7:20am

Thu August 18, 2011
The Two-Way

Reports: U.S. To Call On Assad To Step Down; S&P Being Investigated

Good morning.

Among the interesting stories that broke overnight:

-- The Associated Press is reporting that "U.S. officials say the Obama administration is ready to make an explicit call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power and has notified Arab and European allies that an announcement is imminent. The officials stressed the timing is in flux but said preparations are in place for the White House and then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday to demand Assad's departure. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the matter."

From a related AP story: "Syrian President Bashar Assad told the United Nations chief that military operations in his country have ended, even as activists said Thursday that security forces shot dead 18 people nationwide and intense shooting erupted in the flashpoint city of Latakia."

-- According to The New York Times, "the Justice Department is investigating whether the nation's largest credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor's, improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis, according to two people interviewed by the government and another briefed on such interviews. The investigation began before Standard & Poor's cut the United States' AAA credit rating this month, but it is likely to add fuel to the political firestorm that has surrounded that action."

Other headlines:

-- "Several Killed In Israel Attacks," according to Israeli TV reports. (BBC News)

-- "Gunmen 'Shoot At Buses In Southern Israel.' " (Al-Jazeera.)

-- "Teen Accused Of School Bomb Threat At Freedom High School In Tampa." (St. Petersburg Times.)

-- "Hackers Post BART Cops' Personal Information." (San Francisco Chronicle.)

-- "University Of Miami Scandal Draws Ire Of Fans, NCAA." (Miami Herald.)

-- "Latest In Web Tracking: Stealthy 'Supercookies.' " (The Wall Street Journal;subscription content.)

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