Syrian tanks roll into city of Hama to crush protests

Syrian authorities severed telephone lines, electricity and water supplies to Hama on Wednesday as troops backed by tanks pushed into the heart of the besieged city in what appeared to be a final effort to crush the protest movement there.

A resident contacted by satellite phone said citizens were cowering indoors, unable to leave their homes because of snipers on rooftops and heavy shelling by tanks.

The assault began at 5 a.m., said Saleh Hamawi, an activist with the Syrian Revolution Coordination Union, a group that monitors and organizes protests.

“Everyone is very afraid, and no one can leave his house,” he said. Some residents in peripheral areas of the city had fled their homes, but those in the center were trapped, he said, as the military escalated its effort to crush the four-month old revolt against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

“It’s 1982 all over again,” he said, referring to an earlier massacre in Hama in which at least 10,000 people are believed to have died during the suppression of an uprising against Assad’s father and then-president, Hafez al-Assad. “This is a challenge to the international community, which is doing nothing.”

Nearly 2,000 Syrians have been killed in the four-month-old rebellion, and the violence “is getting worse,” the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said in Senate testimony Tuesday.


Tropical Storm Emily heads toward island of Hispaniola

Tropical Storm Emily brushed past Puerto Rico and headed Wednesday toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where more than 630,000 people are still without shelter after last year’s earthquake.

But it appears the worst of the storm will largely spare Haitian capital, where most of the quake victims are sheltered.

Michel Davison of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said parts of the Dominican Republic could see up to 20 inches of rain over 36 hours. Up to 10 inches are expected in rural Haiti and up to 6 inches in the capital.


Suspect says he was trying to split atoms as a hobby

A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby.

Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments.

Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden’s Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.


City council OKs creation of Heterosexual Pride Day

Sao Paulo’s city council has approved a law creating a Heterosexual Pride Day to be celebrated on the third Sunday of each December.

The law must still be approved by the mayor of South America’s largest city.

Carlos Apolinario, the law’s author, says Heterosexual Pride Day is not anti-gay but a protest against what he says are the privileges the gay community enjoys. 

— From news service reports