By Khaled Yacoub Oweis AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian rebel fighters withdrew on Thursday after briefly capturing a historic Christian town in the center of the country as part of a campaign to take control of strategic mountains near Damascus, opposition sources said. Several rebel brigades, including a contingent of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, swept into the town of Maaloula in the Qalamoun mountains on Wednesday after overrunning a roadblock manned by troops and militia loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the sources said. The attack highlighted the delicate position of the Christian minority in Syria, where members of the clerical hierarchy have expressed public support for Assad. The Christian community, while fearing an Islamist takeover, has remained largely in the sidelines since 2001, when it staged peaceful protests against four decades of rule by the Assad family. Few Christians have taken up arms in the civil war that has torn Syria over the past two and a half years, which broadly pits Assad's Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, against the Sunni majority. A sizeable number of the inhabitants of Maaloula, as well as Sarkha and Jabaadeen, two nearby Sunni towns, still speak Aramaic, the language of Christ. "That roadblock at the entrance of Maaloula started hitting our mountain position a few days ago. It was silenced. We never had any intention of staying in Maaloula," said rebel commander Abu Khaled from the Baba Amro Revolutionaries Brigade, named after a district of the city of Homs to the north. Most people in Maaloula fled when the fighting erupted around the roadblock and Syrian fighters bombarded the area on Wednesday. Ten Assad loyalists were killed, but no death toll was immediately available for the rebel side, activists said. "An army unit eliminated members of an terrorist group belonging to the al-Nusra Front northeast of Maaloula and destroyed the tools they use in their crimes," said Syria's official state news agency. Restrictions by Syrian authorities on independent media make verifying these accounts difficult. Rebel brigades have intensified their operations in the past week against army bases in the foothills of the Qalamoun mountains. REBELS EMBOLDENED The rebels have been emboldened by Assad's forces retrenching in response to the threat of U.S. military action in the wake of the nerve gas attack on Damascus districts that killed hundreds of civilians, according to opposition sources. Samia Elias, a resident who stayed in Maaloula, said by phone that Syrian troops and the al-Lijan al-Shaabiya, a pro-Assad militia composed of people from Maaloula, briefly exchanged fire after the rebels had left. "They are blaming each other for the roadblock and those manning it having been wiped out," she said. "For months the rebels have been around Maaloula but there has been a sort of an understanding with the townspeople that they would not enter. To be fair, they do not seem to have touched churches or homes." Maaloula has several churches and important monasteries as well as the Greek Orthodox nunnery Mar Thecla, visited by many Christians and Muslims, drawn by its reputation as a holy place where the sick would be miraculously healed. Pelagia Sayaf, the Mother Superior at Mar Thecla, told Lebanon's al-Jadid television that reports of Christian holy places being pillaged by rebels were not accurate. However, video footage showed a rebel fighter firing a machine gun from the center of Maaloula into a cliff, and a group of rebels carrying rocket propelled grenades and flashing victory signs in the center of the town. "Maaloula has been totally cleansed from the dogs of Bashar," a rebel says in one of the videos. Other footage showed a rebel commander instructing a group of fighters not to target civilians or the Christian symbols in the town. "The rebels have achieved their mission of removing the roadblocks surrounding Maaloula," said Faek al-Mir, a Syrian opposition campaigner. "We ask all the residents who have left the town to go back. Their passage back is safe." Some Christians have been prominent in their opposition to Assad and his late father, Hafez al-Assad. But many fear they will be dominated by hardline Islamists and their livelihood destroyed if Assad is toppled. The Alawite minority's grip on power was cemented in the 1960s by the elder Assad, who forged complex alliances with the Christian ecclesiastical establishment, Sunni clerics and members of the Sunni merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo. Syria has about 850,000 Christians, about 4.5 percent of the population. Of those, about 400,000 are Catholics of the Syrian, Greek Melkite, Maronite, and Chaldean and Armenian churches. (Christopher Wilson)
- The Independent
White nationalist website calls Tucker Carlson’s ‘replacement’ rant ‘one of the best things Fox News has ever aired’
The Fox News host has won the praise of an officially designated hate group after appearing to endorse the racist ‘replacement’ theory
- The Independent
Leaked recording from RNC fundraiser reveals ‘uproarious’ laughter from sponsors for ridicule of former first lady
- The State
The 2021 golf season’s second major championship will be played May 20-23 outside Charleston.
- The Independent
Daunte Wright news – latest: Kim Potter charging decision expected after third night of unrest in Minneapolis
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- The Independent
Senator from Texas hauled in more than $5.3 million in 2021 first quarter
- The Daily Beast
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIAustralia’s ex-prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has long accused Rupert Murdoch of bringing his prime ministership down—and, at a parliamentary hearing Monday, it was very clear that he’s out for revenge.Turnbull, a former journalist who has known Murdoch for more than four decades, delivered a furious takedown of one of his country’s most notorious sons during Monday’s evidence session. He accused Murdoch of doing more to divide America than Vladimir Putin and blamed his media empire for causing the presidency of Donald Trump as well as the Capitol riot that marked the disgraceful climax of his time in power.“What does Vladimir Putin want to do with his operations in America? He wants to divide America and turn Americans against each other,” said the ex-PM, who first met Murdoch in 1974. “That is exactly what Murdoch has done: Divided Americans against each other and so undermined their faith in political institutions that a mob of thousands of people, many of them armed, stormed the Capitol.”Strong words from Malcolm Turnbull about Murdoch's attacks on Australian Muslims to the #MediaDiversityInquiryHe says Murdoch is "essentially doing the work of the terrorists" by reinforcing their message that Muslims aren't accepted in our society. #MurdochRoyalCommission pic.twitter.com/2VaPV4EBtN— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) April 12, 2021 The former PM, who led Australia’s center-right party from 2015 to 2018, was invited to give evidence to the inquiry that was launched after a petition calling for a probe into Murdoch’s media empire was signed by half a million Australians. Turnbull is the second former prime minister to rip into Murdoch in front of the inquiry. Kevin Rudd, who led Australia’s center-left party, said, “Everyone’s frightened of Murdoch.”Turnbull said that, although Murdoch has had far too much influence in the political processes of his own country, he was particularly sickened to see what the media mogul achieved with Trump in America. He went as far as to suggest that Trump’s relationship with Fox News was similar to the unwaveringly loyal state media in authoritarian countries.“I’ve hung around billionaire media proprietors for a long time. I have never seen a politician as deferential to a media proprietor as Trump was to Murdoch, ever, in any country,” said the former leader. “Murdoch’s media in the U.S. had a symbiotic relationship with Trump.”One of the most blistering complaints that Turnbull leveled at Murdoch and his journalists is that they essentially carry out propaganda work for terrorists by stoking hate for minorities. The former prime minister said that, while he was in power, he did everything he could to try and overcome that division but that his efforts were often drowned out.Turnbull makes the case for #MurdochRoyalCommission, saying Murdoch’s News Corp operates like "a political party" but is unelected and unaccountable."Where does this end? Well, we saw that (at the US Capitol) on the 6th of January," he tells the #MediaDiversityInquiry. pic.twitter.com/8VAdcNzJTO— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) April 12, 2021 ‘These voices on the populist right, particularly from Murdoch’s organization, are essentially doing the work of the terrorists,” said the ex-prime minister. “They regularly seek to incite animosity towards minorities, particularly Muslims.”Turnbull concluded that News Corp. had essentially become a political party that wasn’t accountable to anyone. He said that its network pumps out climate denialism and incites violence against minorities, and he also accused it of playing a crucial part in disseminating the 2020 election disinformation that resulted in the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this year.“If you don't think that is a threat to American democracy and undermining the strength and capability of our most important ally, then, you know, you are kidding yourself,” Turnbull told lawmakers.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Independent
Fox News host under fire for defending white nationalist conspiracy theory
- Architectural Digest
These fantastical houses range from a 64,000-acre Texas ranch to an oceanside estate in the south of France Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
"Damn, this driving s--- isn't all fun and games," the "Deja Vu" singer said about receiving a parking violation from the City of Los Angeles.
- The Independent
One of the police officers involved has been sacked
- LA Times
A bill under consideration would try to make it easier to report and prosecute hate crimes against Asian Americans.
- Associated Press
Two nights after dominating the Nets, the defending champions got a look at how much better the New York Knicks are defensively. Julius Randle had 34 points and 10 rebounds against his former team and the Knicks beat the Lakers 111-96 on Monday night for their third straight victory. Coming off tense finishes against Memphis and Toronto, the Knicks led comfortably for much of the fourth quarter and moved back above .500 at 28-27, bouncing back nicely after narrow losses to Brooklyn and Boston last week.
Yogurt was everywhere as volunteers opened boxes of fruit, frozen meat and dairy products that had shifted and spilled in transit to a food bank in Walworth County, Wisconsin. The food came from The Farmers to Families Food Box program that the Trump administration launched to feed out-of-work Americans with food rescued from farmers who would otherwise throw it away as the coronavirus pandemic upended food supply chains. The government hired hundreds of private companies last spring to buy food no longer needed by restaurants, schools and cruise ships and haul it to overwhelmed food banks.
- The Independent
During a memorial service at the US Capitol Rotunda for Officer William Evans, President Joe Biden picked up a toy dropped by the officer’s daughter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told his family that while “no words are adequate” to address their loss, “we hope it’s a comfort to you that so many now know about your dad and know he’s a hero”. “And that the President of the United States is picking up one of your distractions.” Officer Evans was killed outside the Capitol on 2 April after a driver struck two officers before slamming into a security barrier outside the Capitol, then exited the car with a knife, according to police.
- The Independent
Brazil’s death toll stands at 358,425 deaths, the second worst-hit country in the world by Covid-19
Hank Azaria feels he needs to 'personally apologize' to every Indian in America for voicing Apu in 'The Simpsons'
Hank Azaria said that the depiction of Apu, an Indian convenience-store worker, in "The Simpsons" is "practically a slur at this point."
- The Telegraph
Iran said Tuesday it would dramatically increase its uranium enrichment levels in response to an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, a further breach of its nuclear deal with world powers that ongoing talks are struggling to salvage. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who is leading negotiations in Vienna on saving the nuclear deal, said Tehran would begin enriching uranium to 60 per cent purity on Wednesday, according to state TV, up from the 20 per cent it is currently producing. Tehran has informed the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, which declined to comment. The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action limited enrichment to 3.67 per cent but Iran has progressively reduced its adherence to the pact since former president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States three years ago. Enrichment of this level is still short of the 90 per cent needed to produce nuclear weapons. There are civilian applications for highly enriched uranium, including for research and fuel for nuclear-powered ships. Mr Araghchi cited medical purposes as the ostensible reason for the 1,000 new centrifuges that he said would be added to the Natanz facility, which was damaged in an apparent sabotage attack last week that Iran blamed on Israel. Foreign Minister Javad Zarid said on Tuesday that Israel had made a "very bad gamble if it thought that the attack will weaken Iran’s hand in the nuclear talks. On the contrary, it will strengthen our position.” Israel has not formally commented on the incident. Iran promised revenge for the attack. The move to increase enrichment – which could enable Iran’s growing uranium stockpile to be further enriched to weapons-grade in a shorter time frame – will up the ante for talks in the Austrian capital this week. One of the core aims of the 2015 deal was to extend the time the Islamic Republic would need to accumulate enough fissile material to produce an atomic warhead from less than three months to a year. Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons. The remaining signatories to the agreement – Iran, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China – are discussing a US return to the pact. A delegation from Washington is in Vienna but is not meeting directly with Iranian officials. Israel vehemently opposes the United States returning to the agreement, arguing instead for a new deal that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its support for proxy forces across the region, which have carried out attacks on shipping and Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday, Iranian-backed al-Alam TV reported that an Israeli-owned vessel was struck off the coast of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. There were no reported casualties and no immediate claim of responsibility. The Bahamas-flagged Hyperion Ray, which is owned by Tel Aviv-based Ray shipping company, was struck by an Iranian ballistic missile, causing minor damage, security sources told Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 news. Iran and Israel have reportedly been engaged in tit-for-tat strikes on shipping in the region for months, while Tehran accuses Israel of a spate of audacious strikes on its nuclear programme inside Iran.
Sharon Johal says she faced taunts and mockery of her Indian background from other castmates.
- The Independent
Less support for requirement to carry card with them to enter a business
The 2014 student abductions led to a plan backed by the UK but little has come of it seven years on.