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Evidence Grows over Syrian Use of Chemical Weapons

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United States government officials investigating reports of chemical weapon use in Syria say it is likely that the Syrian government used them on a "small scale" against rebel forces in the countries escalating civil war, news sources report.

U.S. Spy agencies have investigated reports from Syrian opposition groups that President Bashar al-Assad has used sarin gas on at least two occasions during the two year conflict, Al Jazeeera reports.

Syrian officials deny the US accusations, which were backed by Britain Friday, and likened them to false accusations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the U.S. invasion of that toppled the countries government, Al Jazeera reports.

President Obama had earlier stated Syrian use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" that would trigger serious action against Assad's regime and it would be a "game-changer," NBC reports.

The Israeli military published intelligence findings Tuesday that Assad's force had used chemical weapons repeated in recent months, NBC reports.

British military scientists studying soil samples brought back from the area of an attack close to Damascus say they found it tested positive for the use of chemical weapons, although the government has yet to confirm it, Al Jazeera reports.

Syria rebels capture part of Homs army base

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Opposition fighters have taken control of a large section of a Syrian government military complex, news sources report.

The base, located in the strategic central province of Homs, was taken after weeks of fighting with government forces for control, Al Jazeera reports.

Sporadic fighting was still ongoing at the former Dabaa air force base, the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights said according to Al Jazeera.

The Syrian rebels have chipped away at territory controlled by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in the north and east of the war-torn country, USA TODAY reports.

Syrian officials continue to deny there is an uprising against Assad's rule, claiming those who are rising up against the government are foreign terrorists backed by Europe and the United States, according to USA TODAY.

The government is dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, while the opposition fighting to overthrow his government is mostly from the country's Sunni majority, Al Jazeera reports. The Syrian government's main allies, the Hezbollah militant group and the Islamic Republic of Iran, are dominated by Shia Muslims.

Former Thatcher Opponents rally in London

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Over 200 people rallied in London's Trafalgar Square to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher, a former British prime minister who died earlier this week, news sources report.

Thatcher's most strident critics, including former coal miners who had clashed fiercely with her during her 11 years in power, had vowed to hold a gathering in central London following her passing, Al Jazeera reports.

Billed by as "the party of a lifetime" the gathering, said to have been planned by left-leaning activist in the event of Thatcher's death decades ago, failed to attract a massive crowd in the cold rain, Reuters reports.

The group of jovial Revelers chanted slogans, danced to drums and loud music, and waved banners bearing messages such as "Rot in hell Thatcher," Reuters reports.

Almost as many police gathered at the scene, expecting a larger crowd, according to Reuters. The gathering remained largely peaceful, with only five people arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct and attacking police, Al Jazeera reports.

Thatcher's legacy in Britain, always a controversial matter, was only intensified with her death, according to Al Jazeera. Her supporters credit her with helping end the Cold War and reviving Britain's economy after decades of decline, while her opponents accuse her of putting millions out of work with her radical individualistic free-market reforms.

North Korea moves mid-ranged missiles to coast

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North Korea has moved two medium-range missiles to its coast, news sources report.

Reports from South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Friday that the two missiles had been placed on mobile launchers, according to Al Jazeera. The United States has responded by strengthening its Pacific missile defenses.

The move by North Korea is only the latest in a series of provocative moves and rhetoric that has escalated tensions between it and South Korea and the United States, Al Jazeera reports.

The government of North Korea has railed for weeks against joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea and tightened sanctions rolled out February in response to a internationally condemned nuclear test, according to Fox News.

The North Korean army warned the U.S. Wednesday that its military had been cleared to wage a nuclear attack on the country, Fox News reports. Despite the threat, analysts do not expect North Korea to go through with a attack which would lead to a destructive, suicidal war.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the communist country's behavior followed a regrettable, but familiar pattern of behavior, Al Jazeera reports.

North Korea Renews War Threats

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North Korea has repeated its threats to wage war against South Korea and the United States, news sources report.

The isolated communist state said that conditions "for a simmering nuclear war" exist on the Korean Peninsula, and that it will inform the UN Security Council of its claims that the U.S. and South Korea are behind the tensions, Al Jazeera reports.

North Korea;s military said it put its forces on high alert earlier Tuesday, ordering its missile and artillery units to be ready to strike South Korea, and U.S. military installations in Hawaii and Guam, the New York Times reports. The country's young leader, Kim Jong-Un, has also been shown making a number of visits to military units in the last week.

Korea expert Leonid Petrove of Sydney's Australian National University said in an interview with Al Jazeera, that the North's "attention-seeking behavior" is responding to international pressure and is an attempt to unite the county behind its leader. He also said that the North is limited in its ability to target the U.S.

Tensions between the two Korea's have risen since North Korea launched a three-stage rocket in December and tested a nuclear weapon in February, according to the New York Times. In response, Washington and Seoul pushed for greater sanction on North Korea and began their annual joint military drills this month.

Pope Francis warns of need for spiritual renewal

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The Catholic Church's newly elected leader warned his followers that the church could become "a compassionate NGO" without spiritual renewal, news sources report.

"If we do not confess to Christ, what would we be?" Pope Francis said in a Sistine Chapel Mass with cardinals on his first day as the Church leader Thursday, the BBC reports.

"We would end up a compassionate NGO. What would happen would be like when children make sand castles and then it all falls down."

The 76-year-old Argentinean was elected pope Wednesday, Al Jazeera reports. He is the first Latin American pope, and the first Jesuit priest to hold the position.

Known for his reputation for humility, Francis also warned the assembled cardinals against "the worldliness of the devil," Al Jazeera reports, and, in a further sign of his humble nature, asked them to bless him before he would bless them, according to the BBC.

Formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis began his reign Thursday by meeting people in Rome and laying flowers in homage to the Virgin Mary in a basilica, Al Jazeera reports. He also prayed at the alter of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to which Francis belongs.

The European Commission fined Microsoft the equivalent of $732 million Wednesday for failing to live up to an agreement to provide consumers a choice of Internet browsers, news sources report.

The fine is the first time EU regulators have punished a company for neglecting to comply with the terms of an antitrust settlement, according to the New York Times. It could signal their determination to enforce deals in other cases, including one being discussed with Google.

Microsoft had agreed in a 2009 settlement to pay 860 million Euros and promise to give Windows users an option in choosing their browser rather than having the company's Internet Explorer automatically installed, according to an Associated Press article appearing in the Star Tribune.

An EU investigation found that Microsoft had failed to honor the agreement in software issued between May 2011 and July 2012, effecting 15 million users, Reuters reports.

The commission's top regulator, Joaquin Almunia, stressed the importance of negotiated settlements in enforcing laws that protect competition, the New York Times reports.

This new fine tops a long and bitter relationship between Microsoft and the EU's powerful antitrust authority, which has now issued fines totaling 2.16 billion Euros against the U.S. computer giant, Reuters reports.

Microsoft has taken full responsibility for the error that caused the problem, the company said in a statement. Although it has appealed many past rulings against it, Microsoft might be reluctant to do so this time in order to focus on its rivalry with Google. Microsoft has complained to Almunia about the internet company's business practices, the New York Times reports.

Rocket fired at Israel from Gaza

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A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck Israel Tuesday, news sources report Israel police saying.

The rocket landed south of the city of Ashkelon in southern Israel, according to Fox News. It is the first one fired from the Palestinian territory since a truce ended Israel-Gaza hostilities last November.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank-based Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the rocket strike, Al Jazeera reports.

The group described the attack as a preliminary retaliation for the death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian member of the brigade, who died in Israeli custody last weekend, according to Al Jazeera.

The attack comes weeks before President Barrack Obama is scheduled to visit Israel and the West Bank, as tensions are rising in the region, Fox News reports.

Two Palestinian youths, one 13 and one 16, were seriously wounded when Israeli soldiers fired on protesters Monday, who reportedly threw "improvised hand grenades," towards a holy site in Bethlehem, Fox News reports.

Israeli and Palestinian officials have both accused the other for stroking the recent unrest, Fox News reports.

A U.S congressman visited the capital of war torn Somalia Tuesday, new sources report.

Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, is the first member of Congress to visit Mogadishu in years, according to an Associated Press article appearing in the Star Tribune. Until recently, it had been considered one of the world's most dangerous cities.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said his visit to Somalia was fulfilling a request from his constituents, the Star Tribune reports. Minnesota is home to one of the largest populations of Somali-Americans ,and many of them maintain ties with Somalia.

Before arriving in Mogadishu, Ellison was slated to meet with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to discuss Somali refugees in the U.S, according to MPRnews.

One of the issues he spoke with Somali officials about were the financial remittances Somalis in the U.S. send back to the family members in their home country, the Star Tribune reports. While the flow of money has been slowed due to governmental fears that the money might fall into the hands of extremists, Ellison claimed to have made "real progress" on the issue.

The congressman also highlighted the Somali's progress towards establishing a stable democracy, along with their eagerness to address economic problems, piracy, and Islamic militants, the Star Tribune reports.

The Somali president said that Ellison's visit was an important event for the fledgling country. The U.S. recognized the Somali government for the first time since 1991 in mid-January, according to the Star Tribune.

After years of near anarchy, the Somali capital has experienced 18 months of relative peace after Islamic extremists were forced from the city by African Union troops in August 2011, the Star Tribune reports.

Ellison is one of two Minnesotan members of the U.S. House using the current congressional recess to travel to Africa, MPRnews reports. Rep. Betty McCollum is traveling to South Sudan and Tanzania with administration officials, business leaders, and aid experts sponsored by CARE, a nonprofit relief organization.

Meteor impact injures hundreds in Russian

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A believed meteor impact caused hundreds of injuries and damaged buildings in western Siberia early Friday, news sources report.

Russia's Interior Ministry said more than 1,000 people were injured, including 200 children, when the meteor entered the atmosphere with a thundering shock wave that sent shards of shattered glass cutting into people, the New York Times reports.

The meteor disintegrated above the Ural Mountains, burning up in the lower atmosphere, Al Jazeera reports. Fragments of it fell crashed to earth, falling in sparsely populated areas around the industrial city of Chelyabinsk.

Video clips from the area show a brilliant flash illuminating the morning sky, followed soon after by the sound of breaking glass and multiple car alarms going off, the New York Times reports.

Chelyabinsk lies in Russia's industrial heartland, a region filled with smoke-spewing factories and large nuclear facilities, according to Al Jazeera. Chelyabinsk itself is the site of dozens of defense factories, some involved in the production of thermonuclear weapons.

The Russian government dispatched seven airplanes to search the area for fallen meteorites, and 20,000 people were sent to comb the area on foot, the New York Times reports.

The meteor impact happened just as a small asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, is expected to pass the Earth later Friday, the New York Times reports. Experts, however, claim that the asteroid and the meteor are unrelated and claim that their close encounters with Earth within a narrow time frame is a "cosmic coincidence."

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