The Envoy
  • Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma in Paris 2010. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

    As the Syrian death toll continues to mount, countries from around the world have vehemently condemned its leader Bashar al-Assad for prolonging his bloody, year-long crackdown on unrest. But the dictator and his London-born wife Asma al-Assad appear to live in a surreal psychological bubble, insulated from the grotesque violence that has claimed the lives of 8,000 Syrians, according to a cache of some 3,000 alleged emails and documents obtained by Syrian activists and published by the Guardian Wednesday.

    The supposed emails portray a dictator both sentimental and sinister. Assad, who allegedly used the email address according to the hacked emails, took to his iPad to send his wife American country music favorites from iTunes and to search for "America's Got Talent" videos. In addition to the light fare, he also sent out rabidly paranoid articles to his inner circle that accuse the American envoy to Syria of recruiting al-Qaida-linked "Arab 'death squads'" to try to topple him, as the Guardian reports:

    Assad's emails reveal his inner fears and suspicions. On 16 October, as the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, called for international action to avoid "full-blown civil war" in Syria, Assad circulated from his iPad an article to a list of undisclosed recipients an article alleging that the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was responsible for "recruiting Arab 'death squads' from al-Qaida-affiliated units in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Chechnya to fight against Syrian military and police".

    He sent another rabid article to his wife on 23 July that described Rupert Murdoch as a Jew and an Israeli citizen and "pretty much" Satan.

    But the dictator, who trained as an eye doctor in the UK before assuming the Syrian presidency from his late father Hafaz al-Assad, also "kept up a flow of personal, loving emails to his wife using the disguised accounts....Sometimes he searched the internet for video clips that impressed him, on one occasion sending her a clip from America's Got Talent of 'the best illusion of all time' — a man appearing to saw another man in half and then putting him back together again, to the delight of the judges David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan," the Guardian wrote.

    The hacked emails show his wife Asma al-Assad (who allegedly used the email address, to be mostly obsessed with luxury shopping.

    Read More »from Assad’s in-box: Alleged emails of Syrian dictator and wife give glimpse into inner circle
  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is safe after a hijacked truck rushed an airfield runway ramp as his plane was landing in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, Pentagon officials and journalists traveling with him report.

    An Afghan civilian who worked on the base "stole a military pickup truck, rammed through a fence, and crashed into a ditch by a runway" around the time Panetta's plane was preparing to land, the Washington Post reported. Panetta's plane was diverted to another runway.

    The NATO-led force in Afghanistan "is aware of a stolen vehicle incident today at Camp Bastion, which resulted in the injury of one coalition service member," the International Security Assistance Force command (ISAF) said in a statement sent to Yahoo News Wednesday. "The alleged perpetrator was apprehended by base security personnel. We are currently investigating to determine more facts."

    "At no point was the Secretary or anyone on the aircraft in any danger from this incident," it said.

    Pentagon officials said it was not clear that Panetta's plane was specifically targeted by the hijacker, who was identified as an Afghan civilian who worked on the British base, Camp Bastion, as a translator. He later died of his wounds overnight, the Pentagon said. A NATO soldier was wounded by the truck before it crashed.

    Read More »from Panetta safe after truck charges Helmand airfield while plane landing
  • Actor and activist George Clooney testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday about the Sudanese government's bombing and violence against civilians near its border with South Sudan.

    "I want to separate what is fact and what is fiction," Clooney, who just returned from an eight-day trip to Sudan with human-rights activist John Prendergast, told the committee. "The government of Sudan, led by Omar al-Bashir, Ahmed Haroun and defense minister Hussein, the same three men who orchestrated the atrocities in Darfur, have turned their bombs on the Nuban people. Now, these are not military targets. These are innocent men, women and children. That is a fact."

    Three days ago, shortly before Clooney and Prendergast crossed the border in the Nuba Mountains, 15 bombs were dropped on a village, the actor said. "When we got there, we found children filled with shrapnel, including a nine-year-old boy who had both of his hands blown off."

    Clooney continued: "As we met with their leaders, we were also met with three, 300-millimeter rockets fired overhead. We witnessed hundreds of people running to the hills to hide in caves for their safety. That happens every day."

    Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Sudan, March 14, 2012. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    Clooney and Prendergast co-founded the Satellite Sentinel Project, an organization that uses satellite imagery to monitor the human rights situation in the region. South Sudan won formal independence from Sudan in 2011, following a two-decade civil war.

    The Sudanese government in Khartoum, Clooney said, is leading "a campaign of murder, and fear, and displacement, and starvationand that is also a fact."

    "These are war crimes," Clooney added. "When you are indiscriminately bombing innocent civilians, you are committing war crimes. It's a cowardly act."

    Read More »from George Clooney to Senate on Sudan violence: ‘We found children filled with shrapnel’


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