Primer

If the government shutdown is going to end any time soon, it seems likely that the vehicle of its demise will be a clean continuing resolution, a bill that would fund the government temporarily without defunding Obamacare. The Senate has already passed such a bill; the vast majority of House Democrats support the plan, as do 22 moderate Republicans.

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In the late 1980s Patrick Seale wrote an excellent account of the al-Assad family—well before it was clear that Bashar, its bookish, quiet, second-oldest son, would one day lead the Syrian government in massacring its own people. At the time, his older brother Bassel was the heir apparent to their father Hafez, while Bashar was just a lowly future ophthalmologist. But Bassel died in a 1994 car crash, and, in 2000, Bashar took the country’s helm.

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