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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Iran Ramped Up Arms Delivery to Syrian Regime

Iran has ramped up support to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime by increasing its deliveries of weapons in its war against insurgents, Reuters reported today, citing anonymous sources among Western officials. The arms are arriving into Syria at a faster pace, using routes that go through Iraq, but also Turkey and Lebanon, breaking the United Nations’ arms embargo on Iran. Iran is using the Shi’ite Islamic group Hezbollah, which is now fighting alongside Assad’s army. Meanwhile, the opposition, which started as a struggle for democracy, is being parasitized by groups close to Al Qaeda. Iran reportedly flew soldiers and weapons using Iraqi airspace, which the Iraqis denied. They later inspected a flight that was heading to Iran, which would have been carrying no arms. The war is turning “more and more sectarian,” pitting Sunnis against Shi’ites and Alawites, a sect that split from Shi’ite Islam, according to one of Reuters sources.

Israel: Netanyahu’s Government Deal Runs Into Obstacle

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier today said he was close to forming a government, may have to get back to work. Three days before a deadline that may require new elections, representatives of the ultranationalistic and religious Jewish Home party, who could give the Netanyahu a parliamentary majority in the Knesset, did not attend a meeting that would’ve concluded the agreement. “They’re not answering the phone,” David Shimron, the negotiator for Netanyahu, told Army Radio, after he waited for them all afternoon. Before this, Netanyahu announced a coalition government that included Tzipi Livni, of the leftist Hatnuah party, as justice minister, Yair Lapid, of the centrist secular party Yesh Atid, as finance minister. The Jewish Home is said to have boycotted the meeting because Netanyahu recanted on his promise to give their leader Naftali Bennett the title of deputy prime minister. Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing his first visit to Israel since his 2008 election. He did not plan to speak before the Knesset.

Bankruptcy Lawyer Named to Sort Out Detroit

Less than two weeks after declaring Detroit a financial emergency, Michigan’s Republican governor Rick Snyder recommended Lawyer Kevyn Orr, who worked on Chrysler’s bankruptcy, to be the city’s financial manager. This is a contentious decision in an election year for the largely Democratic town, as members of Detroit’s City Council will lose their power under the manager. Detroit has been struggling with $14 billion in long-term debt. The fact that Orr is a Democratic African-American will help ease the transition in a city that is 83 percent black. While municipalities almost never file for bankruptcy, many believe it’s significant that the chosen financial manager made a career of it. This could turn into the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Pope Francis Warns Church Against Becoming “Compassionate NGO”

Newly-elected Pope Francis said today the Catholic Church is in danger of turning into a “compassionate NGO,” using an Italian word that can also translate into “pitiful,” if it doesn’t modernize. “If we do not confess to Christ, what would we be,” he asked during his first mass at the Sistine Chapel. “What would happen would be like when children make sand castles and then it all falls down.” Seemingly aware that the Church has a communication problem, the first Jesuit pontiff very quickly reached out the media, inviting them before anyone else to an audience on Saturday, and spoke to Father Federico Lombardi this morning, another Jesuit who runs Vatican Radio and the Vatican press office. The Jesuits are the Church’s largest male order. They are disciplined and well trained, once becoming so powerful Pope Clement XIV signed the Suppression of the Society of Jesus. Their founder Saint Ignatius de Loyola had a military background, and they are known as “God’s marines,” often working in the field. They also concentrate on academia and now run some of the most prestigious schools and universities in the world, focusing on freedom of religion and accessible education for all. They are known as excellent communicators.

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