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March 7, 2013 at 8:07 AM   |   Comments

Group: U.N. workers rescued, not abducted

CAIRO, March 7 (UPI) -- A Syrian rebel group that first claimed it abducted a group of U.N. observers from the Golan Heights announced Thursday it was rescuing it from fighting.

The announcement by the Yarmouk Martyrs' Brigade was posted on the Facebook page that was used to announce the abduction Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.

The organization also called on the United Nation to send a convoy to get the observers.

A U.N. statement said about 20 observers on a regular supply mission in the Golan Heights, a demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria, were detained by about 30 armed fighters. A U.N. official said the peacekeepers were from the Philippines.

A video that accompanied Wednesday's post in which the kidnappers said the observers would not be released until Syrian President Bashar Assad withdrew troops from the area was deleted, the Post said.

Najib Ghadbian, the Syrian National Coalition's ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, called the incident a "preventative security measure," not a kidnapping.


CIA nabs bin Laden's son-in-law

ANKARA, Turkey, March 7 (UPI) -- Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was arrested by U.S. intelligence operatives with Turkey's assistance, officials said.

Ghaith was captured last week in a joint operation conducted by Turkey's National Intelligence Organization and the CIA, Today's Zaman reported Thursday.

In February, he was arrested by Turkish authorities in Ankara. However, Turkey was unable to extradite him to the United States because no international warrant for his arrest had been issued, the newspaper said.

A Turkish court ordered Ghaith deported after it was found he had entered Turkey from Iran with a forged passport. He was deported to Kuwait Friday but seized by CIA agents en route and taken to the United States, the paper said.


Rand Paul ends 13-hour Brennan filibuster

WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., ended a nearly 13-hour filibuster early Thursday that had stalled Senate confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director.

Paul, who opposes Brennan's nomination, led a bloc of conservatives in the filibuster over the Obama administration's use of lethal drone strikes.

He began speaking at 11:47 a.m. Wednesday and finally yielded the floor at about 12:39 a.m. Thursday, Politico reported.

He stayed inside the Senate chamber as he spoke, remaining on his feet for the entire time.

"I would try to go another 12 hours and try to break Strom Thurmond's record, but there are some limits to filibustering and I am going to have to go take care of one of those here," Paul said.

Thurmond, from South Carolina, a States' Rights Democrat at the time, filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours, 18 minutes.

Paul ended his filibuster with, "I thank you very much for the forbearance and I yield the floor." He received loud applause.


U.S. cardinals impose media blackout

VATICAN CITY, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. cardinals at the Vatican bowed to pressure and imposed a media blackout ahead of the papal conclave to choose Benedict XVI's successor, a spokeswoman said.

"Concern was expressed in the General Congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers," Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the U.S. cardinals' spokeswoman, who had organized the news briefings, said in a statement.

"As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews," she said.

Her statement was released an hour before Wednesday's scheduled news conference with the U.S. cardinals.

The General Congregation of Cardinals is a daily meeting in which the cardinals get to know each other and discuss what they believe the church needs.

Wednesday's meeting included discussion about "the expectations and hopes of the next pope," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.


Job cut announcements rose in February

CHICAGO, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said planned job cuts rose 37 percent from January to February.

There were 40,430 job cuts announced in January and 55,356 announced in February, the consulting firm said, noting it was the second consecutive month of increases.

February's announced layoffs was also 7 percent higher than the 51,728 announced in February 2012.

The year-to-date total of 95,786, however, is 9 percent lower than the first two months of 2012, when 105,214 job cuts were announced in January and February.

JPMorgan Chase announced the largest job cut total in February, making it known it would cut 19,000 positions in the next two years.

That pushed the financial sector well into the lead for the year with 30,302 industry-wide job cuts announced. The retail sector has posted the second highest number of cuts for the year with 8,955.

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