By Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) - Insurgents seized a historic town in southern Syria from the government on Wednesday, a group monitoring the war said, part of a rebel counter-attack to stop Damascus reclaiming the border zone near Israel and Jordan. A Syrian military source reported heavy fighting with armed groups on Tuesday night in and around Bosra al-Sham, whose ancient city is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. "We are investigating the facts in the field," the source said. An alliance of mainstream rebels who are backed by Western and Arab foes of President Bashar al-Assad said they had taken Bosra and declared the start of a new attack against government forces in another area of Deraa province to the northwest. Bosra's historic sites include a citadel built around a second century Roman amphitheatre. The area was the capital of the Roman province of Arabia. Syria's southwestern corner is of strategic importance due to its proximity to Damascus and neighboring states Israel and Jordan. It is also the last significant foothold of mainstream rebels, who have mostly been crushed elsewhere in Syria by government forces or jihadist groups. An offensive launched by Assad's forces in early February made quick gains but its territorial advance then slowed. The mainstream rebels, known as "The Southern Front", say they have received more military support from Assad's foreign foes since the start of the push by the Syrian army and allied militia including the Lebanese group Hezbollah. Support to the Southern Front groups has been channeled via Jordan, a staunch ally of the United States. Washington says Assad has lost legitimacy and must leave power, although its focus has switched to fighting the Islamic State jihadist group that has seized swathes of northern and eastern Syria as well as chunks of Iraq. The monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 21 insurgents had been killed in four days of fighting for Bosra, some 20 km (12 miles) north of the border with Jordan. FIGHTING IN WEST, NORTHWEST The spokesman for the Southern Front alliance said 85 percent of the fighters who took part in the attack were from mainstream rebel groups and the rest from Islamist factions. The Nusra Front, al Qaeda's wing in Syria, did not take part, said spokesman Issam al-Rayyes. The Southern Front launched the attack because the army had been mobilizing pro-government militia in Bosra for a new stage of its offensive in the south, he added. The new attack announced by the Southern Front on Wednesday was aimed at taking Jadieh, some 80 km (50 miles) to the northwest of Bosra. The Syrian military said it had "thwarted an attempt by terrorist groups to infiltrate" a road in that area, killing a number of them and destroying two of their vehicles. In its daily report on military developments, the army also said it had inflicted heavy casualties on insurgents elsewhere in Deraa province. The rebels say they are waging a guerrilla campaign against the army and allied militias. "Our strategy was not to hold on to territory, but to attack in areas where the regime was not expecting it," Rayyes said. The southwestern corner of Syria is seen as a priority for the Damascus government as it tries to shore up its control over western regions including the cities of Homs and Hama, the border with Lebanon and the coast. In northwest Syria hardline Islamists including the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham have launched an offensive to take the city of Idlib from the government. The Observatory reported heavy clashes between the sides on Wednesday. The Nusra Front ignited a car bomb on Idlib's outskirts, it said, identifying two of the bombers as Gulf Arabs. Idlib governor Kheir Eddin al-Sayid told Syrian state TV the attackers had been unable to enter the city and had sustained heavy losses. In fighting near the Lebanese border, the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters cut an insurgent supply route from Syria toward the Lebanese border town of Arsal, officials said. Twenty-three militants were killed. (Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Gareth Jones/Hugh Lawson)
- Yahoo News
If it takes a miracle for Trump to stay in office, evangelicals like Michele Bachmann are fine with that
As the inevitability of President Trump’s loss became apparent even to his acolyte Kellyanne Conway in recent days, his supporters increasingly pinned their hopes for a second term on a last-ditch appeal, not to the Supreme Court, but to the one power that can outvote it: God.
- Yahoo News
The CDC recommendation comes as hospitals across the nation fill up with people sickened by COVID-19.
- Yahoo News
George Floyd’s death and the white response had placed an emphatic point on how twin scourges of economic disenfranchisement and racial segregation had manifested, with the pandemic as a backdrop. My role was victim and teacher all at once, and it enraged me.
- Associated Press
A cargo ship traveling past Yemen in the Gulf of Aden came under attack in unclear circumstances, maritime authorities said Saturday. The Gulf of Aden is a crucial route for global trade and has seen attacks attributed to Yemen’s Houthi rebels as its civil war rages on. The ship ended up off the small port city of Nishtun in Yemen's far east after coming under attack early Saturday morning, according to an alert from the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization that is overseen by Britain's Royal Navy.
- LA Times
A woman's lawsuit against a TV host for sexual harassment finally goes to court. In China, supporters see her case as a milestone for women's rights.
- Reuters Videos
Bangladesh has started moving Rohingya families from a port near its border with Myanmar, to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal. Some 1,600 refugees were relocated on Friday on naval vessels - despite complaints by human rights groups that they were being coerced. Bhasan Char is a flood-prone island that emerged from the sea just 20 years ago. But Bangladesh's government says some Rohingya must be taken there to ease overcrowding in refugee camps. Two Rohingya being relocated told Reuters their names appeared on lists compiled by government-appointed local leaders without their consent. While, an 18-year-old woman said her husband had put their names on the list thinking it was for food rations. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group which fled Myanmar for Bangladesh, following a military-led crackdown in 2017. The UN has accused Myanmar of having genocidal intent, but the government there says its forces were targeting militants. There are now more than a million Rohingya living in crowded, squalid conditions in Bangladesh's refugee camps, where they're at risk of getting diseases.
- Christian Science Monitor
Both countries must address feelings of humiliation over past actions. A window of opportunity opens next year to do just that.
Russia protested on Friday after Latvia charged several journalists from the Rossiya Segodnya news agency with violating European Union sanctions. The journalists were charged because of their association with Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, said Sputnik Latvia, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya. The Kremlin media mogul was sanctioned by the EU for his role in Russia's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
- Associated Press
The European Union’s aviation safety agency has extended a ban imposed on Pakistan's state-run airline this year barring it from flying to Europe after a plane crash that killed 97 people in the port city of Karachi, a spokesman said Friday. At the time — and while the probe into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash was still underway — authorities acknowledged that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots, 260 out of 860, had cheated on their pilot’s exams. Pakistan International Airlines subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots while a probe by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the other pilots is still ongoing.
- The Week
After six months spent pushing for a more-than $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is fine with something smaller.Earlier this week, a team of bipartisan lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion coronavirus relief. It's smaller than the $1.5 trillion deal the House's bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus drew up in September, and yet this time around, President-elect Joe Biden's win and forthcoming coronavirus vaccines have Pelosi ready to accept it.Pelosi went on to explain that she had held out for a bigger bill with longer-lasting provisions before she knew who would be the next president — essentially, she thought she wouldn't get a second chance at a stimulus package if President Trump was re-elected. But with "a president who recognizes that we need to depend on science to stop the virus" and that "America's families need to have money in their pockets," Pelosi said she was confident she could work out many more smaller relief provisions in the future.> "A new president and a vaccine" -- Pelosi on why there's momentum for coronavirus relief legislation now when there wasn't before the election pic.twitter.com/6PLwrmE305> > — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 4, 2020What hasn't changed is that millions of Americans are still out of work, likely in more dire straits than they were a few months ago as unemployment benefits begin to expire and bills continue to pile up.Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) still hasn't said he'll back the bipartisan relief bill, but a growing number of Senate Republicans have said they're willing to support it.More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims 5 scathingly funny cartoons about the NFL's COVID problem Republican Georgia election official says Trump has put Loeffler, Perdue 'in a box'
Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
- The Telegraph
Brexit trade talks reached stalemate on Friday night after the EU was accused of making a "ridiculous" demand for 10 years of unfettered access to Britain's fishing waters as the price of a deal. Boris Johnson paused talks for a "stock take" of whether an agreement can still be salvaged. A senior Government source said: "Their new offer was frankly laughable. They know we can't possibly accept it. It's ridiculous. If they think we will just cave in, they have made a massive miscalculation." Mr Johnson will speak to Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, on Saturday in an attempt to break the deadlock. He could also make a personal plea to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, blamed for "destabilising" the talks by making unreasonable demands on fishing and state aid. Mr Macron is under pressure from other EU member states to give ground, with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on Friday urging "compromise" from both sides to get the deal over the line.
- Associated Press
A California attorney for an Illinois 17-year-old accused of fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during a night of unrest in Wisconsin is extracting himself from his criminal defense after prosecutors raised ethical concerns about the lawyer. Los Angeles civil lawyer John Pierce has been at the forefront of the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused in the shootings during protests in Kenosha this summer. Pierce has also worked to help secure the $2 million bail for Rittenhouse, who was bound over Thursday for trial.
Violence in Afghanistan is "unacceptably high" as delayed peace negotiations get underway, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, adding that Washington has asked the warring parties to "stand back and indeed stand down." Pompeo's comments, made in a virtual address to the IISS Manama Dialogue, an annual security conference, came two days after Kabul-backed and Taliban negotiators reached a deal in Doha to proceed with talks on a political settlement to decades of strife. Pompeo noted that he met with the negotiating teams during a Nov. 21 visit to Doha and he said he told both sides that the strife must be reduced.
- The Telegraph
China is conducting "human testing" to create "biologically enhanced soldiers," the head of US intelligence has claimed as he warned that Beijing poses the biggest threat to America's national security. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, warned that the US must be prepared for an "open-ended" confrontation with China which he likened to the Cold War. Mr Ratcliffe, who oversees America's intelligence agencies, said he believed China's intention was to "dominate" the planet in every sense: economically, militarily and technologically. He claimed that US intelligence showed China has "conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities". "There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power," he said. Mr Ratcliffe said his unique vantage point on the current security threats facing the US had led him to conclude that "the People’s Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom world-wide since World War II". He went on to outline in granular detail China's strategy of economic espionage, which he framed as: “rob, replicate and replace.” “China robs US companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology, and then replaces the US firms in the global marketplace,” he said.
- Associated Press
A California psychologist convicted of tax evasion was at the center of a mysterious, recently disclosed Justice Department investigation into whether White House officials were illegally lobbied to obtain a presidential pardon. The effort to obtain the pardon for the psychologist, Hugh Baras, involved a prominent Washington attorney and a major donor to President Donald Trump, according to lawyers involved in the case. One of the lawyers, Reid Weingarten, confirmed that the pardon was sought on behalf of Baras.
New market-friendly agricultural laws are unfair and exploitative, protesting farmers say.
Authorities in Moscow arrested a physicist on suspicion of state treason for allegedly passing classified information about Russia's aviation industry abroad, news agencies reported late on Thursday. A Moscow court ruled that Anatoly Gubanov, who works for the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, would be held in custody for two months pending trial. Russian news agencies said his lawyer had declined to comment on the case.
- The Telegraph
Former Hong Kong politician Ted Hui has announced he has chosen to go into exile as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on high-profile figures of the former British colony’s pro-democracy movement. Mr Hui, 38, initially fled to Denmark this week where he was joined by his family, but he said he would make his way to the UK to continue his pro-democratic activities. He joins Nathan Law, a prominent Hong Kong human rights activist now based in London, and a growing diaspora of dissidents who are continuing to advocate for more international pressure on China to allow greater rights and freedoms in the Asian financial hub. “My personal determination is that my exile will not be a migration. My only home is Hong Kong which is why I will not apply for asylum in any country,” said Mr Hui, adding that he would make it his “life mission” to fight for the city’s freedom. “There is no word to explain my pain and it’s hard to hold back tears,” he said as he announced his decision via Facebook. Mr Hui also revealed he had resigned from the opposition Democratic Party of Hong Kong. Last month he was one of 15 legislators who quit the city’s legislative council in protest at Beijing’s decision to oust four colleagues over their political views.
- Associated Press
Iran's death toll from the global pandemic has risen above 50,000, state television said Saturday, as the country grapples with the worst outbreak in the Middle East. A two-week partial lockdown in the capital of Tehran and other major cities helped slow, but not stop the rising wave of deaths from the coronavirus over the past few weeks. President Hassan Rouhani warned Saturday that the lockdown could be extended to more cities or reimposed on the capital, if people do not abide by health measures.