..."Most people in Damascus have lost hope," said Reema, a chemical engineer. She fled the capital last summer and now lives in Beirut, managing a factory in one of Damascus' industrial zones remotely, via Skype. At first, "we could hear the bombs from around Damascus but we knew that they were far away so we got on with our lives ... Now, the war is everywhere."
She said she has seen a new influx of Damascus residents into Beirut and expects more to come once schools go on summer vacation and well-off Damascene families feel freer to pack up. Reema spoke on condition she be identified only by her first name for fear of reprisals against her business or collague still in Syria.
"Some who have been coming back and forth between Beirut and Damascus are giving up and want to stay to avoid the hassles of checkpoints and ID checks and fear of being taken by groups who just pick people up from the streets," she said, adding that residents blame both regime and opposition-linked groups for disappearances.
Several other businessmen who fled more recently to Beirut spoke to The Associated Press of growing numbers of the elite choosing to leave for the time being. But they refused to give details or be quoted because of worries over their enterprises back home....
More than 1 million Syrians have fled the country to escape the civil war, now its third year. The bulk of them are poor, largely from the country's Sunni Muslim majority that makes up the backbone of the rebellion, leaving homes battered by fighting between rebels and regime forces around the country and crossing into Jordan, Turkey or Lebanon.
Syria's powerful and monied elite have long had a complicated history with the regime. The rich and powerful industrialists, merchants and factory owners are mostly secular Sunni Muslims, mainly from families who were largely allowed to operate in Aleppo, Syria's economic engine, and in Damascus, without government interference while the Assad family's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, kept its grip on political power.
When the uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011, most stuck by the president. That support has been strained by two years of bloodshed that has killed an estimate 70,000 people and disrupted business and life. But many deeply distrust the rebels because of the strength of Islamic hardliners and the lack of a cohesive leadership.
"With the fighting ripping apart the social fabric of cities, the elite is increasingly very confused because they can't support the regime any more but also cannot embrace the rebels, who are looking to take over their properties," said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma.
Syria's urban elite has been concentrated in the northern city of Aleppo and the capital Damascus. Most of the rebels come from the underdeveloped countryside — poor, religiously conservative and angry over years of economic marginalization they say was enforced by the old merchant families and regime-linked industrialists.
The first waves of the elite leaving came last year, from Aleppo and the central city of Homs. Now, industrial zones in those cities packed with textile, plastics, pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturers stand virtually deserted....
-bth: the financial attrition on Syria must be tremendous on all sides.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
... Hirsch, who commanded an Israeli division in a monthlong war with Hezbollah in 2006, said war regional roles have since then been reversed. While once Syria used Hezbollah in Lebanon as a proxy against Israel, Hezbollah is now deterred from acting on Lebanese soil for fear of Israeli retribution and is preparing to use the instability in Syria as its future staging ground.
"The fighting in Syria gives them an opportunity to open a new front against Israel," said Hirsch. "We must be ready for turbulence. We must be ready for the Iranian involvement inside Syria. We must be ready to be able to fight against radical fundamentalist activities that will come from Syria, and that is what we are doing here."
ALMATY (Reuters) - NATO member Turkey signed up on Friday to became a "dialogue partner" of a security bloc dominated by China and Russia, and declared that its destiny is in Asia.
"This is really a historic day for us," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty after signing a memorandum of understanding with Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Secretary General Dmitry Mezentsev.
"Now, with this choice, Turkey is declaring that our destiny is the same as the destiny of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries."...
Friday, April 26, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence agencies added the mother of the Boston bombing suspects to a government terrorism database 18 months before the bombings, two officials told The Associated Press. She called it “lies and hypocrisy” and said she has never been linked to crimes or terrorism.
The CIA asked for the Boston terror suspect and his mother to be added to a terrorist database in the fall of 2011, after the Russian government contacted the agency with concerns that both had become religious militants, according to officials briefed on the investigation. About six months earlier, the FBI investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, also at Russia’s request, one of the officials said. The FBI found no ties to terrorism.
The revelation that the FBI had also investigated Zubeidat Tsarnaeva and the CIA arranged for her to be added to the terrorism database deepened the mystery around the family.
-bth: So mom and son were on a terrorist watch list since 2011? So if this tracks over to a no fly list how did she and her son fly to Russia in 2012?
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Although police feared he was heavily armed, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing had no firearms when he came under a barrage of police gunfire that struck the boat where he was hiding, according to multiple federal law enforcement officials.
Authorities said they were desperate to capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev so he could be questioned. The FBI, however, declined to discuss what prompted the gunfire....
...In the immediate aftermath of Tsarnaev’s capture, police officials said he had fired from the boat and he was reported to have been captured with several weapons. There were also reports that the gunshot wound he suffered to the throat might have been an attempt to kill himself as police moved in...
-bth: so basically all the shots at the boat were from police. The neck wound can be seen occurring in the thermal imager so I don't think that is speculation either as being caused by the swat team. It was probably a big mistake to take the transit police swat team which had just lost a trooper to this same suspect and his brother to the prior shootout. You can see where they would be jumpy but then they almost killed the only other person that could definitely tell us if there were more terrorists.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Pentagon is moving to fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities on the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), after computer systems that control the $440 million USS Freedom were hacked by a “red team” of network penetration testers, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.
An anonymous government official told the agency that the team found “major deficiencies” last year in the computer security on the Lockheed Martin Corp.-built Freedom.
The cybersecurity flaws join pre-existing questions about the $37 billion program to build ships intended to operate inso-called littoral waters, those close to shore.
The Freedom, the first of the new LCS ships to be deployed, sailed to Singapore last month for eight months to test its staffing and logistics operations.
The estimated price to build each vessel has doubled to $440 million, says Bloomberg, and its ability to survive to fight after an attack has been questioned.
Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of weapons testing, recommended that hacking vulnerabilities “be remediated without delay,” Defense Department spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea told the news agency in an email.....
-bth: Critical deficiency
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
...Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.
"Somehow, he just took his brain," said Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who recalled conversations with Tamerlan's worried father about Misha's influence. Efforts over several days by The Associated Press to identify and interview Misha have been unsuccessful.
Tamerlan's relationship with Misha could be a clue in understanding the motives behind his religious transformation and, ultimately, the attack itself. Two U.S. officials say he had no tie to terrorist groups....
-bth: so who is Misha?
The most severe injuries in the Boston bombing resemble those suffered by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan whose limbs were blown apart by improvised explosive devices, and the initial treatment was also identical: First responders, and in some instances, spectators — used tourniquets to cut off the blood flow and stop severe bleeding.
More than 170 people were hurt Monday and three died when two explosive devices went off along Mile 26 of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street.
Hospital workers saw "many patients come in with tourniquets. Some had multiple tourniquets. They definitely saved patients' lives," says Michael Yaffe, a trauma physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where 24 patients were treated Monday.
Tourniquets have been used on battlefields for hundreds of years; they've been carried by every U.S. service member in combat since 2006, with an estimated 3,000 lives saved. ...
Monday, April 22, 2013
TOKYO (AP) — A U.N. nuclear watchdog team said Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant and urged its operator to improve plant stability.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team, Juan Carlos Lentijo, said Monday that damage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is so complex that it is "impossible" to predict how long the cleanup may last.
"As for the duration of the decommissioning project, this is something that you can define in your plans. But in my view, it will be nearly impossible to ensure the time for decommissioning such a complex facility in less than 30-40 years as it is currently established in the roadmap," Lentijo said.
The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. have predicted the cleanup would take up to 40 years. They still have to develop technology and equipment that can operate under fatally high radiation levels to locate and remove melted fuel. The reactors must be kept cool and the plant must stay safe and stable, and those efforts to ensure safety could slow the process down.
"You have to adopt a very cautious position to ensure that you always are working on the safe side," Lentijo said.
The plant still runs on makeshift equipment and frequently suffers glitches.
Just over the past few weeks, the plant suffered nearly a dozen problems ranging from extensive power outages and leaks of highly radioactive water from underground water pools. On Monday, TEPCO had to stop the cooling system for one of the fuel storage pools for safety checks after finding two dead rats inside a transformer box.
Earlier this month, a rat short-circuited a switchboard, causing an extensive outage and cooling loss for up to 30 hours. Lentijo said water management is "probably the most challenging" task for the plant at the moment.....
bth: I doubt the leakage was ever contained especially if ground water leaks into the basement.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Saudi Arabia is hoping to wean jailed Al-Qaeda militants off religious extremism with counseling, spa treatments and plenty of exercise at a luxury rehabilitation center in Riyadh.
In between sessions with counselors and talks on religion, prisoners will be able to relax in the center’s facilities which include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a gym and a television hall.
The new complex is the work of the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care, a body set up seven years ago to rehabilitate extremists jailed during a Saudi crackdown on the local branch of Al-Qaeda.
“Just under 3,000 [Islamist prisoners] will have to go through one of these centers before they can be released,” interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki told AFP during a tour of the new center.
Another Center has already opened in the western port city of Jeddah, and three more are planned for the north, east and south of the desert kingdom.
The new facility in Riyadh, however, is the first to offer inmates a taste of luxury as an incentive to moderate their beliefs...
-bth; good grief.