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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Syrian Prime Minister Survives Blast, State TV Reports

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al- Halaqi survived a bomb explosion that killed at least six people as his convoy traveled through Damascus, state television said.

At least 15 people were wounded in the blast in the capital’s Mazzeh district, the television station’s website said. The dead included a bodyguard, Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said by phone, while a second bodyguard and a driver were injured. Five civilians also died in the blast, the Coventry, England-based Observatory said on its Facebook page, citing unidentified medical sources.

The attack on such a high-ranking figure, while significant, does not signal any change in Syria’s strategic stalemate, said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Center in Beirut.

“The situation in the country is for the moment moving into kind of semi-static zones of influence,” Salem said in a phone interview. “Nobody seems to be on the imminent brink of sweeping the country.”

The blast was the first reported attack against a top Syrian official since July, when a bomb killed members of Assad’s top military establishment leading the fight against the Syrian insurgency. They included Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajhah and the vice president’s military adviser, Hasan Turkmani. The men remain the most senior officials to be killed since the uprising started in March 2011.



Consumer Spending And Personal Income Climb In March

Source: LA TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Consumers spent more in March even as their income rose less than analysts had projected, a mixed economic message to start a week that will end with the latest government unemployment report.

Consumer spending was up 0.2% last month, down from February's 0.7% rise, the Commerce Department said Monday.

But spending still was up, an unexpected improvement. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was that spending would be flat.

The March increase in spending came despite personal income's rising just 0.2%., less than the 0.4% estimated by economists.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-personal-income-consumer-spending-economy-20130429,0,3630604.story

Former Mossad Head Dagan: Israel Should Do Whatever It Can To Bring Down Syria’s Assad

Former Intel Chief Yadlin: United States should “fly B-2 to Gulf to show its determination to use force if necessary.”

By Chemi Shalev | Apr.29, 2013 | 1:09 AM

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan believes that for both moral and strategic reasons, Israel should “do whatever it can to make sure that Syrian President Basher Assad is removed from power.”

Speaking at the Jerusalem Post conference in New York on Sunday, Dagan said that the Assad’s regime’s killing of civilians because of their ethnic or religious identity is an immorality that any Israeli, especially a Holocaust survivor, should try and stop.

Removing Assad from power, he added, will be highly beneficial for Israel from a strategic point of view, weakening Hezbollah and Iran in the process. Dagan said that Israel should not be too concerned about the potential animosity a new regime in Damascus, saying that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries will do their utmost to ensure that the successor regime is moderate.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the conference that Israel can attack Iran – and will also be able to withstand the consequences of such an attack. “We cannot allow this regime to have the bomb,” Ashkenazi said. Ashkenazi said that the recent multi-billion dollar U.S. arms sale to Israel “sends a signal” to Iran about Israel’s capabilities.



US Health Leader Warns Of Human-To-Human H7N9 Bird Flu

AFP - There is no evidence that the deadly H7N9 bird flu has yet spread between humans in China but health authorities must be ready for the virus to mutate at any time, a top US virologist has warned.

Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said officials in China had studied more than 1,000 close contacts of confirmed cases and not found any evidence of human-to-human transmission.

"That is powerful evidence because if you had a thousand contacts with someone with the flu you would be pretty sure some of them would have been infected," Fauci said in an interview with AFP.

Nevertheless, Fauci cautioned that authorities needed to be ready for the possibility of the virus mutating and spreading between humans.

"It's unpredictable as are all the influenza. One of the things we need to be concerned about is this might gain the capability of going human-to-human which up to this point has not happened and is somewhat encouraging news," Fauci said.



Man Stabs 4 at Albuquerque Church

Albuquerque police have identified the 24-year-old man who is accused of stabbing four people at a Catholic church as a Sunday service was nearing its end.

Police spokesman Robert Gibbs says Lawrence Capener is now being interviewed by police and is expected to face felony charges.

It's not yet known whether Capener has an attorney.

Police say Capener jumped over several pews at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church around noon Sunday and walked up to the choir area where he began his attack.

The injuries to the four church-goers weren't life-threatening.



Right Turn; Conservative Perspective: Obama Erases His ‘Red Line’

Posted by Jennifer Rubin on April 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm

“U.S. not rushing on signs Syria used chemical weapons.” That’s how the New York Times headline put it. Another might be: “Red line is no line at all: Obama punts.”

After personally laying down a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, after Britain, France and Israel confirmed the use of chemical weapons and after our defense secretary said that the U.S. government believed “with varying degrees of confidence” that such weapons had been used, President Obama evaded, ducked and erased whatever line he had drawn. He has said that he “doesn’t bluff.” But that is precisely what he has done in Syria, and now with his bluff called, he has only double talk left.

He told reporters Friday as he sat next to Jordan’s King Abdullah in the Oval Office:
What we have right now is an intelligence assessment. And as I said, knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used, how they were used. Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community. And we ourselves are going to be putting a lot of resources into focusing on this.

Translation: Red line? What red line?

This is a pathetic and dangerous farce. As former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams put it, “The problem today is not only that this may leave [Syrian leader Bashar al-]Assad free to use chemical weapons again. A related issue of great consequence is what the administration has said about the use of chemical weapons: that it would be a game changer, that it is a red line, that it is unacceptable, and that all options are on the table for a U.S. response. Sound familiar? The administration has used exactly such language – ‘unacceptable,’ ‘all options are on the table’ – about the Iranian nuclear program. If such terms become synonyms for ‘we will not act,’ the regime in Tehran will soon conclude that there is no danger of an American military attack and therefore no need to negotiate seriously. They may have reached that conclusion already.”



The neocon knuckdraggers are just besides themselves that President Obama isn't doing the goosestep with them.

Carry on Mr. President and DON'T GO THERE!

Symptoms Of Chemical Gas Occur In Some Syrian Soldiers: Report

April 28 (Xinhua) -- A Syrian pro-government newspaper reported Sunday that many soldiers battling rebels in a restive neighborhood of the capital Damascus have shown symptoms of exposure to chemical gas.

Citing a "well-informed" medical source, al-Watan said that many soldiers were sent earlier this week to the Hamish military hospital in Damascus, showing symptoms of inhaling chemical gas after the rebels fired a bombshell at the troops in the Brzeh neighborhood of the capital.

It said the symptoms include suffocation and nausea, as well as the trickling of a kind of white liquid from the victims' noses and mouths.

Stressing no official comments have been made about the incident, the paper said that the competent authorities started an investigation into the type of the gas.



Vatican Under Scrutiny As Nuns, Landowners Lose Israel Wall Challenge

BEIT JALA, West Bank (Ma’an) -- After a seven-year legal battle, a group of Palestinian landowners and Catholic nuns this week lost an appeal against Israel building its separation barrier on their land.

The ruling by an Israeli appeals committee places the lush Cremisan Valley, in a northern corner of Bethlehem, behind the Israeli wall.

Running straight through Vatican-owned land, the route of this section of the wall also places the position of the Catholic hierarchy under uncomfortable scrutiny.

The proposed construction will also cut off 58 Palestinians in Beit Jala, a predominantly Christian suburb of Bethlehem, from their fields. They launched a legal challenge in 2006.



UK’s Military Chief Warns Intervention In Syria Risks All-Out War

Source: Times Of Israel / Sunday Times UK

The head of the British Armed Forces told his government that the United Kingdom should be prepared to go to war in Syria, according to a report in The Sunday Times.

Gen. Sir David Richards, chief of the defense staff, warned that a military response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons would have to be on a full scale to be effective. He further cautioned that even creating safe zones would risk dragging UK forces into a military confrontation.

The general also argued that imposing a no-fly zone like the one in Bosnia in 1993 would not be effective because of Syria’s air defense.

“Even to set up a humanitarian safe area would be a major military operation without the co-operation of the Syrians,” he told senior defense figures, according to the report.

Read more: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Defence/article1252138.ece

In A First, Black Voter Turnout Rate Passes Whites

WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year's heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, analyzed the 2012 elections for the AP using census data on eligible voters and turnout, along with November's exit polling. He estimated total votes for Obama and Romney under a scenario where 2012 turnout rates for all racial groups matched those in 2004. Overall, 2012 voter turnout was roughly 58 percent, down from 62 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2004.


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