED STATES-SYRIA Anonymous US official releases a DVD showing video of chemical attack victims WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Barack Obama prepares for a national address on Syria this Tuesday night, a U.S. official has released a DVD compilation of videos showing victims of the Aug. 21 attack near Damascus. The graphic images show children and adults in several different locations, on stretchers or on the floor, gasping for air and choking. Some of the victims are frozen still while others make jerky motions with their arms or legs, as medical workers try to tend to dozens of people all at once. The same compilation of videos was reportedly shown to senators during a classified briefing on Thursday, and some have been posted on YouTube by supporters of the Syrian rebels . The U.S. official, who was granted anonymity, says the videos were also referenced in the government's four-page intelligence assessment, released last week, that blamed the Syrian government for the chemical attack. VATICAN-SYRIA Vatican: 100,000 attend Syria peace vigil VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis says "violence and war are never the way to peace!" He spoke to tens of thousands of people who answered his call for a grassroots cry for peace and filled St. Peter's Square late Saturday for a four-hour Syria peace vigil. The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus. Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he denounced those who are "captivated by the idols of dominion and power" and destroy God's creation through war. The pontiff said "May the noise of weapons cease!" adding that "War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity." In Damascus, a few dozen Syrian Christians attended a church service, joining Francis' invitation for a global participation in the day of fasting and prayer and to oppose outside military intervention in the conflict. UNITED STATES-SYRIA-AD NEW: Liberal group urges opposition to Syria strike WASHINGTON (AP) — A new TV ad that urges Congress to oppose U.S. military strikes against Syria underscores the difficulty President Barack Obama is having in getting liberals to support him. The 30-second ad paid for by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org says the U.S. didn't set out to spend eight years at war in Iraq and a decade in Afghanistan and predicts the same thing will happen if Congress approves military action in Syria. The ad concludes by telling Congress, "Don't lead us down this road again." Viewers are urged to call Congress to voice opposition. MoveOn says the ad will air this week on MSNBC, with a heavier rotation around Obama's address to the nation on Tuesday night. The group is spending in the "mid five figures" to air the ad. UNITED STATES-SYRIA-PROTEST Looming Syria vote prompts protests WASHINGTON (AP) — Anti-war protesters are turning out to voice their opposition to a U.S. military strike in Syria. At least 150 protesters picketed the sidewalk in front of the White House on Saturday and marched to Capitol Hill, chanting slogans such as "They say more war; we say no war" and carrying signs that said a war on Syria would be "Built on a Lie." The demonstrators said their picket line is one that Congress shouldn't cross as it prepares to vote on the issue. Medea Benjamin, a founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, said "There is a grass-roots uprising against the Democrats and the Republicans." Many lawmakers in both parties oppose Obama's request for Congress to authorize using military force against Syria for a deadly Aug. 21 chemical gas attack the Obama administration blames on President Bashar Assad. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the authorization measure earlier this week and the first votes by the full Senate could come Wednesday. Concerns over military action spawned other protests across the country, including one in New York City's Times Square and a prayer vigil in Boston. EGYPT Egypt launches new assault against Sinai militants CAIRO (AP) — Security officials say nine militants and two soldiers were killed during Egyptian raids on suspected hideouts and weapon caches of Islamic militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian helicopter gunships and tanks pounded the targets Saturday in what locals say is the largest operation in the lawless region for years. Officials say the military is hunting hundreds of militants believed to be responsible for a series of attacks in the region they overran after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. According to the officials, the militants belong to a number of well-known al-Qaida-inspired groups that seek the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in northern Sinai, a region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip. Attacks in the region have increased following the July 3 military coup that toppled President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, prompting the military offensive. CHINA-TRADE NEW: China's August exports accelerate, imports slow BEIJING (AP) — China's August export growth accelerated, adding to signs of a gradual economic recovery, while import growth weakened. The customs agency reported Sunday that exports rose 7.2 percent, accelerating from July's 5.1 percent. Imports rose 7 percent, but that was down from July's 10.9 percent. Stronger sales of Chinese goods abroad are a positive sign for communist leaders who want to avoid job losses in export-driven manufacturing. China's economic growth fell to a two-decade low of 7.5 percent in the second quarter, but the latest industrial data suggest the slowdown might be leveling out. Surveys show manufacturing expanded in August but export orders declined due to weak U.S. and European demand. Construction and investment in factories and other assets also has improved, due to higher government spending. CHINA-JAILED REPORTER China releases reporter jailed in Yahoo email case BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese writer's group says a reporter who was sentenced to prison in 2005 after Yahoo Inc. disclosed details of his email has been released. The Independent Chinese Pen Center said in a statement Sunday that Shi Tao was released Aug. 23, 15 months before the end of his sentence. Shi was sentenced to prison in 2005 on charges of disclosing state secrets. He had sent details of a government memo on how Chinese media were to handle news coverage to a human rights forum in the United States. Press freedom and human rights activists criticized Yahoo for disclosing details of Shi's email to the Chinese government, which led to his conviction. CAMBODIA-ELECTION Cambodian election board ratifies ruling party win PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's government-appointed election board has ratified the victory of incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party. The results announced on state television Sunday morning handed 68 National Assembly seats to Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party and 55 to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. The opposition has contested the outcome of the July 28 election, but its legal challenges were rejected. It has threatened street protests and a boycott of the assembly unless until its demand for an independent probe of alleged election irregularities is met. 2020 BID-TOKYO Tokyo celebrates win to host 2020 Olympics TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo residents are elated now that they know their city will host the 2020 Olympics. Long considered a slight favorite, the Japanese capital beat out Istanbul in the final round of voting at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday. Madrid was eliminated in the first round. Even though it was 5 a.m. when they got the word, 1,200 dignitaries and Olympic athletes gathered in a convention hall in downtown Tokyo to celebrate the news. Cheers of "Banzai" filled the hall when the announcement was made that Tokyo had won. Tokyo had been on the defensive in the final days of the campaign amid mounting concerns about the leak of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Tokyo last hosted the Olympics in 1964. ESPN-EMINEM Eminem makes puzzling appearance on ESPN NEW YORK (AP) — Eminem made an unlikely and puzzling appearance on ESPN's "Saturday Night Football" halftime show. The rap superstar, who has a new album out in the fall, appeared to promote his new single and video, "Berzerk." Sitting with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, Eminem seemed at first slightly confused, with his mouth hanging open. Eminem rarely does interviews, and certainly not live on ESPN. Musburger asked him questions about his music and referred to him by his given name, Marshall Mathers. Said Eminem: "Live TV freaks me out a little bit." But he soon seemed to relax, saying "Berzerk" would be the new theme of "SNF." The Detroit native also talked about his devotion to the Detroit Lions. His "MMLP2" comes out Nov. 5.

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