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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lifted the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency and legalized peaceful protests in an attempt to placate opposition groups who have been calling for him to step down. The following day, Syrians returned to the streets to protest, security forces shot into the crowds, and more than 100 people died, according to witnesses. “Bullets started flying over our heads like heavy rain,” said one protester.BBCAl JazeeraAl JazeeraBBCThe civil war in Libya was “moving toward a stalemate,” according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the U.S. military confirmed that two armed Predator drones were flying combat missions over the country. An internal report by the British Ministry of Defence warned that the increasing use of drones may, by keeping soldiers from the horrors of battle, make war more likely. NATO forces may have begun an “incremental and involuntary journey,” the report said, “towards a Terminator-like reality.” ReutersBBCGuardianSenator John McCain (R., Ariz.) visited rebel stronghold Benghazi to show his support for democracy. McCain, who met with Qaddafi and his family in 2009 and agreed to help them purchase military equipment from the United States, called the rebels “my heroes.” SalonAl JazeeraThe Taliban freed at least 476 prisoners from the political wing of a prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, by digging a tunnel hundreds of meters long. NYTClassified U.S. military documents about prisoners at GuantĂˇnamo, obtained by WikiLeaks and shared with U.S. and British newspapers, revealed that one detainee, a senior Al Qaeda member, was “so dedicated to jihad that he reportedly received injections to promote impotence and recommended the injections to others so more time could be spent on jihad (rather than being distracted by women).” GuardianGuardianGuardianNY Times
Standard & Poor’s downgraded its outlook on the United States to “negative,” based on concerns that the government won’t be able to resolve its long-term budget deficits. Stock indices fell and the price of gold reached a new high in response to the cut.ReutersPresident Obama said he would create a task force to investigate “the role of traders and speculators” in retail gasoline prices, which have climbed by 30 cents in the past month. “We are going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain,” he said.APA Philadelphia phone company was found to have hoarded 1.7 million toll-free numbers, including 1-800-Cadillac, 1-800-Worship, and 1-800-Firetip, and re-directed most of their calls to phone sex businesses.APMcDonald’s restaurants across the United States held the chain’s first National Hiring Day, with plans to hire 50,000 new employees. “It’s a good place to work,” said one Ohio job-seeker. “I come here almost every day to eat anyway.”APResearchers found that people eat more after looking at overweight individuals and that dieters tend to be confused by unhealthful foods that are labeled “salad.”Science DailyScience DailyAn Arizona man was arrested for exposing himself to a woman dressed in a Statue of Liberty costume. After police took him into custody, the man said he just wanted to go home and do his taxes.Arizona RepublicDr. Lazar Greenfield, president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, resigned amid persistent criticism over a Valentine’s Day editorial he wrote in “Surgery News” that suggested semen contains mood-altering compounds that make women happier. “So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have expected,” Greenfield wrote, “and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.”NYT
In anticipation of the Easter holiday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminded its agents that chocolate Kinder Eggs, which contain “non-nutritive object[s]“â??plastic toysâ??inside them, are banned in the United States.CNNTexas Governor Rick Perry called for three days of prayer to end a drought that has damaged crops and caused thousands of wildfires, and some members of the Kyrgyzstan Parliament slaughtered rams to banish “evil spirits.”Texas Governor’s OfficeReutersChinese writer Zhang Yiyi planned to spend more than $150,000 on ten plastic surgery sessions that will make him look like William Shakespeare, and “Land’s End,” the 25-room, 24,000-square-foot mansion on Long Island that was rumored to have inspired Jay Gatsby’s home in “The Great Gatsby,” was demolished.Herald SunWaPoTermites ate 10 million rupees stored inside a steel chest at an Indian bank, sugar was proven to mitigate the harmful effects of methamphetamine on fruit flies, and peppermint was found to ease the discomfort of irritable bowel syndrome.CSMScience DailyScience DailyResearchers determined that the happiest states have the highest suicide rates. “If humans are subject to mood swings,” said Dr. Andrew Oswald, “the lows of life may thus be most tolerable in an environment in which other humans are unhappy.”Science DailyRapper Lil B received death threats after announcing the title of his forthcoming album: “I’m Gay.” “I’m very gay, but I love women,” Lil B explained. “I’m not attracted to men in any way. But yes I am gay. I’m so happy. I’m a gay, heterosexual male.”MTV
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Trudy Lieberman reports on the failed promise of the Affordable Care Act, Sarah A. Topol explores Ukraineâ€™s struggle for a national identity, Dave Madden spends a week in Hollywoodâ€™s toughest comedy club, and more
Number of insect fragments allowed by the FDA in a standard jar of peanut butter:
It emerged that, in trying to count her rings, marine geologists had accidentally killed a 507-year-old clam named Ming.
A resident of Chalk Level Township in Missouri discovered the bodies of three dogs packed inside dog-food bags.
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â€śShelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.â€ť