SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The number of registered Syrian refugees jumped 10 percent in just one week to more than 1.1 million, a U.N. aid official said Thursday as France pushed for quickly lifting a European Union ban on arming Syrian rebels.
The French foreign minister said France is ready to supply weapons even if other EU countries disagree. The United States and other countries have been reluctant to send weapons partly because of fears they may fall into the hands of extremists.
Fighting in Syria has escalated, prompting growing numbers of Syrians to flee their country.
The human rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that the regime is increasingly using lethal battlefield weapons, including widely banned cluster bombs, in attacks on residential areas.
"The frequency and scale of such attacks — which constitute war crimes — has increased in recent months, with disastrous consequences for the civilian population," the group said in a report.
In Israel, the military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, warned that the regime is making "advanced preparations" for using chemical weapons, but has not given the order yet to activate them.
Kochavi did not elaborate. He also said Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are fighting alongside Assad.
With no end in sight to the 2-year-old conflict, France and Britain are pushing for a review of the EU's ban on sending weapons to Syria's opposition fighters.
The current embargo expires in May.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday that France and Britain will ask for an EU meeting to lift the embargo, possibly by the end of the month.
"Lifting the embargo is one of the only means left to make things move politically" in Syria, Fabius said, adding that he believes France should arm the rebels.
Asked by France-Info radio if France and Britain could join efforts to arm the opposition, Fabius said, "to lift the embargo, exactly."
Asked what France would do if European partners insist on a continued embargo, he said France and Britain could refuse to renew it. "France is a sovereign nation," he said, but did not elaborate.
A French diplomat said France is not talking about breaking the EU embargo but is leaning toward refusing to extend it in May. The diplomat, who isn't authorized to be publicly named according to government policy, said it was too early to discuss what kind of arms France might supply.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also hinted this week that his country might refuse to extend the embargo.
Russia, which is supplying weapons to the Syrian military, strongly opposes arms supplies to the rebels, and some international diplomats warn that more fire power is the last thing that Syria needs after fighting has already left 70,000 dead, according to the U.N.
The Syria conflict began as a largely peaceful uprising against the regime. A government crackdown triggered an armed insurgency that turned into a civil war last summer.
U.N. officials said some 4 million of Syria's 22 million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting, including 2 million who remain in Syria.
The U.N. said the number of Syrians who fled to neighboring countries is growing well beyond initial estimates. It said donor governments have sent only about one-fifth of the $1.5 billion needed to help displaced Syrians for the first six months of this year.
Last week, the U.N. announced that the number of registered refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and North Africa had reached 1 million.
On Thursday, Reem Alsalem, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, said more than 121,000 refugees have registered since then, a jump of more than 10 percent. Syrians are fleeing their country "at a rate faster than anyone anticipated," she said.
In addition to the growing exodus, registration has accelerated, including in Turkey where more refugees living outside the country's 17 camps have been signed up, she said.
Aid officials estimate that hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled their country have not registered with the U.N.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visited the Jordanian border with Syria, near the Jordanian town of Mafraq, late Wednesday and spoke to some of the refugees who had just crossed.
"There is horror from the endless conflict. Night after night, women, children, elderly people are crossing the border fleeing their country. Their country, in many aspects, is falling apart," he said.
Guterres said the international funding was far off from what was "necessary, far from the magnitude of this drama."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – In the last seven days, an asteroid the size of a city block and three smaller space rocks have zoomed safely by Earth, the latest demonstration that we live in a solar system that some scientists have dubbed a "cosmic shooting gallery."
All four asteroid flybys occurred between March 4 and Sunday, March 10. The asteroids were also all discovered this month, some just days ago.
The biggest space rock encounter occurred Saturday, when the asteroid 2013 ET passed just inside 600,000 miles of Earth. That asteroid is about 460 feet long and approached within 2.5 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
"The scary part about this one, of course, is that it's something we didn't even know about," said Patrick Paolucci, president of the online Slooh Space Camera during a live webcast of 2013 ET's flyby. The asteroid was first discovered on March 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona. [See a video of asteroid 2013 ET]
Also on Saturday, a smaller asteroid called 2013 EC20 (discovered on Thursday, March 7) came even closer to Earth, passing at a range of about 93,000 miles, less than half the distance to the moon. It was about 23 feet across.
Had asteroid 2013 ET actually hit the Earth, instead of zipping safely by, it could have destroyed a large city, Slooh Space Camera engineer Paul Cox said in the webcast. Cox controlled the remotely operated Slooh telescope in the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa, as the asteroid zoomed by Earth at a speed of 26,000 mph.
Recent asteroid events
The asteroid flybys came a few weeks after a 55-foot meteor exploded over Russia on Feb. 15 with the force of about 500 kilotons, injuring more than 1,200 people in the city of Chelyabinsk and causing extensive damage to city buildings. Later on Feb. 15, the larger asteroid 2012 DA14 passed within 17,200 miles or Earth —closer than many communications satellites.
The asteroid 2012 DA14 flyby, which was closely tracked by NASA and astronomers, prompted planetary scientists Bruce Betts of the Planetary Society to remind the public that Earth is in a "cosmic shooting gallery" where asteroids are concerned.
"This should be a wakeup call to governments," Cox said. "We know that the solar system is a busy place. We're not sitting here on our pale blue dot, on our own in nice safety."
More space rock flybys
The two other space rocks to buzz Earth in the last week were asteroid 2013 EC and asteroid 2013 EN20, which zipped by the planet on March 4 and March 10, respectively.
The 39-foot long asteroid 2013 EC passed Earth at about the same distance of the moon —about 238,000 miles. It was discovered on March 2, just two days before its closest approach. The Virtual Telescope Project, an online stargazing website in Italy run by astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, captured a video of the asteroid 2013 EC flyby.
Asteroid 2013 EN20 passed Earth today a range just beyond the moon's orbit and is about 23 feet across. It was first discovered by astronomers on March 7.
NASA scientists and astronomers around the world routinely scan the sky for large asteroids that could pose an impact threat to Earth. While small asteroids sometimes zip by the planet unseen, about 100 tons of material - mostly grains of dust - fall harmlessly into Earth's atmosphere each day, NASA scientists have said.
Sightings by amateur astronomers, who can also discover near-Earth asteroids and help refine their orbits with follow-up observations, can be vital in tracking newfound space rocks.
Cox said he used the Slooh telescope to send images of asteroid 2013 ET into the Minor Planet Center operated at the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., for that purpose.
"Amateur astronomers can have a huge input into the field of astronomy," Cox said.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Fox News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- "I frequently see patients who come in and have been sick for four or five days and say 'boy I really need an antibiotic — I'm just not getting better,' " Ebell says.
In fact, he and other experts say, most acute coughs are caused by viral illnesses, such as colds and flu, and won't be helped by antibiotics no matter how long they last. That's because antibiotics only treat bacterial illnesses, such as some forms of pneumonia. When they are used for viral illnesses, they can do more harm than good — frequently causing diarrhea, allergic reactions and other side effects and spurring the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can sicken not only the person who took the antibiotics but other people, as well.
Yet, many patients demand the medications and many doctors prescribe them, sometimes just to please patients and save time, says Gustavo Ferrer, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic Florida, in Weston.
"I see it all the time," he says. "Here in Florida, a lot of patients call the urgent care centers Z-Pac clinics," he says, after the antibiotic Zithromax. "They go in with a cough and if the doctors don't prescribe it, they go clinic shopping until they find it."
When that happens, Ebell says, patients often credit the antibiotic for making them feel better a few days later — but "it would have happened anyway." Just letting more patients know how long normal coughs last might help, he says.
Educational efforts aimed at patients and doctors have so far had limited success, according to studies, including one published online Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. In the study, researchers followed 33 medical practices, including 11 that used printed brochures and posters and 11 that used computerized guidelines to discourage antibiotic use for coughs. Results: Prescription rates dropped from 80% to 68% in the first group and from 74% to 61% in the second.
Those numbers were lower than those at practices that did nothing, but still way too high, says lead researcher Ralph Gonzales, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. But he says some individual doctors made bigger changes and he has hopes that a mix of approaches can chip away at the problem. He says he likes Ebell's idea of emphasizing normal cough duration and already uses it: "I tell my patients that I can almost guarantee you will be coughing for a week and that there's an 80 or 90% chance it will be over by three weeks."
Patients who want some temporary relief might try an old-style sedating antihistamine to clear up their post-nasal drip, a big contributor to common coughs, says Melvin Pratter, a professor of medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, N.J. Unfortunately, he says, cough syrups and drops are unlikely to help much.
Those who develop possible signs of pneumonia, such as shortness of breath or getting sicker after a partial recovery, should get medical attention, Ebell says.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – If you’re getting in the mood for the holiday season, A Charlie Brown Christmas is one app that both kids and nostalgic parents are sure to enjoy. And while you’re sharing, why not stretch your brain and see if you remember those isosceles triangles and quadrilaterals as well as your kids do. Those are just some of the apps in store for you this week!
SEE ALSO: What Do You Do With Tech-Obsessed Kids When The Lights Go Out?
The folks at Children’s Technology Review shared with us these five top apps from their comprehensive monthly database of kid-tested reviews. The site covers everything from math and counting to reading and phonics..— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Students at Purdue University in the northeastern US state of Indiana have been offered a unique opportunity to know more about Islam and Islamic culture after Muslim students launched an awareness week, creating a forum for interfaith discussions.
“I definitely have learned some stuff about Islamic culture that I didn’t know before,” Meghan Zeller, a 19-year-old sophomore, told Lafayette Journal & Courier newspaper.
Zeller was among dozens of students who rushed to a tent in Purdue University’s Memorial Mall where Muslim students opened the Islamic Awareness week.
She sat quietly while her Muslim colleague Afra Hussain slowly painted an intricate henna tattoo on her hand.
The week, which started Monday, October 15, is held and organized each semester by the Purdue Muslim Student Association.
It houses henna tattoos, ethnic food and information tables from predominantly Muslim countries such as Egypt.
Through Friday, Muslim students will also offer free English translations of the Noble Qur’an.
There also will be evening speakers addressing such topics as “Are Muslim Women Oppressed?” and the “Islamic Perspective on Creation versus Evolution.”
“A lot of us don’t know a lot about the culture in general,” said Zeller.
“It helps to let us understand better.”
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A US survey had revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll had also found that more than half Americans already hold negative views about the faith.
Yet, a Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
The event won praise for offering non-Muslim students more information about Islam as well as creating a forum for interfaith discussions.
“We don’t want people to be afraid of Muslims,” said Nabeel Alsaber, vice president of the Muslim Student Association.
“We want them to know about the religious side and cultural. We are encouraging interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Having a special booth to offer answers about Islam, the group usually gets about 150 visitors to the tent each day, and about 200 attend the evening sessions, Alsaber said.
Some students, such as Catherine Crevecoeur, stopped by Monday to find out more about the Islamic faith.
The 20-year-old junior, who is a Christian, got a free copy of the Noble Qur’an after her Muslim friend challenged her to find out more about Islam as he learns more about Christianity.
Shaylyn Vogler, another student, praised the event for connecting people culturally.
“It helps reduce stereotypes and allows you to be more open with people,” said the 19-year-old sophomore.
“Some people feel awkward trying to open up to other cultures but things like this can help you.”— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A California man behind an anti-Islam film that stoked violent protests in the Muslim world is due to appear in a federal court in Los Angeles next week for a preliminary hearing on whether he violated the terms of his probation over a 2010 bank fraud conviction, court papers show.
Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, who before went by the name Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is scheduled to go before U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder on Wednesday, the documents filed on Friday in U.S. District Court show.
The terms of Youssef's 2011 release from prison include a ban on using aliases without the permission of a probation officer.
The Egyptian-born Youssef has been described as the producer of a crudely made 13-minute video filmed in California and circulated online under a number of titles, including "Innocence of Muslims." It mocked the Prophet Mohammad and sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest in Egypt and other Muslim countries last month.
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Youssef on September 27 and took him before a federal judge that day for a hearing held amid tight security at which prosecutors accused him of violating the terms of his probation.
A judge that day ordered him held without bail, and a federal prison official later confirmed he was taken to a high-rise federal jail in downtown Los Angeles.
The defendant, who had worked in the gas station industry, declared at the outset of his last hearing that he had changed his name to Mark Basseley Youssef in 2002 from his previous name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
While previous court documents referred to him as Nakoula, the latest court papers from Friday name him as Youssef. He most recently lived in a suburb of Los Angeles.
An actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, who appeared briefly in the clip, has accused him in a federal lawsuit of making the film under the alias Sam Bacile. Garcia has said she thought she was working on a historical adventure film and did not know it had anything to do with Mohammad.
Other people who appeared in or worked on the film have made similar claims.
Federal authorities have stressed that they are not investigating the film over its content, but Youssef's arrest has led to some criticism from free speech advocates.
Prosecutors did not specify which terms of Youssef's 2011 conditional release he is suspected of violating, but they said he had used aliases and that they could seek to have him sent to prison for up to 24 months if a judge finds he violated his probation.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Interesting comparison Foods that each family uses during the week and the number of members per family
GERMANY: The Melander family of Bargteheide - 2 adults, 2 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07
UNITED STATES: The Revis family of North Carolina - 2 adults, 2 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98
JAPAN: The Ukita family of Kodaira City - 2 adults, 2 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
ITALY: The Manzo family of Sicily - 2 adults, 3 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
MEXICO: The Casales family of Cuernavaca - 2 adults, 3 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09
POLAND: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna - 4 adults, 1 teenager
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27
EGYPT: The Ahmed family of Cairo - 7 adults, 5 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53
ECUADOR : The Ayme family of Tingo - 4 adults, 5 teenagers
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
BHUTAN: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village - 7 adults, 6 kids
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is turning to the courts to try to put an end to a teachers strike that's entering its second week and has left parents scrambling to make alternative child care arrangements for at least two more days.
The union and school leaders seemed headed toward a resolution at the end of last week, saying they were optimistic students in the nation's third-largest school district would be back in class by Monday. But teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer decided Sunday to remain on strike, saying they needed more time to review a complicated proposal.
Emanuel fired back, saying he told city attorneys to seek a court order forcing Chicago Teachers Union members back into the classroom.
The strike is the first for the city's teachers in 25 years and has kept 350,000 students out of class, leaving parents to make other plans.
Working mom Dequita Wade said that when the strike started, she sent her son 15 miles away to a cousin's house so he wouldn't be left unsupervised in a neighborhood known for violent crime and gangs. She was hoping the union and district would work things out quickly.
“You had a whole week. This is beginning to be ridiculous,” Wade said. “Are they going to keep prolonging things?”
Months of contract negotiations have come down to two main issues central to the debate over the future of education across the United States: teacher evaluations and job security.
Union delegates said they felt uncomfortable approving the contract because they had seen it only in bits. The union will meet again Tuesday, after the end of the Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
“There's no trust for our members of the board,” Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis told reporters Sunday night. “They're not happy with the agreement. They'd like it to actually be a lot better.”
Emanuel said the strike was illegal because it endangers the health and safety of students and concerned issues — evaluations, layoffs and recall rights — that state law says cannot be grounds for a work stoppage.
“This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children,” Emanuel said in a written statement.
The strike has shined a spotlight on Emanuel's leadership more than ever, and some experts have suggested the new contract — which features annual pay raises and other benefits — is a win for union.
“I'm hard-pressed to imagine how they could have done much better,” said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “This is a very impressive outcome for the teachers.”
With an average salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation, and the contract outline calls for annual raises. But some teachers are upset it did not restore a 4 percent raise Emanuel rescinded last year.
Emanuel pushed for a contract that includes ratcheting up the percentage of evaluations based on student performance, to 35 percent within four years. The union contends that does not take into account outside factors that affect student performance such as poverty and violence.
The union pushed for a policy to give laid-off teachers first dibs on open jobs anywhere in the district, but the city said that would keep principals from hiring the teachers they think are most qualified.
The union has engaged in something of a publicity campaign, telling parents about problems that include a lack of important books and basic supplies.
Some parents said they remain sympathetic to teachers.
“I don't think they're wrong. The things they're asking for are within reason,” said Pamela Edwards, who has sent her 16-year-old daughter to one of about 140 schools the district has kept open during the strike to provide meals and supervision.
Others said they understand why teachers are taking their time.
“As much as we want our kids back in school, teachers need to make sure they have dotted all their i's and crossed their t's,” said Becky Malone, mother of a second grader and fourth grader, who've been studying at home and going to museums over the last week. “What's the point of going on strike if you don't get everything you need out of it? For parents, it'll be no more of a challenge than it's been in the past week.”—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Tehran Times
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has called for a week of protests against a video mocking the prophet Muhammad that has triggered uproar in the Muslim world and which he called "the worst attack ever on Islam".
"The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Sunday.
The head of the powerful Lebanese Shia Muslim organisation spoke just hours after Pope Benedict XVI left the country following a historic three-day visit in which he prayed that Middle East leaders would work towards peace and reconciliation.
Nasrallah noted that he purposely postponed his call for protests until after the pope's departure.
"The whole world should know that the prophet has followers who will not be silent in the face of humiliation," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said.
The low-budget film, titled "Innocence of Muslims", has sparked fury among Muslims from London to Nairobi for mocking the prophet Muhammad and for portraying Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.
Week of protests
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told followers to stagger their protests around the country. He called for protests in southern Beirut on Monday, in the southern city of Tyre on Wednesday, in the eastern city of Baalbek on Friday, in Bint Jbeil in south Lebanon on Saturday, and in Hermel in the eastern Bekaa valley region on Sunday. All are majority Shia areas.
He also called for people across the Islamic world to demonstrate against the film, which he described as "the worst attack ever on Islam, worse than the Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, the burning of the Quran in Afghanistan and the cartoons in the European media".
"There should be resolutions adopted in top international institutions, that are binding on all states and governments in the world, to forbid the defamation of religions," said Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, adding attacks on Muslims were "frequent".
"Those who write or draw or make such a film would know that they would be punished wherever they are, and they would not feel protected," the Hezbollah chief said.
He also blamed the United States for the film.
"The film was made and spread from the US," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said. "Muslims should say to the US: 'This happened in your state.'"
The US government on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and two other figures in the Shia group over their support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The treasury department sanctions add to measures already levied on Hezbollah, which was first designated by Washington as a terrorist group in 2001.
In his speech, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Lebanon should call for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss the anti-Islam film.
And shortly after his address ended, Lebanon's foreign ministry said in a statement that Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour had requested such a meeting of the 22-member bloc.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Tough times call for tough decisions. Sadly for Research In Motion, that meant axing a huge chunk of its workforce to stay alive while patiently hoping for a better start next year. RIM’s plan to cut jobs was first heard in June this year. Now, an insider has confirmed the news to BGR that the company will begin the layoffs next week. The “trusted source” said that more than 3,000 employees will be axed beginning next week, and that the layoffs will continue over the next couple of weeks.
Even worse is the news that the workers over at RIM are reportedly terrified because they don’t exactly know who’s going and who’s staying. Workers have been told that aside from those working on BlackBerry 10, “no department is out of bounds” for the latest round of reductions. RIM also confirmed the report saying that next week’s layoffs is a part of the company’s previous announcement in June to cut roughly 5,000 jobs this year. Check out RIM’s response after the break.
RIM announced on June 28 that it will reduce its global workforce by approximately 5,000 over the course of the remaining fiscal year. These are difficult but necessary changes to help achieve operational cost savings of over $1 billion. RIM remains committed to ensuring that the reductions made do not impact key programs such as BlackBerry 10, customer support or BlackBerry service levels.—www.shafaqna.com/english