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U.N. Unites on Syria, Violence Spills into Lebanon

© ReutersSyrian army tanks are seen in Deir al-Zour city March 21, 2012.
Amman - The U.N. Security Council, including Russia and China, threw its weight on Wednesday behind efforts by Kofi Annan to end the bloody conflict in Syria, providing a rare moment of global unity in the face of the year-long crisis.

In a statement approved by all its 15 members, the council threatened Syria with unspecified "further steps" if it failed to comply with Annan's peace plan, which calls for a ceasefire and demands swift access for aid agencies.

Although the original statement was diluted at Russia's demand, editing out any specific ultimatums, the fact that all world powers signed up to the proposal dealt a serious diplomatic blow to President Bashar al-Assad as he battles a popular uprising.

"To President Assad and his regime we say, along with the rest of the international community: take this path, commit to it, or face increasing pressure and isolation," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Washington.

The conflict spilled over Syria's borders late on Wednesday when several shells hit the Lebanese border village of al-Qaa and nearby fields, injuring one person, residents said.

Al-Qaa, 10 km (six miles) from the Syrian border, has been the first stop for many of the 7,000 Syrian refugees who have fled fighting into Lebanon.

Refugees complain that they are pursued by Syrian forces, who have often fired across the border, but al-Qaa residents said this was the first time artillery has been used.

Bad Guys

U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran

© Matt Dunham/The Associated PressGen. James N. Mattis, who commands American forces in the Middle East, was said to be troubled by results of the war game.
US, Washington - A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.

The officials said the so-called war game was not designed as a rehearsal for American military action - and they emphasized that the exercise's results were not the only possible outcome of a real-world conflict.

But the game has raised fears among top American planners that it may be impossible to preclude American involvement in any escalating confrontation with Iran, the officials said. In the debate among policy makers over the consequences of any Israeli attack, that reaction may give stronger voice to those in the White House, Pentagon and intelligence community who have warned that a strike could prove perilous for the United States.

The results of the war game were particularly troubling to Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands all American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, according to officials who either participated in the Central Command exercise or who were briefed on the results and spoke on condition of anonymity because of its classified nature. When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the officials, General Mattis told aides that an Israeli first strike would be likely to have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.

The two-week war game, called Internal Look, played out a narrative in which the United States found it was pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, according to officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then retaliated by carrying out its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.


Witness of Montauban shooting saw fat man with scar or tattoo on left cheek

© AFP/PASCAL PAVANIMontauban (Tarn-et-Garonne), yesterday. Flowers are left at the cashpoint where two soldiers were killed and another seriously wounded last Thursday.
One week after the murder of a soldier in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne) and three days after the death of two parachutists in Montauban and the serious wounds undergone by a third, investigations are continuing into the identity of the killer.

Investigators have in particular the testimony of one resident of Montauban who exchanged glances with the person who coldly and methodically unloaded bullets on three soldiers of the 17th RGP of Montauban in front of astonished passersby. The Montalbanaise described a rather corpulent man of intermediate size.

The killer hustled me, it was turned over and in the movement, the visor of its helmet was concerned a few centimetres, I then saw a tattooing or a scar on the level of his left cheek. I also foresaw his eyes through the visor. It had a cold glance of an alarming clearness. A glance which one does not forget, he told the Dépêche Midi and RTL.

On Friday, judicial authorities formally connected the murder in Toulouse to the double-assassination in Montauban, gathering files from the hands of the District Attorney of Haute-Garonne. The motivations of the killer remain a enigma and the investigators do not privilege any line of enquiry. Despite the absence of anyone being held in police custody or any arrests being made, the investigation continues.

The 23 year old man who supposedly has confessed to the crimes and membership of al Qaeda is not exactly "rather corpulent" nor does he sport any scars or tattoos on his left cheek.

So we're supposed to believe that this punk, who was seen in a nightclub not three weeks ago, has been living a secret life as an al Qaeda cell member? And is so unbelievably focussed that he could shoot 8 people in the head, while calming reloading his gun and ignoring the chaos around him?

Eye 1

Saying No to an Optional Iris Photo Has Its Consequences

© unknown

As fellow Occupy Wall Street protesters who had been arrested on Saturday were being arraigned, Dallas Pesola remained in a holding cell on Sunday night, essentially being punished for not submitting to what was supposed to be a voluntary photograph of his irises.

Mr. Pesola was released on Monday after spending 48 hours in custody, double the maximum time for arraignments set in 1990 by a state Supreme Court judge. After his release, he said that he declined the iris photographs because he did not believe the police were entitled to pictures of his eyes.

"I got that creepy feeling like Big Brother wants to get closer to me," he said. "They really don't have a right to that information."

Eye 1

NYPD Forces Retina Scan on Occupy Wall Street Activists

OWS protest

It remains unclear whether there is compelling state interest in forcing retina scans on peaceful protesters exercising their right to free speech in a public place, but that's just what the New York Police Department is doing to the Occupy Wall Street activists.

Over 90 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested Saturday afternoon, and some were arraigned yesterday in Manhattan Criminal Court, but not before learning that the cost of their bail would spike exponentially - or that the opportunity to post bail would be denied arbitrarily - if protesters did not submit to retina scans.

Activists and lawyers alike were surprised yesterday to learn that the size of protesters' bail was being punitively affected by whether defendants were willing to have the distinctive patterns of their irises photographed and logged into a database.

Eye 1

Club bouncers and FBI spies keep us safe from the terrorists

scary symbols
The post-9/11 hysteria over terrorist threats continues to the day, taking many forms. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is poised to give final approval tomorrow (Tues/20) to limitations on the SFPD's participation in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, legislation that ever-vigilant Mayor Ed Lee may veto.

Star of David

Baroness Ashton and Jewish Sensitivities

The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy was criticised yesterday for comparing the killing of three children and a rabbi in a shooting attack in France to the situation in Gaza.

At the "Palestine refugees in the changing Middle East" conference in Brussels, Baroness Ashton, described the murders in Toulouse as a "terrible tragedy", but she then added: "When we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world - we remember young people and children who lose their lives."

Comment: "We remember young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances - the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world - we remember young people and children who lose their lives."

Seemingly some prominent Jewish and Israeli leaders couldn't agree less. For them Jewish suffering exceeds all other suffering and Palestinian's in particular.

The London Jewish Chronicle quoted some of the outraged critics. "Even when read in context, Ashton's words are beyond unacceptable," said Oliver Worth, the British chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students. He said they were "truly outrageous and revolting" and called for her to resign because she had "lost all credibility". And yet, Mr Worth fails to explain why is it "outrageous and revolting" to equate Jewish suffering with Palestinian one.


Israel to receive 6th nuclear-capable submarine from Germany

© ReutersAn Israeli Dolphin-class submarine docs
Self-proclaimed Jewish state signs agreement with Germany for sixth Dolphin-class submarine, capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak signed an agreement with Germany on Wednesday to supply Israel with a sixth Dolphin-class submarine.

Radio Israel said the submarines were capable of carrying cruise missiles equipped with nuclear warheads.

The Israeli army boasts three German-built Dolphin-class subs, two of which were bought in 1991, and will receive another two as part of a 2006 purchase agreement. When exactly the sixth Dolphin will be delivered remains unknown.

Cell Phone

Toulouse 'gunman' contacts France 24 to give Sarkozy election windfall

Someone claiming to be the Toulouse shooter called and spoke to FRANCE 24 editor Ebba Kalondo.

Comment: Sarkozy's Backers To Use Toulouse Attacks To Steal French Election