Chatter: Obama pledges to curtail drones




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Droning on. Barack Obama, in a landmark policy speech, has defended the use of drones, arguing the United States is fighting a "just war" of self defense and countless lives have been saved by thwarting terror attacks. The US president also announced new guidelines, saying drone strikes would be used only when a threat was "continuing and imminent."

In Pakistan, where hundreds have been killed by drone strikes, the country's foreign ministry said it appreciated that Obama had acknowledged "force alone cannot make us safe," but reiterated that drone strikes were counter-productive. The lawyer leading a UN drone inquiry praised Obama's speech as a "significant step towards increased transparency."

Obama also called for the closure of the controversial US detention center at Guantanamo Bay — a key campaign promise that he has so far failed to achieve — and even took on a heckler who repeatedly interrupted the president as he talked about Gitmo.


Gay scouts. From next year, openly gay boys will be allowed to join the Boy Scouts of America. But confusingly, the ban on gay adult leaders remains.

Following months of intense debate about the Scouts' longstanding ban on gays, more than 60 percent of delegates attending the organization's annual national meeting voted for the historic policy change. “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” the approved resolution says.

But the Boy Scouts chose to continue its policy of excluding gay adults as leaders, leading to a flurry of reaction on Twitter. 

"So you're going to help gay boys become excellent leaders when they're scouts but tell them they're not fit to lead as adults? Not ok," one tweet read.

Heathrow emergency. A British Airways jetliner with 75 passengers on board was forced to make an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport this morning not long after it took off, closing both runways and fueling speculation about what had caused the trouble.

Amateur footage showed the Airbus SAS A319 spewing smoke from its right engine as it descended over London. The flight had been headed for Oslo, Norway.

"The aircraft landed safely and emergency slides were deployed and we are currently caring for our customers," said a British Airways spokesperson, adding that carrier will perform a full investigation into what is being described as a technical issue. 


Troubled bridge over very cold water. The Interstate 5 bridge in Washington state collapsed last evening, sending cars and people plunging into the frigid Skagit River.

A section of the four-lane bridge collapsed between Burlington and Mount Vernon, Wash., on the main route between Seattle and Vancouver. State officials said three people were rescued and there were no fatalities. 

The cause of the collapse is not yet clear. But, hey, maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise: more than a quarter of the 7,840 bridges in Washington state are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2013 Infrastructure Report Card.