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August 31, 2013 5:33 PM Dempsey’s billion dollar Syria answer and other evening headlines

By Samuel Knight

*The New Yorker’s John Cassidy dug up JSOC chair Martin Dempsey’s Congressional testimony on the possibility of neutralizing Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. Dempsey said such an operation could cost “billions” and that it would be extraordinarily difficult to pull off.

We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action. Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.

*Meanwhile, a car bomb killed 12 people and wounded 20 others in the Iraqi city of Ramadi today.

*Of the 4,000 firefighters battling the two week old Rim Fire in California, 600 are state prisoners. According to officials interviewed by TIME, the inmate laborers are a key component of yearly summer firefighting efforts:

“Our inmate firefighters are vital to our fire protection system here in California,” says Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. “We train them to the same level that we train our seasonal firefighters. They’re put through the same type of safety and operational firefighting training so they can go out there and perform side-by-side with volunteers and career firefighters.”

Officials say that the inmates appreciate the experience, and that it reduces recidivism. The state doesn’t keep track of statistics, however, and TIME did not interview any inmate firefighters, current or former.

*The AP reported today that a sheriff in Southern Mississippi was arrested this week for a litany of crimes. The indictment “charges him with using his office to retaliate against people he considered political and personal foes, including an area police chief and an alderman. The charges include fraud, extortion, embezzlement, witness tampering and perjury.”

And I’m signing off for the night. Enjoy your Saturday evening.

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.

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