Panel’s Syria report released
Chemical weapons were probably used in four locations in Syria this year, in addition to the confirmed attack near Damascus in August that forced the government to abandon its secret chemical stockpile, U.N. inspectors said in a report released Thursday. The experts, led by Swedish professor Ake Sellstrom, examined seven alleged chemical weapons attacks and said it lacked information to corroborate the allegations at two locations. The inspectors’ limited mandate barred them from identifying whether the government or opposition fighters were responsible for any of the attacks.
Interpreter’s hire called error
The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial says he suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinated and saw angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders, outraging deaf people worldwide who said his signs amounted to gibberish. South African officials scrambled Thursday to explain how they came to hire the man and said they were investigating what vetting process, if any, he underwent for his security clearance. “In the process, and in the speed of the event, a mistake happened,” deputy Cabinet minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said. She apologized to deaf people around the world who were offended by the incomprehensible signing.
Putin derides Western culture
President Vladimir Putin cast Russia Thursday as a defender of conservative values against the “genderless and infertile” Western tolerance that he said equates good and evil. Putin’s 70-minute state-of-the nation address marked a determined effort to burnish Russia’s image that has been dented by Western criticism of an anti-gay law which has stoked calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, his pet project. Putin’s speech also contained a strong warning to those abroad who he claimed were seeking a military edge over Russia — a clear nod at the U.S. effort to develop long range non-nuclear weapons that Russia sees as a threat to its nuclear deterrent.
Compiled from wire reports.