From NY Times:
Nuns Released by Syrians After Three-Month Ordeal
By ANNE BARNARD and HWAIDA SAADBEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian insurgents released 13 nuns and three attendants who disappeared three months ago from their monastery in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, Lebanese and Syrian officials said early Monday, ending a drama in which rebels said they were protecting the women from government shelling and Syrian officials said they were abducted in an act of intimidation against Christians.The handoff was infused with suspense until the last moment. Officials said Sunday afternoon that the nuns had crossed the mountainous border to Arsal, a pro-rebel town in Lebanon, to be handed off to Lebanese officials and driven to Syria.But amid reports of last-minute problems, reporters and government supporters waited hours at the border with no sign of the nuns. Finally, early Monday, the Lebanese channel Al Jadeed showed the black-clad nuns at the border, beaming, as one embraced a Lebanese security official and officers carried another....
Gangbangin' in Syria: Two L.A. gang members in Syria to defend Assad regime
7 March 2014
About a hundred Americans have gone to Syria to take part in the war, all of them — with the apparent exception of two L.A. gang members named “Creeper” and “Wino” — to fight on the side of the Sunni rebels against the Alawite Assad regime. In a video recently posted on YouTube, the two are shown brandishing AK-47s and firing at an unseen enemy. Their tattoos identify one of them as a member of Sureños-13, which is affiliated with the Mexican mafia, and the other as a member of Westside Armenian Power gang. They tell the camera they are “in Syria, gangbangin’.”ABC News reports that a video posted recently on YouTube shows two gang-tattooed and camouflaged men, who call themselves “Creeper” and “Wino,” holding AK-47s and saying that they are “in Syria, gangbangin’.”
The video has been posted online a few days ago, but the LAPD says they learnt about the two LA gang members in Syria five weeks ago.
Deputy Chief for Counterterrorism Mike Downing told ABC News Sunday that “My organized crime and gang investigators found it online and on Facebook,” Downing said. “We’re kind of concerned about their recruitment and whatever other associates they have here… We predicted this would happen — the [organized crime and terrorism] convergence. What we’re worried about is the ones we don’t know about here or coming back to the U.S.”...
More details here.
As the slaughter continues in Syria, the barrage of pictures and stories of innocent civilian casualties has slowed to a trickle, as the world media has moved on to the next 'top story'. However, the carnage in Syria continues unabated. From the BBC:
Syria: Assad forces 'using starvation as weapon of war'
9 March 2014
A vast crowd of people queue for aid at the Yarmouk refugee camp near DamascusStarvation tactics against civilians are being used as a weapon of war by the Syrian government, the human rights group Amnesty International says.A new report says at least 128 refugees have died at the besieged Yarmouk camp in Damascus as a result.
It says thousands of people still trapped there face a "catastrophic humanitarian crisis".
Amnesty says families have been forced to forage for food in the streets - risking being killed by snipers.
[...] "Syrian forces are committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war," says Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East director...
Yes, there is more here.
Another journalist was killed in Syria - this time a Canadian - assuring Syria its place at the top of the list of the most dangerous places for journalists to work. (See the December 2013 report from Committee to Protect Journalists)
From the CBC comes this:
Ali Moustafa, Toronto-born journalist, killed in Syria
Moustafa, 7 others reportedly killed in rebel-held Hadariyeh area of AleppoMar 09, 2014
The friends and family of a Toronto photojournalist are holding a vigil in his hometown on Sunday evening, just hours after they learned that a bomb attack had claimed his life in Syria.
Ali Moustafa, 29, and seven others were killed Sunday when a pair of explosive devices were dropped in a rebel-held part of Aleppo, Syria.
The photographer’s sister, Justina Rosa Botelho, confirmed her brother’s death after viewing a photo of his corpse that was sent to her by activists.
The family was not aware that he was in Syria. They were last in contact a week ago, when Moustafa told her that he was in Turkey, she said.
"He wanted to tell mom he was okay," she said. "He never told me he was in Syria. I guess he was trying to hide that."..
Read the rest here.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, John Kerry insists that climate change is the main threat to us all. Apparently the UN is not buying into that and has another message for the US.
From Voice of America:
US Needs New Strategy for Syria
March 08, 2014[...]Two rounds of “peace talks” in Geneva between the Syrian regime and émigré opposition figures produced no progress toward a political solution of the conflict, which this month marks a third grim anniversary.
Brahimi, 80, a veteran international mediator who took on the assignment after former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan resigned the post in 2012, apologized to the Syrian people after the recent talks for accomplishing so little to end their agony. With more than 140,000 dead – including victims of regime “barrel bombs” and bitter opposition infighting – and half the population internally displaced or refugees, Brahimi has ample reasons for being apologetic.
Two US-based analysts argue that the United States and the international community need a fresh approach. Instead of putting representatives of the Assad government and the externally based Syrian Opposition Coalition in the same room together again, Faysal Itani and Nathaniel Rosenblatt say the United States should “zoom in” and seek to identify local actors within Syria who have garnered respect and support and are not unremittingly hostile to the United States.
“We’ve been thinking about this through the wrong lens,” Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told a Washington audience on Wednesday (March 5). “We don’t have the appropriate participants in the process. Geneva was diplomatic theater without substance” that was “not only useless but harmful.” [emphasis mine]
Itani said the strategy should be to identify opposition nuclei in different parts of Syria, bolster them and gradually try to mesh them into a coherent national force. ...
Where is the leader of the free world while so many countries are fighting desperately for their freedom? On vacation, of course.
From abc news:
Ukraine Doesn't Keep Obama From Florida Vacation
MIAMI March 7, 2014 (AP)
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press
The crisis in Crimea won't keep President Barack Obama from forging ahead with a weekend getaway with his wife and daughters in the Florida Keys.
But it's more than the Oval Office that will be dark as Russia's incursion into Ukraine reaches its one week mark. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife are vacationing in the Virgin Islands. And national security adviser Susan Rice is traveling in the Middle East for meetings with her counterparts.[...]Paul C. Light, who teaches public service at New York University, said Obama would have been wise to remain in Washington. Being in Florida with a still-fluid situation in Ukraine "makes the president look less interested in the issue than he clearly is," Light said. "It's just very bad optics."...
Ya think? Apparently, Mr Light, and abc news for even reporting this, need to drink more kool-aid.
No mention of whether MIC took his red crayons with him.