Noontime News is a snapshot of the news from the past 24 hours.

Cleland on Hagel

“Look Chuck Hagel in the eye and vote up or down. Against a combat-wounded veteran, against a former member of the United States Senate, against a foreign relations committee member, against a sitting member of the military intelligence advisory committee to the Department of Defense,” he said. “Look him in the eye and vote against him for Secretary of Defense. Are you kidding me?”

Netanyahu tries to hold back far right surge before voting begins

Surveys still show Netanyahu – portraying himself as an experienced leader able to meet security challenges ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to rockets controlled by Islamist militants on Israel’s borders – likely to win the support of enough right-wing parties to ensure he remains in power.

But his appearances on the morning drive-time programs on Israel Radio and Army Radio were a telling departure for the prime minister, who rarely gives interviews to the local media.

Tasmanian wildfires continue

Australian authorities search burnt-out homes for bodies in areas worst hit by wildfires on the island of Tasmania on Sunday. More than 40 fires continued to rage amid a heatwave and strong winds. The wildfires began on Thursday on the thinly populated south-eastern coast and have also hit mainland states

Syria’s Assad is defiant in rare speech

The speech was also likely to disappoint those who have been trying to mediate a solution in recent weeks, notably Brahimi, who has been at the forefront of a quiet but forceful diplomatic push for a negotiated solution, according to Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.

The timing of the speech was as significant as its message, however. The rebels have steadily been making small but significant military gains that have clearly put pressure both on the regime and on Syria’s key allies, Russia and Iran, to intensify efforts to find a negotiated settlement.

White House weighs broad gun control agenda

A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.
“Simply coming up with one or two aspects of it really falls short of the magnitude of the gun issue in the country,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

Cat ‘arrested’ for break-in at Brazilian prison

The incident took place at a jail in Arapiraca city, 250km (155 miles) south-west of Recife in Alagoas state.

The confiscated items included drill bits, files, a mobile phone and charger, plus earphones The cat was taken to a local animal centre./blockquote>

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