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NBC News Reporter Richard Engel and Team Recount Kidnapping in Syria: VIDEO

Engel

NBC News reporter Richard Engel were kidnapped for five days in Syria and were recently freed at a checkpoint and are now in Turkey. Engel spoke with the Today show this morning about their experience.

Watch the very relieved team tell their story, AFTER THE JUMP...

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New York Mural Addresses Gay Rights In The Middle East

NYCIsraelMural

The Birthright Israel Alumni Community and a coalition of artists called Artists 4 Israel recently unveiled a new mural in New York's West Village that aims to compare and contrast the LGBT politics of countries in the Middle East.

The New York Times offers more details:

The mural shows the outlines of two men holding hands below the headline: Who Would YOU want at Your Wedding? The male figures also hold up two balancing scales that offer a stark contrast between the state of gay rights in Israel and in some of its Arabic neighbors.

Above one scale, the text notes that Israel lets same-sex couples adopt children, that “gay people serve openly in the military and government” there and that more than 10,000 people celebrated at Tel Aviv’s 2011 Pride Parade.

On the other scale, labeled “Israel’s neighbors,” the text says that homosexuality is illegal in Syria and punishable by death in Iran. “There is no pride parade in Egypt, Jordan or Gaza,” the mural reads.

Rebecca Sugar, director of Birthright's alumni group, told the paper, "There is only one country in the Middle East where you can live freely, as you are. The surrounding countries who accuse Israel of prejudice and bias are prejudiced and biased.”

Others, however, described the mural as "Arab-bashing."

"[The mural is] blatantly divisive, opposing Israel against its neighbors in the region," said Adem Carroll from the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition. "Is this very negative messaging an encouragement to Arab nations to implement broader rights protections, or will it have a more negative backlash effect?”


NEWS: Homs, Tornados, And Miley Cyrus

HomsBlast
Towleroad-roadicon The situation worsens in Homs.

Towleroad-roadicon Here's a video of government explosives detonating in the middle of a peaceful crowd.

Towleroad-roadicon ... Reuters: Red Cross can't get through ... "A major assault on Homs took place yesterday ... We continue to received grisly reports of summary executions, arbitrary detentions and torture." ... "They are torturing them and killing (detainees) one by one. They are executing them in batches."

Towleroad-roadicon INDICTED: Javaris Bradford, the fourth criminal thug fingered in the beating of Brandon White.

Towleroad-roadicon From The Advocate: Homophobes to gather at Oxford ...

Christian Concern ... opposed antidiscrimination laws and is currently fighting efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, and a related organization, the Christian Legal Centre, is helping a psychotherapist appeal her conviction of malpractice by offering an undercover journalist a “cure” for homosexuality. The U.S.-based Alliance Defense Fund, a right-wing legal group, is also involved with the conference.

... Gay students, and many Christians, will be deeply offended to see extremist groups given a platform at Exeter College,” Sam Dick, policy director for the gay rights group Stonewall, told the Oxford Student, a campus newspaper. 

Towleroad-roadicon Even if Santorum wins Ohio, he can't win Ohio's delegates:

Santorum ... has already forsaken nine delegates by not being on ballots in three Ohio congressional districts.

... Santorum failed to file a full complement of delegates in six additional districts, said central committee member Bob Bennett. The holes add up to another nine delegates, for a total of 18 out of the 63 up for grabs. Santorum also did not file all 18 of his at-large delegates.

Towleroad-roadicon ... but, says Joe Nocera, Santorum is excellent for the Republican Party, and we should all root for him:

If Mitt Romney takes the nomination and then loses to Obama, the extremists who’ve taken over the party will surely say the problem was Romney’s lack of ideological purity. If, however, Santorum is the nominee — and then loses in a landslide — the party will no longer be able to delude itself about where its ideological rigidity has taken it.

An alcoholic doesn’t stop drinking until he hits bottom. The Republican Party won’t change until it hits bottom.

Towleroad-roadicon American Conservative: Why we can't have a Christian republic.

Towleroad-roadicon Judge revokes license of bad teenage driver -- for life. Bad teen driver gets for life.

Towleroad-roadicon It's no crime to break an unjust law: The deportation of a valedictorian

Tornado Towleroad-roadicon How many people can fit in Manhattan?

Towleroad-roadicon Authors Kergan Edwards-Stout and Gregory G. Allen have an enlightening chat about AIDS, literature, and the quirks'n'perks of modern publishing.

Towleroad-roadicon Miley Cyrus grows up; becomes a Lawrence Krauss fan, secular humanist, and moral disappointment to millions of Bible Belt fans.

Towleroad-roadicon Tornados wreak havoc across five states; at least 38 die.

Towleroad-roadicon Some people were saved. And some who were saved believe they were saved by magic

Towleroad-roadicon WATCH: The disgustingly cute spectacle of a one-year-old who can play drums. AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "NEWS: Homs, Tornados, And Miley Cyrus" »


On The Ground In Homs: VIDEO

Homs
A very brave freelance documentarian has been shooting for weeks in the embattled Syrian city of Homs, where for nearly a month the forces of President Bashar al-Assad have been shelling residential neighborhoods. The documentarian has befriended members of the anti-Assad rebellion, and he records his videos in their midst -- battling government snipers in room-to-room combat, firefighting in the streets, tending to the dead. The video he's compiled and released to CNN represents some of the best and bravest war reporting I've seen in any format.

The video's twelve minutes long, and a lot of it will stick with you. I was especially struck by two things. First: Eight minutes and twenty some-odd seconds into the film, three men greet each other on a Homsian street, hugging and kissing, seemingly on the verge of tears. They look like friends or brothers who didn't expect to see each other alive again. Second: At video's end, a grandmother watches over a brood of children. Some of her own children are dead, but we don't know how many. She may not know either. She's utterly still, too furious and aggrieved even to scream.

Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Obama Calls On Syria's Assad To Step Down

AssadProtest

After waffling on the subject of Bashar Nassad's crackdown on dissidents, President Obama this morning called on the Syrian president to step down.

"The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.  We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside," Obama said in his statement.

The commander-in-chief has also ordered financial sanctions against Syria: "I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria."

Obama was sure to note, however, that his executive order and statement should no indicate that the United States government plans on playing a role in Syria's transition: "The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement."

European leaders from France, Germany and the United Kingdom are also calling for Assad to resign.

Read Obama's entire statement, AFTER THE JUMP...

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'Anonymous' Hacks Syrian Ministry of Defense Website

Syria

Hacker group Anonymous took over the website of the Syrian Ministry of Defense website (which is still down as of this posting), replacing text on its front page with a message:

“To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side - tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the mor violent they are, the more fragile they become. We salute your determination to be non-violent in the face fo the regime's brutality, and admire your willingness to purse justice, not mere revene. All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery Bashar Al-Assad is next. … To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country — rise up against the regime!”


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