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Geopolitics

Top Syrian General Defects, Clinton: Russia, China Must 'Pay Price' For Assad Support

SYRIA STEPS (Syria), AL ARABIYA (Saudi Arabia), BBC (UK), AP (US), LE MONDE (France)

Worldcrunch

PARIS - Over 100 countries gathered for the Friends of Syria conference in Paris on Friday, hoping to broker a diplomatic solution to the on-going violent conflict and to bring an end to Bashar al-Assad's regime. The conference opened after reports that a senior Syrian general who fled to Turkey on Thursday has defected and is headed to France.

"Bashar al-Assad must go," French President François Hollande said, according to Al Arabiya. "It's in the interest of Syria, of its neighbors and everybody who wants peace in the region."

French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius confirmed that Brig General Manaf Tlas, a senior Syrian regime member, has defected and is headed to France. The BBC reports that similar rumors spread earlier in March proved to be false. The defection would be the most significant since the Syrian uprising started last year, as Tlas was in Bashar al-Assad's inner circle and is from a powerful Sunni Muslim family, but it remains to be seen if this will weaken the regime.

The website Syria Steps, considered close to the government, reported that Tlas "was pursued by Syrian intelligence." What the site quoted as a "high-ranking intelligence source" added that: "Syrian intelligence has a complete file about his contacts with foreigners, and his supervision of terrorist operations inside Syria."

The Friends of Syria are a group of Western and Arab countries that support the uprising against the current regime. Senior representatives and diplomats are meeting with the Syrian National Council (SNC) in order to facilitate a political transition in Syria, but previous conferences in Tunis and Istanbul yielded little results.

SNC head Abdulbaset Seyda is asking for increased humanitarian aid under chapter 7 of the United Nations charters, which was used in Libya last year and allows the use of military force. But Le Monde reports that Russia and China, the two main supporters of Damascus who also hold Security Council vetoes, are absent from the conference. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had strong words for the two absentees.

Earlier this week Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also told the Associated Press that he had "solid information" about al-Qaeda fighters flowing from Iraq to Syria, but he did not elaborate further.

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Ideas

Joshimath, The Sinking Indian City Has Also Become A Hotbed Of Government Censorship

The Indian authorities' decision to hide factual reports on the land subsidence in Joshimath only furthers a sense of paranoia.

Photo of people standing next to a cracked road in Joshimath, India

Cracked road in Joshimath

@IndianCongressO via Twitter
Rohan Banerjee*

MUMBAI — Midway through the movie Don’t Look Up (2021), the outspoken PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is bundled into a car, a bag over her head. The White House, we are told, wants her “off the grid”. She is taken to a warehouse – the sort of place where CIA and FBI agents seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Hollywood movies – and charged with violating national security secrets.

The Hobson’s choice offered to her is to either face prosecution or suspend “all public media appearances and incendiary language relating to Comet Dibiasky”, an interstellar object on a collision course with earth. Exasperated, she acquiesces to the gag order.

Don’t Look Upis a satirical take on the collective apathy towards climate change; only, the slow burn of fossil fuel is replaced by the more imminent threat of a comet crashing into our planet. As a couple of scientists try to warn humanity about its potential extinction, they discover a media, an administration, and indeed, a society that is not just unwilling to face the truth but would even deny it.

This premise and the caricatured characters border on the farcical, with plot devices designed to produce absurd scenarios that would be inconceivable in the real world we inhabit. After all, would any government dealing with a natural disaster, issue an edict prohibiting researchers and scientists from talking about the event? Surely not. Right?

On January 11, the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), one of the centers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), issued a preliminary report on the land subsidence issue occurring in Joshimath, the mountainside city in the Himalayas.

The word ‘subsidence’ entered the public lexicon at the turn of the year as disturbing images of cracked roads and tilted buildings began to emanate from Joshimath.

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