The long, largely futile international effort to mediate Syria's four-year-long civil war took a few big hits on Tuesday. Most concretely, special United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi quit as official mediator between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels trying to oust him. "It's very sad that I leave this position and leave Syria behind in such a bad state," he told reporters. "Apologies once more."
France and Human Rights Watch also cast doubt on one of the few apparent successes of the international mediation efforts: The bilateral pledge to stop using chemical weapons in the fight. Human Rights Watch said in a report released Tuesday that it has strong evidence Assad's forces dropped chlorine bombs from helicopters onto at least three northern Syrian towns in April, violating its pledge. And French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there are "indications" that the Assad regime had conducted 14 chemical weapons attacks since signing the treaty.
Fabius also said he wished the U.S. had stuck Syria in August 2013, declaring, "we feel that it would have changed many things." France was willing to take part in a U.S.-led military strike, he added, but didn't want to go it alone. Peter Weber
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday said that while he believes sexual orientation is an inborn trait, he still opposes same-sex marriage.
"I don't believe same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right. I also don't believe that your sexual preferences are a choice for the vast and enormous majority of people," Rubio said on Face the Nation, adding that "sexual preference is something that people are born with."
Rubio said states have traditionally regulated marriage, and that he believes they should continue to do so without interference from the courts. —Jon Terbush
Jon Stewart says his decision to leave The Daily Show after a 16-year run was not based on concerns with the show's direction, but rather the result of him no longer "getting the same satisfaction" from his work.
"These things are cyclical," he told the Guardian. "You have moments of dissatisfaction, and then you come out of it and it's OK. But the cycles become longer and maybe more entrenched, and that's when you realize, 'OK, I'm on the back side of it now.'"
Patti Smith on Saturday delivered a teary-eyed speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's induction ceremony for the late Lou Reed, saying the famed musician's "consciousness infiltrated and illuminated our cultural voice."
Smith spoke about a decades-long friendship with Reed that began as both artists developed in the New York City music scene of the 1970s. And describing the day Reed died, Smith said she realized the Velvet Underground frontman was "not only my friend, he was the friend of New York City."
"True poets must often stand alone," she said. "As a poet, he must be counted as a solitary artist. So, Lou, thank you for brutally and benevolently injecting your poetry into music." —Jon Terbush
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused the U.S. of fabricating tales of Iranian nuclear weapons.
"They created the myth of nuclear weapons so they could say the Islamic Republic is a source of threat," Khamenei said in an address to military commanders. "No, the source of threat is America itself, with its unrestrained, destabilizing interventions."
The remark came one day before nuclear negotiations between Iran, the U.S., and five world powers were to resume. The negotiators have until June 30 to reach a final accord. Jon Terbush
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says he will almost certainly get into the 2016 White House race.
"If I can raise the money, I'll do it," Graham said on Fox News Sunday. When pressed to say how seriously he was considering a presidential bid, Graham pegged his odds of running at the oddly specific "91 percent."
In January, Graham launched a presidential exploratory committee. Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.), and Marco Rubio (Fla.) are the only major GOP candidates to formally declare their candidacies for the White House. Jon Terbush
Poland on Sunday summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest FBI Director James Comey's recent comment casting some blame on Poland for the Holocaust.
"The murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn't do something evil," Comey said in a speech last week, which was then adapted as an opinion piece in The Washington Post. "They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do."
Poland's ambassador to the U.S. denounced the comment as "unacceptable" and a "falsification of history." Soon after, the U.S. Ambassador in Warsaw, Stephen Mull, told reporters that suggestions anyone "apart from the Nazi Germany was responsible for the Holocaust are wrong, harmful and offensive." Jon Terbush
A slew of declared and potential Republican presidential candidates trekked to New Hampshire this weekend for the two-day Republican Leadership Summit. Close to 20 prospective candidates — ranging from establishment types like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, to bottom-tier hopefuls like Donald Trump and John Bolton — used their stage time to discuss policy, ding the president, and assail presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"When Hillary Clinton travels, there's going to need to be two planes," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said. "One for her and her entourage, and one for her baggage."
Also at the event, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Clinton represented "the third term of Barack Obama," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee denounced the "Clinton political machine," and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) quipped that Clinton was not at the event because it was not being bankrolled by foreign interests. Jon Terbush