Ibrahim Abazid had no idea he would be part of a nationwide revolt in Syria — or that his role would keep evolving.
It was March 2011. Some teenagers in his hometown, Dera'a, got arrested for spray painting anti-government slogans outside a school. Rumors began circulating that the teenagers were being tortured while in detention in the southern town.
In the broader region, Arab protesters had been filling the streets for months. Dictators in Tunisia and Egypt had already fallen. Abazid and his friends went to pray.
Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is said to be on President Obama's short list to be the next defense secretary. But even the possibility of his nomination has stirred up opposition — particularly from members of his own political party.
If Hagel can survive a political ambush in Washington, he would be the first Pentagon chief who saw combat as an enlisted soldier.
The blunt-spoken Hagel favors deeper cuts in military spending and is wary of entangling America in long overseas missions.
Amid continued bloodshed in several parts of Syria, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held another round of talks with President Bashar Assad in Damascus. But there was no sign of progress toward a peace deal.
Two firefighters died and two others were hospitalized in western New York on Monday. They were shot after responding to a fire in the town of Webster, outside Rochester. Police say the gunman is also dead, and they're not ruling out the possibility that the firefighters were led into a trap.