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Israel partially reopened access to the Temple Mount for Muslim prayers Friday, a day after taking a rare step of closing it amid Israeli-Palestinian tensions following the shooting of a controversial rabbi and subsequent killing of a suspect.


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Justice Department investigators have all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., according to law enforcement officials.


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Like many Latinos throughout the Americas, I will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos this year by building an altar in honor of those whom I hold most dear in my life that have left this world but not left me. And spending the past year working on drug policy reform at the Drug Policy Alliance has left me with a need to also mourn for all those who have fallen victim to the failed policies of the war on drugs.

From Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO to the missing 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, the number of people whose lives have been ruthlessly taken from us as a result of the drug war has continued to grow at an unconscionable rate. In recent years, over 70,000 have been killed by drug war related violence, 250,000 have been deported just for drug possession, and in the last year alone, over 40,000 children have been reported to have migrated north in search of safe refuge only to find a different kind of violence in detention centers.

But we have an answer that can mitigate the bloodshed — repeal marijuana prohibition and take a step closer to ending the failed war on drugs.

On Tuesday, November 4, U.S. voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard and vote for elected representatives who will ultimately determine whether to continue the failed war on drugs or move towards ending it, and in places like Alaska, Washington D.C. and Oregon, voters will directly hold the fate of marijuana prohibition in their hands.

But voting to repeal prohibition isn’t just about marijuana. It’s about ending the criminalization of our communities, stopping the killings, and ensuring that our tax dollars are spent on our children’s education — not their incarceration.

Below are three reasons why Latinos should vote for elected officials who support ending prohibition, and why we should vote to end prohibition in Oregon, Washington D.C., and Alaska.

Marijuana prohibition discriminates against African-Americans and Latinos

People of color are disproportionately targeted for citation and arrests for marijuana. Nationwide, Blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested or cited for marijuana use than whites even though their usage rates are equivalent. It is very difficult to capture numbers when it comes to the Latino population because in many cases, Latinos are falsely categorized as white.

However, recent data from New York (one of only two states that have Latino arrest data available) indicates that Latinos are arrested at nearly four times the rate of whites for marijuana, it’s nearly five times the rate for Blacks. Getting arrested for a minor drug offense can lead to a criminal record — which will make it difficult for people to get a job, rent an apartment, go to college, and even apply for a credit card.

Police are wasting time and energy on marijuana arrests

Every forty two seconds, someone gets arrested or cited for marijuana. Police are wasting time and energy putting people in jail for nonviolent possession/use of marijuana. This time could be better spent on what we really need in our communities: patrolling for and preventing assaults and theft, pursuing violent criminals, and working on unresolved cases.

Prohibition is feeding the cartels and a waste of tax payer’s money

The tax dollars wasted on arresting, incarcerating and deporting people for simple marijuana possession means that much less is being used for more productive initiatives that will truly make our communities safer and our economies stronger.

Repealing prohibition would deal a huge blow to the underground drug market and help stop the violence that has been devastating Latin America for the past decade and sending unaccompanied children north in search of refuge.

All voters, including Latino voters, have the opportunity to take a huge steps towards ending the failed war and drugs. Voting is our most powerful weapon against mass incarceration, deportations, and ruthless cartels.

So, while I will be building an altar in honor of all those whose lives were taken from them by drug war violence on November 1, I will be voting for justice on November 4. I hope you do so too.

Jeronimo Saldaña is the legislative and organizing coordinator for the movement building team at the Drug Policy Alliance.


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WASHINGTON — A week after another school shooting, support for gun background checks remains widespread among voters, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll has found. But while nearly half of Americans would like to see stricter gun laws, few see it as a major campaign issue despite a concerted effort by pro-gun control groups in this year’s midterm elections.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters said gun laws in the United States should be more strict — a result similar to those of a poll in April, but down from 60 percent in polls conducted after the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Just 20 percent of respondents in the most recent poll said laws should be less strict, while 28 percent said they shouldn’t be changed.

A majority of Americans believe lawmakers should take action on gun issues, with 59 percent saying it’s at least somewhat important to them that Congress pass legislation next year to address gun violence. More than half of Democrats deemed congressional action on guns very important, while Republicans were less enthusiastic about any new gun laws.

Background checks enjoy wide bipartisan support, even as the parties split on the broader topic of gun rights. Seventy-nine percent of voters said they favor expanding background checks to all gun purchases, including those bought at gun shows and in private sales. While most of the support comes from voters backing Democrats this year, at 93 percent, 68 percent of voters who support Republicans also favor backgrounds checks.

But even as the National Rifle Association faces stiff opposition from anti-gun violence groups this cycle, the issue has not risen to the forefront of most voters’ minds.

Just a third of voters recalled seeing an advertisement mentioning guns. Nine percent said they’ve seen only ads in favor of gun control, while 7 percent saw only ads opposing it. Only 17 percent recalled seeing ads from both sides.

This despite the fact that 2014 is the first cycle in decades in which gun control groups countered the NRA’s heavy spending with big money of their own. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), as well as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety coalition, have invested millions in federal and state races in support of candidates who favor stricter gun laws.

Gun groups on both sides have also put significant resources into the state of Washington, where voters will consider two competing ballot measures on Election Day related to background checks. One would expand background checks by closing loopholes, while the other would prohibit background checks on gun purchases unless they are specifically required by federal law.

The debate in Washington has garnered more attention since last week, when a high school shooting left five students injured and three dead, including the gunman. A survey in August found for the first time that adults ranked school violence and gun-related injuries among their top concerns.

Congress has nonetheless failed to take action after a bill to expand background checks failed to advance in the Senate last year. The outcome did little to combat the conventional wisdom that voting against the interests of the gun lobby is too politically risky, even though at least 74 school shootings have occurred since the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown.

More than a third of Americans, at 38 percent, said the issue of gun violence should have received more attention this campaign season, with Democratic voters nearly four times more likely than Republicans to think guns were too often ignored. Another quarter of voters said guns had received about the right amount of attention, and 22 percent said the issue had gotten too much.

But a separate HuffPost/YouGov poll, asking voters to pick which of eight issues they cared about most, found that gun policy ranked at the bottom. Gun control trailed not only the economy and health care, but also topics like the environment and women’s issues. Just 10 percent named it as one of the two most important issues this year, and few respondents thought that either party had focused on the topic.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Oct. 28-30 among 802 likely voters using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.


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A member of a Georgia Tech fraternity sexually assaulted two women using the playbook described in a “luring your rapebait” email, two lawsuits filed this week against Phi Kappa Tau claim.

The Phi Kappa Tau fraternity’s response to the lawsuits insists the attorneys for the reported rape victims are exploiting the “hypersensitivity of today’s college environment toward sexual assault.”

The Alpha Rho chapter of PKT turned a blind eye to red flags that brothers were encouraging each other to sexually assault women, the suits allege, including the “rapebait” email, songs joking about sexual violence, and chapter meeting minutes declaring “rape is good.” The two suits contain nearly identical allegations but each is filed on behalf of a different plaintiff.

The chapter was suspended by the university for three years in April 2014 after a member circulated instructions in an email for “luring rapebait.” Using crude language, the email encouraged members to provide large amounts of alcohol to women in an attempt to hook up with them.

The lawsuits, filed in Fulton County State Court in Georgia this week by B.J. Bernstein and Douglas Fierberg of Washington’s Bode & Fierberg, LLP, say the “rapebait” email was one of many instances of misogyny in the Alpha Rho house.

The suits claim an unnamed PKT member in January raped a woman, Jane Doe, more or less following the description laid out in the “rapebait” email — he and other fraternity members “plied” her with a large amount of alcohol until she blacked out. The same PKT brother followed the same protocol when he sexually assaulted another young woman, June Doe, who was physically incapacitated from alcohol in November 2012 at a fraternity-sponsored event, according to the suits.

Three days after the assault is said to have occurred, Jane Doe reported it to university police, who photographed bruises and marks that remained visible on her neck, breast, thigh and back.

Other evidence of misogyny in the PKT frat presented in the lawsuit include the lyrics of a song members would sing:

Who can take a bicycle
Tear off the seat
Impale a virgin on it, and push her down a bumpy street.
The S&M man.

Who can take a tight slut
F*** her ‘till she cries
Then pull it out real fast and skeet into her eyes

The following lyrics were distributed to fraternity members through a listserv, to be sung at the house’s 2012 Christmas party, according to the lawsuits:

We put her in a wooden box
She died from sucking Phi Tau cocks!

We dig her out every now and then.
She f***ed us once, she’ll f*** us again

“That was the lyrics to a song to be sung at the fraternity’s Christmas party, sent in an email to the frat a couple days after one of our clients were raped,” Cari Simon, one of the attorneys working on the case, told The Huffington Post on Friday.

According to the lawsuits, the Alpha Rho chapter maintained a “conquest board” of women the members slept with, and passed it on from class to class.

In a statement from PKT Communication Director Tyler Wash, the fraternity noted it shut down the chapter when it found out the Alpha Rho house had violated organizational policies and that “a possible sexual assault had occurred.” But Wash also seemed to question whether either woman was raped, and said the attorneys were inappropriately linking the “rapebait” email with sexual violence.

“The Fraternity is disappointed that the plaintiffs’ attorneys chose to exploit the hypersensitivity of today’s college environment toward sexual assault by drafting the complaints in a manner that sensationalizes completely inappropriate statements, while at the same time alleging that a Georgia Tech student committed criminal rapes of two different women,” Wash said.

The national office for PKT did not respond to multiple follow-up requests about their statement.

In addition to the Phi Kappa Tau organization, the suit names fraternity chapter adviser Robert Tobey and the Alpha Rho house as defendants. The university is not named as a defendant.

Tobey, the suit claims, was in charge of supervising the chapter on risk management and was present at meetings where members made statements like “rape is good.” He did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did other officials and members of the Georgia Tech chapter.

This story has been updated to include comments from Cari Simon.


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Every week, we bring you one overlooked aspect of the stories that made news in recent days. Have you noticed the media forgetting all about another story’s basic facts? Tweet @TheWorldPost or let us know on our Facebook page.

On Sept. 26, dozens of students at a Mexican teachers’ college went missing after a protest in the city of Iguala. They were last seen being hauled off into police vans and haven’t been heard from since.

While searching for the missing students, investigators have uncovered a string of mass graves, police working for drug cartels and government officials at the helm of criminal operations.

While overall violence in Mexico has decreased in recent years, the current investigation has once again put the spotlight on the ruthless force of the drug cartels, brutal behavior by state security forces, and rampant corruption that are haunting parts of the country.

Here are 11 numbers that will help you understand the security situation in Mexico.


43

The number of students missing since the Iguala protest in September. According to witnesses, the students were heading out of the city when several groups came under fire by police and masked gunmen. By the night’s end, six people had been shot dead. The body of one student was later found with his face skinned and his eyes gouged out. Dozens of young men were seen being hauled off into police vans. No one has seen them since.


12

The number of clandestine graves found near Iguala in the search for the missing students. The remains that have been identified through DNA tests so far have not belonged to the missing students. The results of additional DNA tests are still pending.


85,000

The total number of people estimated to have been killed since the the administration of former President Felipe Calderón launched its war on the drug cartels.

The International Crisis Group explains that drug cartel violence in Mexico began to escalate in 2004, under former President Vincente Fox. After assuming office in 2006, Calderón launched a massive crackdown against the criminal organizations, relying in large part on the army. While security forces seized record amounts of drugs and were able to capture or kill dozens of cartel bosses, the offensive came at a price.

Violence between rival cartels and the security forces lead to years of intense bloodshed. The security forces’ brutal tactics compromised their legitimacy. And while the aggressive action made it harder for cartels to make money from the drug trade, it also fostered the growth of smaller criminal groups that relied on criminal activities other than smuggling drugs, such as kidnappings and extortion.

Calderón’s successor, current President Enrique Peña Nieto, vowed at the start of his presidency to reverse Calderón’s approach and reduce the role of the military in the fight against the cartels.


8,000

The number of people reported missing or disappeared from the start of Peña Nieto’s administration in late 2012 until May 2014, according to Mexico’s Interior Minister Osorio Chong. The official later clarified that the actual number of “people not found” topped 22,000, a list that includes people who were reported missing during both the Calderón and Peña Nieto administrations.


22,732

The number of homicides in the country reported in 2013, according to Mexico’s National Statistics Institute (Inegi). Inegi reports that the main cause of deaths was firearms, followed by knives and strangling. The data do not specify how many of the cases were related to organized crime.

The 2013 rate, which is equivalent to about 19 homicides per 100,000 residents, is a significant drop from the number of cases at the height of the war on the cartels, when rates spiked to 23 homicides per 100,000. The investigative journalism group InSight Crime points out, however, that the statistics don’t include bodies that were never found.

By comparison, the 2012 murder rate in the United States was 4.7 per 100,000 people. The highest national murder rate in 2012 was recorded in Honduras, with 90.4 homicides per 100,000.


10.7 Million

The estimated number of households from which at least one member was the victim of a crime in 2013, according to a self-reported survey conducted earlier this year by Mexico’s National Statistics Agency. The number is equivalent to nearly 40 percent of Mexican households.

InSight Crime notes that the survey numbers are far higher than Mexico’s official crime statistics, suggesting that a large number of offenses may go unreported. The group calculates that according to the data, 90 percent of crimes were never reported in 2013.

The discrepancy between reported crimes and the “cifra negra” — the number of crimes that go unreported — is especially pronounced when it comes to kidnappings, InSight Crime adds. While the study indicates 120,000 people were estimated to have been the victim of kidnapping in 2013, only 1,698 cases were reported.


1,698

The number of reported kidnappings in 2013, which is up 15 percent from the year before. The number of kidnappings has grown every year since Calderón launched his massive crackdown on the cartels.


2,764

The number of women murdered in Mexico in 2012. Reuters notes that the number rose 155 percent between 2007 and 2012. In northeastern Mexico, the rate jumped by an even higher 500 percent between 2001 and 2010. The most dangerous state for women in 2012 was Chihuahua, with 22.7 murders for every 100,000 female residents.


47,000

The number of migrants estimated to have been killed in the past six years due to organized crime while crossing Mexico on their way to the United States. This figure, compiled by the Institute for Women in Migration, includes both Central Americans and Mexicans. According to the National Commission for Human Rights, at least 70,000 migrants disappeared in Mexico between 2007 and 2012.


600 Percent

The rise in the number of reported cases of torture at the hands of Mexico’s police or armed forces in the past decade. Amnesty International reports that more than 1,500 people filed a complaint about torture or ill-treatment by authorities in 2013, a 600 percent rise from the number of complaints in 2003. The complaints included accusations of beatings, death threats, sexual violence, electric shocks and near-asphyxiation. A separate Amnesty survey found that 64 percent of Mexicans are afraid they would be tortured by authorities if they were to be detained.


7

The number of torturers convicted in Mexico’s federal courts, according to Amnesty. The group notes that according to Mexico’s Federal Judicial Council, federal courts dealt with 123 prosecutions for torture between 2005 and 2013. Just seven of those cases resulted in convictions under federal law.

More From The WorldPost On The Search For The Missing Students:

Mexico Is Looking For 43 Missing Students. What Has Been Found Is Truly Terrifying
On The Blog: Enough! Mexico Is Ready To Explode


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A 17-year-old gay Texas student claims he was the victim of a hate crime after being lured to a local park and beaten by three fellow teens.

As KHOU is reporting, friends told Dylan Beard to meet them at Jenkins Park in Baytown on Oct. 12, where he was then attacked. The suspects, identified by the Houston Chronicle only as a 17-year-old girl and her two friends, allegedly called Beard a “faggot” and a “booty lover,” among other anti-gay epithets, during the incident.

“They lured me indirectly. They had one of their friends, who I’m also friends with, tell me to come up there and they walked up and did it,” Beard, who is reportedly home-schooled, said of the alleged beating.

The victim’s mother, Jennifer Beard, told the news station her son’s “face was swelled, his nose was broken, he bit through his tongue, his bottom teeth were chipped, his knees were scabbed everywhere” after the attack.

Baytown police told KHOU the case remains under investigation, while the 17-year-old female suspect is facing an assault charge. But local activist Quanell X accused local authorities of ignoring witnesses and openly insulting Beard.

“Whether you agree or disagree with his sexual orientation, or not, it does not give anyone the right to treat him like he’s less than a human being and rob him of his human and civil rights,” the activist told the Chronicle.

In 2013, a 24-year-old gay Texas man reportedly required plastic surgery after being brutally beaten by a stranger he reportedly connected with on the social networking app MeetMe.

Earlier this year, a suspect in a Texas double shooting that left one lesbian teen dead was arrested.

NBC News is reporting that David Malcolm Strickland faces charges of capital murder, aggravated assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault for the June 23, 2012 attack on Mollie Olgin, 19, and Kristene Chapa, then 18. Meanwhile, Strickland’s wife Laura Kimberly, 23, faces charges of tampering with evidence.


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A defense attorney for Theodore Wafer, the white man recently convicted of killing an unarmed young black woman on his suburban Detroit porch, says “the ghost of Trayvon Martin” affected the trial.

Cheryl Carpenter also denied racial profiling was a factor in the killing, for which she represented Wafer, 55, in a Detroit circuit court. In August, Wafer was convicted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who showed up on Wafer’s porch after crashing her car in the early hours of Nov. 2, 2013.

Wafer shot McBride in the head with a shotgun through his locked screen door after she banged on the doors and windows of his house, severely intoxicated. His attorneys described the shooting as self-defense motivated by fear, while the prosecution portrayed McBride as a helpless woman in need of assistance.

The case received national scrutiny as some questioned the role of race in the shooting; McBride was often linked to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black 17-year-old who was shot to death in Florida by self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, and whose death became a rallying point for activists.

Both sides kept race issues out of Wafer’s trial, but in an exclusive with the Detroit News this week, Carpenter reflected on how Zimmerman, who was found not guilty in Martin’s death and has since had several run-ins with the law, may have affected the outcome for her client. She seemed to imply that Wafer’s conviction was in part due to Zimmerman’s acquittal:

“The pressure was different than any other case I’d ever had,” she said. “We had the ghost of Trayvon Martin in the courtroom.”

In one breath, she insisted, “This case was not racial. I can say, with 100 percent confidence, that Ted did not know who was on his front porch when he saw a figure coming at him.” In the next, she said: “It didn’t help that after (George) Zimmerman was acquitted, he acted like an assaultive creep and they thought, probably, we can’t led Ted go free and maybe murder another woman.”

Carpenter, who argued passionately for Wafer’s innocence throughout his trial, told the Detroit News that she feels like it’s her “calling” to help “the ones who are the most powerless, the ones who are the most hated and the ones who are the most prejudged.”

She broke down in tears in the courtroom last month when Wafer was sentenced to 17 years in prison, arguing that Wafer “shows more remorse than any client I have ever seen.”

In a personal blog post Oct. 8, Carpenter announced she has taken a sabbatical from trial law to spend more time with her kids and because her “job was killing [her] spirit.”

Wafer has since begun the process of appealing his murder conviction with the help of a public defender.

Read the full interview with Carpenter in the Detroit News.


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2014-10-31-YEHinHoms.jpg
By Yacoub El Hillo*

The rubble of modern Syria lies on top of ancient civilizations that brought agriculture and the first phonetic alphabet to the world. Millennia later, Syria’s people have been reduced to destitution. 9.6 million of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million people have become displaced internally or have left altogether and are now refugees driven by a ruthless conflict that has claimed over 190,000 lives since it erupted in 2011. Three out of four remaining Syrians now live in poverty. Syria’s human development indicators have regressed by 40 years since the conflict started.

The crisis in Syria has unleashed political and armed forces in the region that will take years to stabilize and neutralize. In the wholesale destruction of some of its towns and cities, the war has also decimated one of the world’s cradles of civilization. The plight of ordinary Syrians — the true casualties of this war — seems to have receded from the public imagination amid internationally backed military operations here.

For almost four years, civil unrest, human rights breaches and armed violence have been the reality for children and their families. International humanitarian law is continuously violated. As families break up and lose contact with their loved ones, as children go hungry, as the sick go untreated, as boys and girls go without education, the fabric of Syria is being torn apart. This will have unimaginable consequences on the long-term stability of the region.

Every day humanitarian workers — over sixty of whom have lost their lives since the conflict erupted, most being Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers — face risks and threats to their lives. Thanks to these unsung heroes, the United Nations and its partners are able to reach millions of people and deliver urgently needed humanitarian aid. For example, food assistance was provided to 4.15 million Syrians in August this year, out of a targeted group of 4.25 million. Health care was delivered to 6.5 million direct beneficiaries while 2.9 million children under the age of five were vaccinated against polio.

When the Security Council adopted Resolution 2165 last July, it enabled UN humanitarian agencies to deliver humanitarian aid across the border for the first time. The combined efforts of UN agencies and partners, coupled with efforts by some of the major international non-governmental organizations which have been delivering cross border humanitarian aid for more than two years, is making it possible to reach a greater number of civilians and deliver urgently needed humanitarian assistance.

But just as we achieved this important milestone, the funding started drying up. Even as a meagre portion of humanitarian aid is trickling in, global attention and resources have shifted to dealing with the threat of ISIL. By contrast, experts estimate the cost of international military intervention in the region to easily run into the billions of dollars every year. Each missile costs about $1.5 million and the F-22 jets cost roughly $68,000 an hour to fly.

Almost 11 million people in Syria are in need of assistance. Of this number, the UN estimates that as the winter approaches over 3 million will require urgent assistance, including warm clothing, blankets and fuel for heating totaling $113 million. Families in extreme poverty will be left to eat only bread, and sleep without heating and blankets. Basic health needs will not be met and children will have to stop going to school. Meanwhile, the crisis has led to a significant decrease in vaccinations of children and the re-appearance of diseases, such as Polio, fourteen years after it was eradicated in Syria.

Until recently, Syria was the world’s third largest refugee hosting country — coming only after Pakistan and Iran — with no less than a million refugees who came to Syria seeking safety and sanctuary. Today, with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) marking the three millionth Syrian refugee registered in a neighboring country, Syrians are sadly the number one nationality in the world with the highest number of asylum applications. And yes there is donor fatigue when the latest developments show the country being sucked into a vortex of violence and despair.

Humanitarian assistance costs money, especially when the scale of the humanitarian problem is as catastrophic as it is in Syria. It is vital and it saves lives. But clearly aid is only part of the equation. The international community must work with the parties to find a political solution to end this crisis. The world cannot afford to push aside the suffering of the Syrian people. An entire generation shaped by violence, displacement and a rollback of prosperity and development is a cataclysmic disaster — for Syria, the region and the world.

_________________

The author, Yacoub El Hillo, is the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, based in Damascus.