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21 Years Served For Winning Horse Race Against Assad Brother

21 Years Served For Winning Horse Race Against Assad Brother

There was much coverage of the announcement earlier this month of Bashar al-Assad's amnesty to commute or reduce sentences for thousands of prisoners in Syria, including some with connections to the ongoing uprising against the regime. But there was one untold case of a freed prisoner who has no connections to current events — and certainly no blood on his hands.

Adnan Kassar was released from a Syrian prison this month after serving more than 21 years. His crime? In 1993, Kassar won a horse race against Bassel al-Assad, son of then president Hafez Al-Assad, who was being groomed to take over from his father, Al Arabiya reports.

Kassar’s unlucky win would put him behind bars through two decades of transition in Syria that would include Bassel’s own death in 1994, when his Maserati slammed into a roundabout. President Hafez Al-Assad died six years later, succeeded by his other son, Bassel’s brother Bashar, the ophthalmologist-turned-politician widely denounced for human rights abuses and his ruthless hold on power.

It was in fact Bashar who granted Adnan amnesty this month, following elections that granted him another seven-year term as president. The winner of that race, of course, was never in doubt.

Photo: Portrait of Bashar al-Assad's Bassel — Source: James Gordon

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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