Activists: Death Toll In Syria’s War Tops 160,000

 — 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.

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These Artists In War-Ravaged Damascus Have Broken A Guinness World Record

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.

Read more/see pictures: http://www.buzzfeed.com/miriamberger/these-artists-in-war-ravaged-damascus-have-broken-a-guinness

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Pope’s Christmas Wish: Hope For A Better World

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis offered a Christmas wish Wednesday for a better world, praying for protection for Christians under attack, battered women and trafficked children, peace in the Middle East and Africa, and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict around the globe.

Francis delivered the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (Latin for “to the city and to the world”) speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to 70,000 cheering tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. He said he was joining all those hoping “for a better world.”

In his first Christmas message since being elected pontiff in March, he asked for all to share in the song of Christmas angels, “for every man or woman … who hopes for a better world, who cares for others,” humbly.

Among places ravaged by conflict, Francis singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war; South Sudan; the Central African Republic; Nigeria; and Iraq.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20131225/popes-christmas-wish-hope-for-a-better-world

QUESTION OF ENFORCEMENT CASTS CLOUD ON SYRIA PLAN

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.

Read more: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/france-seeks-un-action-syria-after-russia-move

Worldview: How Obama Got Syria So Wrong

English: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, 18thC...

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.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20130908_Worldview__How_Obama_got_Syria_so_wrong.html#W26XeA2w3ER9tH7q.99

Pentagon Ordered To Expand Syria Target List

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.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/world/pentagon-ordered-to-expand-syria-target-list-702239/#ixzz2e93qQvkl

Russia May Send Lawmakers To US To Discuss Syria

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.

Read more: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_RUSSIA_SYRIA?SITE=PAPIT&SECTION=NATIONAL&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

US May Go It Alone On Syria

WASHINGTONPresident 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.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/793287/US-may-go-it-alone-on-Syria

Allentown Four-Corner Rally Opposes U.S. Strike In Syria

English: City of Allentown

English: City of Allentown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hundreds of local Syrian-Americans crammed into the four corners of a major Allentown intersection Thursday evening to oppose threatened U.S. military action in Syria.

“Hands Off Syria,” read many of the protesters’ signs, held up to the traffic at Airport Road and Union Boulevard.

“We want peace! We want peace!” they chanted in large groups, Syrian and U.S. flags waving above them.

The demonstrators said they don’t believe Syrian leader Bashar Assad has killed rebels with chemical weapons, as President Barack Obama has said in making the case for an attack on Syria.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-allentown-syrians-airport-road-rally-20130829,0,7402139.story#ixzz2dQD3oRea
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North Korea Says It’s In State Of War With South Korea

English: Own work, based on Wikipedia blank map.

English: Own work, based on Wikipedia blank map. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Nut jobs with nukes!  Never a good combination!

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea issued its latest belligerent threat Saturday, saying it has entered “a state of war” with South Korea a day after its young leader threatened the United States because two American B-2 bombers flew a training mission in South Korea.

Analysts say a full-scale conflict is extremely unlikely and North Korea’s threats are instead aimed at drawing Washington into talks that could result in aid and boosting leader Kim Jong Un’s image at home.  But the harsh rhetoric from North Korea and rising animosity from the rivals that have followed U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang’s Feb. 12 nuclear test have raised worries of a misjudgment leading to a clash.

In a joint statement by the government, political parties and organizations, North Korea said Saturday that it will deal with all matters involving South Korea according to “wartime regulations.”  It also warned it will retaliate against any provocations by the United States and South Korea without “any prior notice.”

The divided Korean Peninsula is already in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.  But Pyongyang said it was scrapping the war armistice earlier this month.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20130330_ap_nkoreasaysitsinstateofwarwithskorea.html