By Jacob Solis


Cease-fire reached in Syrian Civil War

Russia and the United States reached a cease-fire agreement in Syria on Monday after several weeks of talks with parties from all sides of the conflict. The cease-fire, set to go into effect this weekend, will exclude efforts to curtail the so-called Islamic State, which still controls large portions of the Syrian countryside, as well as any other organizations classified by the U.N. as a terrorist organization.

Negotiations, which began earlier this month, have been prolonged by an unwillingness from Russian forces to stop combat efforts in Syria before March. U.S. negotiators wanted an earlier cease-fire because they felt that the Russians were using the extra time to beat down moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Assad government, a staunch ally of Russia in the region.

Both the U.S. and Russia expressed optimism over the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry called it “a moment of promise” in a statement, but cautioned that the promise still depends on action from all of parties involved. Russian President Vladimir Putin was equally optimistic, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed Kerry’s cautious attitude.

Despite this, Time Magazine has reported a lower optimism inside Syria, where similar efforts have failed because they could not be effectively implemented.


FBI Director: ‘I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending’

FBI Director James Comey stepped directly into the debate over privacy on Sunday with a blog post that called for “a deep breath” from the American people. Comey’s FBI has been embroiled in public controversy after it directed Apple to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook last week.

Farook’s phone, like all iPhones running on Apple’s newest iOS operating systems, is heavily encrypted by default. In order to preserve the data on the phone, the FBI and a federal judge have directed Apple to unlock the phone — something Apple claims it cannot do without compromising the security of all Apple customers.

Writing on the online blog Lawfare, Comey aimed at easing some of the criticism being leveled against the FBI by the public at large by bringing the conversation back to the San Bernardino shooting itself.

“Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined,” Comey wrote. “We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is.”

The statement comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote a blog post of his own last week, published on Apple’s website, that decried the FBI’s request.


Initiative to put minimum wage increase on November ballot pulled

Backers of a Nevada ballot effort aiming to raise the state minimum wage to $13 an hour have withdrawn the initiative, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Those backers are worried that the effort would be drowned out by what the RJ called “the noise of a raucous presidential election.”

Nevada’s minimum wage currently sits at $8.25 an hour and $7.25 an hour for employers who also offer health insurance. This new measure would have raised the minimum wage to $13 gradually. Backers have said that the issue is likely to come up again soon, during either the 2017 legislative session or the 2018 election.

Jacob Solis can be reached at and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.