Phuket Gazette: Military options in Syria; Drone kills 10; Medical TV drama ‘House’ to end

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Report: U.S. reviewing military options in Syria to end conflict
PHUKET (News Wires): The U.S. government has begun a preliminary internal review of U.S. military capabilities in Syria in the event U.S. President Barack Obama calls for them, senior administration officials told CNN.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media, said the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command are looking into military options in Syria to end the ongoing crackdown. The officials emphasized that U.S. policy for now remains the use of non-military options.

“Before we start talking about military options, we very much want to ensure that we have exhausted all the political, economic and diplomatic means at our disposal,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday. Obama has also said he believes it is possible to end the conflict without outside military intervention.

It is the first time U.S. officials have confirmed that the Pentagon is looking into military intervention in Syria, although such a review is not unusual. “The Pentagon is closely monitoring developments in Syria. It wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t put some ideas on the table,” one of the officials told CNN. “But absolutely no decisions have been made on military support for Syria.”

There have been increasing calls for military intervention as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently stepped up his bloody crackdown against the popular uprising. Earlier this week, U.S. Senator John McCain called for the United States to help arm the rebels against the Assad government.

Responding to McCain’s statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said arming the rebels is not the answer to end the conflict. “As the President himself made absolutely clear [..], we don’t think more arms into Syria is the answer,” she said. “We think the answer is to get to a national democratic dialogue, for the violence to stop, for the regime’s tanks to come out of the cities, and then for monitors to be able to go back in.”

Syria has been part of the wider Arab Spring movement which began in early 2011 and has been riddled by violence ever since. Pro-democracy demonstrations have spread across the country since mid-March, resulting in a fierce government crackdown which has left more than 7,000 people killed.

The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed that violent acts against protesters have been carried out by ‘terrorists dressed as soldiers,’ although international observers have rejected these claims. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad previously admitted that mistakes were made, but claimed protesters were no longer being targeted.

U.S. drone strike kills 10 suspected militants in Pakistan
PHUKET (News Wires): At least ten suspected Taliban-affiliated militants were killed on early yesterday morning (Pakistan) when a U.S. drone launched an airstrike in Pakistan’s volatile tribal region, Pakistani intelligence officials said. Several others were injured.

The attack happened when the unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at a house in the village of Tappi, approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) southeast of Miranshah, the main town in Pakistan’s North Waziristan near the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the house was allegedly used by fighters from the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which is one of the top terrorist organizations and threats to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

At least ten suspected militants were killed in the airstrike, which completely destroyed the compound, and there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties. The officials said both Afghan and Pakistani fighters were believed to be among those killed, while several others were believed to be injured.

Late last month, U.S. President Barack Obama, for the first time during his presidency, publicly acknowledged that U.S. drones regularly strike suspected militants along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He confirmed that many of these strikes are carried out in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects in tough terrain.

Obama’s statements were part of a web interview which was broadcast live on the video-sharing website YouTube and social networking website Google+. The interview was carried out just three weeks after the first U.S. drone strikes of the year, almost two months after its previous attack.

Few details about casualties from the strikes are usually available, but allegations of civilian casualties regularly spark protests in Pakistan. According to the Washington-based think tank New America Foundation, as many as 2,680 individuals were killed as a result of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and early 2012.

And according to a report released by the Conflict Monitoring Center in January, at least 609 people were killed as a result of 75 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2011 alone. The group has documented 303 drone strikes since 2004, with a total death toll of at least 2,661.

The U.S. considers the Pakistan-Afghan border to be the most dangerous place on Earth. The area is known to be a stronghold of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which is one of the top terrorist organizations and threats to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

But controversy has surrounded the drone strikes as local residents and officials have blamed them for killing innocent civilians and motivating young men to join the Taliban. Details about the alleged militants are usually not provided, and the U.S. government does not comment on the strikes.

Medical TV drama ‘House’ to end after eight seasons
PHUKET (News Wires):The producers of the medical drama ‘House, MD’ yesterday announced the popular television series will end after the current season. The decision was said to have been made by the show’s producers.

In a joint statement, executive producers David Shore, Katie Jacobs and Hugh Laurie called it a ‘painful’ decision to end the show after eight years. “The producers have always imagined House as an enigmatic creature; he should never be the last one to leave the party. How much better to disappear before the music stops, while there is still some promise and mystique in the air,” the producers said.

‘House’, starring Hugh Laurie as the medical genius Dr Gregory House, debuted on the Fox network in November 2004. Premiering to only 7 million U.S. viewers, the audience quickly grew to nearly 20 million by the end of the season, making it one of the most-watched shows of the television season.

The audience continued to grow and reached a peak of 29 million viewers towards the end of the fourth season, after which the numbers began to drop amid poor reviews claiming the show had lost its sense of humor. Nonetheless, ‘House’ continued to be distributed around the world and, last year, Hugh Laurie earned a spot in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most-watched man on television.

But ratings have continued to plummet this season, with three episodes premiering to just 6 million U.S. viewers, the lowest numbers since the first episodes of the first season in 2004.

“By April this year [the producers of House] will have completed 177 episodes, which is about 175 more than anyone expected back in 2004,” the producers said in

— Phuket Gazette Editors

World News

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