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Syria Unleashes Force on Protesters Demanding Freedom as Unrest Spreads

Troops reportedly open fire on anti-regime demonstrators as protests spread from Syria's south to Damascus and Aleppo

Pro-Assad demonstrators in Syria
© Hussein Malla/AP
Pro-Assad demonstrators in Syria. Brief clashes in Damascus were reported between anti-regime demonstrators and loyalists.
Demonstrations in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and elsewhere were met with force as security forces struggled to contain unrest that had begun in the southern city of Deraa a week ago.

Thousands once again joined funeral processions in Deraa on Friday, chanting: "Deraa people are hungry, we want freedom."

Hundreds took to the streets in the cities of Homs, Hama, Tel and Latakia and in towns surrounding Deraa, with smaller protests in the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo, which are more firmly under the watch of security forces. Troops reportedly opened fire in some cases.

Protests in the capital are rare and not tolerated by the Ba'athist regime. A witness told the Guardian that efforts at protests in Damascus were broken up by plain-clothed agents using batons.

By nightfall, a counter-demonstration had been mounted near the historic Umayyad mosque in the heart of the capital. Brief clashes were reported between anti-regime demonstrators and loyalists. A large rally then began in support of President Bashar al-Assad. Hundreds drove around the capital beeping horns and waving flags, whilst posters of the president were put up in the city.


Canada: Government's defeat sets up election call

© Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
Government falls Prime Minister Stephen Harper votes against a Liberal contempt of Parliament motion in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill Friday.
It's official - the government has fallen from power, clearing the way for a spring election.

The opposition Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois came together Friday afternoon in a historic vote to say they no longer have confidence in the Conservative government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed reporters after the vote and said he would meet with the Governor General on Saturday "to inform him of the situation and to take the only course of action that remains," referring to the dissolution of Parliament and an immediate election campaign.

Harper began his remarks by saying that while Canada's economic recovery has been strong, the global economy is still fragile.

"The budget presented this week by the minister of finance, the next phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan, is critically important," Harper said.

"There's nothing - nothing - in the budget that the opposition could not or should not have supported. Unfortunately Mr. Ignatieff and his coalition partners, the NDP and the Bloc, had already decided they wanted to force an election instead," Harper said. "The fourth election in seven years. An election Canadians clearly don't want."

"Thus the vote today that disappoints me, will, I expect, disappoint Canadians," Harper said.

He did not take questions.


Government tightens lid on dolphin death probe


Baby Bottlenose Dolphin dead on beach at Gulf of Mexico (2011)
BP marine life massacre continues

Biloxi, Mississippi - The U.S. government is keeping a tight lid on its probe into scores of unexplained dolphin deaths along the Gulf Coast, possibly connected to last year's BP oil spill, causing tension with some independent marine scientists.

Wildlife biologists contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service to document spikes in dolphin mortality and to collect specimens and tissue samples for the agency were quietly ordered late last month to keep their findings confidential.

The gag order was contained in an agency letter informing outside scientists that its review of the dolphin die-off, classified as an "unusual mortality event (UME)," had been folded into a federal criminal investigation launched last summer into the oil spill.


Syrian People Outraged Over Government Shootings in Deraa

Human rights groups say that more than 100 people may have been killed when troops opened fire on a mosque

protesters in daraa
© Reuters
Protesters drag away a body as it lies among others in a street during a demonstration in Daraa.
Syria's government pledged to consider protesters' "legitimate demands" after thousands took to the streets for the funerals of nine people killed by the military.

Rights activists described Wednesday's shootings in the southern city of Deraa as a massacre, claiming that more than 100 people may have been killed when troops fired on a mosque in the early hours and throughout the day.

With protests called for after Friday prayers, Buthaina Shaaban, adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, announced that the government would consider ending Syria's emergency law and revise legislation for political parties and the media. Similar reform pledges have been announced in the past, and are unlikely to satisfy protesters.

In Deraa, funeral-goers chanted "God, Syria, Freedom" and "The blood of martyrs is not spilt in vain!", Reuters news agency reported. Some reports said that up to 20,000 people attended, but this could not be verified. The city has been cordoned off .

Deraa's hospital reported receiving 37 bodies from Wednesday's violence. YouTube videos apparently showed bloody scenes at the mosque.


Japan Requests U.S. To Block Popular Websites?

© Unknown
In a recent effort to improve recovery efforts from the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, the military has decided to block the use of certain websites from its network. Japanese military has reported that these sites are not being blocked due to any content reason but solely to improve the bandwidth necessary for militaristic needs. On Monday the U.S. Pacific Command received a request to block the 13 highest traffic usage sites commonly used on military networks such as YouTube, Google Video, Amazon, eBay, Myspace, and MTV.com.

On a more interesting note to the bandwidth control is the continuing use of Facebook in Japan. The site is considered one of the highest bandwidth usage portals in the region, but it will stay up and running due to its growing use by deployed military personnel. Facebook is the most common way to stay in contact with loved ones and was decided to be an important tool in the recovery of the disaster.

Green Light

Whistling Past the Graveyard: China to Sell Outdated Nuclear Reactors to Pakistan

© Agence France-Presse
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu responds to questions during a press briefing in Beijing, March 22, 2011
China is pressing ahead with nuclear energy cooperation with Pakistan, despite concerns that it is shipping decades-old technology to its South Asian neighbor. This comes as China suspended approvals for new nuclear power plants within China to review safety standards following the recent earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan.

Chinese authorities have already suspended approvals of new nuclear plants within the country because of safety concerns sparked by the disasters in Japan.

But when Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was asked Thursday about whether Beijing is similarly concerned about exporting outdated nuclear technology to Pakistan, she dismissed it as unrelated.

Jiang says there are no direct links to the two issues. She says the Chinese government wants to see "orderly and reasonable" nuclear development in China, and is especially concerned about safety.

As for Pakistan, though, she said only that China and Pakistan's nuclear cooperation has been under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Comment: Even after the illusion of safety in nuclear power has been torn down, with consequences yet to be seen, the powers that be will continue to build nuclear reactors.

With the accelerating Earth changes we are all witness to, these power plants equate to over-sized 'dirty bombs', just waiting for an environmental trigger to set them off.

Light Sabers

Canada: Opposition Lines Up Against Government

With the government unwilling to amend its budget, all three opposition leaders said they are prepared to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government on a motion of non-confidence Friday.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Wednesday his party was giving notice it would introduce the motion. NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe both said they would support it.

Ignatieff said Harper has shown a "flagrant disregard" for democracy and failed on its economic agenda, and as a result, "the moment has come" for Canadians to make a choice between the Liberals and Conservatives.

Following a busy morning of the Prime Minister Stephen Harper and all three opposition leaders speaking to the media about their intentions over the coming days, the Conservatives and opposition parties squared off over the budget and other matters during a lively question period.

War Whore

Israeli warplanes strike 4 Gaza targets

© unknown
Israeli fighter jets
Israeli fighter jets have struck four targets in the Gaza Strip, injuring several Palestinians, security sources and witnesses said.

The four strikes were launched on Gaza on Thursday evening and injured three Palestinians, AFP reported.

It follows three airstrikes carried out on Gaza early Thursday morning, targeting the city as well as a tunnel near the Egyptian border at Rafah.

On Tuesday, at least 10 Palestinians, including four children, were killed and dozens injured after an Israeli tank fired shots at a home in the Gaza Strip.

Adham Abu Selmiya an emergency services spokesman said the deaths occurred when Israel "opened fire on young people who were playing football in Shejaiya on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City.


NATO to Take Command of Libya Operation: Report

© Stringer/Reuters
Turkish parliament convenes Thursday in Ankara to debate the government's decision to participate in a NATO naval operation to enforce an arms embargo to Libya.
NATO appeared on Thursday to move closer to assuming command of the military operation in Libya when Turkey's foreign minister was quoted as saying an agreement has been reached.

The alliance needs the approval of all 28 of its members in order to co-ordinate the operation, and Turkey had set conditions on that role for NATO.

"The coalition that was formed following the Paris meeting will abandon the mission and hand it over entirely to a single command system under NATO," Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying by Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency.

"All of Turkey's concerns, demands on the issue have been met," he said, and NATO has promised to complete the work needed to take over the Libya mission "within one or two days."

Bad Guys

Mossad being lazy on homeground, or please excuse the blatant Zionist propaganda: Mystery Deepens over Deadly Jerusalem Bus Bomb

© Bernat Armangue / Associated Press
Two buses damaged in an explosion, center and right, are seen in this general view in Jerusalem, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The package bomb that exploded at a busy Jerusalem bus stop Wednesday, killing a 60-year-old British woman and wounding 39, was exceptional in more ways than one. The holy city hasn't had a terrorist attacks since 2008, so the homemade explosive sent a charge through a sprawling metropolis that, in a matter of minutes, became clogged with impromptu checkpoints and rush hour traffic funneling into single lanes to pass them.

But the nature of the strike was exceptional, too. Police say only about four pounds of explosives were tucked into a bag leaning against a telephone pole - suspiciously enough that the owner of a nearby kiosk phoned it in moments before it exploded. David Amoyal named his stand, "A Blast of a Kiosk" after it was all but destroyed in 1994 by a Palestinian wearing a suicide vest. It's the kind of detonation Israelis learned to expect during the first years of the 21st Century, when suicide attacks became almost routine.