Syrian rebels press battle toward heart of Damascus

Syrian rebels brought their fight within a mile of the heart of Damascus on Friday, seizing army checkpoints and cutting a key highway with a row of burning tires as they pressed their campaign for the capital, considered the likely endgame in the nearly 2-year-old civil war.

The clashes raised fears that Damascus, a major cultural center and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, could fall victim to a protracted battle that would bring the destruction seen in other major cities and trigger a mass refugee exodus into neighboring countries.

“Any attempt by the rebels to advance into central Damascus would mean the beginning of a very long fight,” said Syrian activist Rami Jarrah. “I imagine Aleppo would be a small example of what is likely to happen in Damascus.”


Horse meat scandal widens into criminal investigation

A growing food-contamination scandal in Britain widened into a criminal investigation Friday, with consumers worried about finding horse meat in their burgers or lasagna.

What began as the discovery of traces of horse meat in uncooked burgers labeled as beef last month escalated this week with the announcement that thousands of packages of frozen beef lasagna were being pulled from supermarket shelves because they were potentially tainted as well.

Britain’s Food Standards Agency said the Findus company found at least 60 percent horse meat in 11 of 18 lasagna products that it tested.

The meat in at least one of those was entirely horse, the agency reported. 

— From news service reports