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Dozens Of Syrian Fighting Groups Break Ties With Main Opposition, Says Rebel Commander

Source: Associated Press

BEIRUT — Several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria have broken with the main political opposition group in exile, a commander said in a video posted Wednesday, dealing a potential new setback to Western efforts to unify moderates battling President Bashar Assad's regime.

The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, has long struggled to win respect and recognition from the fighters. It is widely seen as cut off from events on the ground and ineffective in funneling aid and weapons to the rebels.

In the video, a rebel, later identified by a Free Syrian Army official as a captain in a local brigade, read a statement with about two dozen fighters standing behind him, some holding a banner with FSA emblems.

The man said political opposition leaders have failed to represent those trying to bring down Assad.

Read more: http://www.startribune.com/world/227967561.html

Elton John AIDS Foundation Honors Hillary Clinton With First Founders Award

Elton John honored Hillary Rodham Clinton for her work to help those affected by HIV and AIDS at an annual event for his foundation.

Clinton was excited as she accepted the first founders award from the Elton John AIDS Foundation on Tuesday night in New York. The former secretary of state told the crowd at Cipriani's restaurant that "we still have so far to go" when it comes to helping those affected by HIV and AIDS.

"There are so many challenges in front of us," Clinton said. The former U.S. senator added that she wants to see an "AIDS-free generation" and that accomplishing that must be "our North Star."

"I thank you, but I know there's more for us to do," she said. "Humans may discriminate, but viruses don't."

Billy Joel, Alec Baldwin, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lisa Marie Presley and Courtney Love also attended John's "An Enduring Vision: A Benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation" event, which raised $3.45 million. Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Heart performed a dozen songs, including the hits "What About Love" and "Alone."



Appeals Court Denies Rehearing in Journalist Case

Source: Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a ruling that requires a journalist to identify a source who disclosed details of a secret CIA operation.

A three-judge panel of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against reporter James Risen in July. The full appeals court voted 13-1 to deny Risen's petition for a rehearing Tuesday.

Prosecutors want Risen to divulge the name of his source when he testifies at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is a former CIA agent charged with leaking classified information.

Read more: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_CIA_LEAK?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-10-16-14-31-04

Give Vladimir Putin The Nobel Peace Prize, Says Former Labour Peer

The Huffington Post UK | Posted: 15/10/2013

A former Labour peer has nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in the Syrian civil war - and he isn't joking.

Lord Truscott, who now sits as an independent in the House of Lords, told peers on Tuesday afternoon: "Many people would argue that the the Russian-led Syrian peace plan is the most significant peace plan this year. To recognise this and to encourage Russia in its peace making endeavours, a few hours ago I nominated President Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize."

Following disapproving mutters of surprise from around the chamber, he added: "Will Her Majesty's Government do the same?"

Lord Truscott was also obliged to remind peers that he is not quite a neutral observer. He is Putin's biographer. And the suggestion caught peers off-guard, given Russia's decision to arm the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Over 100,000 Syrians have died so far in the civil war.

Government spokesman and Lib Dem peer Lord Wallace of Saltaire, unsurprisingly, was not impressed. "This has been a joint US-Russian peace initiative. It is not a purely a Russian-led peace initiative. We welcome the constructive response which the Russian government is now making on Syria."



Equipment Destroyed at 6 Syrian Chemical Weapons Sites – OPCW

MOSCOW, October 16 (RIA Novosti) – Experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog said Wednesday that critical equipment has been destroyed at six chemical weapon sites in Syria.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement that its mission team “has now conducted verification activities at a total of 11 sites that are identified in Syria’s disclosure.”

Current mission goals (through November 1) include making production facilities – including mixing/filling plants – inoperable, and beginning destruction of unloaded chemical weapons munitions, the statement said.

It noted that cooperation with the UN in support of the OPCW mission in Syria “has been excellent and the morale of the joint mission teams remains high.”

OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu said on October 9 that specialists from his organization had earmarked more than 20 sites to visit in coming weeks. Syrian authorities intend to render all chemical-arms-making facilities unusable by November 1, he added.



Is Iran More Constructive Than the Tea Party?

By Marc Champion - Oct 16, 2013

Right now, Iran is looking like a more constructive negotiating partner than certain U.S. House Republicans.

Before throwing any crockery at that proposition, consider that the price of oil fell to a three-month low Tuesday, in part on the impression from day one of Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva that the Iranians may actually want a deal. Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings put the U.S.'s triple-A credit rating on a negative watch, based on the decision by House Republicans to reject the latest Senate bill, because some of them don't want a deal.

Of course, the latest Iran talks have barely started. The hard part -- detailing Iranian concessions and commensurate sanctions relief -- is all to come. Most people assume the U.S. will somehow avoid a default, despite the best efforts of Senator Ted Cruz. Not so many are confident that a comprehensive deal will be reached with Iran. Still, the approach the Iranians are taking in Geneva is new and refreshing.

To start with, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his lead negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, are speaking in English. That might not sound like much, but using the language of the Great Satan for such sensitive business is a departure that suggests these particular Iranians want to get something done. What it is they want to achieve is a different matter.

Zarif showed up in Geneva with a plan and a PowerPoint presentation to explain it. This wasn't one of the usual Iranian offerings of recent years, which had little direct relation to the business at hand (not unlike raising an unrelated health-care law as a condition for budget talks, for example). Instead, Zarif proposed a framework for the nuclear negotiations to proceed: Agree to the end goal the two sides want to reach, figure out the detailed steps to get there and set a timeframe to complete the process so that neither side suspects it is being strung along.



U.S. Seeks $10.8 Billion Weapons Sale to U.A.E., Saudis

By Gopal Ratnam - Oct 15, 2013

The U.S. Defense Department plans to sell Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates $10.8 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions.

Notice yesterday of the planned sales of advanced weapons made by Boeing Co. (BA) and Raytheon Co. (RTN) sends a message of support from the Obama administration to two close allies in the Middle East as the U.S. and five other nations are engaged in talks to curb Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

The Saudi regime has pressed the U.S. to maintain tough economic sanctions on Iran, both to discourage it from developing a nuclear arsenal and to limit Iran’s capacity to help its embattled ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity about diplomatic relations.

The proposal includes the first U.S. sales to Middle East allies of new Raytheon and Boeing weapons that can be launched at a distance from Saudi F-15 and U.A.E. F-16 fighters.

The Boeing Expanded-Response Standoff Land Attack Missile and Raytheon Joint Standoff Weapon give those nations new capabilities to strike at air defense sites and radar installations, such as those possessed by Iran, from beyond the range of enemy air-defense systems so pilots aren’t put at risk.



Obama: Obamacare Website Glitches Are Unacceptable

3 hours ago

(CNN) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed disappointment with glitches in the Obamacare website, more than two weeks after the launch of HealthCare.gov.

“I am the first to acknowledge that the website that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable and we’ve got people working around the clock to do that,” Obama told KCCI, a CNN affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa. “We’ve seen some significant progress but until it’s 100% I’m not going to be satisfied.”

A high volume of visitors to the health insurance exchange portal contributed to the technical problems that have plagued the website, making it more difficult for individuals to begin the enrollment process.

Despite the consistent problems, the president touted the health care law, saying it enables those seeking coverage to purchase private insurance, compare the prices of different plans and receive a tax credit to make it affordable.



Onward And Upward As China Marks 10 Years Of Manned Spaceflight

China marks 10 years since it first sent a human into space Tuesday, with its ambitious programme rocketing ahead while rival NASA is largely closed due to the US government shutdown.

Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times during his 21-hour flight aboard the Shenzhou 5 in 2003, blazing a trail into the cosmos for China.

More than 40 years after Yuri Gagarin's groundbreaking journey, the mission made China only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the US to carry out an independent manned spaceflight.

At the time, Beijing was so concerned about the viability of the mission that at the last minute it cancelled a nationwide live television broadcast of the launch.

But since then, China has sent a total of 10 astronauts—eight men and two women—into space on five separate missions, and launched an orbiting space module, Tiangong-1.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-onward-upward-china-years-spaceflight.html#jCp

Clinton Is Already Going After Biden's Opposition to the Osama Bin Laden Raid

Welcome to the 2016 pre-primaries, where one potential candidate (Hillary Clinton) is reportedly already hitting a potential rival (Joe Biden) on his opposition to the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Clinton, you see, supported the idea to take out the most wanted criminal terrorist in the world. From her angle, she was one of its biggest cheerleaders. While everyone should already know by now that Biden advised the President against the raid (he boldly admitted it), it looks like Clinton is (quietly) reminding potential voters of that bit of trivia, just in case Biden still thinks the Democratic nomination is up for grabs.

The latest report of campaigning comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, relying on a handful of sources at Clinton's speech to 3,000-4,000 people at the National Association of Convenience Stores convention in Atlanta on Tuesday. State Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody gave the paper a rundown of her remarks:

"I know she’s running for president now, because toward the end, she was asked about the Osama bin Laden raid. She took 25 minutes to answer," Taylor said. "Without turning the knife too deeply, she put it to Biden."

Time and time again, Taylor said, Clinton mentioned the vice president's opposition to the raid, while characterizing herself and Leon Panetta, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as the action's most fierce advocates....The bin Laden query was the last of a Q-and-A session with the audience. "She took the rest of the time and went over, answering that question. She was ready to speak on that," Taylor said.


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