Tag Archives: Syria

Damn It, FedEx! ISIS Got U.S. Weapons Package

ISIS Weapons

In another instance of ‘giving weapons to foreigners gone wrong’, the Pentagon admitted that ISIS got its hands on one of the 28 bundles of weapons and medical supplies that the U.S. dropped to Kurdish forces. Oops!

Last week, the U.S. air-dropped weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies for Kurdish forces fighting ISIS jihadists near the besieged town of Kobani, located in Syria near the Turkish border. During the multiple air-drops, Air Force C-130 planes delivered arms and supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq and that were “intended to enable continued resistance” against ISIS and its attempts to “overtake Kobani.”

Sounds great. Only problem? Two of the bundles missed their marks. One of the misguided airdrops was destroyed by the U.S. The other ended up in the hands of the Islamic State fighters.

After video footage released by ISIS showed what appeared to be one of its fighters in desert scrubland with a stack of boxes attached to a parachute, the Pentagon admitted they effed up. US defence spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Steve Warren blamed the wind for possibly blowing the supplies off course and argued that one cache was not enough to make a significant difference to ISIS.

But just in case, a group of Syrian Arab rebels has arrived in Kobani to help defend the town against the Islamic State militants. Plus, considering the Islamic State militants already possess millions of dollars-worth of U.S. weaponry that they captured from fleeing Iraqi soldiers when the group seized parts of Iraq back in June, a couple of extra boxes of weapons shouldn’t make a huge difference.

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The Rules According to ISIS

Journalist rules

After beheading two American journalists, ISIS forces in Deir Ezzor, Syria, have issued 11 rules to journalists who want to report from the region while avoiding being abducted and killed.

The 11 golden rules, all said to be non-negotiable, were established directly by ISIS for any journalists “who wish to continue working in the governorate.” Unsurprisingly, the rules are pretty damn restrictive. Among the conditions, journalists must swear allegiance as “subjects of the Islamic State” and no journalist is to publish any piece of work without first getting approval from the ISIS media office.

Although the vast majority of foreign journalists have already fled ISIS-held regions of Syria and Iraq, here are the full rules for any stragglers left behind:

1 – Correspondents must swear allegiance to the Caliph [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi … they are subjects of the Islamic State and, as subjects, they are obliged to swear loyalty to their imam.

2 – Their work will be under the exclusive supervision of the Isis media offices.

3 – Journalists can work directly with international news agencies (such as Reuters, AFP and AP), but they are to avoid all international and local satellite TV channels. They are forbidden to provide any exclusive material or have any contact (sound or image) with them in any capacity.

4 – Journalists are forbidden to work in any way with the TV channels placed on the blacklist of channels that fight against Islamic countries (such as Al-Arabiya, Al Jazeera and Orient). Violators will be held accountable.

5 – Journalists are allowed to cover events in the governorate with either written or still images without having to refer back to the Isis media office. All published pieces and photos must carry the journalist’s and photographer’s names.

6 – Journalists are not allowed to publish any reportage (print or broadcast) without referring to the Isis media office first.

7 – Journalists may have their own social media accounts and blogs to disseminate news and pictures. However, the Isis media office must have the addresses and name handles of these accounts and pages.

8 – Journalists must abide by the regulations when taking photos within Isis territory and avoid filming locations or security events where taking pictures is prohibited.

9 – Isis media offices will follow up on the work of local journalists within Isis territory and in the state media. Any violation of the rules in place will lead to suspending the journalist from his work, and he will be held accountable.

10 – The rules are not final and are subject to change at any time depending on the circumstances and the degree of cooperation between journalists and their commitment to their brothers in the Isis media offices.

11 – Journalists are given a license to practice their work after submitting a license request at the Isis media office.

Wait a minute… let’s go back to Rule #10. The the rules “are not final” and can change at any time? Well, that’s helpful. It might as well read “Journalists may be subject to the removal of their heads at any time for any reason by any member of ISIS.”

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Bombs Over Baghdad… I mean Syria. And Other News…

Syria Air Strikes

The U.S. war major counter-terrorism operation against ISIS has begun in Syria.

On Monday night, the United States—along with their new buddies Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, launched cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs at ISIS strongholds along Syria’s border with Iraq. The U.S.-led strikes hit the city of Raqqa (ISIS’s self-declared capital of Syria) as well as a number of other villages and cities. In addition to targeting ISIS, the Monday night air strikes took aim at the Khorosan Group, an Al Qaeda cell filled with well-seasoned operatives. Why not kill two birds with one missile? So far the strikes have been a success – if you measure success by dead bodies. At least 70 ISIS militants and 50 other al-Qaeda-linked fighters have been killed in the attacks. BBC News

Chad HomosexualLouisianan gays rejoice, Chadian gays recoil! A judge in Louisiana has ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. State Judge Edward Rubin said the ban violates the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, as well as the full faith and credit clause of the constitution. In other words, it’s good news for the couple in the case, Angela Costanza and her partner Chasity Brewer, who argued that Louisiana should recognize their marriage, which took place in California. Meanwhile, over in Africa, Chad is poised to become the 37th African country to ban homosexuality. As part of a larger overhaul of the penal code, Chad is expected to pass a new law banning homosexuality with a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. The government ministers, who have already signed on to the bill, say claim the law works to “protect the family and to comply with Chadian society.” On a more positive note, the new penal code also abolishes the death penalty, so at least the newly criminalized homosexuals won’t end up on death row… small win? The Guardian

New Zealand FlagScotland may have voted against separating from the British Empire, but now New Zealand is getting anxious to cut ties with its former colonizer. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he would hold a referendum on getting rid of the nation’s Union Jack clad flag next year. “I’d like to get on with it, to me I’d like to do it as a 2015 issue,” Key told commercial station Radio Live. “I’m obviously a big supporter of the change, I think there are a lot of strong arguments in favour of the change.” The prime minister wants to ditch the Union Jack in favour of a silver fern against a black background. Critics say this design too closely resembles a pirate’s flag, but Key urged his fellow Kiwis to think of it as New Zealand’s version of the Canadian maple leaf. “I know it was a ferocious debate in Canada, but in the end would any Canadians look back and say they got it wrong with the maple leaf?” he asked. I don’t know… maybe this Canadian. The Guardian

Somali RansomTurns out Somali pirates are more forgiving than ISIS militants… or they’re just more into ransoms. A German-American journalist who was abducted more than two years ago has been freed. Michael Scott Moore was abducted in the Somali city of Galkayo back in January 2012 while researching a book about piracy. A Somali pirate commander told The Associated Press that the journalist had been released after a ransom was paid, but according to Abdi Yusuf, interior minister of the semi-autonomous region of Galmudug in central Somalia where the 45-year-old journalist was abducted, no ransom was paid. Ransom or no ransom (there was totally a ransom), Moore is no doubt happy to be reunited with his family and pirate-free. New York Times

Three BoobsDisappointing Total Recall fans everywhere, the Florida woman who claimed to have had a third breast surgically implanted to scare men away turned out to be a big fat phony. Armed with a handful of disturbing selfies, 21-year-old Jasmine Tridevil (not her real name, obvs) tricked thousands of news organizations into believing she found a plastic surgeon stupid enough to give her a third boob. Tridevil says the surgery cost $20,000 and that included a “nipple” implant. She also revealed: “I got it because I wanted to make myself unattractive to men. Because I don’t want to date anymore.” She sounds smart… “Most guys would think [the extra breast is] weird and gross. But I can still feel pretty because if I wore makeup and cute clothes, I can still, you know… feel pretty,” the 21-year-old (in Courtney Stodden years) continued. But, an investigation by Snopes shows that Tridevil has a history of creating Internet hoaxes and even if she had found a plastic surgeon willing to put his/her license on the line, the procedure would take months to complete and would definitely NOT look Total Recall-esque. Huffington Post

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Current Event Cat of the Day: War on ISIS

Current Event Cat - ISIS Airstrikes

Watch out ISIS, eleven years, thousands of lives, and $1.7 trillion later, we’re going back in! But to a lesser extent…

In his address to the nation, President Obama outlined a multi-phase plan for combating IS (the militants formerly known as ISIS), saying the country would lead a “broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”

The multi-phase plan can be summed up as follows:

Phase One: Airstrikes galore

Phase Two: Train the Iraqi military (for a while)

Phase Three: Deal with Syria

But the President was quick to stress that the U.S. efforts against Islamic State will not, I repeat NOT, escalate to a full-blown war. While he admitted airstrikes alone would not defeat IS, Obama said, “the boots on the ground have to be Iraqi.”

“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. While the U.S. will send 475 service members to Iraq, they will “not have a combat mission,” but rather, provide intelligence, training, and equipment.

“We will not be dragged into another ground war,” said Obama. “We cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves.”

Judging from the current state of the Iraqi military, this war will be going on for a while…

Luckily this time around, the U.S has a few allies (and more evidence to support their claim that ISIS is evil than they had to support the theory that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling WMDs). Already, France has agreed to support airstrikes and ten Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have agreed to rally with the US in tackling the threat posed by the jihadists.

So far the U.S. has conducted more than 150 airstrikes in Iraq in an effort to halt IS’s advances and they aren’t afraid to head into Syria. While the U.S has refrained from seeking the help of Syrian President/Dictator Bashar al-Assad in the fight against Islamic State, Obama made it clear in his speech that the U.S. “will not hesitate” to go into Syria if need be.

“If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” Obama said.

As for congressional approval, Obama isn’t too worried. Although the President said he has the “authority to address the threat” posed by ISIS, he “welcomes congressional support to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.” Obama has also asked Congress to allocate $5 billion for counterrorism funding, which may end up being a bigger fight than the one against IS in Iraq.

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Assad: Amnesty for Some! And Other News

Assad Amnesty

Less than a week after winning another 7 year term in Syria’s “democratic election”, Bashar al-Assad declared a general amnesty for all prisoners within the country.

Syria’s pro-government Al Ikhbariya television station announced Assad would commute some death sentences to life imprisonment, reduce jail terms for many offences and cancel some others altogether. The decree would also give foreigners who entered the country “to join a terrorist group or perpetrate a terrorist act” an amnesty option if they surrendered to authorities within a month. Kidnappers who free their hostages and army deserters would also be covered by the decree. Of course, Assad also insisted the Syrian government had no idea how those chemical weapons wound up in a Damascus suburb… so who knows if he’ll stand by his decree. As for the tens of thousands of jailed opposition supporters, there’s been no word yet on whether or not the amnesty will apply to them – but they probably shouldn’t hold their breath… unless they’re being water boarded in prison. Reuters

Oldest ManThe world’s oldest man is no longer. Alexander Imich, the oldest known man on earth, died at the age of 111 Sunday in his Manhattan home. Born February 4, 1903, Imich came to the U.S. after fleeing a Nazi invasion of his native Poland. The retired chemist and parapsychologist lived on New York’s Upper West Side until his death and attributed his long life to never drinking alcohol and a healthy dose of swimming and gymnastics. Guinness is now investigating the claim that 111-year-old Sakari Momoi of Japan is the new world’s oldest man. But neither come close to the world’s oldest woman – 116-year-old Misao Okawa of Japan. Well, they actually came pretty close. Fox News

bergdahl swapObama is sticking by his swap! Speaking at a press conference in Brussels Thursday, President Obama strongly defended his decision to swap five members of the Taliban for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. A national controversy has erupted over whether or not Obama paid too high a price, but according to the president, “no man left behind” trumps “we do not negotiate with terrorists”. “We saw an opportunity and we seized it and I make no apologies for that,” Obama said. “It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind — no matter what,” John Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran, told CNN. As for the 28-year-old former captive, he’s not doing so hot. He is reportedly suffering from disorders affecting his skin after surviving five years of harsh treatment at the hands of his Taliban captors. Word on the street (the New York Times…) says the Taliban kept him in a metal cage in the dark for weeks after he tried to escape. He is also struggling with emotional issues and has yet to contact his parents. And to make matters worse (for Bergdahl), the soldier’s former comrades have charged he was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after deserting his post – an accusation that conservative Republicans and crazed pundits have pounced on. An alleged traitor coming back to America in exchange for FIVE dangerous terrorists?!? Maybe he would be better off back in the Taliban’s metal cage… Raw Story

Thailand HappinessThere’s nothing like putting a positive spin on a military coup! The military junta that seized power in Thailand last month isn’t ready to relinquish power but they are ready to boost national levels of happiness. The army has launched an official campaign that involves free concerts, food, female dancers, and horses for petting (?) in order to “return happiness” to the country after a decade of political upheaval. And what better way to usher in a new wave of happiness than with a happiness song. The song, Return Happiness to Thailand, features such reassuring lyrics as “we offer to take care and protect you with our hearts” and “give us a little more time”. The lovely ballad was penned by the army chief himself, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha and has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube, making the song far more popular with the Bangkok crowd than the General himself. Raw Story

Las Vegas ShootingShootings, shootings, shootings! A few days after 26-year-old Aaron Ybarra gave in to his “fascination with mass shootings” by shooting up Seattle Pacific University, three people, including two police officers, were killed in a Las Vegas shooting spree. The violence began at a Las Vegas pizza restaurant and ended at a nearby Walmart, where the two alleged gunmen—a married couple believed to be in their twenties—killed a woman in the store and then committed suicide. Witnesses told police the shooters said: “This is a revolution” during their attack. As for the motive, there appears to be a white-supremacy connection to the attacks. Investigators reportedly found white-supremacist and swastika-laden paraphernalia in the couple’s apartment and according to neighbors the couple had a reputation for spouting racist, anti-government views. Strangely enough, the two officers killed in the attack were white. BBC News

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Syrian Rebels Bid Farewell to Bloodstained Homs… And Other News

Homs Withdraw

Well, they had a good run… I guess. With just a month to go until Syria’s election, the rebels evacuated their last stronghold in the central Syrian city of Homs.

The Homs withdrawal marks the end of three years of resistance in the central city where the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad first began. The rebels had held control of Homs since 2011, but over the past two years government forces gradually regained control by subjecting the city to continuous siege and bombardment. “We ate grass and leaves until there was nothing left for us to eat,” said opposition activist Abu Yassin al-Homsi, who was preparing to leave Homs. “We kept urging the international community to lift the siege but there was no response,” he added. The abandonment of the bloodstained city is seen as a major symbolic victory for Assad, who is excited to be running for a third presidential term and even more excited that the democratic process is extremely corrupt in his favour. BBC News

Rob Ford Mayor RehabRob Ford is loving rehab! “I feel great. Rehab is amazing. It reminds me of football camp. Kind of like the Washington Redskins camp I went to as a kid,” Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor told the Toronto Sun. Ford also inisisted that he, NOT his brother Doug, will be running for mayor in the October election. “Of course, I am coming back and I am going to kick butt,” he said. Pending any new crack videos, of course… Ford — who is on the city payroll during his “leave of absence” — still wouldn’t divulge the name of the rehab facility he is in or even if it’s in Canada. Hmmm… are we sure he’s just not just up north at his family’s cottage? The Toronto Sun

Indonesia ShariaIf you still don’t believe introducing Sharia law in Brunei is the greatest thing since sliced bread, here’s a heartwarming story for you: A 25-year-old Indonesian widow who was allegedly gang-raped by eight men after they found her having sex with a married man will face nine strokes of a cane for violating religious law. Once the affair was uncovered, a group of eight men beat up the man, gang-raped the woman, and then covered the couple in raw sewage before turning them over to Islamic police. Despite their ordeal, the head of the town’s Islamic sharia law office, Ibrahim Latif, said the man and woman still face up to nine lashes of the cane in public over the affair. “We want the couple to be caned for violating sharia law on adultery,” he said, adding that the rapists would also be brought to justice, but first the Islamic police have to concentrate on those slutty consenting adults. The Guardian

anti-semitic NYPDMaybe this is part of the reason #myNYPD failed so miserably? A former New York City police officer was arrested and charged with committing a hate crime after he was caught on surveillance video vandalizing buildings in a largely Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn community with anti-Semitic messages. 36-year-old Michael Setiawan was picked up before dawn on Sunday after police received a 911 call about some mysterious swastikas, courtesy of Setiawan’s Saturday night anti-Semetic graffiti spree. The former cop, who’s been off the force since 2007, faces 19 counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime and aggravated harassment as a hate crime. New York’s finest! Huffington Post

Deputy QuilesSpeaking of sketchy cops, a totally sober Wisconsin woman was charged with drunk driving after a sheriff’s deputy crashed into her car. 25-year-old Tanya Weyker broke her neck in the accident and after being questioned by the police in her injured state, Deputy Joseph Quiles (who caused the accident) decided to charge her with drunk driving – even though her injuries prevented her from taking a breathalyzer. Even though subsequent blood tests showed Tanya Weyker was sober and surveillance video proved the officer was at fault, the charges remained pending for more than five months and the county sent letters threatening legal action if she didn’t pay for damage to the deputy’s squad car. Despite receiving only very minor injuries in the crash, Deputy Quiles filed for permanent disability shortly after the accident – most likely for some kind of inability to tell the truth. Raw Story

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Current Event Cat: Fallen Syrian Military Jet

Current Event Cat - Turkey Syrian Military Jet

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently mistook a Syrian military jet for the Twitter Bird and allowed his country’s armed forces to shoot it down.

Twitter BirdArguing that the Syrian military jet/possible Twitter Bird sighting violated Turkey’s airspace, Turkish fighter jets took down the Syrian aircraft on Sunday in a move that definitely won’t ease any tensions between two countries already in disagreement over Syria’s civil war and their opinions of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

The jet takedown happened in an area where the Syrian government has been at war with rebel groups over control of a border crossing. The plane was hit by a missile from one of two Turkish F-16s flying an air patrol in the area while the Syrian military jet was pursuing gunmen near the border. Luckily the pilot safely ejected himself from the aircraft, and parachuted down to safety/a war zone.

A spokesman for Syria’s military confirmed the incident, denouncing it as a “blatant aggression,” but Erdogan told Syria “our response will be heavy if you violate our airspace.” Tough love.

Turkey denies any wrongdoing, saying the Syrian MiG-23 entered Turkey’s airspace after ignoring four warnings to turn back. And this isn’t the first time that the Turkish military has shot down a Syrian aircraft near the border. They took down a Syrian military helicopter back in September. Although to be fair, Syria shot down a Turkish military plane in 2012 – so they kind of had it coming.

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Syria Peace Conference

Current Event Cat - Syria Peace Conference

Wednesday marked the beginning of a long-delayed peace conference on Syria, but things are off to a rough start.

The peace conference, set in the lakeside Swiss city of Montreux, marks the first time the Syrian regime has sat down at the negotiating table with the opposition since the conflict began in March 2011. But on the first day of the conference things got a little testy between Syria’s government and the main political opposition, casting some doubt on the whether or not the peace talks will be able to ease the ongoing violence or even open up emergency aid corridors to help displaced civilians.

The main source of conflict was what to do with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad has already stated that he will not step down, but the opposition and US said the Syrian dictator had no legitimacy and must resign from power.

US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that Assad “will not be part of that transitional government”.

“There is no way, not possible in the imagination, that the man who has lead the brutal response to his own people could regain legitimacy to govern,” Kerry added.

Apparently slaughtering your own citizens and showering them with chemical weapons isn’t as popular with the international crowd as it used to be.

The Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, who led his country’s delegation, struck back at Kerry saying only the Syrian people could decide their president.

“No-one in the world has the right to confer or withdraw the legitimacy of a president, a constitution or a law, except for the Syrians themselves,” he told Kerry, adding that the Syrian insurgents were evil traitors who had “Syrian blood on their hands” and accusing the U.S. of supporting terrorist groups in the opposition.

After the UN’s Ban Ki-moon warned him his speech was running far over the allotted 10-minute slot, Moallem snapped back at him too.

“You live in New York. I live in Syria,” Moallem told the UN secretary general. “I have the right to give the Syrian version here. After three years of suffering, this is my right.”

Huh. Well, it’s only the first day. And look at the bright side – at least Iran didn’t show up.

Via: The New York Times

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Current Event Cat of the Day: First Batch of Chemical Weapons

Current EVent Cat - Syria First Batch Chemical

Syria is one step closer to being chemical weapon-free, but many many steps away from ending their two year civil war.

The first batch of chemical weapons materials bid farewell to Syria on Tuesday in the first step of a UN-backed deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical stockpile. And how many ships does it take to get rid of the first round of chemical weapons? Three! One Danish ship to hold the dangerous chemicals and two Russian and Chinese warships to guard the Danish ship.

Syria’s chemical cargo left the country at the port of Latakia and is currently en route to Italy, where it will be transferred onto a U.S. Navy ship and sent out to international waters to die / be destroyed in a specially created titanium tank on board the ship.

The U.N. backed deal was brokered by the U.S. and Russia after hundreds of Syrians were killed with nerve gas in the suburbs of Damascus back in August. President Bashar al-Assad is still pointing blame at the rebels for the chemical attack, but most believe it was his government that carried out the assault.

But despite arguments over who the guilty party is, the chemical weapons are slowly being escorted out of the country with the hope that Syria will be chemical-free by June. Now Syrians can worry less about getting killed by rockets filled with the nerve agent sarin and worry more about getting killed by regular gunfire and missiles.

Via: BBC News & Current Event Cats

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Syria’s New Years Resolution: Geneva Peace Talks

Current Event Cat - Geneva Talks

Geneva talks worked out well for the Iran nuclear deal, so now Syria is giving it a try. Starting on January 22, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government will hold the first direct talks with opposition groups at an international peace conference in Geneva.

The Geneva conference will be the first time the two sides of the civil war will convene since the conflict began. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the little get-together on Monday, saying that the aim of the talks will be to agree on an acceptable transitional government with powers over military and security.

“We go with a clear understanding: The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria,”  Ban Ki-moon told reporters at UN headquarters.

But the news of the upcoming Geneva peace talks still leave many questions unanswered. Who should legitimately represent the divided Syrian opposition? What should they do with Bashar al-Assad? Should Iran be involved or completely banned from the table?

The rebel groups are skeptical that the talks will do any good because 1) the opposition is not united.

“Opposition political delegations do not have any power or influence on the Syrian street,” said Fahed Al-Masri, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army. “As the Syrian street does not recognize them, it would be impossible for them to be able to commit to anything, much less fulfill any pledges.”

And 2) the rebels don’t believe their demand to get rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad will be met.

In fact, Syrian government officials have maintained that Assad will not resign and may even run for another term in presidential elections scheduled for mid-2014. If he can win an election after starting a two-year civil war that has so far claimed 100,000 lives, including that of more than 11,000 children, then either the ballots are rigged or all that sarin gas is seriously messing with Syrians’ brains.

Via: USA Today