U.N. chief: Syria crackdown reaches ‘intolerable stage’

Two weeks into Syria’s cease-fire agreement, security agents in Damascus collected the remains of 10 people killed in a suicide bombing.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets for weekly anti-regime marches after Muslim noon prayers Friday, and activists reported troops firing on protesters. Video showed a crowd carrying a slain boy to U.N. observers as proof of regime violence.

The head of the United Nations said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s continued crackdown on protests has reached an “intolerable stage,” and that the U.N. will try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors to Syria. Only 15 are there now.

“The government of Syria must live up to its promises to the world,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.

KIEV, Ukraine

Former prime minister said to be weakening in prison

Yulia Tymoshenko, the heroine of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution who went on to be prime minister, is wasting away in prison — weakened from a hunger strike, bruised from prison beatings and afraid she will be force-fed by her political foes, her family said Friday.

Western concern about Tymoshenko has soared since she launched a hunger strike a week ago to protest alleged prison abuse. She claims that guards punched her in the stomach and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for debilitating back pain.

Tymoshenko appears pallid and worn-out in photos of her lying in prison taken by Ukraine’s top human rights official — a shadow of the glamorous figure who became a global icon of democratic change during Ukraine’s 2004 rallies against a stolen presidential election. The pictures by Nina Karpachova show blotches on Tymoshenko’s abdomen and lower arm.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges of abusing her powers in a Russian energy deal. The West has strongly condemned the verdict as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.


Some 6.8 million birds die from hitting towers, wires

Telecom towers nearly a third of a mile high spike above the Texas landscape — up where migrating birds fly.

That means trouble for flocks traveling through Texas along the migratory skyways between northern breeding grounds and tropical winter territory.

A study published this week puts a number on the problem: An estimated 6.8 million birds are killed in the United States and Canada each year when they fly into towers or their guy wires. That’s 27 times the estimated 250,000 birds killed in the Exxon Valdez oil spill.


Police trap murder suspect in underground bunker

Authorities on Friday surrounded an elaborate, underground bunker believed to be that of a gun-toting survivalist suspected of killing his wife and daughter nearly a week ago and then holing up in the woods of Washington state.

They pumped gas into the structure in the Cascade foothills east of Seattle and saw movement inside, but the dozens of officers were not entering the bunker because they believed its occupant was heavily armed, and that it might be booby-trapped.

Sheriff’s officials said later Friday they weren’t sure the gas penetrated deep enough to reach the person inside, who they believed was 41-year-old Peter Keller. The standoff continued into Friday evening.

Keller has not been seen since a fire at his North Bend-area home Sunday led responders to discover the bodies of his wife and daughter. The two had been shot to death.

“It’s a very tactical situation,” King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said. “(But) time is on our side.”�

— From news service reports