Iran warns west against military intervention in Syria


Link to video: John Kerry: Syria must be held accountable for chemical weapon attacks

Iran has warned that foreign military intervention in Syria will result in a conflict that would engulf the region.

The threatening rhetoric from Tehran came in response to a statement by the secretary of state, John Kerry, on Monday that the US would respond to the “undeniable” use of chemical weapons in Syria.

In the strongest signal yet that the US intends to take military action against the Assad regime, Kerry said President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces had committed a “moral obscenity” against his own people.

“Make no mistake,” Kerry said. “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapon against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny”.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, indicated it was equally resolved to defend Assad.

“We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” Araqchi told a news conference. “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”

Shi’ite Iran is Syria’s closest ally and has accused an alliance of militant Sunni Islamists, Israel and western powers of trying to use the conflict to take over the region.

The White House immediately echoed Kerry’s comments, and said it would release an intelligence assessment about the use of chemical weapons in the coming days.

“The fact that chemical weapons were used on a widespread basis, against innocent civilians, with tragic results is undeniable,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “And there is very little doubt in our minds that the Syrian regime is culpable.”

He added that while the president is still considering the appropriate response, he had already concluded that the attack constituted a “horrific violation of an international norm”.

Pressed on whether the US would take military action, Carney said the last time the administration determined chemical weapons had been used, “on a smaller scale”, it had decided to provide opposition fighters with assistance. On that occasion, in June, the US announced the CIA would begin supplying rebel groups with small arms and ammunition.

“The incident we’re talking about now is of a much more grave and broader scale, and merits a response accordingly,” Carney said, adding that the attack in Damscus was “obviously significantly more serious, with dramatically more heinous results”.

The hardening of Washington’s response came on a day which saw the UK, France, Germany and Turkey join the calls for intervention. David Cameron cut short his holiday in Cornwall to return to work in Downing Street on Tuesday ahead of a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday. However, Russia maintained its opposition to military action, with its foreign minister appearing to rule out becoming embroiled in any conflict.

On Monday night the rift between Russia and the western allies appeared to deepen when the White House postponed a meeting with diplomats from Moscow that had been scheduled for Wednesday in The Hague.

Washington said the high-level talks meant to discuss a Syria peace conference, had been put off because of “ongoing consultations” over the alleged chemical weapons attack But Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said it was a “regrettable” decision that the US had taken unilaterally.

Kerry said that Obama was liaising with world leaders to determine the appropriate response to an “indiscriminate use of chemical weapons” in Syria, but provided no timetable, and no further indication about what form any US-led action might take.

On Monday night the White House announced Obama had spoken with Kevin Rudd, the prime minister of staunch wartime ally Australia, about the Syrian situation and “possible responses by the international community”.

Australia takes the rotating chair of the UN security council from Sunday. Speaking in Sydney on Tuesday, Rudd said: “I do not believe the world can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons against a civilian population resulting in nearly 300 deaths, or more, and some 3,600 people hospitalised.”

UN inspectors were able to access some of the alleged sites of chemical attacks in the east Ghouta region of Damascus on Monday, but had to cut short their trip after regime officials warned that they could not guarantee the inspectors’ safety.

The UN team collected some biological and environmental samples but refused to accept other samples of blood and urine that had already been taken by medical workers, presumably because they were unable to verify their source.

Earlier in the day two mortars landed near the Four Seasons hotel where the inspectors are staying before they set off for east Ghouta, and on the way there their convoy was hit by gunfire as they crossed the buffer zone from the regime-controlled centre of Damascus to the rebel-held east of the city.

The presence of the inspectors had been a central demand of the UN and their belated permission to enter the affected areas did little to calm the situation.

A build-up of military aircraft on RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus suggested that planning had reached a developed stage. With Russia and China likely to block a UN resolution, the UK and US have both signalled that they are prepared to act without a UN mandate. International law experts say intervention could be legally justified without a security council resolution under the UN’s “responsibility to protect”.

Earlier the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was outspoken over the necessity to act if his inspectors found evidence of chemical weapons use. “If proven, any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law and an outrageous crime. We cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity,” he said.

Under the terms of its mandate negotiated in the security council, the UN inspection team under Swedish scientist, Ake Sellstrom, can determine whether chemical agents have been used, but not who has used them.

Kerry said that regardless of the outcome of the UN weapons inspections, the US had already concluded that Syria had used chemical weapons. “Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass,” he said “What is before us today is real. And it is compelling.”

Chemical weapons could only have been used by Assad’s forces, which has “custody” over chemical weapons in the country, Kerry said. He added that failure to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors for five days, and its decision to shell the affected neighbourhoods, “destroying evidence”, indicated an attempt to conceal the truth. “That is not the behaviour of a government that is has nothing to hide,” he said. “That is not the behaviour of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons”.

“Our sense of basic humanity is offended, not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up,” Kerry said. He said the decision to allow weapons inspectors to the scene of the attack on Monday “is too late, and is too late to be credible”.

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world,” Kerry said. “It defies any code of morality. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standards, it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable,” Kerry said, adding that the US and its allies had gathered more information about the atrocity which it would release in the “days ahead”.

In Britain, No 10 said that the prime minister earlier clashed with Vladimir Putin over whether the Assad regime was responsible for the attack. In a telephone conversation, the Russian president said Moscow had no evidence as to whether such an attack had taken place – or who was responsible – after Cameron said there was “little doubt” that the Syrian regime was responsible.

Nick Clegg has cancelled a trip to Afghanistan to allow him to attend the NSC amid a growing expectation that parliament could be recalled before the end of the week to allow MPs to debate developments in Syria.

William Hague, who insisted Britain shared a common position with the US and France, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have tried those other methods – the diplomatic methods – and we will continue to try those. But they have failed so far.”

Meanwhile, General Sir Nick Houghton, chief of the UK defence staff, discussed military options with his US counterpart, General Martin Dempsey, and other allied military chiefs at a military summit in the Jordanian capital Amman.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The chief of defence staff has met with General Dempsey in Amman as part of pre-planned talks with the Americans and other allies to consider how the international community should best respond to the ongoing crisis in Syria.

“As you would expect, the discussions have focused on the chemical weapons attack in Damascus last Wednesday. No decisions have been taken – as we’ve said, we are looking at all the options.”

On Monday night, British government sources were downplaying expectations that a strike could be imminent. They said that Britain and the US wanted to consider the findings of the UN weapons inspectors with care before deciding whether to act. Downing Street said it would consult attorney general Dominic Grieve on the legalities of intervention.

However, it seemed unlikely on Monday night that the findings of the UN inspection team would heal the deep rift over Syria in the UN security council. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, warned that any attack on Syria without security council sanction would be “a crude violation of international law.” He compared the situation to the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. Asked what Russian would do if missile strikes were launched, he appeared to rule out military retaliation, saying Russia is “not planning to go to war with anyone”.

In a reminder of the potential for any military action to escalate across the Middle East, Israel warned that it would hit back if there were any Syrian reprisals in the wake of western air strikes. The Israeli minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, said on Monday: “If we are under attack, we will protect ourselves and we will act decisively.”

In Paris, France’s president, Francois Hollande, said it was unthinkable that the international community would fail to respond to the use of chemical weapons, telling the Parisien newspaper: “Everything will be decided this week.”

• Additional reporting: Mona Mahmood, Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Constanze Letsch in Istanbul, Kate Connolly in Berlin, Alec Luhn in Moscow, and Kim Willsher in Paris

SpiritDetox.com Highlights Pet Health in Newly Published Video

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Natural supplementation can greatly help keep animals healthy, and well.

Many pet owners think they are doing the best for their pets by feeding them a raw food diet or buying expensive food.

Bakersfield, California (PRWEB) August 27, 2013

With the launch of its latest video, SpiritDetox.com is hoping to shed some light on the nutritional problems today’s domesticated animals face. The video, “Nutramin Nutrition 101 – Clean and Feed Your Pets, Body and Spirit,” highlights the problems in today’s pet foods, even high quality or raw foods.

“Many pet owners think they are doing the best for their pets by feeding them a raw food diet or buying expensive food,” stated Albert Milligan of SpiritDetox.com. “While those strategies are a good starting point, they aren’t enough. Sadly, the food supply has some serious flaws, and as a result these foods, even the best foods, are nutritionally defunct.”

The video highlights the benefits of Nutramin, one of SpiritDetox.com’s products, which serves as a nutritional supplement for pets to use alongside pet food to make up for these nutritional deficiencies. It uses the power of healing clay to provide important nutrients that pets and livestock need to thrive.

About SpiritDetox.com

SpiritDetox.com specializes in natural health and wellness products for people and animals. To learn more about their products and the power of the healing clay they contain, visit http://www.SpiritDetox.com.

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George Zimmerman visited Cocoa plant that made gun in Trayvon Martin killing, TMZ says

TMZ: Zimmerman visits Florida gunmaker

1:23 p.m. EDT, August 23, 2013

An entertainment news website is reporting that George Zimmerman this week visited the Florida headquarters of the gun manufacturer that made the pistol used to kill Trayvon Martin.

According to TMZ.com, Zimmerman went to Kel-Tec CNC Industries in Cocoa on Thursday to shop for a 12-gauge shotgun capable of firing 12 times before reloading.

However, Kel-Tec’s website states no firearms are sold at the Cocoa plant.

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TMZ released a photograph of a grinning Zimmerman shaking hands with a man wearing safety goggles and a Kel-Tec T-shirt standing inside what was described as the Kel-Tec plant.

Kel-Tec did not respond immediately to an email.

Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in July in the February 2012 killing in Sanford of 17-year-old Trayvon.

Zimmerman shot him once with a 9 mm. Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol.

Zimmerman posed for a photo with an employee of the company inside the assembly plant at Kel-Tec CNC Industries, but it’s unknown whether he bought the KSG model tactical shotgun he was asking about, according to the website.

Zimmerman shot the South Florida teen to death in February 2012 in Sanford, claiming self-defense.

The jury’s not-guilty verdict sparked protest and criticism of Florida’s stand-your ground law.

hcurtis@tribune.com or 407-420-5257.

Is 'Musical' star engaged?

Congratulations are in order for Ashley Tisdale! Life Style says the “High School Musical” cutie got engaged to boyfriend Christopher French on Thursday night in New York. And the proposal was apparently straight out of a Meg Ryan movie from the ’90s.

“It happened on the 103rd floor at the top of the Empire State Building,” shares a source. “It was totally romantic and Ashley’s over the moon, of course!”

Tisdale’s rep confirmed the question-popping to People.

It’s been a whirlwind romance for the 28-year-old actress, who began dating the Annie Automatic rocker late last year, a few months after she called it quits with on-off boyfriend Scott Speer.

According to Us Weekly, French has been planning the proposal “for a while,” and Ashley “knew it was coming … she is so happy.”

“Best night of my life,” Tisdale excitedly tweeted on Thursday. “We’re on top of the world.”

Keep clicking for more photos of the happy couple …

Syrian hospitals treated thousands for poison gas symptoms, says charity

Médecins sans Frontières has said hospitals it supports in Damascus treated thousands of patients for neurotoxicity, the first independent indication of the use of poison gas in a deadly incident on Wednesday in the Syrian capital.

The medical charity said the hospitals received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on Wednesday morning, of which 355 reportedly died.

Dr Bart Janssens, director of operations at the charity, said: “Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress.”

He said he could not confirm the cause of symptoms or the culprits. “However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events – characterised by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent.

“This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which absolutely prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons,” he said.

The news will increase pressure on the international community to take action after Wednesday’s attack, which may have killed as many as 1,300 people. William Hague, the foreign secretary, said this week that the attack was probably carried out by forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. The Assad regime has accused Syrian rebels.

Iran’s new president has condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war without blaming a side for it. In a speech at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Saturday, Hassan Rouhani noted that Iran had been the victim of chemical warfare during its 1980s war with Iraq. He said the deaths of innocent people through the use of chemical weapons was “very distressing”.

Syrian state television said on Saturday that government soldiers had found chemical agents in rebel tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar.

“Army heroes are entering the tunnels of the terrorists and saw chemical agents,” state television quoted a source as saying. “In some cases, soldiers are suffocating while entering Jobar.” The report said an army unit was preparing to storm the suburb.

Syrian activists, supported by the British government, believe Assad’s forces launched a nerve and chemical gas attack in Jobar and other suburbs before dawn on Wednesday. Assad’s government has dismissed the accusation and its major ally Russia has suggested rebel fighters may have launched the attack themselves to provoke international action.

The UN high representative for disarmament affairs, Angela Kane, arrived in Damascus on Saturday to push for access to the suspected attack site for UN inspectors, who are already in Syria to investigate months-old accusations.

Assad’s government has not said whether it will allow access to the site, despite coming under increasing pressure from the UN, western and Gulf Arab countries and Russia. If confirmed, it would be the world’s deadliest chemical attack in decades.

Syria’s claim to have discovered chemical weapons in Damascus follows its refusal to accept that a chemical weapons attack had taken place on Wednesday.

The US, Britain, France and Russia have all urged the Assad regime and the rebels to co-operate with the UN and allow its inspectors to look into the alleged attack.

The Assad regime has denied the claims that it was behind the chemical attack, calling them “absolutely baseless” and suggesting they are an attempt to discredit the government.

The UN experts already in Syria are tasked with investigating three earlier purported chemical attacks: one in the village of Khan al-Assal outside the northern city of Aleppo in March, as well as two other locations that have been kept secret for security reasons.

It took months of negotiations between the UN and Damascus before an agreement was struck to allow the 20-member team into Syria to investigate. Its mandate is limited to those three sites and it is only charged with determining whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them.

Syria’s deputy prime minister, Qadri Jamil, told the Associated Press on Thursday that he was personally in favour of a fair, transparent international delegation to investigate the latest incident. But he said that would require a new agreement between the government and the UN, and that the conditions for such a delegation would need to be studied.

My Pet World: Life Expectancy Of Cats, Dogs

Q: We just had our cat put sleep; he was 20 years, 4 months old. How long do cats and dogs usually live?

A: I’m so sorry to hear about your cat, but at least he enjoyed a long life, longer than most. Increasingly, though, cats are living (and in good health) to age 20 or longer.

While there is no national database on pet health, Banfield the Pet Hospital maintains an amazing database, which includes information from over 800 hospitals. It can likely provide an accurate snapshot. According to the Banfield State of Pet Health 2013 report, pets are living longer: The average lifespan of a cat in 2012 was 12 years, which has increased by 10 percent since 2002, adding a full year to a cat’s life. The average lifespan of a dog in 2012 was 11 years, a 4 percent increase adding a half a year to a dog’s average lifespan.

Additional findings in the 2013 report include the impact of spaying and neutering on a pet’s lifespan. Data reveals neutered male cats live, on average, 62 percent longer than unneutered males, and spayed female cats live, on average, 39 percent longer than unspayed female cats. An increase in longevity was also seen in dogs. Neutered male dogs live, on average, 18 percent longer than their unneutered counterparts, and spayed female dogs live, on average, 23 percent longer than unspayed females.

We also know that being proactive by taking a pet for regular preventive checkups to maintain good health and diagnose illness early when it may be easier (and less expensive) to treat, adds to longevity and quality of life. I believe quality of life is what’s most important for our pets; it’s not how long they live but how well they live.

Q: I read your recent column on preventive care. Does teeth-cleaning matter?

A: “Absolutely,” says Dr. Kate Knutson, president of the American Animal Hospital Association. “The secret to effective oral care is starting with a clean mouth. Otherwise, you may be brushing on abscesses (infected teeth). It may feel like taking a scrub brush to an open wound. It hurts, so no wonder the pet doesn’t take to brushing.”

Knutson, of Bloomington, Minn., is an enthusiastic supporter of X-rays for pets’ teeth for similar reasons that human dentists X-ray our teeth. Because X-rays in animals are done under anesthesia, Knutson notes that it doesn’t cost much extra money to then have clinic staff conduct a cleaning.

“Appropriate dental care prevents bacteria from building up, which could otherwise lead to disease,” she adds. “Also, living with bad teeth and gums is painful. For example, many cats (and small dogs) aren’t being finicky, the truth is it may hurt to eat.”

Q: Why doesn’t my beagle bark? He howls (a lot) and makes sounds like he’s talking, but he doesn’t bark. — F.G., Knoxville, TN

A: Howling is the default for many beagles. Or maybe your pup is doing sort of a howl/bark fusion you call a howl.

You didn’t mention your dog’s age. Sometimes it takes a while for puppies to “grow into” their bark. Newly-adopted dogs may take some time to muster the confidence to bark.

Believe me, I know a few beagle owners who wish they were in your shoes!

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to petworld@steve dale.tv. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com.

Zimmerman visited plant that made his pistol, showbiz website says

COCOA, Fla., Aug. 23 (UPI) — George Zimmerman visited the Florida headquarters of the maker of the pistol he used to kill Trayvon Martin, an entertainment news website said.

Zimmerman went shopping for a 12-gauge shotgun at the Kel-Tec CNC Industries plant in Cocoa, Fla., Thursday, the website TMZ.com reported, noting the company’s website states no firearms are available for sale at the facility.

TMZ.com released a photo of Zimmerman, grinning and shaking hands with a man wearing safety goggles and a Kel-Tec T-shirt at what it said was the manufacturing plant in Cocoa.

Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in July in the 2012 killing of Martin, who was shot with a 9mm Kel-Tec pistol, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported.

Khloe Kardashian Divorce Could Cost Lamar Odom Big Due To Infidelity Clause In Their Prenuptial Agreement

According to Life Style magazine, Kardashian is “humiliated and p***ed off” with Odom after two women came out saying they had affairs with the Los Angeles Clippers player.

“With both mistresses coming out, she can’t handle much more,” a friend told Life Style. “If more women come forward, she will do it.” Another source told the magazine that the cheating rumors have worn Kardashian down, and there’s a chance she might soon file for divorce.

If Kardashian decides to end the marriage, it will cost Odom quite a bit financially.

According to Life Style, the couple has a strong infidelity clause in their prenuptial agreement, and if it’s proven that Odom cheated on her, Kardashian, who is said to be worth $18 million, will get $500,000 for each year they were wed, in addition to allowances for spousal support and shopping.

The couple, who have been married four years, jointly own a $500,000 Rolls Royce, a $140,000 Porsche Panamera, and Kardashian’s $850,000 engagement ring, which will be divided equally if they get divorced, the Life Style report noted.

Rumors that Odom cheated on Kardashian started last month with a Star magazine report claiming the basketball player was in a year-long affair with Jennifer Richardson, someone whom Odom is said to have met at a strip club.

Three weeks after that report, Polina Polonsky, a California lawyer, came out saying that she, too, had had an affair with Odom for six weeks, and she passed a polygraph test to prove her claims.

“I was under the impression that he had left Khloe, and that’s why he was living at the Roosevelt [Hotel, in L.A.],” Polonsky told Star. “He acted completely available and we definitely had a mutual attraction.”

Israel forced to apologise to Japan over offensive Hiroshima comments

Israel has been forced to issue a formal apology to Japan over offensive comments posted on Facebook by its head of online public diplomacy.

The apology followed a complaint by the Japanese ambassador to Israel, Hideo Sato, after senior government official Daniel Seaman disparaged commemorations for the victims of the 1945 atomic bombs, causing a wave of protests in Japan.

“I am sick of the Japanese, ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Peace’ groups the world over holding their annual self-righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims,” Seaman wrote on his Facebook page. “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequence of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow.”

According to the Haaretz newspaper, Israel’s ambassador in Tokyo, Nissim Ben-Shitrit, was forced to embark on a damage control exercise. “The incident is very slowly subsiding, but it’s too early to assess the damage to Israel’s image that it caused,” the Israeli embassy in Tokyo wrote in a cable to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem.

The apology was issued by Ya’akov Amidror, national security adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. A government official said the incident was “one of the least comfortable moments for Israel in Japan”.

Seaman, a former director of the government press office who has a reputation for being abrasive, recently took up a new post to promote positive images of Israel on social media networks. He has since been suspended and is under orders not to speak to the media.

The comments about Japan were part of a string of strongly worded postings by Seaman over recent months.

They included a response to a demand by the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, for an end to new settlement expansion that read: “Is there a diplomatic way of saying ‘Go F*** yourself’?”

At the start of Ramadan, Seaman posted: “Does the commencement of the fast of the Ramadan means [sic] that Muslims will stop eating each other during the daytime?”

In response to a Church of Scotland report that argued that Jews do not have a divine right to the land, he wrote: “Why do they think we give a flying F*** what you have to say?”

In a statement last week, Israel’s National Information Directorate said: “Danny Seaman’s statements on Facebook are unacceptable and do not express the view of the Israeli government. The directorate instructed Seaman to immediately refrain from making such statements.”