BEIRUT — The death toll in Syria’s three-year conflict has climbed past 160,000, an activist group said Monday, a harrowing figure that reflects the relentless bloodletting in a civil war that appears no closer to being resolved.
The grim tally, however, only presents one facet of the tremendous suffering that Syrians have endured since the revolt against President Bashar Assad erupted in March 2011. The crisis has also uprooted some 6.5 million people from their homes, forced 2.7 million to flee the country, laid waste to cities and towns alike, and unleashed sectarian hatreds that have rippled across the region.
The government has presented Syria’s June 3 presidential election, which Assad is widely expected to win, as a means to end the conflict. The Syrian opposition and its Western allies have denounced the vote as a farce aimed solely at lending Assad a veneer of electoral legitimacy.
It also remains unclear how the government can hold a credible vote when the nation is engulfed in fighting and a significant chunk of the country is in opposition hands.
Editor’s Note: This is very inspiring and there are many pictures you can view when you click on the link below. Love how people triumph over adversity!
Six Syrian artists have set a 2014 Guinness World Record. Using scraps from the streets of war-ravaged Damascus, in January they built the largest mural made from recycled material, beautifying the area outside a primary school in Syria’s capital.
It took Syrian artist Moaffak Makhoul and his team six months to complete the mural in the upscale Al Mazzeh area of Damascus. Guinness announced the win on Facebook on March 26.
The team used scrap objects like broken mirrors, bicycle wheels, and aluminum cans to construct the mural, measuring 7,749.98 feet across.
DAMASCUS (AP) — Syrian Christians offered prayers Sunday for a group of more than a dozen nuns and orphanage workers held by rebels for nearly a week, fueling fears in the minority community that they are being targeted by extremists among the fighters seeking to oust President Bashar Assad.
The seizure of the 12 Greek Orthodox nuns and at least three other women is the latest attack to spark panic among Syria’s Christians over the strength of al-Qaida-linked militants and other Islamic radicals in the nearly 3-year-old revolt against Assad’s government. A priest and two bishops previously kidnapped by rebels remain missing, and extremists are accused of vandalizing churches in areas they have captured.
Rebels seized the nuns on Monday from the Greek Orthodox Mar Takla convent when fighters overran Maaloula, a mainly Christian village north of Damascus that lies on a key highway and has changed hands several times in fierce fighting between rebels and government forces. The group, along with three women — themselves orphans — who work in the convent’s orphanage were taken to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.
The eldest of the nuns is nearly 90 years old, and the youngest of the orphanage workers is in her mid-teens, according to Mother Superior Febronia Nabhan, head of the Saidnaya Convent.
CAIRO (AP) – Al-Qaida‘s leader on Friday marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by calling on Muslims to strike inside the United States, with big attacks or small, using any opportunity they can to “bleed” America financially.
In an audio message released two days after the 12th anniversary of the attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri said America is not a “mythic power” and that the mujahedeen – Islamic holy warriors – can defeat it with attacks “on its own soil.”
Al-Zawahri, the successor to Osama bin Laden, used the anniversary to argue that the United States can be defeated by targeting its economy. At the same time, he also addressed the ongoing upheaval in the Arab world. Pointing to a power struggle going on within the rebellion against Syria’s regime, he warned jihadi fighters in that country’s civil war not “compromise” with more secular or moderate rebel factions, who he said would eventually turn against the al-Qaida-linked radicals.
The message’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on a militant website commonly used by al-Qaida.
BEIRUT (AP) — A Russian plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to avert Western missile strikes bogged down Tuesday when Moscow rejected U.S. and French demands for a binding U.N. resolution with “very severe consequences” for non-compliance.
The surprise Russian proposal, which Syria and the United States both accepted, would put President Bashar Assad’s regime’s chemical stockpile under international control before its eventual dismantling. The initiative — also cautiously endorsed by Britain and France — appeared to offer a way out of a crisis that raised the prospect of U.S.-led military action against Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.
But the plan ran aground as the world powers haggled over the crucial element of how to enforce it. Wary of falling into what the French foreign minister called “a trap,” Paris and Washington are pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution to verify Syria’s disarmament. Russia, a close Assad ally and the regime’s chief patron on the international stage, dismissed France’s proposal as unacceptable.
VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands of people answered Pope Francis’ call for a four-hour Syria peace vigil in St. Peter’s Square late Saturday, joining Christians and non-Christians alike in similar vigils around the world.
About 70,000 people, according to an estimate by the Vatican, were present at the start of the vigil. It was believed to be one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he issued a heartfelt plea for peace, denouncing those who are “captivated by the idols of dominion and power” and destroy God’s creation through war.
“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!”
English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Unless President Obama can show Congress that his planned Syria strike is linked to a larger – and coherent – strategy, legislators should just say no.
So far, his explanations, and those of his cabinet members at congressional hearings, have only added to the confusion. “What is it you’re seeking?” Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) asked Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in trying to elicit the broader goals of military action. The general replied candidly, “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.”
That moment of testimony encapsulated the dilemma for the Congress and the country. If the military doesn’t grasp where the commander in chief is leading, and the president can’t (or won’t) clarify, we’re all in trouble. You can’t get there if you don’t know where “there” is.
This is not the way to wage a war – oops, I mean a limited military strike.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that President Bashar Assad’s government has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.
Mr. Obama, officials said, is determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action Saturday to seek congressional approval.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers have yet to start hiring aggressively — a trend the Federal Reserve will weigh in deciding this month whether to slow its bond buying and, if so, by how much.
Employers added 169,000 jobs in August but many fewer in June and July than previously thought, the Labor Department said Friday. Combined, June, July and August amounted to the weakest three-month stretch of job growth in a year.
The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest in nearly five years. But it fell because more Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed. The proportion of Americans working or looking for work reached its lowest point in 35 years.
All told, the report adds up to a mixed picture of the U.S. job market: Hiring is steady but subpar. Much of the hiring is in lower-paying occupations. And many people are giving up on the job market in frustration.
MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin hopes to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the United States to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.
Russian legislators Valentina Matvienko and Sergei Naryshkin proposed that to Putin, saying polls have shown little support among Americans for armed intervention in Syria to punish its regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack.
The lawmakers said maybe U.S. legislators can be persuaded to take a “balanced stance” on the issue. Putin supported the initiative, which would require formal approval by the Foreign Ministry.
Russia has sent legislators to the U.S. before to try to persuade Congress about pending legislation. But sending a delegation to Washington to discuss Syria’s civil war could be seen as a publicity stunt, given the strong positions Moscow already has taken as a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s regime. The U.S. has accused Russia of providing military support to Assad that has allowed Assad to cling to power during Syria’s civil war.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday prepared for the possibility of launching unilateral American military action against Syria within days as Britain opted out in a stunning vote by Parliament. Facing skepticism at home, too, the administration shared intelligence with lawmakers aimed at convincing them the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people and must be punished.
Despite roadblocks in forming an international coalition, Obama appeared undeterred and advisers said he would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own.
“The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Even before the vote in London, the U.S. was preparing to act without formal authorization from the United Nations, where Russia has blocked efforts to seek a resolution authorizing the use of force, or from Capitol Hill. But the U.S. had expected Britain, a major ally, to join in the effort.
The global oil balance is already tighter than forecasters expected just a few months ago, because of disruptions in oil output from nations outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and by the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran, which is exporting about 750,000 to 1 million fewer barrels a day than it was a year ago.
“The story has been one of a strong stock market, a weaker dollar and continuing geopolitical events,” said Adam Sieminski, head of the federal Energy Information Administration.
He said political strife in Syria, Yemen and Sudan cut off some supplies while the latest price surge was “driven by central bank moves in both the U.S. and Europe” and by “optimism about the economy, which changes expectations about what demand will be going over the course of the next six to 12 months.”
After hundreds of emails from the office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were leaked on Monday, a report revealed that several of Assad’s aides and advisers used the password “12345.” (My 5-year-old granddaughter knows better than that!!!!)