February 8, 2013

President Obama's nominee for the CIA faces grilling on Capitol Hill and a major winter storm bears down on the northeast United States. I'm David Byrd reporting from Washington.

A Senate subcommittee had some tough questions for President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA about a policy that allows drone strikes on American citizens involved in terrorism areas.

White House anti-terror adviser John Brennan appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Brennan is a strong supporter of the administration's anti-terror policies.

On Wednesday, an administration official said President Obama ordered the Justice Department to give Congress classified legal documents that justify the drone strikes. Eleven senators had demanded to see the documents after a leaked Justice Department memo broadened the rationale for targeting alleged terrorists.

Outgoing [defense senator] or Defense Secretary, that is, Leon Panetta faced some tough questions about the US military's role in the former ambassador, that is, ambassador's death in Libya. For more, we get Cindy Saine's report from Capitol Hill.

Asked why US military assets were not deployed to help those Americans under attack in their compound in Libya, Panetta cited an internal Defense Department review of the incident, saying the Pentagon did what it could.

"The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed US military assets to have made a difference."

But a number of Republican members had tough questions for him, and especially for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on why the Pentagon was not able to protect Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the three other Americans killed in Benghazi. Cindy Saine, VOA news on Capitol Hill.

Syrian warplanes bombed a key road in Damascus Thursday in a bid to halt a rebel advance that threatens President Bashar al-Assad's hold on the capital.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Thursday's fighting was focused on southern parts of the Damascus ring road as fighting inched closer to the heart of the city.

Separately, the state-run news agency SANA reported that what it called "terrorists" fired mortar shells on a garage in a northern neighborhood, causing several casualties. The government frequently uses the term terrorists to describe rebels seeking to topple the Assad government.

Some of the heaviest fighting in months broke out Wednesday in Damascus with the rebel Free Syrian Army saying it had launched a operation to liberate the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least five people were killed overnight in a Palestinian refugee camp, south of the city. It said more than 170 people died in fighting across the country on Wednesday.

Residents of the northeastern United States are bracing for what it could be a historic winter storm. The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings for an area stretching from Maine south to New York as much as 60 centimeters of snow is expected to fall on the area. The government officials in that area, that is, are warning people to stay home and to stay off the roads because of the size of this storm.

Officials in Tunisia [have rejected a plan that], that is, have rejected a plan to offer a technocratic-based government in place of a government there. The protests have been spreading across the country after the assassination of Chokri Belaid, an opposition politician and staunch opponent.

In a telephone interview from Tunis, an expert said that [the government] the Islamist-based government has refused to offer a compromise plan.

We are going to get a close brush with an asteroid here [in] on planet Earth. It appears that the asteroid is going to come closer to the planet than some of our weather and other satellites. The asteroid is not expected to come anywhere close enough to strike the planet, but it will be visible with a telescope.