This just in
July 16, 2014
Courtney Kealy/Getty Images

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a third seven-year term Wednesday morning, The Associated Press reports.

President al-Assad, 48, called the Syrian people winners of a "dirty war" with outsiders, saying countries that supported the Syrian opposition "will pay a high price." His third term begins amid Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year and has killed more than 170,000 people, according to the AP. President al-Assad maintains that the civil war was caused by "terrorists," and his troops have made "steady advances" on rebels in the past year, the AP reports.

In a landslide victory last month, President al-Assad was re-elected with 88.7 percent of the vote, though opposition-held parts of Syria were excluded from the voting. The election was the country's first multi-candidate election in several decades.

"I swear by the Almighty God to respect the country's constitution, laws, and its republican system and to look after the interests of the people and their freedoms," President al-Assad said at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on Syrian state TV. He also pledged to continue fighting "terrorism" from rebels. Meghan DeMaria

refugee crisis
3:51 p.m. ET

Mohamed, 27, was fleeing from Syria on a boat with 50 other people when he woke up one morning to find the boat's engine had fallen off, leaving him and his fellow migrants helplessly adrift at sea. Mohamed, however, was carrying a pair of iPhones he planned to pawn, and when he unwrapped one he realized he had a signal — and a chance to save their lives. He texted his cousin Danya, who lives in Hawaii, and Danya was able to get in touch with the Greek coast guard, who in turn found the refugee boat based on coordinates Mohamed was able to pull up on an app.

While the story is miraculous on many accounts, Mohamed is not the first refugee to find his life depending on the signal of an iPhone:

Data coverage is a lifeline for migrants. Though aid workers stemming the crisis of Syrian migration are yet to officially classify it as such, technology has been recognized by those on the ground as a necessity on par with food and warm clothing. Migrants need phones to help navigate between bus stations once they reach land, aid workers say.

Paul Donohoe, press manager at the International Rescue Committee, said the mobile phone has also become a “fundamental” tool in surviving the harrowing water-crossing from Turkey to Greece, which has claimed almost 3,000 lives in 2015 alone, according to the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Some half a million migrants have tried their luck this year, by the same study.) Donohoe, who recently traveled to Lesbos, said Greek coast guard employees have been overwhelmed with calls from migrants stranded at sea and using the communication service WhatsApp. [The Huffington Post]

The Huffington Post recreated the iMessage conversation between Mohamed and his cousin Danya, which you can watch below. For the rest of the story, visit The Huffington Post. Jeva Lange

3:29 p.m. ET

Earlier this week, Facebook announced it's testing "Reactions," a set of six emoji-based buttons that will allow users the long overdue ability to respond to content in a more emotionally sensitive way. On Friday, USA Today, clearly feeling the buzz around the impending debut, decided to give the emoji a test run on its own front page:

That's right, in case you were unsure how to feel about the day's news, Friday's edition of the paper uses the emoji to provide handy emotional cues, like a sad face next to a story about a stabbing, an angry face next to an article about Russia's misdirected missiles, and a big wow face next to an item about Kevin McCarthy's decision to drop out of the race for House speaker.

AdWeek reached out to USA Today Editor-in-Chief David Callaway for a little more information behind the editorial decision:

Was there any concern about these emojis seeming too flippant next to serious content like the stabbing or Syria?
Yes, of course there was discussion about being too flippant.

Whose decision was it to use the emojis? Was there much debate among the editorial team?
My feeling (as editor-in-chief) is that a billion FB users may soon start using these to share stories—all kinds of stories—which of course is Facebook's intention. Social media and its icons are becoming a dominant form of communication in our world. We wanted to show what they would be like if transferred to print. [AdWeek]

Head over to AdWeek to read the rest of the interview. Stephanie Talmadge

For those who have everything
3:28 p.m. ET

"People love lounging in hammocks, and people love soaking in hot tubs, and finally the two have become one," said Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo. The Hydro Hammock ($1,495) is a sling built for two that holds 50 gallons of hot, bubbling water. A full setup includes a pump, a portable water heater, and all the hardware required to turn the hammock into a hot tub, though you'll need to find a pair of "extremely large and strong trees" to string it up between. If you can afford the whole kit, "you may never feel stressed ever again." The Week Staff

Only in America
2:23 p.m. ET

A publisher has apologized for language in a geography textbook, written to meet Texas' pro-American standards, that referred to African slaves as "workers." The parent of a student called attention to the passage, which stated that Africans were brought to this country "to work on agricultural plantations." Publisher McGraw Hill said it would reword the passage. The Week Staff

This just in
1:46 p.m. ET

Two people were shot at Texas Southern University on Friday in the second campus shooting of the day. One student has died while the other is reported to be in stable condition. The attack reportedly took place "at a student housing complex," according to KPRC 2 Houston. Police reportedly have a person of interest in custody.

"It's crazy," the school's associate vice president of communications, Eva Pickens, told The Los Angeles Times. "It's broad daylight."

Students at TSU are not allowed to have firearms on campus and the motive behind the attack is not clear. Earlier Friday morning, one person died and three were wounded at Northern Arizona University in a shooting that stemmed from an argument outside a dorm. Jeva Lange

Hard pass
12:11 p.m. ET
John Gress/Getty Images

Seemingly out of options after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unexpectedly dropped out of the race for House speaker Thursday, Republicans have been loudly urging Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to run, calling him the only potential candidate who would be able to unite the increasingly divided House. Though he politely turned down the offer Thursday, Ryan was forced to double down on his refusal Friday as the pleas for his candidacy reached a fever pitch.

"Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he's getting from his colleagues but is still not running for speaker," a spokesman for Ryan told NBC News Friday. Becca Stanek

A truly convincing argument
11:50 a.m. ET
Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women

When Hillary Clinton was assigned the role of Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson in a high school mock debate of the 1964 presidential election, she was an active member of the Young Republicans and an avid supporter of Republican Barry Goldwater. But, after hours spent in the library studying up on Johnson's positions on civil rights, foreign policy, and health care, The New York Times reports that Clinton emerged a changed woman. She delivered a "compelling case" — a case so compelling, in fact, that by the time Clinton graduated from high school one year later, she had jumped ship to join the Democratic Party.

Since her high school days, Clinton's penchant for arduous debate preparation has never wavered. "It's who she is at her core," Patti Solis Doyle, an aide to Clinton from 1991 to 2008 and a manager of Clinton's '08 campaign, told The New York Times. "She's an avid studier. She does her homework. She's a massive preparer."

Come Tuesday — the night of the first Democratic debate — Clinton will finally be able to put all that preparation to the test. We'll see if she can convince America as well as she convinced her high school self.

Read the full story on Clinton's debating at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

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