Syria’s president admits rebels are a tenacious foe

In a striking admission, President Bashar Assad said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that his armed forces will need time to defeat the rebels and addressed the string of defections from his authoritarian regime.

The comments amounted to an acknowledgment that even though the opposition lacks the government’s tanks and airplanes, their tenacity and tactical creativity — combined with the military’s struggle to fight on multiple fronts — have yielded a stalemate that could prolong the civil war with many more dead.


Early vote on gay marriage approved by a 2-1 margin

Lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly cast a first vote in favor of a gay marriage bill that was given impetus by President Barack Obama’s public support of the issue.

The 80 to 40 vote in front of a packed and cheering public gallery was the first of three votes Parliament must hold before the bill can become law, a process that typically takes several months and allows the public to weigh in.

Should New Zealand pass the measure into law, it would become the 12th country since 2001 to recognize same-sex marriage. Some states in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not.

Polls indicate about two-thirds of New Zealanders support gay marriage. It also has the support of most of the country’s political leaders.

VILNIUS, Lithuania

Bear retiring to German park after 18 years spent in a bar

After 18 years of hanging out in a Lithuanian bar, Masa, the bear, has had enough and is retiring.

The 20-year-old brown bear was released from her 160 square-foot cage on Wednesday and handed to animal rights activists, who plan to take her on a 20-hour drive to a bear park in Duren, Germany.

Antanina Vrubliauskiene, who bought Masa as a cub in 1994, watched teary eyed as the bear was tranquilized and loaded into a van. She plans to visit Masa in her new home 1,050 miles away.


Astronomers excited by sighting of sugar molecule

Astronomers say that, for the first time, they have discovered one of the ingredients of life — sugar — in a gas cloud surrounding a young star.

The team of European and American astronomers says it spotted a simple sugar molecule called glycolaldehyde near a 10,000-year-old star similar to the sun.

Glycolaldehyde is needed to form ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which is similar in function to DNA.

Jes Jorgensen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, said Wednesday that the glycolaldehyde was likely formed by radiation from the star hitting even simpler molecules floating through space.

The star is about 400 light years from Earth. Details of the discovery will be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

— From news service reports