Person Accused of Lying After Bombings...

Lawyers for a man charged with lying to investigators after the Boston Marathon bombings are asking a federal judge to release him from jail, saying he had nothing to do with the deadly bombings and isn't a flight risk.

Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, faces a detention hearing Monday in U.S. District Court. Defense attorneys said in court documents filed Saturday that authorities' claim that Phillipos gave them conflicting accounts is "refutable."  Abcnews.go.com

"This case is about a frightened and confused 19 year old who was subjected to intense questioning and interrogation, without the benefit of counsel, and in the context of one of the worst attacks against the nation," lawyers Derege Demissie and Susan Church wrote. "The weight of the federal government under such circumstances can have a devastatingly crushing effect on the ability of an adolescent to withstand the enormous pressure and respond rationally."

Phillipos was charged last week with lying to investigators about visiting bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's college dorm room on April 18, three days after the bombings. Two other friends were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by taking a backpack with fireworks and a laptop from Tsarnaev's dorm room.

Phillipos was at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where all four men had studied, by coincidence on April 18, his lawyers said in the court papers. He had taken a leave of absence in December and hadn't spoken to Tsarnaev or the other two men for more than two months, they said.

"By sheer coincidence and bad luck, he was invited to attend a seminar on campus on April 18," the night the three allegedly went to Tsarnaev's dorm room, according to the documents. "As such, he did not have much to offer the authorities regarding the investigation of the suspect."

To support their request for bail, the lawyers filed affidavits from friends and relatives of Phillipos who described him as a considerate, thoughtful and friendly young man, the son of a single mother who emigrated to the United States from Ethiopia. They said he wasn't a flight risk, noting that he is lifelong resident of Massachusetts and has many relatives there.

Phillipos faces a maximum of eight years behind bars and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, are accused of carrying out the April 15 bombing, which used pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, ball bearings and metal shards. The attack killed three people and injured more than 260 others near the marathon's finish line.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunfight with police days later. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured and remains in a prison hospital. He has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and faces a potential death sentence if convicted.

A calming trend on the Springs fire

Aided by calmer winds and cooler temperatures, fire crews began gaining control Saturday of a fast-moving blaze that scorched large swaths of rugged mountain terrain and forced mass evacuations in Ventura County.

By late afternoon the so-called Springs fire, having engulfed about 28,000 acres since its Thursday start, was 56% percent contained and all mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Though the blaze has damaged 15 homes and five commercial buildings, no residences have been destroyed and no injuries have been reported, officials said. Latimes.com

Compared to Thursday and Friday — when fire raced through Ventura County hillsides, causing officials to call for the evacuation of about 5,000 residents — Saturday was relatively calm for firefighters and residents in the most heavily threatened areas, neighborhoods full of multimillion-dollar ranch homes near Thousand Oaks and Camarillo.

By late afternoon, as the air kept cooling, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Fernando Herrera said officials expected to have full containment by Monday.

"This is good," said Herrera, looking up at fog rolling inland on ocean breezes. "This is what we want."

Earlier in the day, fearing a replay of a 1993 inferno that crept from hillsides and destroyed 53 homes, crews focused their efforts on keeping the blaze from reaching neighborhoods on the rural western edges of Thousand Oaks. From a vantage point near Potrero Road and Wendy Drive, light wisps of smoke could be seen rising from a distance into the sky, but nothing more. As firefighters monitored the smoke, residents calmly snapped photographs.

"The activity has dropped dramatically," said Cal Fire Deputy Chief Mike Parkes, who, like most of his colleagues, also noted a drop-off in the blaze's intensity, largely because of the sudden weather change.

Temperatures in the coastal areas near the fire dipped Saturday into the 60s and 70s, falling from unseasonable highs that had climbed toward the 90s on Thursday, when the blaze began near Thousand Oaks. Along with the cooler weather, winds weakened and humidity levels began rising to near 70% from a low of 5% earlier in the week, according to Scott Sukup, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

A 50% chance of rain is projected Sunday and Monday in the area, said Sukup, adding that his agency has ended a red-flag alert announced earlier in the week that warned of increased fire danger throughout much of the region.

On the western outskirts of Thousand Oaks on Saturday, as fire crews attempted to use controlled burns in an effort to ensure containment of the blaze, residents in nearby neighborhoods watched from their properties.

"With all these guys out here, it's pretty safe," said Charles Ash, 57, who owns a large property close to the containment line that fire crews were working on near Potrero Road. Ash said that on Friday he had started preparing to help fight the fire himself, pulling out hoses he can attach to hydrants on his property and readying wet burlap sacks in case he needed to snuff out hot embers. Eventually, he got his two sons out of school to help if necessary. "We needed everyone we could get," he said.

On Saturday, Ash felt more confident but wasn't ready to fully drop his guard. "We're not putting away those hoses until Monday afternoon," he said.

The potential for a devastating blaze became clear early in the week, when Cal Fire authorities and meteorologists determined that ominous weather patterns were setting up over Southern California: hot Santa Ana winds, unseasonably high temperatures reaching the 90s and low humidity.

Cal Fire authorities dispatched hundreds of firefighters from across the state to Ventura County. Firefighters and additional ground personnel were also deployed from Oregon, Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico.

"We knew big fires were imminent; we just didn't know where," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said.

Early in the week, nearly 3,000 acres burned near Riverside. Another blaze has torched 6,700 acres in Northern California and continues to burn. On Friday, five fires were reported in San Diego County and another on Saturday in steep forestland in Riverside County south of Banning.

Shortly after the Springs fire erupted, state and local officials determined that it would become a major incident, threatening residents, homes and commercial buildings.

"A decision was made to dispatch resources from across the state to Camarillo," Schuler said.

More than 1,800 fire personnel were concentrated on the Springs fire, which burned all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Some could be seen Saturday, working from a makeshift base on a private ranch near Potrero Road — about 20 fire personnel clearing brush with chain saws, stopping occasionally to alert water-dropping helicopters overhead which hot spots to hit.

"This isn't baby-sitting quite yet," said Ventura County Fire Capt. Wayne Farber. "We have to put a line around the fire.... Cross your fingers there will be rain in a couple days.... There's still a lot of hard, dirty work to still be done."

'Israel overnight strike targeted Iranian missile shipment meant for Hezbollah'

Only a few days after an alleged Israeli strike, Syrian media reports Israeli rocket fire targeted a military research center; Western intel sources confirm Syrian reports, say targets were Iranian Fateh-110 surface-to-surface missiles. Haaretz.com

Western intelligence sources confirmed on Sunday morning that both the overnight strike and Friday's alleged attack on Syria targeted an Iranian missile shipment intended for Hezbollah.

The sources said the target was a shipment of Fateh-110 missiles. The Fateh-110 is a medium-range advanced guided missile capable of hitting targets at a range of up to 300 kilometers.

Israel did not officially respond to the reports.

Large explosions rocked Damascus early Sunday morning, only a few days after an Israeli strike allegedly hit the country, Syrian state TV reported. The Assad regime's news service blamed Israel for the rocket strike, which targeted a military research center on Mount Qassioun, north of Damascus.

On Saturday morning, anonymous Israeli officials told the Associated Press that the Israeli Air Force carried out a strike against Syria early Friday that targeted a shipment of advanced missiles bound for the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group.

According to a New York Times report on Saturday, American officials say the first alleged Israeli strike on Syria also targeted Iranian Fateh-110 missiles that Israel thought were headed for Hezbollah.

A shipment of the missiles were being stored at a Damascus airport when they were struck in the attack, a U.S. official told the newspaper.

Later Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that Israel has the right to guard against the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

Israel has long made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons from reaching Hezbollah or jihadi rebels. Israeli warplanes allegedly went after the shipment inside Syria, where a two-year civil war is raging.

2 bodies at crash site of U.S. military plane in Afghanistan - National Top News

Two bodies at crash site where a U.S. plane went down Friday in Afghanistan were discovered, Reuters reports May 4. The exact location of the wreckage was in Kyrgyzstan where a cargo plane exploded while in mid-air. The fuel it was carrying ignited the explosion, investigators said. Remains of two people on-board the flight were found Saturday, but there were three known to be on the plane. An investigation will be conducted to learn why the plane crashed, but Kuyan Mamakeev -- state prosecutor of Kyrgyz -- said the explosion could have been related to a number of factors with the fuel, engine, and weather conditions. Kuvan Mamakeev, the Kyrgyz state prosecutor responsible for investigating transport crimes and accidents. 70 tons of fuel were aboard the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker that left a U.S. military transit center from Kyrgyzstan Manas airport.

via www.Examiner.com

Guantánamo hunger strike: prisoners being force fed

When the military doctors force-feed Guantánamo Bay detainee Fayiz al-Kandari with a tube shoved into his stomach there are three stages to the pain.

First, there is the sensation of the tube passing near his sinuses as it is pushed through his nose and into his throat, which causes his eyes to water. Then there is an intense burning and gagging sensation as it goes down the throat. Finally, when the tube enters the stomach there is a strong urge to vomit.

The experience, described by al-Kandari to his lawyer Carlos Warner, has one final grim humiliation. Once the tube has delivered food inside him, it triggers the most painful moment of all: the return of feeling hungry. "He says that can be the worst thing," Warner said.

Al-Kandari is one of at least 100 men on hunger strike at America's controversial terrorist prison camp, isolated on the island of Cuba. Of that number, whose two-month starvation protest has created headlines around the world, 21 are being force-fed to keep them alive.

Like 85 others among the 166 detainees in the camp, al-Kandari has been cleared for release but is still being held without charge. The sheer horror of many of the men's plight – imprisoned without trial for more than a decade, in many cases, and cleared but not released – has generated a wave of revulsion around the world as the hunger strike has grown in strength.

The International Red Cross has protested at the men's treatment and conditions. A group of United Nations human rights officials has demanded an end to the force-feeding, saying it is a form of torture. "Hunger strikers should be protected from all forms of coercion, even more so when this is done through force and in some cases through physical violence," the group said in a statement last week.

Rarely in the decade since Guantánamo Bay became the site of an out-of-jurisdiction prison camp for suspected Islamist militants captured during the "war on terror" has the base been featured so prominently in the headlines. The starving protesters have driven the base's existence up the US news agenda, even forcing Barack Obama to vow to shut it down. "The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are. It is contrary to our interests, and needs to stop," Obama told a news conference.

There are many people who would agree with him. But it is not easy. Despite the growing pressure and despite his own stated desire to close the base, America is finding that the existence of Guantánamo and its miserable, starving protesters cannot be dealt with so easily.

Back in January 2004, an operational update by the Red Cross made an observation of the psychological impact that the concept of indefinite detention was having on the prisoners inside the camp. It revealed it had "… observed a worrying deterioration in the psychological health of a large number of them".

That was nine years ago. No wonder those still there – and still with no prospect of either release or trial – have gone on hunger strike about their fate. The Red Cross is watching the current situation closely. A source said: "The hunger strikes are a reflection of the desperation of individuals who have no clear perspective on their future. The uncertainty is what is driving this."

Yet, surprisingly, the strike did not begin specifically about such issues. Nor did it immediately involve larger numbers of detainees. Statements from prisoners passed on by their lawyers, and declassified for release by the base's military authorities, show that on 6 February there had been an intensive search of prisoners' accommodation in camp six at the base.

Inmates were ordered outside and personal items, such as letters and toothbrushes and books, were searched and sometimes confiscated. Some prisoners have maintained that their copies of the Qur'an were mishandled by the guards – an allegation strenuously denied by the military.

Whatever the exact truth, it was too much for some. Afghan detainee Obaidullah said in a statement obtained by Amnesty International: "I had not participated in hunger strikes, or organised protests in the past … but the latest actions in the camps have dehumanised me, so I have moved to take action. Eleven years of my life have been taken from me and now, by the latest actions of the authorities, they have also taken my dignity and disrespected my religion."

The hunger strike began to spread. During this time, lawyers reported that a growing number of detainees were protesting: some entirely forgoing food, some giving up nourishment to a lesser degree. The military authorities played down the problem.

In testimony to Congress in March, General John Kelly would admit only that 24 Guantánamo prisoners were on "hunger strike light" and eating "a bit, but not a lot". A handful, he confessed, were being force-fed, but they "present themselves daily, calmly, in a totally co-operative way, to be fed through a tube". Kelly even added that he suspected some of them were sneaking in snacks when they were back in their cells.

But as the headlines and also the sheer number of strikers grew, it became impossible to make light of the situation. Then on 13 April a crackdown began. In order to break the strike, guards apparently sought to enforce a policy of putting hunger strikers in individual accommodation, away from the communal parts of the camp. Some resisted and violence broke out, with the military firing so-called "non-lethal" rounds a number of times and injuring several prisoners.

Younous Chekkouri, speaking to a lawyer from the human rights charity Reprieve by phone, described how guards used teargas and "shotguns … with small [rubber] bullets" to subdue a peaceful protest after guards discovered cameras inside their cells. "Guards were scary, they were ready to use guns, use force … it was very scary," he said.

Al-Kandari also described the scene, including seeing "many" people hit by the "rubber bullets" that were used by the guards. "Everyone's hands were tied behind their back and the men were left on the floor for six hours in this position face down ... the men's clothes were soaked with pepper spray," he said in a call with his lawyer.

Now the crisis had become so bad that, amid dire warnings that someone might eventually die, a 40-strong military medical team was flown to the base at the start of last week in order to carry out the force-feedings and keep the prisoners alive.

Omar Farah, a lawyer with the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, visited several detainees last week in person at the prison, including Fahd Ghazy. He was shocked at what he saw. "Fahd looked like he had lost about a quarter of his bodyweight," he said, describing other detainees whose hands were shaking from weakness and unable to perform simple tasks like lifting a bottle of water. "I was stunned by the physical ruin that I saw," he said.

One man with more than the usual qualifications to talk about what should happen to Guantánamo is Colonel Morris Davis, the former top prosecutor at the camp's military commissions. He served there for two years, seeing charges brought against the Australian militant David Hicks and Salim Hamdan, who was Osama bin Laden's driver. He is proud of his time there – although he resigned in 2007 after commanders wanted to use evidence obtained via the torture technique of waterboarding.

But Davis is now an outspoken critic of the base. "As illogical as suicide seems, sitting there for the rest of their lives probably makes it look like a rational choice," he said. Davis has now launched several petitions to get the Obama administration to close the base. But he refuses to be optimistic. "I cannot believe that we are still here in 2013 talking about this," he said.

Yet talk is still all there is. Obama himself last week acknowledged that the base was a PR disaster for the United States – there are few better recruiting tools than the knowledge that so many people are being held for so long without charge. But, even as he repeated his broken 2008 campaign pledge to close the base, Obama made clear that he would seek the support of Congress to do so.

It is the president's style to seek partnership with his Republican opponents, but that is exactly the route that saw him fail to close the base in his first year of office. Many of the Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, are implacably opposed to either releasing any of the prisoners or moving them to secure facilities on the US mainland.

It is something Davis cannot understand. "They say, 'We can't look after all these dangerous and crazy people'. But I can tell you, our prison system already looks after thousands of dangerous and crazy people just fine," he said. Indeed all major recent terror cases – from the Boston bombers of last month to the attempted Times Square car bomber of several years ago – have entered the US civilian justice system.

Obama could easily take concrete steps immediately and without the support of Republicans. Human rights activists and legal campaign groups have urged him to name a top official to tackle the problem. They say that he could lift the ban on sending prisoners cleared for release to Yemen – an American ally whose government is loudly insisting it would welcome them. That act alone would clear out scores of detainees from the prison, including al-Kandari. "The men are beyond talking. We have to resume transfers," said Farah.

But to do that Obama will have to take a risk and act alone – exposing himself to accusations of being soft on terrorism in the wake of the Boston attack and as midterm elections loom next year. For many observers that seems like expecting Obama to take a step too far. But, even if Obama did shut down the camp, release those cleared and bring the others to a maximum-security jail in the US, what then?

Those remaining in US custody would still be being detained indefinitely without trial – a clear violation of human rights. After all, those desperate protesting men are not refusing food to simply swap the tropical air of Cuba for a chilly cell in Illinois. They want their cases processed, not just a change of the scenery glimpsed from behind bars.

And so the hunger strikers of Guantánamo will continue to starve. It seems an almost Kafkaesque piece of tragedy, mixing bureaucracy and politics in a combination that could soon prove lethal. As Warner says al-Kandari told him: "They won't try us. They won't let us live in peace, and they won't let us die in peace."

Saudi Arabia Sars-like virus kills five

Five people in Saudi Arabia have died from a Sars-like virus and two more are seriously ill, officials say. The seven cases were all from al-Ahsa governorate in the east of the country, the Saudi news agency SPA said citing health officials. The novel coronavirus (NCoV) causes pneumonia and sometimes kidney failure. It is from the same family of viruses as the one that caused an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) that emerged in Asia in 2003. WHO notification In the statement released by SPA, the Saudi health ministry said it was taking "all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people... and has taken samples from them to examine if they are infected".

However, the ministry gave no details on how many people had been tested for the disease. In a statement, the World Health Organization said the cases were not from the same family and preliminary inquiries showed "no indication of recent travel or animal contact" in any of the confirmed cases. In March, WHO said it had been informed of 17 confirmed cases of NCoV worldwide, including 11 deaths.

Cases have been detected in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany and the UK. Correspondents say the exact source of the new virus and how it spreads are still unknown. One theory is that it comes from animals. The threat to the general population is thought to be small, although the virus has shown signs of spreading in people. According to WHO, the last known death from NCoV was a 73-year-old man from the United Arab Emirates in March.

In February, a patient died in a hospital in Birmingham, England, after three members of the same family became infected. It is thought a family member had picked up the virus while travelling to the Middle East and Pakistan.

via www.bbc.co.uk


'Nazi Bride' murder trial set to start over racist killing spree - Minneapolis Top News

The so-called “Nazi Bride” goes on trial Monday over her alleged role in the killings of nearly a dozen people as well as bombings and numerous bank robberies in Germany, NBC News reported May 4. Beate Zschaepe is dubbed the “Nazi Bride” because she is apparently the sole surviving member of the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi terror cell accused of a seven-year racist killing spree. Zschaepe is accused of complicity in the murder of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek and a policewoman, two bombings and 15 bank robberies. But a German federal prosecutor argues that the “Nazi Bride” actually had a much more active role in the killings and crime spree — that she wasn’t merely a sidekick. Two other alleged accomplices have taken their own lives. They and Zschaepe have been described as a “unified killing commando” that was responsible for a series of execution-style murders. Women have been playing a more prominent role in Germany’s neo-Nazi scene and have gained influence in far-right politics. Zschaepe’s alleged accomplices, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt, were found dead following a bungled armed robbery in November 2011. Zschaepe turned herself in three days later. If found guilty, “Nazi Bride” Zschaepe would face life in prison for her role in the long crime spree.

via www.Examiner.com

Drug to Cut Cholesterol Is Approved by the F.D.A.

The Food and Drug Administration approved on Friday a combination drug developed by Merck that lowers a patient’s cholesterol but has not been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or death, the company said. The drug pairs Merck’s Zetia, which lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) with the generic version of Lipitor, the best-selling statin made by Pfizer that lost its patent protection in 2011. Although the combination drug, to be called Liptruzet, was shown in a clinical trial to reduce LDL cholesterol more than patients who took Lipitor alone, the company said Liptruzet did not reduce patients’ chances of developing heart disease. That fact troubled some cardiologists, who questioned why it was approved.

“This is extremely surprising and disturbing,” said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Cardiologists have long questioned the value of Zetia and Vytorin, which combined Zetia with an older statin, Zocor. They had been on the market for a decade, but had not been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. A clinical trial of more than 18,000 patients is assessing whether Vytorin significantly reduces heart attacks, strokes and heart-related deaths and is expected to conclude in 2014. In March, an independent monitoring board let the trial continue, suggesting that no significant safety concerns had come up. Still, Dr. Nissen said he was skeptical that the trial would show that the drugs were effective. Nytimes.com

Morgan Liscinsky, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, said high levels of LDL cholesterol were a known risk factor for heart disease. “Liptruzet is a combination of two currently marketed drugs that effectively lower elevated levels of LDL cholesterol,” she said. The F.D.A. rejected Merck’s application for the drug last year, and the company said at the time that the agency requested more information. Merck said Liptruzet was a good option for patients who were not successful in lowering their bad cholesterol. “A significant percentage of patients are unable to lower their LDL cholesterol to recommended levels despite treatment,” Dr. Peter H. Jones, an adviser to Merck and an associate professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said in a news release.

Liptruzet is meant to be taken once a day and will be sold in doses of 10 milligrams of Zetia, in addition to 10, 20, 40 or 80 milligrams of Lipitor, known as atorvastatin. Merck’s list price will be $5.50 a pill. A company spokeswoman did not say whether insurance companies were planning to cover the drug, but said Merck “intends to be competitive in managed care to ensure wide access to Liptruzet.” Sales of Vytorin and Zetia have fallen since 2007, when they brought in a combined $5 billion, but they are still among Merck’s top-selling drugs. In 2012, Zetia brought in $2.6 billion and Vytorin $1.8 billion, according to company filings.

Karzai Says C.I.A. Cash Will Keep Coming

The C.I.A.’s station chief here met with President Hamid Karzai on Saturday, and the Afghan leader said he had been assured that the agency would continue dropping off stacks of cash at his office despite a storm of criticism that has erupted since the payments were disclosed.

The C.I.A. money, Mr. Karzai told reporters, was “an easy source of petty cash,” and some of it was used to pay off members of the political elite, a group dominated by warlords.

The use of the C.I.A. cash for payoffs has prompted criticism from many Afghans and some American and European officials, who complain that the agency, in its quest to maintain access and influence at the presidential palace, financed what is essentially a presidential slush fund. The practice, the officials say, effectively undercut a pillar of the American war strategy: the building of a clean and credible Afghan government to wean popular support from the Taliban. Nytimes reports

Instead, corruption at the highest levels seems to have only worsened. The International Monetary Fund recently warned diplomats in Kabul that the Afghan government faced a potentially severe budget shortfall partly because of the increasing theft of customs duties and officially abetted tax evasion.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai sought to dampen the furor over the payments, describing them as one facet of the billions of dollars in aid Afghanistan receives each year. “This is nothing unusual,” he said.

He said the cash helped pay rent for various officials, treat wounded members of his presidential guard and even pay for scholarships. Mr. Karzai said that when he met with the C.I.A. station chief, “I told him because of all these rumors in the media, please do not cut all this money, because we really need it.”

“It has helped us a lot, it has solved lots of our problems,” he added.

The comments were his first in Kabul since The New York Times reported the payments last week, when he was traveling in Europe.

Yet Mr. Karzai, in offering his most detailed accounting to date of how the money had been used, probably raised as many questions as he answered.

Formal aid, for instance, is publicly accounted for and audited. The C.I.A.’s cash is not, though Mr. Karzai did say the Americans were given receipts for the money they dropped off at the presidential palace.

Asked why money that was used for what would appear to be justifiable governing and charitable expenses was handed over secretly by the C.I.A. and not routed publicly through the State Department, Mr. Karzai replied: “This is cash. It is the choice of the U.S. government.”

He added, “If tomorrow the State Department decides to give us such cash, I’d welcome that, too.”

Mr. Karzai declined to specify how much cash his office received each month, or how much it had been given by the C.I.A. so far. At his meeting with the station chief, it was made clear to him that “we are not allowed to disclose” the amount, he said.

Current and former Afghan officials who spoke before last week said the payments had totaled tens of millions of dollars since they began a decade ago.

The American Embassy in Kabul, which handles queries for the C.I.A., declined to comment.

But it was Mr. Karzai’s acknowledgment that some of the money had been given to “political elites” that was most likely to intensify concerns about the cash and how it is used.

In Afghanistan, the political elite includes many men more commonly described as warlords, people with ties to the opium trade and to organized crime, along with lawmakers and other senior officials. Many were the subjects of American-led investigations that yielded reams of intelligence and evidence but almost no significant prosecutions by the Afghan authorities.

Mr. Karzai did not address those concerns on Saturday. He instead emphasized that no one group or political faction was given special treatment.

“Yes, sometimes Afghanistan’s political elites have some needs, they have requested our help and we have helped them,” Mr. Karzai said. “But we have not spent it to strengthen a particular political movement. It’s not like that. It has been given to individuals.”

Mr. Karzai is not the first Afghan to receive money from the C.I.A., which paid warlords to fight the Taliban during the invasion in 2001 and has paid others to keep fighting.

But the payments to the president’s office appear to be on a vaster scale and to have had a wider impact, fueling the same patronage networks that American envoys, law enforcement agents and soldiers struggled unsuccessfully to dismantle.

Mr. Karzai is not believed to have personally profited. But the C.I.A. money has proved essential to his ability to govern, say current and former Afghan officials who had first described the payments. His administration is not centered on a political party or a particular ideology and instead draws strength largely from its ability to buy off warlords, lawmakers and other prominent — and potentially troublesome — Afghans.

The United States was not alone in keeping the Karzai administration awash in cash. Iran, too, made regular cash payments to the presidential palace, though Mr. Karzai said that it cut off the money after Afghanistan began negotiating a strategic partnership deal with Washington.

The British intelligence agency MI6 has given small amounts for special projects, he said, but only a fraction of what the Americans and Iranians gave.

Asked if any other countries were dropping off stacks of cash at the palace, Mr. Karzai said: “No, none. And even if they were, we wouldn’t let you know. We wouldn’t tell you that.”

News of the payments dominated the Afghan media over the past week, with lawmakers calling for an inquiry and some suggesting that taking the cash was potentially treasonous. And there have been jokes, of course. At the palace on Saturday, Afghan reporters laughed at the “C.I.A. burgers” they were served for lunch after the news conference.

Members of Congress have also raised questions about the payments. Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, wrote to President Obama last week expressing concern that they appeared to “indicate an incoherent U.S. policy toward Afghanistan,” and asking for an explanation.

“The alleged arrangements make accountability impossible and promote corruption at the top levels of the Afghan government, as well as break trust with the American taxpayer,” Mr. Corker wrote.

Tech Firms Take Lead in Lobbying on Immigration

The television advertisement that hit the airwaves in Florida last month featured the Republican Party’s rising star, Senator Marco Rubio, boasting about his get-tough plan for border security. But most who watched the commercial, sponsored by a new group that calls itself Americans for a Conservative Direction, may be surprised to learn who bankrolled it: senior executives from Silicon Valley, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, who run companies where the top employees donate mostly to Democrats. The advertising blitz reflects the sophisticated lobbying campaign being waged by technology companies and their executives. They have managed to secure much of what they want in the landmark immigration bill now pending in Congress, provisions that would allow them to fill thousands of vacant jobs with foreign engineers. At the same time, they have openly encouraged lawmakers to make it harder for consulting companies in India and elsewhere to provide foreign workers temporarily to this country.

Those deals were worked out through what Senate negotiators acknowledged was extraordinary access by American technology companies to staff members who drafted the bill. The companies often learned about detailed provisions even before all the members of the so-called Gang of Eight senators who worked out the package were informed. “We are very pleased with the progress and happy with what’s in the bill,” said Peter J. Muller, a former House aide who now works as the director of government relations at Intel. “It addresses many of the issues we’ve been advocating for years.” Now, along with other industry heavyweights, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the technology companies are trying to make sure the law gets passed — which explains the political-style television advertising campaign, sponsored by a group that has revealed no details about how much money it gets from its individual supporters. The industry also hopes to get more from the deal by working to remove some regulatory restrictions in the proposal, including on hiring foreign workers and firing Americans. Silicon Valley was once politically aloof before realizing in recent years that its future profits depended in part on battles here in Washington. Its effort to influence immigration legislation is one of its most sophisticated.

The technology industry “understands there’s probably not a tremendous amount of resistance to their part of the bill,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview last week, saying he welcomed the industry support. “But their future and getting the reform passed is tied to the overall bill.”

The bill has a good chance of winning passage in the Senate. The hardest sell will come in the House, where many conservative Republicans see the deal as too generous to immigrants who came to this nation illegally.

Rob Jesmer, a former top Republican Senate strategist who helps run the new Zuckerberg-backed nonprofit group that sponsored the Rubio ad, insisted that his organization’s push is based on the personal convictions of the executives who donated to the cause and who believe immigration laws need to be changed. Those convictions just happen to line up with what their corporations are lobbying for as well, he said.

“It will give a lot of people who are educated in this country who are already here a chance to remain in the United States,” Mr. Jesmer said, “and encourage entrepreneurs from all over the world to come to the United States and create jobs.”

The profound transition under way inside Silicon Valley companies is illustrated by their lobbying disclosure reports filed in Congress. Facebook’s lobbying budget swelled from $351,000 in 2010 to $2.45 million in the first three months of this year, while Google spent a record $18 million last year.

That boom in spending translates into hiring of top talent in the art of Washington deal-making. These companies have hired people like Joel D. Kaplan, a onetime deputy chief of staff in the Bush administration who now works for Facebook; Susan Molinari, a former House Republican from New York who is now a Google lobbyist; and outside lobbyists like Steven Elmendorf, a former chief of staff to Richard A. Gephardt, a former House majority leader, who works for Facebook.

The immigration fight, which has unified technology companies perhaps more than any other issue, has brought the lobbying effort to new heights. The industry sees it as a fix to a stubborn problem: job vacancies, particularly for engineers. “We are not able to fill all the jobs that we are creating,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, told the Senate Judiciary Committee late last month. Chief executives met with President Obama to discuss immigration. Venture capitalists testified in Congress. Their lobbyists roamed the Senate corridors to make sure their appeals were considered in the closed-door negotiations among the Gang of Eight, which included Mr. Rubio and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who have been particularly receptive.

In the many phone calls and hallway asides on Capitol Hill this year, those lobbyists realized that they had to give a little to get a lot of what they wanted. At the top of their wish list was an expansion of a temporary visa program called the H-1B, which allows companies to hire foreigners for jobs in the United States. There are a limited number of H-1Bs available each year, and competition for them is fierce. Companies like Facebook and Intel use them largely to bring workers to their own offices. Consulting companies like Tata, based in India, use them to supply computer workers at American banks, oil companies and sometimes software firms. Critics of H-1B visas point out that they mostly bring workers at the lowest pay scales. The technology industry’s main rivals in these negotiations were lawmakers who have long been critical of guest worker visa programs, chiefly Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and groups that represent American engineers.

Silicon Valley lobbyists told Senate negotiators they agreed that the H1-B visa system had been subject to abuse. Go after the companies that take advantage of guest worker visas and give us the benefit of the doubt, they told the Senate staff members, according to interviews with several lobbyists. “You know and we know there are some bad people in this system,” is how Scott Corley, the president of Compete America, a technology industry coalition, recalled the conversation. “We are simply trying to make sure that as they are pursuing the rats they are not sinking the ship.” That acknowledgment, several lobbyists said privately, helped unlock an impasse in negotiations.

What emerged was a Senate measure that allows American technology companies to procure many more skilled guest worker visas, raising the limit to 110,000 a year from 65,000 under current law, along with a provision to expand it further based on market demand. The bill would also allow these companies to move workers on guest visas more easily to permanent resident visas, freeing up more temporary visas for these companies. But it requires them to pay higher wages for guest workers and to post job openings on a Web site, so Americans can have a chance at them. And it draws a line in the sand between these technology firms and the mostly Indian companies that supply computer workers on H-1B visas for short-term jobs at companies in the United States. “This provision accomplishes the goal of discouraging abuse of the program while providing an important incentive for companies to bring top talent to work in the United States for the long-term, where they will contribute to our economy,” said Mr. Kaplan, the former Republican White House aide who is now the vice president for United States public policy at Facebook.

The bill is written in such a way that it penalizes companies that have a large share of foreign guest workers among their United States work forces, eventually making it impossible for them to bring in any more. It allows large American companies that have many more American workers to continue to import workers. And it includes a provision that exempts from the guest worker count those employees that companies sponsor for green cards, essentially a bonus to American businesses like Facebook whose work forces are growing fast. Companies that provide temporary foreign workers say the move is intended to push them out of the American market. These companies, mostly based in India, have far less good will on Capitol Hill. Their hope now rests with convincing lawmakers that it would be counterproductive to punish them.

“Why are we in the United States? We are there because American corporations want us,” said Som Mittal, the president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies, which represents Indian companies. “We help them become competitive and serve their customers better.” In interviews, Mr. Rubio and an aide to Mr. Schumer said the draft bill takes a balanced approach to penalize those who do not hire American workers for jobs here. They say the proposal is good for the country, even as it may benefit American technology firms.

In March, some of the biggest figures in the technology industry, including Mr. Zuckerberg, the Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the venture capitalist John Doerr, unveiled a new nonprofit advocacy group, called Fwd.Us, with its first mission being to push Congress to overhaul immigration law. The group has hired lobbyists and a staff of veteran political operatives. One of its first campaigns was to bankroll the television ad for Mr. Rubio. Two other ads backed Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Senator Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, who is considered a critical swing vote, in a state where there are many critics of the legislation. Mr. Jesmer said the group spent “in the seven figures” on the ads. Mr. Rubio has been a vocal ally. He says he understands the industry’s need for talent and wants to prevent companies from having to ship work overseas. To negotiate the details on the immigration bill, Mr. Rubio hired Enrique Gonzalez, who took a leave from a law firm that handles H-1B visa applications for many technology companies. Mr. Gonzalez said the assignment presented no conflict of interest because he works with universities handling visas, not technology companies.

The fact that technology lobbyists were given an unusual degree of access to the negotiators on the bill is entirely justified, he said. “Because of the unique needs of the technology industry, the newness of it, the novelty of a lot of the issues they are confronting, I think that was why there were more engaged than some of the other industries were,” he said.

via Nytimes.com

God gesture disqualifies team: God Gesture Made by Track team gets Disqualification

So Many people are outraged after an act of faith cost a local track team a win and a chance to advance to the state championships. The God gesture disqualified the boys Columbus High School 4 X 100 relay team after they won the regional meet and were on their way to the Texas state championships. As WFAA explained on May. 2, the team was disqualified after one of the runners, Derrick Hayes, pointed up to the sky. "It's a sad deal. I think it's a travesty. Those kids work hard," says K.C. Hayes, the boy's father. "As a team they reached their goal and in an instant it was just gone, over something we think is a non-issue. I guess someone else thinks it is an issue. He just said dad I was pointing at the heavens" K.C. Hayes said. The call to disqualify the team was made by a judge with the University Interscholastic League or UIL, which enforces the rules for high school athletics. "For those kids the work they put in, what are we teaching them? Ok you're going to sacrifice, work hard and do everything it takes and ok it's just ripped away," says Hayes. "It's a harsh consequence for what some people may deem a small gesture. The rule states no celebratory gestures including raising your arms," explains Columbus I.S.D. Superintendent Robert O'Connor. The UIL said that there is no rule that prohibits religious expression, and they stated that the disqualification was for "unsporting conduct." "You can do whatever you want to in terms of prayer, kneeling or whatever you want to once you get out of the competition area. You just can't do it in the competition area. It goes back to the taunting rule. I can't taunt my opponent," O'Connor says. "It's not a malicious act. It's not a taunting act. It's a 'we did it' and he (my son) knows where the source comes from. I know him. He's not a malicious kid. On the football field he'll hit you and then help you up," Hayes says. Many see the team's god gesture disqualification as a violation of religious freedom. Some have expressed their concerns to the state, however, they seem to be standing by the UIL's decision

via www.Examiner.com

Harvard professor sorry for Keynes comments

Prominent Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson apologized Saturday for saying in a public speech that economist John Maynard Keynes’ policies were too short-sighted because he was gay and did not have children.

“My disagreements with Keynes’ economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation,” Ferguson said in a statement. “It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life.”

Ferguson made the remarks at the Altegris Strategic Investment Conference in Carlsbad, Calif. this week. He was responding to a question about Keynes’ oft-quoted warning against thinking too far ahead while making economic policy, “In the long run we are all dead.”

Ferguson said that children and grandchildren bear such ‘long-run’ burdens of economic policies, which, he argued, Keynes did not understand.

In his apology Saturday, Ferguson wrote: “This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.”

Ferguson is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, has written extensively on international history and economic history. He was a financial advisor for US Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.

Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin declined to comment.

Jami Schlicher, a spokeswoman for conference organizers, said she did not have a transcript or recording of Ferguson’s remarks.

Miley tops Maxim/: Miley Cyrus Top Among 100 Maxim Hot List

The 20-year-old revealed on Twitter that she landed the number one spot on Maxim's annual Hot 100 list. The "Can't Be Tamed" singer tweeted on Friday night: Can't help but wonder if Maxim knew the list was coming out yet, either? It seems Cyrus's tweet was the first time most people heard about the news. Bar Refaeli won the coveted title in 2012 (fun fact: Amanda Bynes was number 59 last year). Other stars who have topped the list include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Katy Perry, and Olivia Wilde. Cyrus has been making the press rounds to promote her upcoming album, and just last week Liam Hemsworth's fiancée showed off quite the sultry side in a provocative shoot for V Magazine. Can't wait to more (official) photos from the Maxim shoot! What do you think of Cyrus being crowned the hottest woman in the world? Sound off below!

via www.Omg.Yahoo.com

Suspect accused of lying in Boston Marathon bombing case seeks bail

Advocates for a 19-year-old Cambridge man charged with lying to federal investigators after the Boston Marathon bombings are calling on a federal judge to release him from jail Monday, saying he had “nothing to do” with the deadly attack. In court documents filed Saturday, his lawyers and supporters said Robel Phillipos is a doting and civic-minded young man and that the authorities’ claims that he gave conflicting accounts to them is “refutable.” He has a detention hearing Monday in US District Court in Boston.

“This case is about a frightened and confused 19 year old who was subjected to intense questioning and interrogation, without the benefit of counsel, and in the context of one of the worst attacks against the nation,” lawyers Derege B. Demissie and Susan B. Church of Cambridge said in court documents.

“The weight of the federal government under such circumstances can have a devastatingly crushing effect on the ability of an adolescent to withstand the enormous pressure and respond rationally.” Federal investigators charged Phillipos on Wednesday in US District Court in Boston, saying he gave three different versions of events until he finally admitted that he and two friends went to dorm room of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspected bomber, on April 18, three days after the Marathon bombings killed three people and injured 264 others. Boston news

The two friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19-year-old students from the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, were also charged Wednesday with conspiring to obstruct justice and destroy evidence in the case, for taking a backpack and other items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room and dumping some of them in a trash bin near their off-campus apartment in New Bedford. Of the three friends, Phillipos is facing the longest possible incarceration – up to eight years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

On Saturday, lawyers said in court records that Phillipos was at UMass Dartmouth -- where all four men had studied -- by coincidence on April 18. At that time, the lawyers said, Phillipos had not talked to Tsarnaev or the other two men for more than two months.

“By sheer coincidence and bad luck, he was invited to attend a seminar on campus on April 18,” the night the three friends allegedly went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room, according to the court records. “As such, he did not have much to offer the authorities regarding the investigation of the suspect.” Phillipos took a leave of absence from UMass Dartmouth in December and was seeking an internship at the time of his arrest, according to the court records.

To support the request for bail, lawyers filed multiple affidavits from friends and relatives of Phillipos, including a Wellesley College art professor, the owner of a limousine business, and a Harvard Kennedy school program administrator. In the affidavits, supporters described Phillipos as a considerate, thoughtful and friendly young man, the son of a single mother who emigrated to the United States from Ethiopia.

Phillipos is bilingual in Amharic and English and proud of his Ethiopian heritage, they said. But he was born and raised in Massachusetts and well-integrated into American life. He attended school, played in soccer and basketball leagues, and idolized Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

He is the only son of Genet Bekele, a domestic-violence specialist who moved to Massachusetts in 1981 and raised her only son working two jobs while she pursued three college degrees. She earned an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in social work from Boston University. She became a naturalized US citizen in 1996 and has helped many other immigrants and refugees adjust to the United States.

In an affidavit on behalf of her son, Bekele said she was deeply involved in his life despite her work schedule. She said she attended all teacher conferences, chaperoned field trips and made sure he did his homework every night. In return, she said, her son helped her. He washed dishes, did the laundry and went grocery shopping. “With every opportunity he had, Robel has always tried to make things easier on me,” she said in the affidavit. “He was very cognizant of the hard work that I had to put in being a single parent.”

She said Phillipos was an honor student in his first two years at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, where he graduated in 2011 with Tsarnaev, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who also grew up in Cambridge. Phillipos served on the Cambridge Mayor’s Program, tutoring younger students, and on the Cambridge Kids’ Council as recently as 2010. On his resume, he said he lobbied to pass a bill that would lower the voting age to 17 in Massachusetts.

Like Tsarnaev, Phillipos enrolled in UMass Dartmouth in 2011, majoring in marketing and minoring in sociology, court records show. He took a leave of absence in December and was seeking an internship when he was arrested. His mother said Phillipos wants nothing more than to clear his name and said she and her family were horrified by the Marathon bombings. As US citizens of Ethiopian descent, she said, they look forward to the Marathon every year.

The male winner this year was 23-year-old Lelisa Desisa from Ethiopia. The outpouring of support for Phillipos contrasted sharply with authorities’ accounts of the night of April 18. In the criminal complaint, authorities say Phillipos, Kadyrbayev, and Tazhayakov went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room late at night, three days after the deadly explosions, and then returned to the Kazakh men’s off campus apartment in New Bedford. Phillipos told authorities that Kadyrbayev went through Tsarnaev’s belongings and took it, then drove Phillipos and Tazhayakov back to the apartment.

Phillipos then said, according to the complaint, that Kadyrbayev and ¬Tazhayakov “started to freak out” -- sometimes in Russian, which he did not understand -- because they realized from a CNN report that Tsarnaev was one of the Marathon bombers. At one point, he said, Kadyrbayev asked Phillipos whether he should throw away the backpack. According to authorities, Phillipos allegedly replied: “Do what you have to do.” Phillipos said he then took a nap. When he awakened, the backpack was gone.

The three men are not accused of participating in the bombings and their lawyers say none had any idea that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings.

Israel Targeted Iranian Missiles in Syria Attack


BEIRUT, Lebanon — A series of powerful explosions rocked the outskirts of Damascus early Sunday morning, which Syrian state television said was the result of Israeli missile attacks on a Syrian military installation.


aIf true, it would be the second Israeli airstrike in Syria in two days and the third this year.

The airstrike that Israeli warplanes carried out in Syria overnight on Thursday was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah, American officials said Saturday. That strike was aimed at disrupting the arms pipeline that runs from Syria to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese organization, and it highlighted the mounting stakes for Hezbollah and Israel as Syria becomes more chaotic.

Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, now in its third year. But as fighting in Syria escalates, they also have a powerful interest in expediting the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case Mr. Assad loses his grip on power and Syria ceases to be an effective channel for funneling weapons from Iran.

The missiles that were the target of the Israeli raid had been shipped from Iran and were being stored in a warehouse at Damascus International Airport when they were struck, according to an American official.

Iran has sought to use the threat of a Hezbollah missile attack against Israeli territory as a means of building up its ally and deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes on Iranian nuclear installations that Israeli and American officials believe are part of an Iranian nuclear weaponsprogram.

In Lebanon, some analysts said they believed that a strong Hezbollah could also emerge as a powerful ally for Mr. Assad if he is forced to abandon Damascus, the Syrian capital, and take refuge in a rump Iranian-backed state on the Syrian coast, a region that abuts the Hezbollah-controlled northern Bekaa Valley.

“The relationship between Hezbollah and the Assad regime is stronger now,” said Talal Atrissi, a professor at Lebanese University in Beirut who has good relations with Hezbollah. If Mr. Assad falls, Hezbollah knows the axis of Syria, Hezbollah and Iran will be greatly weakened, he said.

Israel, for its part, has repeatedly cautioned that it will not allow Hezbollah to receive “game changing” weapons that could threaten the Israeli heartland even if a new Syrian government takes power.

As the Obama administration considers how to dissuade Mr. Assad from ordering a chemical weapons attack — the use of such weapons, the White House has said, would cross a “red line” — Israel, by striking the warehouse, is clearly showing that it is prepared to stand behind the red lines it has set.

“The Israelis are saying, ‘O.K., whichever way the civil war is going, we are going to keep our red lines, which are different from Obama’s,’ ” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

On Friday, SANA, the official Syrian news agency, reported an attack on the Damascus airport by Syrian rebels firing rockets at an aircraft and fuel dump — an account that American officials say may have been intended to obscure the fact that the target was a warehouse full of missiles.

An American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, said the targeted shipment consisted of Iranian-made Fateh-110s — a mobile, accurate, solid-fueled missile that has the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon, and that represents a considerable improvement over the liquid-fueled Scud missile. Two prominent Israeli defense analysts said the shipment included Scud Ds, a missile that Syrians have developed from Russian weapons with a range of up to 422 miles — long enough to reach Eilat, in southernmost Israel, from Lebanon.

Syrian forces loyal to Mr. Assad have used Fateh-110 missiles against the Syrian opposition. Some American officials are unsure whether the new shipment was intended for use by Hezbollah or by the Assad government, which is believed to be running low on missiles in its bloody civil war. But one American official said the warehouse that was struck in the Israeli attack overnight Thursday was believed to be under the control of operatives from Hezbollah and Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.

Hezbollah is now believed to have more missiles and fighters than it had before its 2006 battle with Israel, when Hezbollah missiles forced a third of Israel’s population into shelters and hit as far south as Haifa. A Pentagon official said in 2010 that Hezbollah’s arsenal was believed to include a small number of Fateh-110s, and additional shipments would add to Hezbollah’s striking power.

In carrying out the raid overnight Thursday, Israeli warplanes fired air-to-ground weapons, apparently staying clear of Syrian airspace and operating in the skies over neighboring Lebanon.

Source :Link :nytimes

Texas plant that exploded had $1m policy

The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded last month, killing 14 people, injuring more than 200 others and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage to the surrounding area had only $1 million in liability coverage, lawyers said Saturday.

Tyler lawyer Randy C. Roberts said he and other attorneys who have filed lawsuits against West Fertilizer’s owners were told Thursday that the plant carried only $1 million in liability insurance. Brook Laskey, an attorney hired by the plant’s insurer to represent West Fertilizer Co., confirmed the amount Saturday in an email to The Associated Press, after the Dallas Morning News first reported it.

‘‘The bottom line is, this lack of insurance coverage is just consistent with the overall lack of responsibility we’ve seen from the fertilizer plant, starting from the fact that from day one they have yet to acknowledge responsibility,’’ Roberts said.

Roberts said he expects the plant’s owner to ask a judge to divide the $1 million in insurance money among the plaintiffs, several of whom he represents, and then file for bankruptcy.

He said he wasn’t surprised that the plant was carrying such a small policy.

‘‘It’s rare for Texas to require insurance for any kind of hazardous activity,’’ he said. ‘‘We have very little oversight of hazardous activities and even less regulation.’’

On April 17, a fire at the West Fertilizer Co. in West, a town 70 miles south of Dallas, was quickly followed by an earth-shaking explosion that left a 90-foot wide crater and damaged homes, schools and nursing home within a 37-block blast zone. Among those killed were 10 emergency responders.

State and federal investigators haven’t determined what caused the blast.

The plant had reported just months before the blast that it had the capacity to store 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, but it was unknown how much was there at the time of the explosion.

Roberts said that even without a conclusive cause, negligence lawsuits can proceed.

‘‘The law allows courts to presume negligence when something happens that would not ordinarily occur but for negligence,’’ Roberts said. ‘‘A fire might be an unavoidable accident, but an explosion of this magnitude resulting from a fire is not an unavoidable accident.’’

Lawyers will look for any other assets the company might have and search for other responsible parties, he said.

2 bodies at crash site: U.S. plane crash site in Kyrgyzstan

2 bodies at crash site where united states plan cashed in Kyrgyzstan. Remains of two bodies have been found in the wreckage of a U.S. military plane that crashed in Kyrgyzstan, and authorities are still looking for a third person who was on board, officials said.

The refueling plane exploded in mid air when its cargo of fuel ignited on its way to Afghanistan on Friday, accident investigators said. Reuters reports

Experts were still trying to work out what led up to the crash, said Kuvan Mamakeev, the Kyrgyz state prosecutor responsible for investigating transport crimes and accidents.

"It could be because of the fuel, because of the engine, the weather conditions or the human factor," he told Reuters. Remains of the two bodies were found on Saturday, and a third person on board was still unaccounted for, Kyrgyzstan's Minister of Emergency Situations, Kubatbek Boronov, added.

The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker took off from the U.S. military transit center at Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport, which U.S. forces maintain for operations in Afghanistan, with around 70 tonnes of fuel on board, a local ministry official said.

The wreckage of the plane was scattered over a 4 to 5 km area in a mountainous area near the Kyrgyz village of Chaldovar, the official added.

Government rift widens as rebels dig in on abortion

Divisions and tensions within Government over the abortion legislation have escalated after the intervention of the Catholic bishops, with both sides now targeting the upcoming committee hearings to make amendments to the controversial bill agreed last week, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been warned by rebels on the Fine Gael pro-life wing of the party that "the war is not yet over" when it comes to the Government's proposal to legislate for the X Case. And Labour TDs and senators are adamant this weekend that no further restrictions would be tolerated saying that the expert group recommendations represent for them a "bottom line". Independent reported

Senator Ivana Bacik said this weekend that the recommendations of the expert group, contained in the new bill, represent a "bottom line" for the Labour party and members are adamant that no undoing of that will be allowed to happen.

"Yes, that is our bottom line. It would be really very hard to accept any further restrictions that might be put into the final draft that would be very hard to accept."

She added: "The health committee hearings will be very useful in teasing out some of the practical details, but it wouldn't be acceptable to see extra restrictions put in. I think the heads provide us with the evidence-based procedures set out in the expert group, but putting in any extra restrictions wouldn't work."

In the wake of the parliamentary party meeting, Fine Gael ministers and the Taoiseach believed the revolt had been quelled, with the exception of two or three TDs.

However, rebel TDs believed that between 10 to 15 TDs are still prepared to lose the party whip unless their concerns are met on a variety of issues.

"While they may not be willing to vote in the Dail against the Government, they certainly are prepared to vote for a motion at the parliamentary party meeting. This is not over," said one TD.

A number of FG TDs remain anxious to ''issue a sunset clause or a variation of that''.

Outside of Peter Mathews, Terence Flanagan, John O'Mahony and James Bannon, it is believed that Galway West TD Brian Walsh still has significant difficulties. Others who are still not convinced include John Paul Phelan, Damien English, the two Wicklow TDs Billy Timmins and Andrew Doyle, and European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton.

Nigeria clashes kills dozens at Wukari leader's funeral

At least 39 people have been killed in Nigeria's Taraba state as clashes broke out between Christians and Muslims at a funeral, say reports. Residents said Friday's violence broke out as a funeral procession for a traditional leader passed through a Muslim area of Wukari town.

A 24-hour curfew has been imposed on the town by police. Tensions have been high in Wukari since February, when a row over a football dispute set off sectarian rioting. Local reports say that Friday's funeral was being held by the predominantly Christian Jukun ethnic group.

As the mourners passed through a Muslim area of the town they began chanting slogans which angered the residents there, say the reports. One aid worker told the AFP news agency that 20 bodies had been collected so far. "We are still going round the town in search of more bodies," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Football clashes

Joseph Kwaji, a spokesman for the Taraba state police, said the situation was now under control and police were "awaiting a comprehensive report". He said another 30 people had been seriously injured. The BBC's Will Ross, in Lagos, says the Jukun ethnic group is in dispute with the Muslim Hausa Fulani group over who the original inhabitants of the town are, and so who has the right to own land.

The violence came a day after a panel was set up to investigate clashes in February in which several people died. That violence was sparked by a row over which ethnic group was entitled to play on a football pitch in the town. There is a long history of tensions between Nigerian Muslims, who mainly live in the north, and Christians who mostly live in the south along with followers of traditional animist religions.

But there have been increasing outbursts of violence, amid an Islamist insurgency in the north which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes. Last month, almost 200 people were killed in the northern town of Baga, as the military attempted to tackle the Boko Haram Islamist extremist group. The army put the number killed at 37. Rights groups have urged the government to investigate allegations of soldiers using excessive force in the town and destroying more than 2,000 homes.

via www.bbc.co.uk

Tom Knapp dies: The shotgun dead at 62

Tom Knapp, an amazing sharpshooter, died in Rochester, Minn. He was famous for shooting shooting golf balls, aspirin and other items from the air. According to a May 3 report by the New York Times, the cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis.

Tom Knapp starred on “Sharpshooters” on the History Channel as well as “Shooting Stars” on Discovery. He was best known for his use of a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun.

Over three million viewers saw a video of Tom Knapp on YouTube. He was seen shooting his 12-gauge shotgun from his hip, over is head and from behind his back. Each time, Tom Knapp hit the objects that were in the air.

Tom Knapp has been compared to Annie Oakley and A.H. Bogardus. He was inspired by Herb Parsons, trick shooter that toured the US from the 1930 to the 1950s. He was given his first gun at the age of nine and saw Herb Parsons perform on television when he was 10. That made him want to be a trick shooter too.

Tom Knapp is survived by is wife, Colleen, two stepchildren, four stepgrandchildren and his brother, John.

Nazi Bride murder trial set to start over racist killing spree

The so-called “Nazi Bride” goes on trial Monday over her alleged role in the killings of nearly a dozen people as well as bombings and numerous bank robberies in Germany, NBC News reported May 4.

Beate Zschaepe is dubbed the “Nazi Bride” because she is apparently the sole surviving member of the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi terror cell accused of a seven-year racist killing spree.

Zschaepe is accused of complicity in the murder of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek and a policewoman, two bombings and 15 bank robberies. But a German federal prosecutor argues that the “Nazi Bride” actually had a much more active role in the killings and crime spree — that she wasn’t merely a sidekick.

Two other alleged accomplices have taken their own lives. They and Zschaepe have been described as a “unified killing commando” that was responsible for a series of execution-style murders.

Women have been playing a more prominent role in Germany’s neo-Nazi scene and have gained influence in far-right politics.

Zschaepe’s alleged accomplices, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt, were found dead following a bungled armed robbery in November 2011. Zschaepe turned herself in three days later.

If found guilty, “Nazi Bride” Zschaepe would face life in prison for her role in the long crime spree.

Syria says Israel strikes military research center

The Syrian state news agency SANA, citing initial reports, said early Sunday that Israeli missiles struck a military research center near the capital Damascus.

If confirmed, it would be the second Israeli strike on targets in Syria in three days, signaling a sharp escalation of Israel's involvement in Syria's bloody civil war.

Israel has said it will not allow sophisticated weapons to flow from Syria to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and a heavily armed foe of the Jewish state.

Two previous Israeli airstrikes, one in January and one on Friday, targeted weapons shipments apparently bound for Hezbollah, Israeli and U.S. officials have said. Usatoday reports

Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment on the reports of a new strike Sunday. In Washington, a Pentagon spokeswoman said she had no information relating to the report by Syrian state media.

SANA said explosions went off at the Jamraya research center near Damascus, causing casualties. "Initial reports point to these explosions being a result of Israeli missiles that targeted the research center in Jamraya," SANA said.

A Syrian activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also reported large explosions in the area of Jamraya, a research facility northwest of Damascus, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Lebanese border.

Israel's first airstrike in Syria, in January, also struck Jamraya.

At the time, a U.S. official said Israel targeted trucks next to the research center that carried SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. The strikes hit both the trucks and the research facility, the official said. The Syrian military said at the time that Israeli warplanes crossed into the country and bombed the research center.

On Saturday, Israeli officials confirmed that a day earlier, Israeli aircraft targeted a weapons shipment in Syria that was apparently bound for Hezbollah. U.S. officials said they believed the strike hit a warehouse.

The Israeli and U.S. officials spoke anonymously because they had not been given permission to speak publicly about the matter.

President Barack Obama said Saturday, before the latest incident, that it was up to Israel to confirm or deny any strikes, but that the U.S. coordinates very closely with Israel.

"The Israelis, justifiably, have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah," Obama told the Spanish-language TV station Telemundo.

8 Soldiers Die in Attacks in Afghanistan

Eight soldiers with the American-led military coalition were killed Saturday, making it the bloodiest day this year for Western troops fighting here.

Two were shot in an insider attack, one died in a small-arms attack and five Americans were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb, according to statements from the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan officials. Nytimes reports

The explosion that killed the five American soldiers took place in the Maiwand district in western Kandahar Province, said Jawed Faisal, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar. The soldiers were driving toward villages from central Maiwand when they were attacked, he said. Capt. Dan Einert, a spokesman for the international coalition here, confirmed that the five soldiers were Americans.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the insider attack in Farah Province in western Afghanistan, where an Afghan National Army soldier turned his weapon on his trainers after an argument, said Lt. Col. Hajji Dil Jan, the deputy police chief of Farah Province.

A Taliban spokesman said in an e-mail that the gunman was from Farah Province.

The coalition said it would not confirm the nationality of the two soldiers who were killed because the next of kin had not yet been notified. But most of the troops in Farah are Americans. Colonel Jan said the gunman, who went by the name Quadratullah, was killed by American soldiers.

Insider attacks rose sharply in 2012, with 64 deaths in 48 attacks, more than in any previous year, Captain Einert said. The military has taken extensive measures to prevent them, and so far this year there have been four episodes.

But with the Taliban’s spring offensive now under way, military officials say they are expecting the militants to increase the use of the tactic.

The eighth casualty occurred in an attack in northern Afghanistan, Captain Einert said.

Feds placing intense pressure on widow, friends in Boston bombing investigation

Federal authorities are placing intense pressure on what they know to be the inner circle of the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects, arresting three college buddies of surviving brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and keeping Tamerlan Tsarnaev's 24-year-old widow, Katherine Russell, in the public eye with their open surveillance and leaks to media about investigators' focus on her. Foxnews reports

Legal experts say it's part of their quest not just to determine whether Russell and the friends are culpable but also to push for as much information as possible regarding whether the bombing suspects had ties to a terrorism network or accomplices working domestically or abroad. A primary goal is to push the widow and friends to give their full cooperation, according to the experts.

Russell is "assisting" investigators, a source close to her tells Fox News, though reports say she may not be fully cooperating.

David Zlotnick, a professor of law at Roger Williams University and former federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia, said authorities may be tracking Russell closely because they feel she's not being completely honest about all she knows.

"It seems to me they don't believe her yet," he said.

Dzhokhar is in a prison hospital, facing a potential death sentence if convicted of the terrorism plot that authorities allege the 19-year-old and his late 26-year-old brother carried out April 15. Twin pressure cooker bombs detonated near therace's finish line, leaving three people dead and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan died in a gunfight with authorities April 19, a day after authorities released photos of the suspects.

Tamerlan's widow has been ensconced at her parents' North Kingstown, R.I., home since then. Much about her remains a mystery, including what she knew or witnessed in the weeks, months and years before the bombings, and what she saw and did in the days after.

It's unclear when Russell last communicated with her husband, but her lawyer, Amato DeLuca, told The Associated Press in an interview last month that the last time she saw him was before she went to work April 18. DeLuca said Tuesday that Russell had met with law enforcement "for many hours over the past week," and would continue to do so in the coming days. He previously told the AP that Russell didn't suspect her husband of anything before the bombings, and nothing seemed amiss in the days after.

Zlotnick said the fact that charges have been brought against the younger brother's three friends from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth over allegations they covered up for Dzhokhar indicates authorities are willing to go after the widow for similar actions. That puts pressure on Russell to cooperate.

Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, students from Kazakhstan, were charged this week with conspiring to obstruct justice by taking a backpack with fireworks and a laptop from Dzhokhar's dorm room, while Robel Phillipos was charged with lying to investigators about the visit to the dorm room. All three are 19 years old and face the possibility of five or more years in federal prison.

Investigators may also focus on the timeline of events regarding the teens' actions, experts say. The teens made contact with Dzhokar before a shootout that killed an MIT officer, but did not call authorities.

Federal, state and local authorities are also continuing to search the woods near the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth campus, a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives official confirms to Fox News.

ATF spokeswoman Debora Seifert says no search warrants have been executed and they are searching public areas.

The lawyers for the Kazakh students said their clients had nothing to do with the bombing and were shocked by the crime. Phillipos' attorney, Derege Demissie, said he was accused only of a "misrepresentation."

Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge in Massachusetts and a professor at Harvard Law School, said she believes authorities will try to use the conspiracy charges against the friends to turn them into cooperating witnesses against Dzhokhar. They will also see if the defendants can help them determine if there's a wider plot and a continuing danger for citizens.

"I think it's to find out ... are there other tentacles here?" Gertner said.

A grand jury is likely already hearing testimony against Dzhokhar, said Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts who also once headed the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said investigators will be looking into whether the brothers tested bombs before the attack and asking questions about whom Tamerlan had contact with when he traveled to Russia last year.

Those are some of the things they would also want to know from Russell.

One of investigators' goals right now is "to figure out if she has knowledge of how he became radicalized, who he spoke to, how he may have learned to make the bomb and whether there are others out there who share his views," said Ron Sullivan, a professor and director of Harvard's Criminal Justice Institute.

In addition to threatening her with criminal charges and a potential prison sentence to get what they want from her, Ron Sullivan said authorities can bring social pressure to bear, including leaking information that suggests she isn't being helpful.

"She's the mother of a young daughter. I imagine she does not want to be deemed as a pariah or ostracized by the whole country," he said.

One question that swirls around Russell is what she saw inside the cramped Cambridge apartment she shared with Tamerlan, whom she married in 2010, and their toddler. Two U.S. officials have told the AP that Dzhokhar told investigators the bombs were assembled in that apartment. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the details of the ongoing investigation.

Robert Clark Corrente, a former U.S. attorney for Rhode Island, said it is unlikely Russell could be prosecuted if she saw a pressure cooker in the home. But if she saw a dozen pressure cookers and several bags of fireworks, that could be a different story.

Her culpability for her actions after the bombings is also a matter of degrees. She could be in trouble if authorities determine she harbored someone or destroyed evidence. But even if Russell communicated with her husband after the release of his photo as the bombing suspect, Corrente said she may not be charged because of the public way it happened.

"I think anybody would be expected to call his or her spouse and say, 'You won't believe what I just saw on TV,"' Corrente said.

The arrests of Dzhokhar's friends and scrutiny of Russell may also have a deterrent effect by demonstrating what happens to people who don't alert authorities if someone close to them is involved in a terror plot, Zlotnick said.

Eugene O'Donnell, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice lecturer and former police officer and assistant district attorney in New York City, said the message from federal authorities is clear: "No stone will be unturned" in their probe.

"I think after 9/11 there's really a kitchen sink approach to national security," he said.

No flight restrictions following low-level eruption at Cleveland Volcano

Alaska's Cleveland Volcano is undergoing a continuous low-level eruption following an explosion early Saturday morning, scientists from the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the U.S. Geological Survey said. Foxnews reports

Satellites and cameras suggest low-level emissions of gas, steam and ash, scientists said, and satellites detected highly elevated surface temperatures at the summit. A faint plume of ash extended eastward below 15,000 feet, but the Federal Aviation Administration said there were no flight restrictions as a result.

"Sudden explosions of blocks and ash are possible with little or no warning," scientists said. "Ash clouds, if produced, could exceed 20,000 feet above sea level."

The aviation alert level was raised from "yellow" to "orange." A major ash emission could threaten international flights.

The activity began with an explosion at 5 a.m. Saturday, followed by two others at 9:17 and 11:44 a.m. A nearby seismic network detected long-duration airwave signals that indicate a sustained eruption.

The volcano is in an isolated region of the Aleutian Islands, 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. Its most recent significant eruption began in February 2001 and featured three explosive events that sent ash clouds as high 39,000 feet above sea level. It also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea.

The most recent minor ash emissions were observed in November 2012.

Israel Targeted Iranian Missiles in Syria Attack

A series of powerful explosions rocked the outskirts of Damascus early Sunday morning, which Syrian state television said was the result of Israeli missile attacks on a Syrian military installation.

If true, it would be the second Israeli airstrike in Syria in two days and the third this year. Nytimes reports

The airstrike that Israeli warplanes carried out in Syria overnight on Thursday was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah, American officials said Saturday. That strike was aimed at disrupting the arms pipeline that runs from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese organization, and it highlighted the mounting stakes for Hezbollah and Israel as Syria becomes more chaotic.

Iran and Hezbollah have both backed PresidentBashar al-Assadin the Syrian civil war, now in its third year. But as fighting in Syria escalates, they also have a powerful interest in expediting the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case Mr. Assad loses his grip on power and Syria ceases to be an effective channel for funneling weapons from Iran.

The missiles that were the target of the Israeli raid had been shipped from Iran and were being stored in a warehouse at Damascus International Airport when they were struck, according to an American official.

Iran has sought to use the threat of a Hezbollah missile attack against Israeli territory as a means of building up its ally and deterring Israel from conducting airstrikes on Iranian nuclear installations that Israeli and American officials believe are part of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

In Lebanon, some analysts said they believed that a strong Hezbollah could also emerge as a powerful ally for Mr. Assad if he is forced to abandon Damascus, the Syrian capital, and take refuge in a rump Iranian-backed state on the Syrian coast, a region that abuts the Hezbollah-controlled northern Bekaa Valley.

“The relationship between Hezbollah and the Assad regime is stronger now,” said Talal Atrissi, a professor at Lebanese University in Beirut who has good relations with Hezbollah. If Mr. Assad falls, Hezbollah knows the axis of Syria, Hezbollah and Iran will be greatly weakened, he said.

Israel, for its part, has repeatedly cautioned that it will not allow Hezbollah to receive “game changing” weapons that could threaten the Israeli heartland even if a new Syrian government takes power.

As the Obama administration considers how to dissuade Mr. Assad from ordering a chemical weapons attack — the use of such weapons, the White House has said, would cross a “red line” — Israel, by striking the warehouse, is clearly showing that it is prepared to stand behind the red lines it has set.

“The Israelis are saying, ‘O.K., whichever way the civil war is going, we are going to keep our red lines, which are different from Obama’s,' ” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

On Friday, SANA, the official Syrian news agency, reported an attack on the Damascus airport by Syrian rebels firing rockets at an aircraft and fuel dump — an account that American officials say may have been intended to obscure the fact that the target was a warehouse full of missiles.

An American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, said the targeted shipment consisted of Iranian-made Fateh-110’s — a mobile, accurate, solid-fueled missile that has the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon, and that represents a considerable improvement over the liquid-fueled Scud missile. Two prominent Israeli defense analysts said the shipment included Scud D’s, a missile that Syrians have developed from Russian weapons with a range of up to 422 miles — long enough to reach Eilat, in southernmost Israel, from Lebanon.

 Syrian forces loyal to Mr. Assad have used Fateh-110 missiles against the Syrian opposition. Some American officials are unsure whether the new shipment was intended for use by Hezbollah or by the Assad government, which is believed to be running low on missiles in its bloody civil war. But one American official said the warehouse that was struck in the Israeli attack was believed to be under the control of operatives from Hezbollah and Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.

 Hezbollah is now believed to have more missiles and fighters than it had before its 2006 battle with Israel, when Hezbollah missiles forced a third of Israel’s population into shelters and hit as far south as Haifa. A Pentagon official said in 2010 that Hezbollah’s arsenal was believed to include a small number of Fateh-110s, and additional shipments would add to Hezbollah’s striking power.

In carrying out Friday’s raid, Israeli warplanes fired air-to-ground weapons, apparently staying clear of Syrian airspace and operating in the skies over neighboring Lebanon.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to acknowledge the attack, saying only in a statement, “Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, especially to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

In late January, Israel carried out a similar airstrike in Syria, which it also refused to publicly confirm, that used similar tactics, including a route over Lebanon, according to a former senior American official. The January attack was against a convoy carrying SA-17 antiaircraft weapons, which were supplied by Russia. The transfer of those weapons to Hezbollah would jeopardize the Israeli Air Force’s ability to operate over Lebanon.

On Sunday, the Syrian government said the missile struck a military complex at Jamraya, a base Damascus said Israel attacked in January.

Large blasts sent towering plumes of flame and smoke into the night sky above Mount Qasioun, which towers over downtown Damascus, according to residents and video posted by opposition activists.

The area is home to an array of Syrian military facilities, including the headquarters of the Army’s Fourth Division, as well as military research centers. Jamraya is on the far side of the mountain.

The vivid explosions were captured in videos by rebel fighters, some of whom could be heard chanting their approval in the background.Syria’s Ikhbariya television, a state-owned channel, asserted that Israeli had carried out the strikes.

“The new Israeli attack on the Center for Scientific Research in Jamraya in the Damascus suburbs confirms the organic link between terrorist groups and the Israeli enemy,” the station said.

The government has long said that the uprising against it was fueled by foreign-backed “terrorists” and served Israeli and American interests.

Israeli officials had no comment on the explosions. Nor did American officials, who signaled that the United States did not carry out the attack.

“They are definitely going after military facilities on or around Qasioun,” said Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “There are a lot of research and military facilities there that are tied into the command and control structure of the regime.”

“It is unprecedented and something all of Damascus can see,” he added, stressing that it would likely have an important political impact in Syria.

The explosions occurred as American official confirmed that Israeli warplanes had carried out a separate airstrike overnight on Thursday that was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah, American officials said Saturday.

Israel’s official silence reveals the broader dilemma it faces in how to handle Syria’s upheaval. After 40 years of quiet on its northeastern border, Israel is now deeply worried about violence spilling over into its territory and about a post-Assad Syria being a vast, ungoverned area controlled by Islamist or jihadist groups, with no central authority to control militant activity.

But leaders in Jerusalem believe that they have few options beyond the targeted airstrikes, seeing greater military intervention as likely to backfire by uniting anti-Israel forces.

President Obama, who is traveling in Central America, said Israel was entitled to defend itself from its enemies.

“The Israelis, justifiably, have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah,” he told the Spanish-language TV station Telemundo.

Few experts expect the Israeli airstrike to put an end to Iran’s attempts to ship arms to Syria and its Hezbollah ally. Jonathan Spyer, an expert on Syria and Hezbollah at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, predicted more attempts to transfer weapons — and Israeli efforts to stop them.

“Clearly Hezbollah is hoping to benefit from its engagement in Syria, and clearly Israel is committed to preventing that,” said Mr. Spyer, who noted that Israel was taking a “calculated risk” that its limited intervention would provoke only a limited response, if any.

Certainly, nothing in recent comments by Hezbollah’s leader,Hassan Nasrallah, suggested that his organization would pull back from its support of Mr. Assad or its alliance with Iran.

Days before the Israeli strike, Mr. Nasrallah issued some of his strongest statements yet of support for Mr. Assad, edging closer to confirming what the Obama administration has already reported: that Hezbollah is backing him militarily, not merely tolerating border crossings by some of its members to defend Lebanese citizens in Syria, as Hezbollah has officially maintained.

Mr. Nasrallah said Hezbollah — using the word “we” — would not allow Syria to fall to an armed assault that he said was backed by the United States and Israel, and added that the party was defending civilians of all sects in Qusayr, a city in Homs Province near the Lebanese border, where rebels say Hezbollah has led recent battles against them.