Tuesday, April 30, 2013

World Seeks Answers to Syria

World seeks answers as Syria civil war evolves

CNN (blog)
8 hours ago

Written by
Mariano Castillo

Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- The world is watching the situation in Syria transform before its eyes -- with an uptick in bombings and allegations of chemical weapons use -- but deciding what to do about it is no easy feat.
Damascus bomb 'kills 13 and wounds 70', says Syria Television
Syria: Huge new bombing in Damascus kills at least 13
'Terrorist bombing' in Syria kills 13 in busy commerical district of Damascus ...

World seeks answers as Syria civil war evolves

By Mariano Castillo and Fred Pleitgen, CNN
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Tue April 30, 2013
Syrian Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar, third from right, visits the site of a blast in Damascus on Tuesday, April 30. The Syrian government said that at least 13 people died in what state-run TV described as a "terrorist explosion." Tensions in Syria first flared in March 2011, escalating into a civil war that still rages. This gallery contains the most compelling images taken since the start of the conflict. Syrian Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar, third from right, visits the site of a blast in Damascus on Tuesday, April 30. The Syrian government said that at least 13 people died in what state-run TV described as a "terrorist explosion." Tensions in Syria first flared in March 2011, escalating into a civil war that still rages. This gallery contains the most compelling images taken since the start of the conflict.
Syrian civil war in photos
  • Obama says more information is needed before a decision on Syria
  • A rebel spokesman says recent blasts were set up by the government to garner sympathy
  • State-run TV calls Tuesday blast a "terrorist explosion;" no one has claimed responsibility
  • The blast took place a day after the prime minister survived a bombing on his motorcade
Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- The world is watching the situation in Syria transform before its eyes -- with an uptick in bombings and allegations of chemical weapons use -- but deciding what to do about it is no easy feat.
In the capital, there is less shelling and fewer fighter jets are seen in the air than in the past, but the streets are as empty as ever in the wake of recent bombings.
The increasing number of explosions is causing a lot of anxiety for Syrians, due in part to the fact that it's not clear which side is behind the blasts.
The government blames "terrorists," a designation that includes the rebels who are trying to bring down President Bashar al-Assad. The rebels accuse the government of bombing its own capital in a ploy for sympathy.
Obama clarifies 'game changer' comments
Syrian blast disintegrated bus
Bomb targets Syrian prime minister
Rebels launch attacks on Syrian airports
"They are all our children and it is sad. We are all Syrians killing each other," lamented Umm Wasim, who witnessed the latest tragedy: a bomb blast that killed at least 13 in Damascus Tuesday.
Equally frustrating for the Syrian civilians who are waiting and hoping for international intervention in the crisis is the fact that the United States has now said there is evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used on a small scale in the conflict. It appears that a line has been crossed, but the response from the world community has not been swift.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday the United States will wait until it has more details on the evidence of chemical weapons use before altering its strategy on the strife in Syria.
Obama previously called the use of chemical weapons a "red line," but the United States has not radically changed its approach to Syria in the days since an administration official announced the finding.
The United States doesn't yet know "how they were used, when they were used, who used them," Obama said. "When I am making decisions about American national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapons use, I have to make sure I have the facts."
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said that the rebels had secured what they believe is an unexploded chemical weapon deployed by the regime in Idlib. The FSA will try to get the unexploded canister out of the country for testing, he said.
"If the Syrian regime doesn't want to allow the U.N. investigation team in, we will do all we can in order to present the evidence to the international community because we have the moral and national obligations to our people and our nation," Louay Almokdad said.
At the scene of Tuesday's bombing in the capital, some people burst into tears as they spoke about the event and the general situation in Syria.
"They are killing our people. Washington and the West know they are terrorists. Why are they providing them with weapons?" asked Mohammed Agha. But the United States says it provides only non-lethal aid to the opposition. The question of arming the rebels is being debated among the international community.
Syrian state-run television said the "terrorist explosion" also wounded 70 people.
The blast apparently came from a car bomb parked behind the old building of the Interior Ministry, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Syrian Observatory, which opposes al-Assad's government, said the number of casualties is expected to rise because of the large number of injured.
Members of the Syrian armed forces were among those hurt in the explosion, the group said.
But Almokdad told CNN he believes the attack was staged by the government.
"The latest blasts are nothing but a farce staged by the Assad regime in order to beg for sympathy from the international community on the eve of the U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the use of chemical weapons by the regime armed forces against our innocent civilians," the FSA spokesman said.
He also said the rebel army was not involved in the explosion.
"Setting up car bombs in the capital or anywhere in the country is not a strategy that the FSA condones," Almokdad said. "We reject targeting any civilian area and risking the lives of our civilian population."
Tuesday's blast occurred a day after Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi survived a bombing that targeted his motorcade in an upscale Damascus neighborhood, the government and opposition reported.
The Syrian Observatory said one of al-Halqi's escorts and five civilians were killed in the explosion. Another escort and a driver were badly injured, the group said.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported casualties but did not elaborate on the incident.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the Monday blast. But the rebel spokesman said he believes that attack was also set up by the government.
"Al-Halqi is a minor figure propped by the al-Assad regime, and he is not a strategic target to the FSA or anyone in the revolution. We actually feel sorry for the man who was appointed to be a prime minister," he said.
The Syrian civil war has pitted al-Assad's forces against rebels seeking an end to four decades of Assad family rule.
More than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict in the past two years.
end quote from:

World seeks answers as Syria civil war evolves

So many nations have a vested interest in what happens in Syria. For example, Russia has at least 50,000 of it's people there as Russian citizens with many married to Syrians at one point or another during the last 30 to 50 years there. It has it's only warm water port there. Iran doesn't want Assad to fall because Iraq and Syria are the only Shia Governments left. Hezbollah funded by Iran shares Russia' and Iran's sentiments regarding the Assad Government of Syria because they are Shias too. 

Then on the other side you have all the Sunni nations like Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya etc. Then in addition to this you have Europe and the U.S. on the side of the rebels because of the tortures and murders of the Sunni people in Syria by Assad. Also, the U.S. will never forget the 400 plus U.S. hostages taken from the American Embassy  there in Tehran about 30 plus years ago now. So, the U.S. has been spoiling for a fight with Iran for over 30 years already. 

But now, you will have likely 4 million refugees from Syria throughout the Middle East and into parts of Europe like Greece, Italy, Germany etc. both legally and illegally. So, for the countries of Southern Europe and Central Europe, all are very worried about what is happening in Syria and how it all will affect them directly.

Then you have Britain, France and the U.S. which are in various ways already helping arm the rebels in various ways already and considering a "no fly zone" under the pretext of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad Government of Syria.

So, from my point of view this looks a lot like when bad wars like World War I and II historically got started. So, treading carefully might be a good idea for everyone. Because in every war someone has to lose. And so far in this one it is ALL Syrians including Assad who have basically lost their country and cities so far. Most of Syria now looks like bombed out cities just after  World War II.


Antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea could be Worse than AIDS

Sex Superbug Could Be 'Worse Than AIDS': Doctor

An antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea has some analysts saying that the bacteria's effects could match those of AIDS.

Sex Superbug Could Be 'Worse Than AIDS'

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Published: Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 | 2:45 PM ET
By: Senior Editor, CNBC






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An antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea—now considered a superbug—has some analysts saying that the bacteria's effects could match those of AIDS.
"This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," said Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine.

Even though nearly 30 million people have died from AIDS related causes worldwide, Christianson believes the effect of the gonorrhea bacteria is more direct.
"Getting gonorrhea from this strain might put someone into septic shock and death in a matter of days," Christianson said. "This is very dangerous."
"It's an emergency situation," said William Smith, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. "As time moves on, it's getting more hazardous."
This gonorrhea strain, HO41, was discovered in Japan two years ago in a 31-year-old female sex worker who had been screened in 2009. The bacteria has since been found in Hawaii, California and Norway.
Because it resists current antibiotic treatment, the strain has been placed in the superbug category with other resistant bacteria, such as MRSA and CRE. These superbugs kill about half the people they attack, and nearly one in 20 hospital patients become infected with one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though no deaths from HO41 have been reported, efforts to combat it must continue, Smith said.

"We have to keep beating the drum on this," he said. "The potential for disaster is great."
According to the CDC, about 20 million a year contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and result in about $16 billion in medical costs. More than 800,000 of STD cases reported are gonorrhea infections, with most occurring in people between the ages of 15 and 24.
(Read More: Superbugs Are a 'Costly War We Can't Win': Doctors)

Gonorrhea is transmitted through unprotected sexual contact. Untreated, the disease can cause a number of health complications in women, including infertility. In men, the disease can be very painful and lead to sterility. It can also trigger other life-threatening illnesses, including heart infections.
Gonorrhea can be hard to detect. It often shows no symptoms in about half of women and in about 5 percent of men. Gonorrhea infection rates were at historic lows until two years ago, according to the CDC.
"That's what's kind of scary about this," Smith said. "We are at lows in terms of infections, but this strain is a very tricky bug and we don't have anything medically to fight it right now."
Since 1998, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only four new antibiotics of any kind, according to the Infectious Disease Society of America. The last approval was in 2010. Only seven antibiotics are in an advanced stage of development—still years away from approval and use.
Recognizing the problem, Congress passed a law last year referred to as the Gain Act (Generating Antibiotics Incentives Now) to help speed antibiotic development.
(Read more: Big Pharma Exit: Who's Fighting the Superbugs?)
But Smith said more needs to be done. In a briefing on Capitol Hill last week, he urged Congress to target nearly $54 million in immediate funding to help find an antibiotic for HO41 and to conduct an education and public awareness campaign.
"I'm hopeful we'll get the additional funds, but I can't say for sure," Smith said. "What I do know is we don't have the resources to fight this as it stands now."
Avoiding the disease completely is the best course, experts said.
"People need to practice safe sex, like always," Christianson said. "Anyone beginning a new relationship should get tested along with their partner. The way gonorrhea works, not everyone knows they have it. And with this new strain it's even more important than ever to find out. "
All superbugs must be dealt with before it's too late, he said.
(Read More: Antibiotic-Resistant 'Superbugs' Creep Into Nation's Food Supply)
"This is a disaster just waiting to happen," Christianson said. "It's time to do something about it before it explodes. "These superbugs, including the gonorrhea strain, are a health threat. We need to move now before it gets out of hand."

end quote from:

Sex Superbug Could Be 'Worse Than AIDS': Doctor

Labs tests link Mississippi man to Ricin Letters

  • FBI says lab tests link Mississippi man to ricin letters

    By Emily Lane JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - A dust mask and other items seized from the martial arts studio of a Mississippi man charged with sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and two other public officials tested positive for ricin, according to a court document released on…

    FBI says lab tests link Mississippi man to ricin letters

    By Emily Lane
    JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - A dust mask and other items seized from the martial arts studio of a Mississippi man charged with sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and two other public officials tested positive for ricin, according to a court document released on Tuesday.
    Records seized by the FBI also showed that Tupelo martial arts instructor Everett Dutschke ordered castor bean seeds, used to make ricin, from eBay, FBI Special Agent Stephen Thomason said in an eight-page affidavit.
    Dutschke, who is being held in jail without bond, is expected to appear in U.S. district court in Oxford, Mississippi, for a detention hearing on Thursday.
    Contacted by Reuters, Dutschke's attorney, public defender George Lucas, declined to comment. In several media interviews before his arrest Dutschke maintained his innocence.
    Soon after the seeds were delivered to Dutschke's home address, someone using his laptop computer downloaded a publication on safe handling and storage of the poison, Thomason stated.
    An agent last week retrieved the contaminated dusk mask from a trash bin near Dutschke's former taekwondo studio. Dutschke was earlier seen by the FBI dumping items in the bin he collected from his studio, the affidavit stated.
    Traces of ricin were also discovered on four items found at the studio, including liquid removed from a drain and a filter containing items vacuumed from the studio floor, the affidavit said.
    When confronted with evidence by federal agents last week about his being observed disposing of items from his studio in the trash, "Dutschke attempted to change the subject, and he ended the interview," according to the affidavit.
    Dutschke, 41, was arrested at his Tupelo home on Saturday and was later charged with "developing ... and possessing" ricin and "attempting" to use it "as a weapon," according to a Department of Justice statement.
    If convicted, Dutschke faces maximum possible penalties of life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
    The ricin-laced letters, addressed to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, as well as Obama, were retrieved earlier this month at off-site mail facilities before reaching their intended victims. A Mississippi state judge also received a ricin-laced letter.
    Discovery of the letters fueled more national anxiety in the days after the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
    Dutschke's arrest came several days after U.S. prosecutors dropped charges in the case against another Mississippi man, Elvis impersonator Kevin Curtis, who was released from jail after a search of his home revealed no incriminating evidence.
    Dutschke's name first surfaced when Curtis' attorney suggested in a court hearing that her client had been framed by someone, and mentioned a running feud between Dutschke and Curtis.
    Suspicion had originally fallen on Curtis because of wording contained in all three ricin letters, which included his initials "KC."
    Dutschke has told local media that he knew Curtis but had only had contact with him three times, and not since 2010.
    The FBI said last week more tests may be necessary to determine the potency of a granular material identified as ricin contained in the letters.
    An FBI agent testified in court last week that the ricin found in the letters was in a crude form and looked like castor beans ground up in a blender, according to media accounts. Experts have said ricin in that form would have a low potency.
    A material like that described in the ricin court hearing would pose little danger, according to Milton Leitenberg, senior research scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at the University of Maryland.
    The affidavit says Dutschke made two purchases each of 50 red castor beans from e-Bay in November and December of 2012 using a PayPal account.
    "I understand that the number of castor beans ordered is more than sufficient to extract the quality of ricin found in the three letters," Thomason said in the affidavit.
    Among other items FBI agents collected from the trash were the box for a Black and Decker coffee grinder and a box of latex gloves.
    "Based on my training, I know that a coffee bean grinder could be utilized in the process of extracting ricin from castor beans," Thomason said in the affidavit.
    The door to Dutschke's former Tupelo Taekwondo Plus studio was padlocked after agent found traces of ricin, the FBI said in a statement on Tuesday.
    "That location was immediately sealed off and appropriate public health authorities were notified," the statement read.
    "The FBI is now conducting further forensic examination for the purpose of identifying trace evidence, residues, and signatures of production that could provide evidence to support the investigation," it added.
    (Writing by David Adams; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Steve Orlofsky)
    end quote from:

    FBI says lab tests link Mississippi man to ricin letters


Hezbollow warns of Syrian Intervention

Hezbollah warns of possible Syria intervention

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group said Tuesday that Syrian rebels will not be able to defeat President Bashar Assad's regime militarily, warning that Syria's "real friends," including his Iranian-backed militant group, were ready to intervene on the government's side.
Associated Press

Hezbollah warns of possible Syria intervention

BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group said Tuesday that Syrian rebels will not be able to defeat President Bashar Assad's regime militarily, warning that Syria's "real friends," including his Iranian-backed militant group, were ready to intervene on the government's side.
In Damascus, a powerful bomb ripped through a bustling commercial district, killing at least 14 people and bringing Syria's civil war to the heart of the capital for the second consecutive day.
Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite Muslim group, is known to back Syrian regime fighters in Shiite villages near the Lebanon border against the mostly Sunni rebels fighting to topple Assad. The comments by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah were the strongest indication yet that his group was ready to get far more involved to rescue Assad's embattled regime.
"You will not be able to take Damascus by force and you will not be able to topple the regime militarily. This is a long battle," Nasrallah said, addressing the Syrian opposition.
"Syria has real friends in the region and in the world who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of America or Israel."
Hezbollah and Iran are close allies of Assad. Rebels have accused them of sending fighters to assist Syrian troops trying to crush the 2-year-old anti-Assad uprising, which the U.N. says has killed more than 70,000 people.
Deeper and more overt Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian conflict is almost certain to threaten stability in Lebanon, which is sharply split along sectarian lines, and between supporters and opponents of Assad. It also risks drawing in Israel and Iran into a wider Middle East war.
Nasrallah said Tuesday there are no Iranian forces in Syria now, except for some experts who he said have been in Syria for decades. But he added: "What do you imagine would happen in the future if things deteriorate in a way that requires the intervention of the forces of resistance in this battle?"
Hezbollah has an arsenal that makes the group the most powerful military force in Lebanon, stronger than the national army. Its growing involvement in the Syrian civil war is already raising tensions inside the divided country and has drawn threats from enraged Syrian rebels and militants.
Nasrallah also said his fighters had a duty to protect the holy Shiite shrine of Sayida Zeinab, named for the granddaughter of Islam's Prophet Muhammad and located south of Damascus.
He said rebels have captured several villages around the shrine and have threatened to destroy it.
"If the shrine is destroyed things will get out of control," Nasrallah said citing the 2006 bombing of the Shiite al-Askari shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra. That attack was blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq and set off years of retaliatory bloodshed between Sunni and Shiite extremists that left thousands of Iraqis dead and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
While there has been growing speculation about Hezbollah's role in the conflict next door, the violence inside Syria has raged on, including in the capital, where a bomb on Tuesday struck the Marjeh neighborhood, a busy commercial area near the Old City of Damascus.
The state news agency said 14 people were killed and 103 wounded in the attack.
A day earlier, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after a car bomb targeted his convoy as it drove through a posh Damascus neighborhood. The bombings appear to be part of an accelerated campaign by opposition forces to hit Assad's regime in the heavily defended capital.
"I heard a very loud bang and then the ceiling collapsed on top of me," said Zaher Nafeq, who owns a mobile phone shop in the Damascus Towers, a 23-floor office building near Tuesday's explosion. He was wounded in his hand and his mobile phone shop was badly damaged in the blast.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but car bombs and suicide attacks targeting Damascus and other cities that remain under government control have been claimed in the past by the al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra — one of scores of rebel factions fighting to oust Assad.
The target of Tuesday's attack was not immediately clear, although the explosion took place outside the former Interior Ministry building.
Inspecting the site of the blast, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar, who himself escaped a car bomb that targeted his convoy in December, told reporters the back-to-back attacks in the capital were in response to the "victories and achievements scored by the Syrian Arab Army on the ground against terrorism."
In recent weeks, government troops have overrun two rebel-held Damascus suburbs and a town outside the capital. They also have captured several villages near the border with Lebanon as part of their efforts to secure the strategic corridor running from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, which is the heartland of the president's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
As the regime has pushed back against opposition fighters, it has come under allegations of using chemical weapons. Damascus denies the charges, saying Syrian rebels are trying to frame it.
In Washington, President Barack Obama signaled Tuesday he would consider U.S. military action against Syria if "hard, effective evidence" is found to bolster intelligence that chemical weapons have been used in the civil war.
He added, however, that while there is evidence that chemical weapons were used, "we don't know when they were used, how they were used. ... We don't have a chain of custody that establishes" exactly what happened.
The White House said last week that intelligence indicates the Syrian military has used the deadly nerve agent sarin on at least two occasions.
Speaking to reporters, Obama reiterated that he needed more certainty before acting, but said that if it is determined that the Assad regime used chemical weapons "we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us."
In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that use of chemical weapons in Syria would also be a "red line" for Iran, but suggested rebel forces should be investigated rather than the Islamic Republic's allies in Damascus.
In the latest alleged attack, activists in the town of Saraqeb in northern Idlib province claimed the government bombed the town late Monday with chemical agents. It said the attack caused respiratory problems and other symptoms among a few residents that it claimed were consistent with a chemical attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was unable to confirm the purported use of chemical agents.
The Syrian state news agency offered a different narrative, saying "terrorists" brought bags of an unknown white powder to Saraqeb and opened them, causing respiratory problems among those exposed. It said the terrorists then transported the injured to Turkish hospitals to "accuse the Syrian armed troops of using chemical weapons."
Border authorities in Turkey decontaminated a group of Syrians wounded in the Saraqeb attack and hospital staff treating them wore protective equipment, according to an aide to the governor of Turkey's Hatay province, which borders Syria.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists, told AP there was no indication that chemical weapons were used in the Saraqeb attack.

end quote from:

Hezbollah warns of possible Syria intervention

What I find strange about all this is that Hezbollah fighters have been fighting and dying in Syria for some time now. Various reporters have been to their funerals in places like Lebanon. So, maybe what is now happening is Hezbollah plans no longer to be secret about them fighting in Syria all along against the rebels there?

Hezbollah has always been funded by Iran in the hopes that one day Hezbollah would overthrow the Israeli government in Israel. Also, it is not a secret that Hezbollah has been fighting from the beginning against the Sunni people in Syria and for the Alawite Shia Government of Assad.

Isolationism in Americans

Poll Shows Broad Isolationism in Americans

New York Times - ‎35 minutes ago‎
Americans are exhibiting an isolationist streak, with majorities across party lines decidedly opposed to American intervention in North Korea or Syria right now as economic concerns continue to dwarf all other issues, according to the latest New York ...
Americans Don't Want War with North Korea or Syria
Poll: Most Americans Say U.S. Doesn't Have Responsibility In Syria