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Dec. 5, 2012 at 10:04 PM   |   Comments

Report: Syria arming chemical weapons

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Syria's army has loaded bombs with chemical weapons and is awaiting President Bashar Assad's order to use them on his own people, NBC News reported Wednesday.

The military is prepared to deploy the bombs, which contain the precursor chemicals for the deadly sarin nerve gas, from dozens of fighter-bombers as soon as Assad gives the order.

Sarin is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations, and its production and stockpiling is outlawed under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other world leaders have warned Assad the use of chemical weapons is a red line that would bring strong consequences.

But a U.S. official speaking to NBC News on condition of anonymity said the nerve agents are now locked and loaded inside the bombs and "there's little the outside world can do to stop it" if Assad gives the go-ahead.

Clinton, speaking Wednesday at NATO's Brussels headquarters, called Assad "increasingly desperate."

"Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."


Alleged subway pusher charged

NEW YORK, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- New York police filed murder charges against a homeless man who allegedly pushed a man onto the subway tracks and watched as the victim was crushed.

Naeem Davis, 30, who reportedly confessed to pushing Ki Suk Han, 58, off a subway platform Monday, was charged with second degree murder and depraved indifference, the New York Post reported.

The Post said Davis, who has been arrested eight times in New York and has a lengthy criminal history in Pennsylvania, showed no remorse for the death.

New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said the suspect was arrested Tuesday afternoon after he implicated himself, The New York Times reported.

The victim was struck and killed by the subway train. Han was on the southbound Q train platform at the 49th Street Station in Times Square in Manhattan when he began to quarrel with a man. Eventually, the man grabbed Han and threw him onto the tracks. As the train approached horrified onlookers tried in vain to get the engineer to stop.

One law enforcement official said the suspect was a panhandler working on the street when he was he was taken into custody. The official said detectives were still trying to determine a motive.

"I don't think this is a crazy man throwing people under the train," the official told the Times, explaining "there is interaction between the two of them."

Part of the exchange was captured on video, leading investigators to believe the two men were involved in a dispute before the incident on the platform.


Boehner says no conservative purge

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner told Republican colleagues Wednesday he hasn't implemented a purge of conservative committee members.

The Republican Steering Committee, which the Ohio lawmaker heads, removed four GOP lawmakers from preferred committee assignments this week. But Boehner told colleagues during a closed-door meeting it didn't amount to a "conservative purge," Roll Call reported

"The Steering Committee this week decided to remove committee assignments from four members, and replace them with other members. This was not done lightly. This is something the committee took seriously and hopes never to have to do again," the Washington publication said one attendee quoted Boehner as saying.

One member who was not among those who lost their committee assignments said those comments came across as a warning.

"It sure sounded threatening to me," the member said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conference deliberations. "He brought up the four people taken off committees and he said there's other people he's going to talk to."

Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who lost his seat on the Financial Services Committee, said Boehner "indicated ... there were other names that could have been discussed. I'm paraphrasing but that's basically what he said."

Boehner rejected the notion the Steering Committee's action was a message targeting conservative members.

"The committee's decision had nothing to do with ideology. For those suggesting otherwise, I'd respectfully suggest that you look at some of the people the Steering Committee put in charge of committees," Boehner said. "I'd also suggest you look at some of the members who were added to the committees by the Steering Committee. If you do that and come away with the conclusion that there was a 'conservative purge,' I'd be interested [in] hearing the rationale."


Federal tab for Sandy around $50 billion

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- President Obama intends to request about $50 billion in emergency spending from Congress to rebuild states affected by Hurricane Sandy, officials said.

While the final sum is still in negotiation, the spending request will be sent to Congress as early as this week, administration and congressional officials briefed on the discussions said, while the president and Congress are grappling with the federal deficit.

The dollar amount is considerably less than the states requested, the New York Times said Wednesday, noting New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were seeking a combined $82 billion in federal help to restore and clean up after the hurricane, and upgrade infrastructure in preparation for future weather events.

"It might be difficult to get a large aid package through Congress in a lame duck" session, a senior Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee, who declined to be identified as speaking for committee members, told the Times.

The affected states have an ally in Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Senate appropriations committee overseeing disaster relief, and a veteran of fights for recovery money after Hurricane Katrina.

In rejecting a proposal that the spending request be delayed until after the new year and noting that gradual disbursement of recovery money in small allotments creates uncertainty in planning and implementing long-term projects, Landrieu said, "I would suggest we do a large package as soon as possible. You should do a lot now and a little bit later. Nibbling around the edges is not going to help."


Snow in central Sweden disrupts travel

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Heavy snow in Sweden led to the cancellation Wednesday morning of most flights at Stockholm's airport as police warned drivers to stay home.

By noon, only 20 percent of planes scheduled to depart Arlanda Airport had taken off, The Local.se reported, and only 13 of 100 scheduled arrivals had landed. Officials said about 60,000 passengers were delayed.

"It's been a lost day for travel in Sweden," Klas Nilsson, a spokesman for Swedavia, which operates the airport 23 miles north of Stockholm, told the TT news agency.

Posten, the Swedish postal service, said mail service was suspended in parts of the Stockholm area and some other regions.

Inter-city trains were delayed by as much as an hour, the rail company SJ reported. Trams and trains around Stockholm were also running late, while bus service was suspended at about 3 p.m.

Thousands of people in central Sweden lost electrical power.

Police advised drivers to stay off the roads.

"The roads are in rough shape right now. If you don't need to go out, try to avoid doing so for the moment," Police Officer Lars-Goran Nilseryd in Ostergotland County south of Stockholm told TT.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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