Newspaper denies Assad running short of soldiers

A top Syrian cleric’s appeal to young men to join the army raised the question of whether President Bashar Assad is running out of soldiers, prompting a pro-government newspaper to reassure readers Tuesday that the military can keep fighting insurgents for years to come.

Syria’s civil war, with its large-scale defections, thousands of soldiers killed and multiple fronts, has eroded one of the Arab world’s biggest armies, with pro-Assad militias increasingly filling in for troops.

But while the rebels have scored military and diplomatic gains, the regime is far from its breaking point.
Assad appears to have stopped trying to retake all of the rebel-held areas, lacking the manpower to do so.

But his forces have pinned down opposition fighters with artillery and airstrikes, while repelling rebel assaults on the capital of Damascus and other regime strongholds.


Weapons background check bill pushed through panel

Democrats gave a boost Tuesday to the pillar of President Obama’s plans for reducing gun violence, pushing a bill requiring nearly universal federal background checks for firearms buyers through the Senate Judiciary Committee over solid Republican opposition.

The proposal still faces a difficult path through Congress, where GOP lawmakers say it would have little impact on crime and warn that it is a precursor to a federal registry of gun owners. Such a listing is forbidden by federal law and is anathema to conservatives and the National Rifle Association.

The committee approved the bill 10-8, supported by every Democrat and opposed by all Republicans.


Millions to be paid out to settle teacher abuse case

The Los Angeles school district will pay millions of dollars to settle dozens of legal actions stemming from an abuse case in which a former teacher is charged with lewd acts on children in his classroom over five years, district officials said Tuesday.

General Counsel David Holmquist said the settlement will cover 58 of the 191 claims and lawsuits filed against the district after the January 2012 arrest of former third-grade teacher Mark Berndt on 23 charges of lewd behavior at Miramonte Elementary School.

The allegations came to light when a drugstore photo technician noticed dozens of odd photos of blindfolded children and reported them to authorities.